If you ever wanted to re-live the ancient history of Dungeons & Dragons, you’re in luck — the very first Player’s Handbook, written and published in 1978 by the real-life wizard Gary Gygax, is now available to grab as a PDF from DNDClassics.com.
Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons, gives us a lovely overview of what to expect from this ancient tome, pointing out that the AD&D 1e Players Handbook is “very different from its later incarnations”.
“From AD&D 2e onward, the Player’s Handbook has been the main rulebook for the D&D game, but in AD&D 1e it only contained the most crucial rules needed by the players. That means that it explains abilities, races, classes, spells, and psionics, plus a few other bobs and bits.
“What’s astonishing is what’s not in this book. For example, you won’t find rules about how to actually roll your abilities! The Dungeon Masters Guide (1979) has that! Similarly, there are no rules for combat or even saving throws! Instead the player only got summaries of what the rules systems were like — not the actual systems!”
“Though this might seem bizarre today,” Appelcline concludes, “the original Players Handbook was from a different age; players were kept in the dark about the rules of the game, and the game master was the ultimate arbiter of all the game’s mechanics.”
That doesn’t sound like it’s for me, but if you’d like to relive the earliest days of D&D, head along and check it out.
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