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Players Handbook (1e)
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Players Handbook (1e)

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The 1st Edition Player's Handbook is back!

No more searching through stacks of books and magazines to find out what you need to know. The Player's Handbook puts it all at your fingertips, including: All recommended character classes: Fighters, Paladins, Rangers, Magic-Users, and more.

  • Character Races: Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, Half-Orcs, Humans, and more.
  • Character Level Statistics.
  • Equipment lists with costs.
  • Spell listings by level and descriptions of effects (including many new spells!).

As a dungeon adventurer or Dungeon Master, you will find the contents of this book to be what you have been waiting for. All useful material is now compiled under one cover, especially for players!

Note about the Print edition: While this book is black & white, it was printed using the Standard Heavyweight "color" option for better quality paper.

Product History

Players Handbook (1978), by Gary Gygax, was the first book of rules for the AD&D game. It was published in June 1978 and seen by many for the first time at Gen Con XI (August 1978).

About the Cover. The cover by Dave Trampier — which shows adventurers looting an idol after killing their foes — is one of the most famous in D&D history. The painting actually encompasses the back cover too (as was the case with all of the original AD&D books) but that picture, which shows adventurers dragging off loot and foes, has never received the same attention.

Because of its fame, Trampier's cover has been repeatedly recreated and parodied. The 3.5e Player's Handbook II (2006), which shows a close-up of the idol-robbing, may be the most attractive homage, but the original HackMaster Player's Handbook (2001) is fun too, because it shows Trampier's iconic scene several minutes earlier, when the adventurers are still fighting the lizard monsters.

Trampier's famous cover was replaced in 1983 by a Jeff Easley painting of a wizard. Most people agree that the later image is more professional, but much less memorable.

About the Other Illustrations. The illustrations by Dave Trampier and David C. Sutherland III feel relatively scant, especially when compared to the 200 illustrations in the Monster Manual (1977). There also aren't as many iconic illustrations as found in the other two core AD&D books. However, the illustration for Otto's Irresistible Dance is a favorite. It shows an Umber Hulk clicking his heels together while under the influence of the spell — which underlines the use of humorous cartoons in early AD&D products.

About the Title. There is no apostrophe in the title of the original Players Handbook. This was purposeful. Its usage was considered confusing and graphically unattractive, and so none of the 1st edition (1e) books had apostrophes in their titles. In Dragon #28 (August 1979), TSR Manager of Designers Allan Hammack, bemoaned its loss, saying "Alas for the death of the apostrophe!" and "Using an artistic excuse, they bar its every attempt at propriety and propagate the error. All is not lost, however, for there is a small but determined underground seeking to restore the lost mark to its proper place. Someday ... ."

That day would be the 1989 release of AD&D 2e.

Moving Toward AD&D. The D&D game began with the OD&D box (1974), which was expanded with four supplements (1975-1976) and additional articles in The Strategic Review (1975-1976). However, by the time that Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry (1976) was published, TSR had already decided that the system — which now spanned a half dozen books and several newsletters — needed to be unified and cleaned up.

A new Basic D&D (1977) came out first, thanks to the singular efforts of J. Eric Holmes, but it was just an introductory book, intended to shepherd new players through the first three levels of play. What D&D really needed was a revamped game for the more advanced players: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

The AD&D system technically began with Monster Manual (1977) in December 1977. This compendium of monsters showed off the increased detail that would be present in the new AD&D game, but it didn't give much hint at the game mechanics. That would await the publication of the AD&D Players Handbook (1978) six months later.

Despite the publication of AD&D, Gygax claimed that the original "D&D will always be with us". He thought that OD&D and AD&D served different audiences, and that there was no reason to retire the original. OD&D did indeed remain available into the '80s. Afterward, later editions of Basic D&D (1981, 1983) picked up the mantle of OD&D as the simpler and looser D&D game.

Many Printings. The Players Handbook appeared in 17 different printings from 1978 to 1990. The last few printings actually appeared after the release of the AD&D 2e Player's Handbook (1989) — which shows how much less concerned everyone was about editions in the '80s. It was a far cry from the desperate dumping of 3e products following the release of D&D 3.5e (2003)!

Most printings involved very minor variations. The biggest change came with the 8th printing (1983), which was when the new Jeff Easley cover appeared as part of a general rebranding of the AD&D line. In the modern day, the 1e Players Handbook has been reprinted twice more — once in a miniature collectible edition produced under license by Twenty First Century Games (1999), and once in a deluxe limited edition produced by Wizards of the Coast (2012) to support the Gygax memorial fund. The 2012 edition featured reset text.

A Different Sort of Players Handbook. 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, 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.

What a Difference an Edition Makes: The Controversy. There's a lot of disagreement over whether AD&D is a minor revision of OD&D — gathering together all of its supplements and articles — or whether it's something bigger. This controversy started in Dragon #26 (June 1979) when Gygax rather shockingly said, "there is no similarity (perhaps even less) between D&D and AD&D than there is between D&D and its various imitators produced by competing publishers." In other words, he was claiming that OD&D was more like Tunnels & Trolls (1975) and RuneQuest (1978) than AD&D! He was very clear in saying this: " It is neither an expansion nor a revision of the old game, it is a new game."

Some folks disagreed, most notably Richard Berg who reviewed the Players Handbook in Strategy & Tactics magazine and said that it was a rewrite of the OD&D game. Gygax took extreme umbrage of this claim in Dragon #22 (February 1979), stating:

"Under the circumstances, one can only wonder why Mr. Berg took the time to write on a subject of which he obviously knew so little. Perhaps it is personal or professional jealousy, as the success of D&D and now AD&D has certainly set the rest of the gaming hobby industry on its collective ear, but that is speculation."

The fans had the ultimate word: when you examine the RPG magazines of the late '70s and early '80s that most of them didn't differentiate much between OD&D, AD&D, and BD&D. Instead, magazine articles were usually written for "Dungeons & Dragons" generally. In the present day, most people would probably still agree that Berg was more correct than Gygax … but it all depends on what you're measuring.

What a Difference an Edition Makes: The Goals. There is a big difference between OD&D and AD&D, but it primarily lies in the overall vision of the new game. Gygax explained many of his new goals in articles in Dragon #26 (June 1979) and Dragon #28 (August 1979). He said that "D&D is only a loose structure … [while] AD&D is a much tighter structure which follows, in part, the same format D&D does, but it is a much stronger, more rigid, more extensive framework …"

This tighter framework served three purposes:

First, Gygax thought that the tighter framework would keep players from house-ruling D&D. As he explained: "[O]D&D campaigns can be those which feature comic book spells, 43rd level balrogs as player characters, and include a plethora of trash from various and sundry sources, AD&D cannot be so composed." Based on these changes he thought that "players will not be so able to bend the rules nor will the DM be able to bend the rules." This staunch defense of the "official" rules of AD&D would lead to letters-column drama throughout the '80s.

Second, Gygax thought that it would create "a better platform from which to launch major tournaments" — a goal that was much more successful (and less controversial).

Third, Gygax thought that it would better orient D&D toward its actual audience. OD&D had been intended for miniatures players who already had a strong basis in wargaming. Rules that were sometimes guidelines weren't a problem for these experienced players. Now, D&D's loose structure was becoming a problem for the larger audiences brought into the game though Holmes' Basic D&D. Gygax believed that a more structured game would better appeal to a large audience made up of "wargamers, game hobbyists, science fiction and fantasy fans, those who have never read fantasy fiction or played strategy games, young and old, male and female."

What a Difference an Edition Makes: The Mechanics. Mechanically, the biggest difference in AD&D lies in its level of detail. Everything is much more specific and much better described. The Monster Manual had already made this obvious with its monster descriptions, which were longer and had much more statistics. In the Players Handbook the spell listings (which took up half the book!) showed the same increased level of detail — which now featured not just longer descriptions but also whole new elements, like lists of required spell components.

AD&D also made one other major mechanical change: it increased the breadth of play possible. OD&D play topped out in the first ten levels of play, while AD&D pushed viable play into the teens. As Gygax said, "you won’t run out of game in six weeks, or six months. Perhaps in six years you will, but that’s a whole different story."

Beyond that, the new Players Handbook mainly gathered material from a variety of sources. For example, the ten character classes in AD&D were massively expanded from the three in OD&D, but most of them had appeared before:

  • Cleric: OD&D (1974)
  • Druid: Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry (1976)
  • Fighter: OD&D (1974)
  • Paladin: Greyhawk (1975)
  • Ranger: The Strategic Review #2 (Summer 1975)
  • Magic-User: OD&D (1974)
  • Illusionist: The Strategic Review #4 (Winter 1975)
  • Thief: Great Plains Game Players Newsletter #9 (June 1974) / Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975)
  • Assassin: Supplement II: Blackmoor (1975)
  • Monk: Supplement II: Blackmoor (1975)

The bard class (which appears in an appendix) was a bit more of an innovation; though a bard had previously appeared in The Strategic Review vol. 2 #1 (February 1976), the AD&D bard was massively rebalanced — and largely considered unplayable, since it required moving through fighter and thief classes before finally arriving at druidic bardism.

AD&D also increased the list of possible PC races, which were limited to dwarves, elves, hobbits, and men in OD&D. Now the list of demihumans was doubled, with half-elves from Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975), gnomes from Supplement II: Blackmoor (1975) and the totally new half-orcs.

Beyond that, there were numerous small changes, such as: alignments were now ninefold, expanding from the five alignments found in The Strategic Review vol. 2 #1 (February 1976); all classes now got bonuses from strength and dexterity, not just fighters; and various mechanics were re-balanced as part of a more cohesive whole.

Whoops! Players Handbook was a small production from a small company and it had a fair number of errors in it. Dragon Magazine #35 (March 1980) lists many of them, but surprisingly most of those errors were never fixed in later editions of the actual book. The funniest error in the book is probably the listing of the class title for fifth level clerics as "perfects" — which was presumably a typo for "prefects". This mistake was cut out of the Players Handbook starting with the third printing (1979) or so, leaving 5th level cleric as the only level in AD&D without a level title.

The most far-reaching error in the Players Handbook, according to Frank Mentzer in Dragon #70 (February 1983), was the idea that falling damage was just 1d6 for every ten feet fallen. Apparently Gygax had written “1d6 per 10’ for each 10’ fallen”, implying damage that cumulatively increased, but someone had changed it to “1d6 for each 10’ fallen”. Gygax only realized the mistake while producing the thief-acrobat class for Dragon #69 (January 1983). However, after almost a decade of non-cumulative falling damage, it was almost impossible to get Mentzer's change to stick.

More errors appeared with the publication of the Dungeon Masters Guide (1979). Because so much time elapsed between the two publications, they ended up being out of sync with each other. The most notable change was probably that the monk went from using the thief attack table in the PHB to the the cleric attack table in the DMG, however there were other discrepancies between the books. Some were addressed in the "Dispel Confusions" columns of the later issues of TSR UK's Imagine magazine.

Expanding the Outer Planes. The D&D Outer Planes appeared for the first time in "Planes: The Concepts of Spatial, Temporal and Physical Relationships in D&D", an article by Gary Gygax for The Dragon #8 (July 1977). Players Handbook reprints the Dragon planes in largely the same form. There are 25 total, including the prime, positive, and negative material planes, four elemental planes, the ethereal plane, the astral plane, and 16 outer planes.

The Great Wheel was born!

Future History. The entire roleplaying world was in a strange hiatus between the publication of AD&D 1e's Players Handbook (June 1978) and Dungeon Masters Guide (August 1979). During this interim, TSR began publishing official AD&D products, such as the original "G" adventures (1978), but there were no AD&D rules to play then with! To help resolve this issue, TSR published an emergency sneak preview of AD&D rules in Dragon #22 (February 1979), but for the rest of AD&D's rules, players had to wait another six months.

This wait between the books does not appear to have been planned. At one time, Gygax was talking about both books appearing in summer of 1978. This suggests that the intent was to have no gap … let alone a gap of 14 months! The problem was in part caused by Gygax needing a break after the complex ruleswork of the Players Handbook; he wrote the "D" adventures (1978) as a break before moving on to the Dungeon Masters Guide.

About the Creators. Gygax was the co-creator of D&D alongside Dave Arneson, but the AD&D books would only bear his name … a point that led to legal contention in 1979.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to Thanks to the Acaeum for careful research on Players Handbook printings.

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (32)
Discussions (38)
Customer avatar
Chris D June 15, 2022 9:13 pm UTC
Great...I can review this but it isn't in my Library...seems odd.
Customer avatar
Rudy C May 12, 2022 8:16 pm UTC
"As part of our May D&D sale, this digital title has been marked down by up to 40%"

*Product is still listed at full price*

Lol is anyone going to fix this?
Customer avatar
Rudy C May 13, 2022 4:37 pm UTC
Contacted support myself and they applied the promotional pricing. Enjoy, everyone!
Customer avatar
Dab B April 03, 2022 2:40 am UTC
I’m interested in buying the POD, but I’m worried that there will be a disclaimer or something of the sort like the ones added to oriental adventures and whatnot. Can anyone who has recently bought the POD tell me if there’s such a disclaimer?
Customer avatar
Loren D April 04, 2022 4:33 pm UTC
None of the core books have any added disclaimers in them and I don't know how long ago you got your copy of oriental adventures, but the current version available here doesn't have any disclaimers in it. Though the scan of oriental adventure and its images are clearly darker than the original printing.
Customer avatar
Dab B April 05, 2022 2:58 pm UTC
Thank you!
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Leif W March 13, 2022 6:54 pm UTC
I own the PDF. However, I'm interested in the Print on Demand version. Since the contents (illustrations and text) are black and white, does it make sense to still get the premium version. It's my understanding that the premium provides better quality for color illustrations. Or does the premium provide better quality for the B&W as well?

Customer avatar
Loren D April 01, 2022 5:30 pm UTC
From what I understand (my print on demand copy where of the standard) the premium color book uses paper more akin to the texture and quality of the paper used in 3rd through 5th edition book, however this doesn't actually mean it is better for the illustrations as it more has to do with the quality of the scans which I won't lie when compared to the 1st through 9th printings of the books are not that great. They are a lot darker then the original and in some images case actual make details completely unseeable, it also doesn't help that this version is based on the 2012 "premium edition" Reprints which have a ridiculous number of errors from the OCR scan which no one double check (I've made a full list of error of this product in a comment below as well as one for each products comments), unfortunate the player's handbook actually is flat-out missing some images (mostly in the spells section) You can actually see some of the block out sections where the images are suppose to be. Unless you have problems...See more
Customer avatar
Leif W April 26, 2022 6:34 pm UTC
Thank you for the very thorough and helpful response! Much appreciated.

Customer avatar
Jim S July 05, 2022 4:43 pm UTC
Thanks for this. I was considering getting this, but it seems like a good copy of the original would be better.
Customer avatar
Loren D July 20, 2022 3:57 pm UTC
In deed it would, I've been experiment with using the pdf scans to rebuild the document in higher quality with Clip studio paint and so far the results if much better. I never realized just how different the size and spacing between text and images in the original printings compared to the Player's handbook released in 2012 and the PDF here which is just the document used during its production. Strangely it seems all images in the premium reprints and all of the 1st edition adventure module where scanned with 300 or less DPI which when you are scanning physical documents to create a PDF is a no no, when scanning physicals documents for this they should have scanned them with no less than 700 DPI and no more 1,000 DPI, then they should have brought the scans into a image software like clip studio paint or photoshop cut and paste the images as layers separate from all text (preferable with each image as a separate layer) then use level correction for each layer. Worse a lot of their scans have bubble space where...See more
Customer avatar
Timothy S January 06, 2022 2:07 am UTC
The recent discount is amazing, but I cannot recommend these reprints to my new players because there are so many scan typos from the 2012 Memorial reprints.

Why can’t WotC fix them? We have to go to websites to find a list of errors to correct our own books.
Customer avatar
Timothy S January 11, 2022 4:25 pm UTC
Although the Players Handbook has the fewest typos. Perhaps that is the reason why it is the only one on sale right now.
Customer avatar
Loren D April 04, 2022 4:30 pm UTC
Actually the DMG has the fewest 2012 errors, I've a complete list of all the errors specific to this printing in a comment further below, if you are needing to see the correct information for the player's handbook. I've also made similar listing in the comments of the monster manuel and unearthed arcana as well.
Customer avatar
Fabio R December 30, 2021 3:56 am UTC
Not really an issue, but I miss the reprint cover - the one with the wizard--it's SO much better than this.
Customer avatar
Timothy S January 06, 2022 2:08 am UTC
There was also another set of covers after those in 1984…the Orange spine printings beginning with Monster Manual II (which still isn’t available as Print on Demand).
Customer avatar
Timothy S January 06, 2022 2:35 pm UTC
Although you may be talking about the 1984 and onward covers. If so, my mistake.
Customer avatar
Stephane H August 07, 2021 9:25 pm UTC
Has anyone ever posted a comparison between these POD Premium versions and the memorial premium versions? Aside from the cover which is glossy in the DTRPG POD version, I wonder if there is any difference in quality of the actual content...
Customer avatar
Loren D August 23, 2021 5:54 pm UTC
Cover is made of the same material and texture as that used in the 5th edition Player's Handbook for the POD version, also the pages are very similar in quality and texture to the original 1st edition Advance D&D Player's handbook. Unlike the Limited edition Premium reprints which had a more solid feeling cover with grooves, but without the sticky texture of the other cover, plus the pages are a complete different kind of material they are completely smooth feeling with gold coloring in the edges of the paper, it can be kind of hard to turn the page sometimes, but the pages doesn't seem to tan like the pages from the Original printing. But, both version have all the same errors which WOTC seem to ignore fixing despite multiple people tell them about the error in this reprinting.
Customer avatar
Kristoffer C June 24, 2021 7:51 am UTC
I want to purchase these books however I'm not sure if they censored the original content or removed anything? I never played this game and I want to yet is it true to the original printing? I really don't care for typos cause apparently the original had some. I know they claimed that they didn't removed anything but I want to know from anyone who purchase these POD books and if it's a good purchase? Hope to be gaming soon. Thanks.
Customer avatar
John A August 25, 2021 1:00 pm UTC
When I bought the memorial editions, I compared them side by side with my originals. I didn't go super in-depth but from the comparisons I made they seemed a-ok. As for the PDFs...I'm not sure. I'm in the same boat as you. I want to have a version I can keep super handy but if the content is edited or censored - no thanks. I am assuming, an a big assumption it is, that because of their ridiculous disclaimer that the content is as it was originally.
Customer avatar
Timothy S January 06, 2022 1:47 am UTC
Some idiot on one of the old school Facebooks keeps claiming that. They never censored or changed anything.
Customer avatar
Anthony Christopher H April 29, 2022 1:26 am UTC
You are correct with regard to the PHB 1e, AFAIK, but TSR did remove the now infamous 'Harlot Encounter Table' from the DMG 1e. It was on page 192, and my 8th printing (Jeff Easley cover) of the DMG 1e still has it. Which printing removed it is...unclear.
Customer avatar
Loren D March 23, 2021 5:35 pm UTC
This book has so many errors in it and I am surprised that they haven't tried to remove any of them. Here is the complete list of errors in the reprint book.
Page 17
Halflings third paragraph, 1st sentence: it says "so for every 3'/2 points of constitution", this should read "so for every 3 1/2 points of constitution"
Halflings sixth paragraph, 2nd sentence: it says "pure stoutish blood are able to see heat radiation variation at up to 607 (normal infravision)", it should read "pure stoutish blood are able to see hear radiation variation at up to 60' (normal infravision)".
Half-Orc 1st paragraph, last sentence: It says "will be found under heading Orc in ADVANCE DUNGEONS ft DRAGONS, MONSTER MANUAL", it should read "will be found under heading Orc in ADVANCE DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, MONSTER MANUAL."
Page 20
Spells usable by Class and Level - Cleric: the * is on the 5th level spell slot at 9th level, it should be on the...See more
Customer avatar
Timothy S January 06, 2022 1:48 am UTC
That’s been brought up for years, and you would’ve seen that if you’d read some of the other comments here. WotC doesn’t care. You can look up the corrections on Dragonsfoot or do a web search, then make the corrections yourself…Although since you’ve quoted one of those sites then you already know that.
Customer avatar
Loren D April 16, 2022 4:07 pm UTC
Actually, its from a direct comparison with a 3rd printing Player's Handbook (checking errata to make sure its an actual error in the printing and not a actual errata change) and the premium printing. If you look at the list on dragonfoot, it doesn't have the errors for the druid entangle spell or the magic-user detect evil spell errors. The whole point of this post was to inform all potential buyers of every error in this book in a quick easy to find post, after all there isn't much point in buying a print on demand book if it has this many errors. Also it is a shame no printing tired to add the paragraph from the errata that explains why the racial ability score limits allow certain abilities to exceed scores higher than what PC's are allowed, its kind of an important explanation even though Player's wouldn't understand why unless they read the DMG, I did add it to my PDF.
Customer avatar
Geoff M March 10, 2021 9:40 am UTC
Is this just scanned or does it have searchable text?
Customer avatar
Timothy S January 06, 2022 1:50 am UTC
My copies of the four core PDFs are searchable.
Customer avatar
Nathan F November 30, 2020 10:05 pm UTC
Would love to see options for the cover artwork (especially Jeff Easley's).
Customer avatar
Timothy S January 06, 2022 2:38 pm UTC
WotC isn’t interested. It’s odd because there are reports that most of the active 5e players don’t even buy the books they play. There are more old-school players who spent money on fifth edition than the actual fifth edition players
Customer avatar
Troy D August 30, 2020 8:40 pm UTC
What's the difference between the Standard and Premium print versions? Just the paper quality? Gold leaf? This SHOULD be in the description. If I'm going to pay $10 more I want to know what I'm getting. NEVER MIND, I FOUND THE ANSWER:
Customer avatar
James O February 05, 2021 12:43 am UTC
Thank you! I have been looking for this answer for a few months...
Customer avatar
John C July 15, 2020 9:49 pm UTC
Looking for a Fantasy Grounds version of this sourcebook
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Adamantine seller
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TSR 2010
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This title was added to our catalog on July 07, 2015.