Tired of being a boring accountant or a lowly sales rep at a big box chain store? The cube farm got ya down? Well, open up the Players Handbook and turn yourself into a wizard or assassin! Come on, grow a pair!...A pair of pointy ears and become an elf! Sick of being 7' tall? Try a dwarf's skin on for size! The sky's the limit when you jump into the world of Dungeons & Dragons!
Okay, let's be honest, your own imagination is the real limit. TSR, the company that made D&D, put out this gameTired of being a boring accountant or a lowly sales rep at a big box chain store? The cube farm got ya down? Well, open up the Players Handbook and turn yourself into a wizard or assassin! Come on, grow a pair!...A pair of pointy ears and become an elf! Sick of being 7' tall? Try a dwarf's skin on for size! The sky's the limit when you jump into the world of Dungeons & Dragons!
Okay, let's be honest, your own imagination is the real limit. TSR, the company that made D&D, put out this game and created books like this one, which gave gamers pretty much all they'd need to create worlds of fantastical fun. How far you took that fun and ran with it was entirely up to you.
The Players Handbook was the book the players used to create their characters in preparation for the game. Honestly, I had just as much fun creating characters as I did in playing the actual game. You were giving birth to potential, creating an alternate you! How exciting is that?!
Character creation usually started with the player picking what class (profession) and race they wanted to be. Let's start with race...
At this point in the game's history, round about 1980, D&D had on offer humans, elves, dwarves, halflings, gnomes, half-elves (a human/elf mix) and half-orcs (a human/orc mix).
Because orcs are generally evil beings, it was assumed that the half-orc was the result of orc-on-human rape, to put it bluntly. So, you can see why years later - especially after the game was attacked in the early '80s as Satanic by Bible thumpers - D&D removed the half-orc race from the game as a character option.
Some people really cared about race. By which I mean, they REALLY wanted to be elves. I wasn't very particular about what race I was. Lord of the Rings was my first intro into fantasy, so I was a big fan of hobbits, which were called halflings in D&D to avoid a lawsuit from the Tolkien family one assumes. The problem with halflings and most non-human races was that there was a limit to how far they could advance in level, which was the measuring stick for the experience, knowledge and skill you obtained while adventuring. These ethnic limitations could be seen as racist, quite frankly. That's right, I just called D&D racist. Seriously though, I never really did understand why they put a cap on it. If any players know, please fill me in.
The other main character factor, and usually more important to players than race, was what class you wanted to be. Class was the term used in D&D for what adventuring profession you chose. It didn't matter if you flunked out of high school. You didn't need a degree to become a cleric, druid, fighter, paladin, ranger, magic-user, illusionist, thief, assassin, or monk.
I'd be embarrassed to know how much of my young life I spent in wonderful agony trying to decide which class to choose, as well as creating characters that I knew damn well would never be used in a game. Holy hell did I love this part of the game!
I was quite young when I first started playing D&D, 9 years old, I believe. I played with older kids, who knew what they were doing. They got to play the difficult (and fun) classes, like the wizards and thieves. I played the simple ones, the warriors and priests. The warriors hacked and slashed the monsters with weapons. The priests generally sat back and healed the wounded. There wasn't a lot of intricacies going on there for me in the early going. Later I got to play a paladin, a noble knight with the power to heal. This character is the ultimate in angelic goodness. To be a paladin you really have to want to stand high on that pedestal of moral incorruptibility. It was a full-time crusade against the demons and devils of the underworld as well as the evil-doers blighting the earth.
The assassin and monk classes were late-comers to the game. They were also early-exiters. When Dungeon's and Dragons popularity soared, so did the flack TSR caught for its more evil and violent nature. Assassins being people who exist solely to terminate life, didn't set well with some gamers' moms. I guess TSR figured the thief class was besmirching their good name enough already.
Look at that happy, shirtless thief! If it said "7-11" above that door it would totally remind me of my days living in LA!
I think the monk got the can, because his skills unbalanced the game. He was not a holy man, but rather styled more like the fighting Shaolin monks. It was all about the martial arts with these monks. They could mess monsters up six ways to Sunday.
OH! One more class before we move on! The bard. This musician-adventurer was such a late-comer to this edition of D&D that he was included in the appendixes at the back of the book. The bard was a combination of fighter, thief, and druid (nature-based spell caster) who played an instrument with magical affect. Oh yes, and he/she also automatically acquired new languages when advancing every few levels. This jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none was such a ridiculous hodge-podge of a character that some dungeon masters (the game referee) refused to allow it in the game. The less said about the bard, the better.
Most people chose a class suitable to their skill scores, aka ability scores. What the hell am I talking about? Well now, this is the really fun...and the really frustrating part of character creation. Each character has a set of abilities: Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma. These were the physical and mental make up of your character. Your score on each determined your skill level in that area and usually determined what class you'd pick. The ability score was determined by a random roll of dice. That's where the frustration part comes in. With six categories to roll for, seldom did you end up with an across-the-board killer character. Usually you'd get one or two good scores but get stuck with a couple really low scores, or worse, all your scores were average, meaning you weren't really good for anything.
A lot of ability score fudging went on. I played with one kid who flat out gave his character maximum scores in all categories and told me with a straight face that he'd rolled it up that way. There's "dumb" luck and then there's "What, do you think I'm an idiot?" luck. We only played together the one time. I mean come on, I understand getting a little creative or allowing the occasional do-over, but this kid had basically plugged in his NES Game Genie, beat the game on invincibility mode and tried to pass it off as pure skill.
Okay, now that you had the basics of who and what your character was, it was time to kit him/her out with weapons, armor and provisions. The Players Handbook had all that covered with prices included. Oh yeah, you had to pay for this shit, my friend.
Here's an instance where the game got a little more complicated than necessary, in my opinion. Honestly, who needs to know the speed factor of a club or how much space is needed to wield a fauchard-fork…and what the hell is a fauchard-fork anyway? Some players gobbled up such roleplaying minutia. Not me. Incorporating that crap slowed the game down considerably. Sure, when I got older and became the dungeon master, I tried to keep things realistic and used common sense for plausibility's sake ("No, you may not light that on fire, it's under water."), but I seldom referred to the rules. I knew them pretty well, but for things that really didn't matter that much in the grand scheme of things, I'd just wing it.
One of the best parts of playing Dungeons & Dragons was casting some of the wicked awesome spells the game makers came up with. Half of this book is just about spells. Pages and pages are filled with full and fun descriptions on the different kinds, what they do, how to cast them, and sometimes what you needed to cast them.
Firing off fireballs was always everyone's favorite and often first choice, but lordy, D&D gave you so many other options with spells like Invisibility, Lightning Bolt, Mirror Image, Shocking Grasp, Charm, Web, Conjure Animals, Wall of Fire/Ice/Stone/Iron, Hypnotize, Exorcise, Polymorph, Regeneration, Fly, Wish, Monster Summoning, Disintegrate, Speak with Dead and Raise the Dead. That last one might seem a little sinister, but boy did it come in handy when your pals went down.
My favorite instance of creative spell use came from my cousin Jeremiah, who was quite young at the time. He was playing a druid and the group he was with was getting their butts handed to them by an evil giant who'd already pounded one character into the ground. Miah told me he wanted to turn himself into a hummingbird and fly into the giant's ear to peck at its eardrum. You're not going to find that one in the rulebook! I had to allow it, I mean, the kid came up with a such great and fun idea, of course I was going to make it work. I rolled dice to fake that I was checking to see if his plan worked and let him know that he'd successfully flown in and distracted the giant, which gave his group the opportunity to recover and take it down. Miah was playing with his older cousins (just like me back in my early days) and was often ignored, making his input minimal, so this was probably his most proud moment.
The Players Handbook was absolutely indispensable if you wanted to play the game. All the same, it could sometimes be more practical than engrossing. For instance, it seemed to have endless lists, tables and charts. Hell, if you needed to know how much a chicken cost, there's a list of livestock with prices. Btw, the going rate was three copper coins. Granted, the game might not hinge on the rise and fall of the fowl market, but such details definitely added more depth to the layers of imagination Dungeons and Dragons could potentially suck you into...while providing more information than any player would ever really need.
Oh, before I go, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the book's iconic cover, which caused me to add gem-eyed statues to more than a few of my own adventures. The artwork within varied in quality, but that Caravaggio-esque cover - with one of the most realistic depictions of the dungeon crawl in action - kicked many kinds of ass! The image is so well known, it's spawned more than a few mock-ups...
Dallas was on TV, and my Mom was sitting in the kitchen doing her nails. I was in the living room with a blank Player Character Record Sheet, a new bag of dice, a pencil, an eraser and Gygax's masterpiece.
Mom and I could still talk, even separated as we were by the full kitchen wall, and I could smell the mixture of her menthols, nail polish and nail polish remover from the other room. Our home was small and intimate: a great place to be on a Friday night when it was just the two of us hangingDallas was on TV, and my Mom was sitting in the kitchen doing her nails. I was in the living room with a blank Player Character Record Sheet, a new bag of dice, a pencil, an eraser and Gygax's masterpiece.
Mom and I could still talk, even separated as we were by the full kitchen wall, and I could smell the mixture of her menthols, nail polish and nail polish remover from the other room. Our home was small and intimate: a great place to be on a Friday night when it was just the two of us hanging out with bad 80s TV, and our own devices. My little sister was in bed down the hall, and my Dad was off playing poker, so it was just me and my Mom and one of the biggest moments of my life.
It was a Friday night, and I was playing D&D with Robert S--- and his friends the next day. It was going to be my first time. Much to my Catholic father's dismay, and after long attempts by my mother to talk me out of it, I'd spent all the money I'd been saving from my paper route on D&D gear. I bought the Dungeon Master's Guide, The Monster Manual, dice, a couple of metal figures (I remember that one was a dwarf with an axe), a sheaf of PC Record Sheets, and the most magical item of them all The Player's Handbook.
I smelled the smell of my Mom's Friday ritual. I was repeatedly distracted by oil barons and their substance abusing wives. And I was totally stunned into paralysis by the giant fracking mess I'd gotten myself into. I had no idea how to make a character. I'd been reading and flipping and trying to figure things out, and I was lost. Each page made me feel more stupid, each page made me angrier, and I exploded, finally, into tears of frustration.
I was in grade seven at the time, and I was only months away from reading Lady Chatterley's Lover. I'd devoured the Scottish play. I'd spent the summer immersed in Middle Earth. I was a math whiz. I had big glasses. I was a geek extraordinaire, and I sat on our turquoise carpet beaten by THE role playing game before I'd even begun. And I just kept crying. Sobbing, more like.
But then my Mom was there.
She had even less clue than I did, but she didn't really need a clue. All she needed was to be there, to be my support, and she did that. She tried to wrestle with the things that were stumping me, and through her struggles I was able to figure out what I was missing. She played the dunski to my pre-teen pseudo-genius, and just the chance to bounce stuff off someone outside my head helped me unlock bonuses and percentages and thieving abilities and armor class, et al. I figured out the attributes, and I made myself a Halfling thief named Malachi (I know...it wasn't tremendously original, but the Halfling dexterity boost gave me an 18 dexterity, and that seemed wicked deadly to me back in those days).
By the time Falcon Crest was over and missed by both of us, with no chance of a rerun, I had created my first D&D character, and I was ready to sit by Lauren L---, the coolest girl in our class, in Robert S---'s super cold, harshly lit, linoleum floored basement.
It didn't take long for all the "cool" kids to leave D&D behind. Mike C---, Paul E---, Lauren L---, Robert S---, they all moved on to headbanging, and that left me, Jeff, and Mark to spend the rest of our Junior High days in a happy D&D oblivion, (I'm still friends with Jeff and Mark, by the way).
I wait patiently for Brontë & Miloš (and now Scout) to grow old enough for our first foray into D&D, and I hope I can be a worthy guide into the coolest worlds of their imagination.
And even though my Mom wasn't my guide, she was my protector that night twenty-six years ago. And she'll always be tied to The Player's Handbook for me.
Too bad she's gone now. I'd love for her to be here when her grand-kids make their first characters. I bet Të makes a magic-user and Loš makes a fighter, and I suppose I'll have to plan a NPC Cleric to keep them alive.
"You roll a … 18! and your vorpal sword cuts cleanly through the goblin."
I played this game and used this book back in the early eighties and have kept the books all this time, sometimes revisiting the dusty tombs on my bookshelves. A couple years ago I became a cool dad because I had these "ancient" texts.
The game is still alot of fun, and the kids playing today can take some time away from the video screen and let their true imagination work. Good times!
Thank you Gary Gygax (RIP) - I picked up D&D as a little kid in 1977 - when the Player's Handbook came out it was _the_ most exciting thing. The whole thing fired my imagination and helped me find some great people. A wonderful thing!
A book that brings back many memories 26 December 2012
I remember back in the State Library days when I was a spotty little teenager of about 15 trying to work my way into a group of 'sophisticated' university students (and one guy who worked in the fruit and vegetable section of Woolworths) who would play Dungeons and Dragons every Saturday (and Friday, and Sunday, and any other day they could get together). I thought these guys were wonderful and wanted to play their so hardcore characters, howA book that brings back many memories 26 December 2012
I remember back in the State Library days when I was a spotty little teenager of about 15 trying to work my way into a group of 'sophisticated' university students (and one guy who worked in the fruit and vegetable section of Woolworths) who would play Dungeons and Dragons every Saturday (and Friday, and Sunday, and any other day they could get together). I thought these guys were wonderful and wanted to play their so hardcore characters, however I just never seemed to be able to survive long enough to collect all of those hardcore magic items they had (namely because a small inner group would steal all the juicy ones before the rest of us could get our hands on them). So, to try to impress them, I would end up doing stupid things, with the result of having to sit out the rest of the game while I created a new character (usually at first level, despite the fact the rest of them were level 10).
One of them suggested that I read the Player's Handbook because that would help me play the game better, but in the end it is simply a rule book with lots of charts and spells, and didn't really teach you any wisdom (or how to sneak off, grab the juicy items, and return in one piece). As such I also read the Dragon Magazines, and while they helped, much of it was devoted to helping Dungeon Masters run games, though occasionally they would have articles giving you ways of using a spell that is not strictly outlined in the book (which would then open up a half-hour debate as to what the actual wording in the book actually meant). I guess one of the problems with such a complex game is that you cannot hire yourself a rules lawyer, and then take the matter to a rules court, present your case, and wait for a ruling (though you could write to Dragon Magazine, and in the days before the internet and instant email, the chance of you getting a prompt response would be slim - actually non-existent). Mind you, in Dungeons and Dragons, the final say should be with the Dungeon Master, but having had many such arguments over the years, unfortunately (like the real world) appeals to the Court of Arbitration for the Rules of Dungeons and Dragons never actually produces a satisfied customer (especially when the ruling involves casting a fireball in a 20' by 20' room and completely frying your character, and then the player either arguing that a fireball isn't actually that big, or otherwise attempting to save and reload, as one would do in a Computer Roleplaying Game).
Oh, and I still remember when I got my first AD&D module (Secret of the Slaver's Stockade I believe) and encountering a bunch of baddies with glaive-guisarmes, and wondering what on Earth a glaive-guisarme was. Later I discovered that it was a pole with an axe on the end, which was also a Guisarme, a Falcion, a Halberd, and a Pole-Ax.
Oh Gary, you really tried to squeeze everything into this little book (including the price of livestock) and then us little spotty teenagers never realised that if a pig would cost the book price in one town it did not necessarily mean it would cost the same in another town, however I never had any players that would give their hand at trading (probably because looting treasure tended to be much more profitable).
It has been decades since I've played the first edition of the Granddaddy of all Fantasy Role Playing Games, and even longer since I've read the rules. Reading them now, at 42, it seemed like I was reading the rules to game both familiar and completely alien. I wondered how my friends and I were even able to play this game back in the 80's - the rules are overly complicated and the writing tries too hard to sound "intelligent."
Play we did, every weekend, and I still have fond memories of the funIt has been decades since I've played the first edition of the Granddaddy of all Fantasy Role Playing Games, and even longer since I've read the rules. Reading them now, at 42, it seemed like I was reading the rules to game both familiar and completely alien. I wondered how my friends and I were even able to play this game back in the 80's - the rules are overly complicated and the writing tries too hard to sound "intelligent."
Play we did, every weekend, and I still have fond memories of the fun we had. Of my regular gaming group, I am the only one that still plays role-playing games on a regular basis (preferring the 3rd edition of D&D), with a new set of friends and my children.
I gave this book three stars not because it's good enough for them, but because of what the game accomplished: it was the fore-runner of an entire industry of tabletop RPG's, computer games, TV shows and movies. It has had a heavy influence on popular culture, and for that, it gets a solid 3/5 stars....more
I think the reason I could never get into D&D is the class system. What do you mean I can either be an Elf OR a magic-user? How does that make sense? How could ANY fantasy fan think that makes sense, let alone an entire generation of gamers? It bogles my mind to this day.
This was the foundational book of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons as it existed in my youth. Really, one could play the game with only this book and a substantial amount of imagination, although in order to have the combat system one really needed _The Dungeon Master's Guide_ and for pre-made monsters _The Monster Manual_ as well. But this book covered my favorite part of role-playing: character generation.
Unlike later rpgs, D&D didn't really emphasize the dramatic side of role playing, it wasThis was the foundational book of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons as it existed in my youth. Really, one could play the game with only this book and a substantial amount of imagination, although in order to have the combat system one really needed _The Dungeon Master's Guide_ and for pre-made monsters _The Monster Manual_ as well. But this book covered my favorite part of role-playing: character generation.
Unlike later rpgs, D&D didn't really emphasize the dramatic side of role playing, it was essentially designed as a combat-based dungeon-slog with some puzzle-solving along the way. Drama only worked its way into the system slowly, and in spurts. Accordingly, the _Players Handbook_ is largely based around building a balanced team of characters with the kinds of skills necessary to handle a limited range of problems. Fighters (including Rangers and Paladins) were your foot-soldiers, Clerics and Druids the medics, Thieves and Assassins served as scouts and Magic Users and Illusionists were the artillery you called in when things got tough. Character races were designed to be good at certain things also - Elves are god archers and have infravision, Dwarves are useful in underground settings, Halflings and Gnomes were skilled thieves. Only the Half-Orc race had any special dramatic value: it was for people who insisted on playing the outcast. The bulk of the text is taken up with descriptions of the spells used by the four spell-casting classes, most of which involve offense, defense, or some sort of assistance in perception or movement to evade traps or overcome obstacles.
Still and all, the advanced D&D rules were expanded enough to start sparking some imaginations and breaking role-playing "out of the dungeon." The illustrations in this edition reflect to some degree the emphasis on combat and treasure-gathering, but there are also hints of time spent in cities, woods, and more unusual environments. The depiction of the "Paladin in Hell" probably inspired more visits to the Inferno the Dante himself. As rulebooks go, this remains an entertaining and at times inspiring resource....more
I didn't think about reviewing this for a while....it's a games rule book. But it gave a lot of enjoyment. This is the rule book for edition 1 at the time called Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D) as there was also a Basic Dungeons and Dragons that a lot of people began with.
The book has lists of player character classes, spells for wizards and clerics....all the basic rules needed for an adventure that a lot of us found absorbing. All you needed was the book, some paper and pencil, a handI didn't think about reviewing this for a while....it's a games rule book. But it gave a lot of enjoyment. This is the rule book for edition 1 at the time called Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D) as there was also a Basic Dungeons and Dragons that a lot of people began with.
The book has lists of player character classes, spells for wizards and clerics....all the basic rules needed for an adventure that a lot of us found absorbing. All you needed was the book, some paper and pencil, a handful of dice (of course they were a little special, a 4 sided, a couple of 10 sided ones, a twelve sided and a twenty sided, to go along with the standard six sided one) and a Dungeon Master or referee. That was me starting back in '78, and I've continued to play on and off through several editions since....more
A lot of what I want to say about this book (or specifically Dungeons & Dragons) has already been stated by other reviewers. While growing up in the 80s, AD&D and Cars Wars (though this was not a role-playing game, my group of friends basically played it as such with money being awarded in the place of experience points) introduced me to a social hobby that would expand through the years into miniature war gaming and other role-playing games that would introduce me to great people and crA lot of what I want to say about this book (or specifically Dungeons & Dragons) has already been stated by other reviewers. While growing up in the 80s, AD&D and Cars Wars (though this was not a role-playing game, my group of friends basically played it as such with money being awarded in the place of experience points) introduced me to a social hobby that would expand through the years into miniature war gaming and other role-playing games that would introduce me to great people and create great memories based on enjoying fictional experiences with others. While there are currently a wide variety of role-playing games out now (including my favorite, Fantasy Flight's Dark Heresy), D&D and AD&D should be recognized for the stage that they set for the future industry. ...more
Full disclosure: Never really played AD&D except for a few ill-fated attempts in 5th grade. It's amazing how personalities can clash, especially with an incompetent DM. But it was still pretty cool to read these books.
This rating is more based on my enjoyment of reading this book, rather than any intent of using it. First edition AD&D, judging by this volume, is pretty messy and disorganized, and I think I'd prefer to use Second Edition, which cleans things up a fair bit. Plus, I'm not fond of the fact that basic stuff like how to roll stats and how to resolve combat is reserved for the Dungeon Master's Guide. Still, this is an interesting look back at D&D's early years. I like that there's some niceThis rating is more based on my enjoyment of reading this book, rather than any intent of using it. First edition AD&D, judging by this volume, is pretty messy and disorganized, and I think I'd prefer to use Second Edition, which cleans things up a fair bit. Plus, I'm not fond of the fact that basic stuff like how to roll stats and how to resolve combat is reserved for the Dungeon Master's Guide. Still, this is an interesting look back at D&D's early years. I like that there's some nice advice in here about being a good player, both in terms of surviving a campaign and in terms of social expectations. I especially like that Gygax reminds players that if a DM is bad, they can just walk away and start a better campaign. The set of races is fairly standard, although all information about what an elf actually is is apparently in the Monster Manual. I know this is because that was published first out of the core books, but it still feels weird from a modern point of view. I like some of the classes, and if I ever was in a 1st ed. game, this book makes me pretty interested in playing a ranger. However, the assassin and monk annoy me, the former because it's an evil class that will end up messing up the game, and the latter because he's a rather Asian archetype in an otherwise Medieval European setting. Then again, I've never much understood the monk, and I also don't quite get the illusionist. What fantasy characters or archetype is he modelling? As with most editions, magic spells take up the majority of the book. Some of them were actually fairly interesting and could be used in clever ways. Others, like a spell for crafting magic items, seems more useful for NPCs given the long time it takes to cast and be useful. Combat and adventuring are frustratingly vague, since the rules are held back for the Dungeon Master. The book tells me I can make attacks and roll initiative, but it doesn't say much more than this. I'm not too fond of the psychic powers presented here, since they seem clunky (and counter Gygax's claim in the intro that there are no accounting heavy point-based magic systems). I've always loved the bard as a character concept, but I much prefer the second edition version. All in all, it was fun reading this as a historical exercise, but I can't imagine ever wanting to play this version of the game. It seems a bit too messy and unrefined for my tastes....more
The first edition of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook, written by E. Gary Gygax, is only one of a trilogy of rulebooks necessary to play the seminal roleplaying game. My original intention was to do a review of this book alone. However, the more time I put into trying to write a review, the more I realized there is really no way to talk about this book without talking about Dungeons & Dragons as a whole. BecauVIDEO VERSION: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons by E. Gary Gygax
The first edition of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook, written by E. Gary Gygax, is only one of a trilogy of rulebooks necessary to play the seminal roleplaying game. My original intention was to do a review of this book alone. However, the more time I put into trying to write a review, the more I realized there is really no way to talk about this book without talking about Dungeons & Dragons as a whole. Because this single volume is only one piece of a larger encompassing game, it doesn't make any sense to just talk about one book. Therefore, this review will not focus exclusively on Player's Handbook, rather I will also discuss how the volume fits into the scope of the game, along with the other core rulebooks.
My virginity was lost at the age of 12. Not my sexual virginity, my Dungeons & Dragons virginity. That was when I was first seduced by dice and rulebooks.
The first time I ever heard of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), I was in the 6th grade, and within my circle of friends, one of the boys was telling us stories about his uncle playing this really elaborate boardgame that supposedly took days to learn how to play. That was the most vivid thing I remember about it; learning that the game was so complicated, you didn't just read a pamphlet of rules in 10 minutes, but instead you spent days learning the instructions. At that time, we didn't understand the concept of a roleplaying game. We thought it was a boardgame like Monopoly or Clue or Chess or Checkers and I distinctly remember my friends and I laughing at the stupidity of playing a game that would take so long to learn. What was the point? We thought it was crazy. What kind of losers are going to waste days just to learn the rules of a boardgame? Why would you do that? How could the game possibly be any fun if it was that complicated?
Over the next few weeks, we learned more and more about it. Players would make up imaginary characters like elves and warriors. Another player, called a Dungeon Master was like a referee or a movie director and he would run the game and play all the other roles of monsters and describe imaginary environments and so forth. Playing the whole game was kind of like a table reading of an improvisational theatrical production, with a medieval storyline, where you get to play a character that you invented yourself. That was starting to sound a lot less stupid and kind of fun! My friend sat in on a game session with his uncle and we heard all about the mythological creatures and magic and wizards and adventures and it started to sound really, really cool. Learning the rules might take a long time, but we began to understand why it was worth it. So, we decided to give it a shot. Among my friends, I believe I may have been the first or second person to buy the Basic boxed set of Dungeons & Dragons. Eventually, all of my friends played D&D, but in the beginning, I'm pretty sure there were only two of us to buy the original boxed set. We both read the rules and we figured it out and we had a lot of telephone conversations trying to understand what the rulebooks were talking about. And what the hell do you do with the crayon? By the end of the week, we tried to play that first game module, The Keep on The Borderlands, and it was awful. We had no idea what we were doing. We thought the Dungeon Master was supposed to actually read the module verbatim to the players. It was terrible. Total disaster. Wasn't fun at all. We didn't even use the crayon to color the dice. Never figured that out until months later. Instead I used it to underline rules in the rulebooks. That was a bad idea. It was a black crayon.
Yet, for some reason, we stuck with it. We didn't give up on Dungeons & Dragons even though that first game session sucked so bad. I think maybe the simple fact that we had spent an entire week reading the rules made us determined to not give up.
Like many kids back then, we didn't realize that Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) were completely different games. We presumed they were a progression: Basic to Expert to Advanced. Makes sense, right? We didn't understand that the Expert Dungeons & Dragons box set was a sequel to the Basic Dungeons & Dragons box set, but the hardcover Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks were not a sequel to the Expert set, they were in fact, an entirely new system of rules.
So, we played the Basic game.
Then we progressed to the Expert game.
Then I became the first person among my friends to buy AD&D.
In order to play a proper game of the first edition of AD&D, you needed a bare minimum of three books: 1. Player's Handbook 2. Dungeon Master's Guide 3. Monster Manual
Those three books are the staples, the foundation of the game. As their names imply, Player's Handbook is for the players. It explains how to create different types of characters and what their capabilities are within the game. Dungeon Master's Guide is for the referee and it lays out all the rules of how gameplay works from random encounters with mythological creatures in the countryside to rolling dice to determine the outcome of epic battles and swordfights. Monster Manual is a reference book for the Dungeon Master to populate his fantasy world with his choice of hundreds of fantastical beasts from orcs to goblins and of course, dragons. The first edition of AD&D ended up being comprised of over a dozen hardcover rulebooks and I owned them all. However, the other 10 books in question are all optional supplements. Only those initial three are the essential ones.
Needless to say, since D&D and AD&D are different games, when I bought the Player's Handbook, I was right back to square one. My friends and I had been playing D&D for months and I knew the rules of D&D pretty well. Because we all presumed AD&D was just another expansion, when I hit those hardcover books, I had no clue what was going on. I was completely baffled. And this time, I didn't have any other friends to bounce chapters off of. Nobody else owned the hardcover books yet. I was on my own. Slowly, I began to realize that this was a totally different game, and it was a lot better! I was really excited and I couldn't wait for all my friends to get copies of the books too. Once that happened, once all my friends had collected the AD&D books, we left the Basic and Expert box sets behind and never looked back. We were all about AD&D (an acronym which may confuse those of you in the insurance industry).
Reading the AD&D rulebooks was truly kindling the tinder of my imagination. The magical aspect of roleplaying games is that once you read the book to understand the rules, you constantly go back to reference the rules. Simply reading about imaginary spells and monsters and magical items would set the wheels in motion. I'd start to visualize different plots and scenarios and ideas for characters and villages and storylines and dungeon maps and treasures and who was guarding those treasures and why. Over the years, I literally invented dozens of AD&D characters that I never even used in the game. Dreaming them up was just as fun as playing a campaign with them.
The game itself, and the joy of playing it, occupied my time for years. All through junior high, and well into highschool, AD&D was a huge part of my friendships and my fondest memories. During the 6th grade, instead of staying out on the playground during lunch, my friends Jerry Jarzabek, Chip Reynolds and Keith Riggs would sneak back into the school, so we could play AD&D for the lunch period. We had all night gaming sessions with Ted and Chris Smith and Aaron Reitz and Mike Rozack, where we had sleepovers and quite literally played all night until the sun came up. Those evenings are sepiatone Polaroids of cozy sleeping bags fluffed thick as summer clouds fogging the floors among piles of dice and rulebooks. Grand adventures and crazy schemes and silly plots and scary battles and thrilling characters and epic conclusions.
Back in 1983, Player's Handbook was unquestionably one of the most important books of my junior highschool days. One that I read over and over. One that shaped and informed my social interaction, enriched my imagination, and educated me in new ways to appreciate mathematics, history, geometry, spatial relations, cartography, illustration, and storytelling.
Thankfully, those original three AD&D rulebooks were reprinted in 2013, allowing for an entirely new class of 6th graders to start playing the roleplaying game that started all roleplaying games. The original. The venerable. The immortal. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
Pick up a copy for yourself. And don't forget to buy the dice. Don't worry, these days, the numbers are already colored in. No need for the crayon anymore.
"The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." - Gary Gygax...more
I recently re-read my 34-year-old copy of this core rule book for D&D, thinking I would introduce the game to my kids. I had forgotten how poorly written the book is. There is needless explanation of the rationale behind rules, as if this book were written for game designers, and it lacks a section on core game mechanics, which is left for the Dungeon Master's Guide. Unfortunately, in the introduction, the recommendation is for players to not read the Dungeon Master's Guide! It leaves it upI recently re-read my 34-year-old copy of this core rule book for D&D, thinking I would introduce the game to my kids. I had forgotten how poorly written the book is. There is needless explanation of the rationale behind rules, as if this book were written for game designers, and it lacks a section on core game mechanics, which is left for the Dungeon Master's Guide. Unfortunately, in the introduction, the recommendation is for players to not read the Dungeon Master's Guide! It leaves it up to DMs to instruct new players in how to play the game. Were it up to me, I would have duplicated the information on character building and game mechanics from the DM guide in the Player's Handbook in order to reduce the number of books that a player needs. Only DMs should be required to own all 3 core rulebooks: Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manual.
Even though I am nostalgic for the old classes and races and don't like some of the changes in the 4th edition of the game, the current 4th edition rules are much more streamlined and the core rulebooks have been better written and organized. The primary value to this book is historical, unless you end up in an old-school game with a bunch of 45-year-olds....more
This is the best book ever. I have read this book about 100 times. The fact that I am not a professional Dungeons&Dragons player, or game designer, is proof of an unjust universe. In an alternate dimension, I am the CEO of Wizards of the Coast. Here? Not so much. Weeping, weeping...
Got a copy recently through Interlibrary Loan; apparently it is still on the shelves in Duluth. The font, the line drawings, the crispy paper, the grey and white tables... this is classic D&D. Wish I'd kept my copy.
if you are an old school gamer, you gotta have this book. Even if you don't play anymore, even if you think the game is stupid now, there is something magnificent about the artwork and labyrinthian text that will fill you with more nostalgia that nearly any other book you own (except maybe something like crazy book of your dad's you found in the attic that taght you more in an hour than a year of school).
The organization is sometimes difficult to follow, the rules are nearly incwhere to start...
if you are an old school gamer, you gotta have this book. Even if you don't play anymore, even if you think the game is stupid now, there is something magnificent about the artwork and labyrinthian text that will fill you with more nostalgia that nearly any other book you own (except maybe something like crazy book of your dad's you found in the attic that taght you more in an hour than a year of school).
The organization is sometimes difficult to follow, the rules are nearly incomprehensible at times, but somehow this little gem made a mark on the world. ...more
The one that started it all. The game that launched a thousand funny-shaped dice. Before video games, if you were an kid with imagination looking for adventure, this is what you did. God bless you, Gary Gygax, you did something new and amazing with this book. How many people can say that?
Ernest Gary Gygax was an American writer and game designer, best known for co-creating the pioneering role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) with Dave Arneson in 1974, and co-founding the company Tactical Studies Rules (TSR, Inc.) with Don Kaye in 1973.
After leaving TSR, Gygax continued to author role-playing game titles independently, including another gaming system called LejendaryErnest Gary Gygax was an American writer and game designer, best known for co-creating the pioneering role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) with Dave Arneson in 1974, and co-founding the company Tactical Studies Rules (TSR, Inc.) with Don Kaye in 1973.
After leaving TSR, Gygax continued to author role-playing game titles independently, including another gaming system called Lejendary Adventure.
Gygax is generally acknowledged as one of the fathers of the tabletop role-playing game....more