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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ancient Treasures from the Cellars (D&D pdfs)

One of the banners from

The whispered rumors were true; the Wizards have been excavating in their cellars in search of ancient treasures. OneBookShelf (RPGnow/DriveThruRPG) was preparing its website to re-issue the D&D backcatalog in pdf form. Today, they are available through a dedicated storefront called with the tagline "Every Edition Available Again!"

Here are my notes and a roundup of news related to this:
-Eighty PDFs are currently available from a range of lines (Moldvay Basic, AD&D, etc). Francisa on the K&KA forums posted the following message from customer support : "Our initial release includes over 80 titles, though we plan to release smaller batches of additional titles on a rolling basis after that. Needless to say the final catalog will be extensive." They are releasing them as they become available from the Wizards. James Raggi reports the following from them: "All second edition and prior titles have been re-mastered with better quality scans and re-bookmarked. Scanning equipment has improved considerably over the last decade, and it was time to replace the scans created under the ESD program with all new scans."

-B1 In Search of the Unknown is free for download this week. Get it here. The normal list price is $5.50. It's the brown-colored Moldvay revision from 1981 rather than the original monochrome version for Holmes Basic. Quality is excellent, and fully text searchable (yes!). Badmike reports that the pdf is fully printable.

-Moldvay Basic is available on authorized pdf for the first time everIt's $4.99, and currently the hottest product on the site. I haven't bought it yet, but I plan to. It will be nice to have a text searchable version. No Expert, as of yet but it's coming on Feb 5th (see updates below).

-Good news: if you purchased a pdf from them in the past, and there's a new version, you can download the new one for free. I checked my account and was able to download the new version of B6 Veiled Society, which I'd purchased previously. It's a completely new scan, much better than the old one. They even scanned the map on the inside of the folder as one large page rather than two separate pages in the old pdf.

-No Holmes Basic products yet. Hopefully we'll at least see the Holmes Basic rulebook. They'll probably also release the original B1 since it has a different cover that makes it easily distinguishable. I'd like to see the original B2 for Holmes Basic (with DX scores for monsters) as well. No OD&D yet, either but I'm 100% certain we'll see those.

-Each product has an excellent "Product History" page written by RPG historian Shannon Appelcline. Here's some quotes from the page for B1: "The story of "Search" begins with the first Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (1977), which was a reorganization of the rules from the original 3-book Dungeons & Dragons (1974) and Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975) produced by J. Eric Holmes. Following the publication of the Basic Set, TSR was looking for better introductory material to support it.

Enter TSR Games & Rule Editor Mike Carr, who saw the need for an introductory adventure that really taught GMs how to create and stock a dungeon. He offered to write such a product for TSR, who accepted. "In Search of the Unknown" was thus an introductory module for the introductory rule set - making it the ultimate introduction to the game."

-Deities & Demigods is available, but buyer beware: judging by the preview pdf, the new  scan is unfortunately of the fourth printing, without the Cthulhu or Melnibonean Mythos. The fourth printing was an oddity in that Holmes is still thanked for his help on the Cthulhu Mythos, and Chaosium is thanked for permission (pg 4), but these Mythos had been removed. If you look at the table of contents, it's the revised edition with only 128 pages.

-There's a GeekDad column on Wired about the new pdfs: "The PDFs are made from fresh scans of these old products. "We've rescanned everything," Schuh said. "It's the highest quality you can get out there." (I'd generally concur: The scans are good quality, and best of all, the PDFs are searchable. For example, you can search 1980's Q1: Queen of the Demonweb Pits for all instances of the word "Lolth" or "spider ship," which could come in handy during game play. I did see a few errors in the reproduction of multi-part gatefold-style maps, but hopefully these glitches will be resolved.)"

"The company also plans on releasing "conversion notes" so the older gaming products available on can be played with newer editions of D&D, including the latest revamp of the rules, what is being called "D&D Next," now in development and scheduled to be released sometime in 2014."

-Some "Basic 4th Edition" products are available for free as well, including H1 Keep on the Shadowfell, for levels 1-3, which is 145 pages long (!) and includes 4E Quickstart Rules and lots of large maps for play (not sure how well these will print out). Also Khyber's Harvest, a 36-page adventure for 2nd level characters.

-According to this Examiner interview, the next pdfs will come on Feb 5th, and will include among others the AD&D MMII, DSG, WSG, D&D Expert rulebook and the module DA2. And OD&D is on the way: "We are opening with around 80 titles covering all of the editions, well, maybe not the earliest Chainmail or Original Edition yet, but that will come."


  1. Best summary post I've seen on this. Thanks.

  2. Cool, thanks for that. Just joined up.


  3. I don't understand the decision to scan the inferior 128-page Deities & Demigods. It was my understanding that there are no longer any trademark or copyright concerns with that content. I'm very glad that I was recently able to purchase a minty-fresh copy of the 144-page Deities on eBay for next-to-nothing.

    1. It is disappointing. But they may need permission from Chaosium again to use the Cthulhu Mythos in a new medium. And probably permission from Michael Moorcock for the Melnibonean Mythos.

  4. Every Edition - except the "Zero-th" pre-AD&D edition. And Holmes.

    1. They are on the way - see the Examiner article! I just update the post to add this, thanks for the reminder

  5. Is there any information about POD options in the future?

    1. Good question. I haven't seen any information on this; neither of the interviews I linked above seem to mention it. Perhaps they don't want to compete with their own premium reprints? They may not have decided yet the full extent of what modules are being reprinted yet.