Product Review: AD&D First Edition Reprints

AD&D 1st Edition Reprints, all three covers

They’re finally here, the reprints of Gygax’s three original AD&D books. I received the email from my friendly local game store on Thursday, and drove up there yesterday to pick them up. And let me tell you: these books are nice. The covers look fantastic, with each looking unique and incorporating the original art, while still maintaining a thematic look between them. The covers are textured as well, with indentations on both the front and the back, corresponding to the darker patterns in the image above. I particularly like how the books have no bar codes or ISBD numbers on the exterior. Aside from a re-printing of the dark pattern on the front, there isn’t even anything printed on the backs. Very classy looking.

AD&D 1st Edition Reprints, the backs of all three booksEach of the books came wrapped in plastic, and bound by a piece of paper with a faux-wax seal for the Gygax Memorial printed on them. As I’m sure most people are aware, a percentage of the profits from each book purchased will go to support the Gygax Memorial Fund, which seeks to build a statue of Gary in his hometown of Lake Geneva Wisconsin. These pieces of paper are also where the ISBN number and bar code can be found, on the back side. Again, very nice. They also use this area to list the books original publication date, and notes whether the book was originally published first, second, or third out of the three.

The Paper Bindings from all three 1st edition AD&D ReprintsThe spine of these books looks fantastic as well. I’m curious to know if the symbols used here have any meaning which I’m not aware of. Or maybe they’re just meant to look cool, I don’t know. The actual binding of the book is similar to more modern books, with the page glued together in small bunches. It would have been cool if they’d used the same super-sturdy binding methods used in the original 1970s books, but I’d be kind of surprised if there were even any printing houses left which offered that.

[EDIT: It looks as though I was wrong on this point. Brendan of Untimately has corrected me:]

The bindings on the reprints are section sewn, which is probably about the highest quality book binding available (though it depends how the sections are attached to the spine, and I can’t see that). If you flip to the center of the sections, you can see the stitches. The new books probably have better bindings than the first original printings, despite how well the originals have held up.

1st edition AD&D Reprints Book Spines for all three books

Now this is kind of cool, because it’s honestly pretty uncommon: gilded edges. I think the only other books I own with gilded edges on the pages are my copy of the christian bible, and my copy of Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s a little ostentatious, but I think it’s warranted given how historically important these books are, and how much love the community has for the man who wrote them.

I put a little too much light into this pictures, so you you could see the edges glisten.

1st edition AD&D Reprints Gilded Edges for all three booksAnd, of course, as with most books that have gilded edges, these books each have ribbon bookmarks. Curiously, though, each book’s ribbon has a different width. I’m not sure how to explain that, except to point out that the width of the ribbon seems to correspond with the thickness of the book.

1st edition AD&D Reprints Ribbon Bookmarks for all three booksI thought it would be nice to compare the reprints to the original editions, but unfortunately I only have the 1979 Dungeon Master’s Guide, and have not yet gotten my hands on the original Player’s Handbook or Monster Manual. Still, one works with what one has, so here are the two DMGs, side by side. It’s at this point that I would like to give Wizards of the Coast my most profound thanks for not placing their logo anywhere on the outside of the reprinted books. They could have done so, and honestly I don’t think anyone could blame them if they did. They invested money in producing this product, and have every right to but their trademark on it. But they didn’t, and that demonstrates a respect which I find commendable.

1st edition AD&D Reprints: New DMG and original DMG side by side

Here’s the iconic title page of the DMG, with the original on the left and the reprint on the right. The newer book uses higher quality paper and printing, which is nice. Darlene Pekul’s Unicorn is rendered a little more darkly than in the original book, but it also appears more crisp on the page. I also notice that the original copyright information has been removed, and the legal information at the bottom has been expanded. Which, of course, makes logical sense.What doesn’t make  sense to me is that on the following page, the foreword, they removed the caption at the bottom which explained the cover. Originally it read:

“Cover: The book cover painting shows an encounter between three adventurers and an efreet on the Elemental Plane of Fire. The fabled City of Brass can be seen floating over a flame-swept sea of oil.”

I suppose the thinking may have been that since the cover art was different, it was no longer appropriate to reference adventurers who were not depicted. But since the efreet was still there, it seems some mention is in order.

I wonder if, perhaps, the text for this book was taken from the original 1983 reprint. The one with different cover art, which Gygax ostensibly preferred.

1st Edition AD&D Reprints: Copyright page compared between original and reprint editions

On the Contents page, I notice that the printing seems to be a little more dense than in my original copy. The last entry on page 3 in my copy is “Aerial Travel,” while the reprint has two more lines after that, ending on “Waterborne Adventures.” You’ll probably need to open this image in a new tab if you want to read the text.

1st Edition AD&D Reprints: Index page discrepency between original edition and reprint

I flipped to the final pages to see if they matched up, and they’re actually quite different! I’m not terribly surprised that the Gencon advertisement was removed, but the information the two books end on is completely different! While the original ends with an Index page, the reprint ends with an appendix which appears to deal with henchmen and hirelings. I also notice that while my original copy ends on page 232, this reprint ends on page 240! Where did they add an extra eight pages?

1st Edition AD&D Reprints: Last page comparison, original versus reprint

I did some looking, and it appears there are two additional appendices listed on the Contents page: APPENDIX O: ENCUMBRANCE OF STANDARD ITEMS, and APPENDIX P: CREATING A PARTY ON THE SPUR OF THE MOMENT. Neither of these is included in my original copy of the book, but at this point I’m going to assume that they were added by Gygax himself to later printings. I don’t see why Wizards would add this stuff. However, those two sections don’t take up much room, and end on page 227. Following them are the glossary, afterword, and index, printed pretty much the same as they are in my original text.

But while the 1979 print of the book ends after the Index, Wizards has a splash-page notice about the Gygax memorial, followed by four pages of additional tables. I’m really kinda confused about their placement, here. If they were added in previous reprints of the book, then why did Wizards place their splash page 4 page before the end of the book? If they were NOT in previous printings of the book, then why did Wizards add them?

That weirdness aside, there’s a very nice touch at the end of the index where Wizards kindly printed the old TSR wizard logo.

1st Edition AD&D Reprints: End of Index, TSR Logo on Reprint

All in all, these are easily worth the $100 I dropped on them, and I recommend that everyone who doesn’t own a copy of these books go out and do the same. Show your support for the Gygax memorial, and show Wizards of the Coast that there’s a market for a more traditional style of role playing game.

And now that I finally own a complete set of AD&D books, I suspect I’ll find excuses to use them. Hee hee hee…

EDIT 1/22/13: I normally prefer not to edit a post once it has gone live. Particularly not such an old post as this. However, I still see a lot of people sharing this post and using it to help make the decision of whether or not they’d like to spend money on these books. As such, I think it’s important that I include some new information which I’ve become aware of.

Much of the iconic art in these books was not well preserved in the reprints. Almost all of it has been significantly darkened, often obscuring details. Some of it even has strange artifacts which were not present at all in the original prints.

You can view art comparisons in this Imgur album. The degradation of the art’s quality is clear, and I have confirmed it by looking through my original and reprinted copies of the DMG.

(I would love to host those images here, but unfortunately I cannot find a means to contact the original uploader, and I’ve not intention of stealing his or her content. If anyone who knows the mysterious ways of Imgur would like to help me contact them, I would be appreciative.)

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11 thoughts on “Product Review: AD&D First Edition Reprints”

  1. I got myself a set also, though I probably don’t need them. I now have almost three sets of the AD&D core books, and I don’t even like AD&D as a comprehensive system. As inspiration they are great though.

    The bindings on the reprints are section sewn, which is probably about the highest quality book binding available (though it depends how the sections are attached to the spine, and I can’t see that). If you flip to the center of the sections, you can see the stitches. The new books probably have better bindings than the first original printings, despite how well the originals have held up.

  2. I’ve been looking at my own (exceedingly battered) copy, and I _think_ that the reprint is from the the one I have, the “Revised Edition — December, 1979” (ISBN 0-935696-02-4). The pagination matches what I can see in the photos, and the artist list on the copyright page also matches (listing Erol Otus instead of Todd Oleck). My copy has the Gen Con splash ad at the bottom of the last page of the index (p. 235), the next page (236) is an ad for other TSR products (Players Handbook, World of Greyhawk, modules, etc.), and then there are four pages of tables that are “perforated for easy removal and reference” — is it possible that your copy originally had some pull-out pages at the end as well?

    1. It doesn’t look as though my copy of the original printing has an perforated pages torn from it. I didn’t even notice the difference in the artist’s name, good catch!

      Small stuff like that doesn’t surprise me too much. Than can change from printing-to-printing. But adding two indexes is a pretty huge change, and I was unaware it had been done. Does your copy have those?

      Thanks for commenting!

      1. Yes, it has Appendix O and Appendix P, then the glossary, index, and the four pages of tables (which, despite the label, don’t appear to actually be perforated in any way).

        My copy does also have the same cover with the efreet on the front and the City of Brass on the back. (The City of Brass is still one of my favorite illustrations from that era of the game.)

        It’d be interesting to get one of those 1980’s reprints — with the alternate cover and the orange spine — to see if the text in it was still the 1979 “revised edition” text.

        This has been fascinating — I didn’t even realize that there had been multiple editions.

        1. All I really knew about was the alternate cover. I was surprised to discover there were other differences as well.

          And I concur: the city of brass is stunning. So much of early RPG artwork is very simple in its style, but manages to evoke profound feelings of excitement and adventure. I have a lot of respect for those artists. Darlene Pekul in particular. I always enjoy her pieces.

  3. *Sigh*

    Why did I have to read this? I was perfectly content with the belief that Wizards was just trading on Gary’s name to cash in again.

    Damn it. Now you’ve made me want to go out and buy a set.

  4. Thanks for doing this dude. I wanted to know if they kept the same print/layout, and here it is. I’d like to see future books printed so…primitive, and bound so fine. It’s the perfect aesthetic for table-top rpgs.


  5. I saw your post and the edit about the art. I recently saw a Kickstarter project for the artist who did the ‘Expedition to Barrier Peaks’ module to recreate his old artwork for the module because the originals had been thrown out. So I’m wondering if they didn’t really archive their art very well at TSR. Chances are a lot of the original art may be missing-which could explain the discrepancy between the look of the original and the reprints.

    1. That’s very possible. I think Darlene Pekul has mentioned something in a similar vein, about how much of her original art was lost.

      None the less, some of the art would have been better if they’d just scanned it out of an original copy, and digitally inserted it into the reprints.

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