Fantasy as a genre owes its existence, at least in part, to J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, which at once created and defined the fantasy genre, or what we call “high fantasy” – worlds in which elves and wizards, dragons and humans all share a common world. So compelling was this lush world of legend and magic that fans of the literature wanted to stay on after the final curtain and live there.
And so Dungeons & Dragons, the fantasy roleplaying game that now defines the genre, was created and now endures.
Over the past 30 years, versions of the game have come and gone, some better than others, but all well loved. Sadly, many of those rulebooks and adventures from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s have disappeared — forgotten, made obsolete, or discarded with the trash by parents when young gamers went off to college. They’re nearly impossible to get nowadays, and when you do get them, they’re sometimes sold for exorbitant prices.
We’re happy to report that Wizards of the Coast has launched dndclassics.com, a new site that sells hundreds of these decades-old products available for download in PDF format.
The website’s tagline offers a heady promise: “Every edition available again!” Eventually, dndclassics.com will offer hundreds of titles for digital release.
The products for sale include a combination of core rules books, adventure series (what us old gamers call “modules”), supplement materials, and various backlist products from most of the D&D rules systems known to gaming-kind — Basic, AD&D, AD&D 2nd Edition, 3rd Edition, 3.5 and 4.0 — as well as specific campaign settings like Planescape and Ravenloft. Much of the materials on dndclassics.com date to the “Golden Age” of role-playing games, back when Gary Gygax’s TSR Hobbies, Inc. ran the role-playing game industry, before his company was purchased by Wizards of the Coast.
The idea of re-releasing old products was a result of listening to fans on the forums, with the goal of letting “people play the D&D they want in the format they want.”
In the first wave of items made available, more than 80 products can be downloaded from dndclassics.com, everything from the 1981 D&D Basic Game “Red Box” Rulebook to the 4th edition adventure H1: Keep on the Shadowfell, originally released in 2008. Prices range from $4.99 for most modules, to $17.99 for the newer manuals and supplements. The site is operated in partnership with DriveThruRPG, which claims to be “the largest RPG download store” on the Internet.
Mike Mearls, senior manager of Dungeons & Dragons research and development, compared it to a movie studio “going through a back catalogue” of old movies to decide what to release on DVD and Blu-ray. “You can always find these things on eBay,” said Mearls. “But like baseball cards in the 1970s, no one took care of them. You have to pay a premium for it.”
The PDFs are made from fresh scans of these old products. Mearls feels that players should appreciate the older game products, which allowed for more varied, less predictable styles of play. “Older style adventures, there is no script,” he said, adding that players enjoy the “uncertainty” of the games’ “element of chaos.”
Stock up on the Mountain Dew and Cheetos. Worlds await.
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