Sunday, February 10, 2013

Expert Set rulebook pdf notes

GNOME LAIR - location from the Sample Wilderness in the Expert Set rulebook

I ended up buying the new pdf of the Expert Set rulebook. Some notes:
(1) The scan quality is great, the text is completely OCR'd and searchable, and the pdf is fully indexed with bookmarks. Front and back covers, including insides are all included, important since there's a table of contents inside the front and an index inside the back. Pages are mostly scanned straight, though a few are slightly off, which you can see above in the screenshot of the Gnome Lair.

(2) It's a 1st printing of the rulebook according to the Acaeum. The distinguishing feature on the front cover is the lack of a white circle around the "2" on the upper left front cover. I hadn't seen the interior of a 1st printing before, but a quick comparison to a later printing didn't reveal any major text differences in the rules. I do note that the title page of the 1st printing has Gygax & Arneson's name on it, but for some reason their name is missing from the hard copy later printing that I have.

The corresponding Moldvay pdf from dndclassics is not a 1st printing, as it has a white circle around the "1" on the front cover. Apparently the Wizards are not paying attention to the printings at this level of granularity. It will be interesting to see what printing of the Holmes rulebook we end up with - most likely the 2nd or 3rd printing.

(3) Here's the neatest part of the pdf: It's 88 pages rather than the 68 pages as you'd expect (64 page rulebook plus covers). That's because it has several bonus items from the Expert Set at the end: a 16 page TSR product catalog, a 2-page RPGA membership form, and a 2-page TSR survey. The catalog is a real treasure if you haven't seen it before: a 1981 Gateway to Adventure TSR product catalog (see the cover here). There are several versions of this catalog, and this one happens to be the one that shows the Holmes Basic rulebook cover next to a listing for the new Expert Set rulebook. So now I have a better scan of the picture of this, which I've replaced in my previous post. However, I also noted that the catalog shows the Moldvay Box Set on another page along with the Expert Set. So perhaps the B/X box cover design was finished at the time of this catalog but not the rulebook cover design.

Page from one version of the Gateway to Adventure catalog


  1. I think the Acaeum is mistaken. My Basic and Expert rulebooks have the numeral in the white circle, but they are first printings.

  2. Gordon, are you going by what is stated on the title page? Because both versions (white circle or not) state "First Printing - January, 1981" on the title page. I should have mentioned this above. TSR didn't always update the title page printing info when changes were made. But the Acaeum generally designates a new printing when any changes are made. So the Acaeum determined the uncircled version is the "true" first printing. Based on my observations on Ebay in the past, the white circle version is much more common than the uncircled version, supporting that it is the earlier printing.

    1. Hm... I wonder if it's possible that they used new covers, but the pages were from the original print run. Perhaps they felt a need to correct the copyright info on the back cover, so they corrected it and made some other small graphic changes (like the white circle on the front cover and blue text on the inside covers), but kept using the first printing pages, making it a hybrid (first printing pages with later printing covers). I wonder if we can track down some former TSR employees who would remember... (Just kidding. I'm not *that* obsessive.)

  3. My original Expert set did not have the hole punches.