This is the blog. Click here to go to the Zenopus Archives website.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

AD&D 1E Players Handbook PDF

"I can fit my entire spell book in one of these thumb drives"

Yesterday the original AD&D Players Handbook was given new virtual life, being made available as a pdf download from (a special section of drivethrurpg / rpgnow). It's currently priced at $9.99. One the product page there's a nice historical essay by Shannon Appelcline who has written similar essays for most of the other 1E products. I bought the pdf today so I'll share some quick impressions.

The AD&D PHB was perhaps the third D&D product I ever owned, after the Holmes Basic Set and the Monster Manual (I may have received a module or two at the same time as the MM). It was a birthday present (along with a Pac Man watch!) and can still remember reading it in bed that evening, fascinated with the new material not mentioned in Basic like half-orc PCs. So I'm happy that it is back 'in print' and thus easily available for players to access. It's also great to have the full text available electronically for quick search and copy.  

 A few minor quibbles. The pdf is of the 'Premium Reprint' released in 2012 with reset text rather than a scan of one of the original hardcopies. Thus it has the cropped/redesigned cover art from the reprint rather than Trampier's glorious original painting spread across the front and back covers. It is also missing the TSR product list found in the back of the original, which is replaced by an ad for the Gygax Memorial Project. The interior art (by Trampier and Sutherland) is also darker than in the original, resulting in some loss, the worst probably being Trampier's finely shaded Magic Mouth on page 108, which looks murky in the pdf (See here for a 2012 side-by-side photo of this art in the original and reprint, by Brendan of

The reprint introduced a few new errors in the text, likely resulting from uncorrected OCR errors. These are included in the new pdf as reported here on DF. If you are interested in getting these corrected, try leaving a comment in the review section on

Furthermore, the original print version had a number of errors in the text, which were detailed in Dragon #35. See this Acaeum page for a list. Only a few of these were ever corrected in print. The new pdf version includes the corrections that were made in print back in the '80s as noted on the Acaeum page, but does not correct the others. Thus the new pdf still has some clear errors, such as the Dex table on page 11 with half-orcs having max 14 Dex, while the Table on Page 15 has the corrected '17'.

I believe this is the first of the 1E AD&D Reprints to be released electronically, so hopefully we'll see the rest shortly. And where's that Holmes Basic pdf?


  1. Replies
    1. Well, at least with a pdf most of these corrections could still be made easily. From what I gather anyone who had previously purchased the old PHB pdf got the new version for free, which is nice customer service. So if they correct this one everyone who has bought it should get a new copy.

  2. Super glad I have the old PDFs of the original books.

  3. I bought all my .PDFs directly from Wizards of the Coast as soon as they were available so unfortunately I'm not eligible for this or any other re-releases. Sigh.

  4. Replies
    1. Yes it is...with ALL CAPS...kind of annoying.

  5. The REAL burning question is: is the last page still "perforated for easy removal"? In my campaign, we call this a Lie +3, no saving throw...

  6. Random comment unrelated to the post...because I'm not sure where else to put it.

    I can't think of a more interesting and well written OSR blog than Zenopus Archives. I wasn't really much of a Blue Book fan until I dipped a toe in here but that's OK since the utility and nostalgia value crosses the boundaries nicely.

    Please keep up the wonderful work. Off to do some more browsing of the archives - I really shouldn't, I'm at work... Thank you!

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Mike! Glad to hear you are finding it all interesting.

  7. What a shame about the poor quality editing, OCR & art. :(

    Its sad to admit that a real gaming enthusiast (i.e. any one of us) could probably put together a PDF so close to the original in quality and editing that would blow WotC's scanning OCRbot away.

    In my case unfortunately, I'd wind up taking a couple years to get it right, but then again... how long has WotC had these? Did they decide to just do this last week?