Tabletop Review: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition Players Handbook
by Alex Lucard on May 28, 2013

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition Players Handbook
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Page Count: 319
Cost: $49.99 ($32.40 on Amazon.com)
Release Date: 05/21/2013
Get it Here:Amazon.com

I remember saving up for the original 1989 edition of Second Edition AD&D. A whopping twenty dollars, and it was worth it. Amazing artwork, redone rules (Thank Cthulhu for the new Bard), Secondary Skills, proficiencies and so many other things captured my imagination. I didn’t really PLAY AD&D outside of Ravenloft and, later, Planescape because I was more into Call of Cthulhu and Shadowrun, but man, it was twenty dollars well spent.

Flash forward to 1995 when they re-released the Player’s Handbook with more pages and newer, crappier artwork. It didn’t make sense to me or others I knew (the art I mean), 2.5 just wasn’t as impressive in terms of layout and it lacked the visual appeal of the original, especially with the now increased price tag of $29.99. Now here we are in 2013, and as part of Wizards of the Coast’s attempt to republish much of the earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons , 2e AD&D has been reborn in a premium edition. I’ll admit, I was quite disappointed to see Wizards went with the far less interesting 1995 version instead of the original 1989 one with the better art, especially since the price tag on this re-release is $49.99, more than twice what I paid for the original, but it’s been nearly twenty four years, so we’ll chalk up the increase to inflation, yes? I’m surprised that Wizards wasn’t more upfront that this was a reprint of 2.5 rather than 2.0, as they made the distinction clear when they reprinted Edition 3.5, but hey, this is a review copy, and since I didn’t pay for it, I won’t complain too much. It’s all but unanimous amongst D&D fans (ESPECIALLY 2e fans) that the 1989 printing is far superior to the 1995 one, so I have to wonder what Wizards of the Coast was thinking when they did this, or if anyone there even realized that they had reprinted the version people DIDN’T want until after the fact. Oh well, the important thing is the content is MOSTLY the same as the 1989 version, albeit it (beatin’ that dead horse) with far inferior art and design layout. Still, if I *HAD* paid fifty dollars for a Second Edition reprint (as my original is falling apart) and gotten 2.5, then yes, I’d be bitching rather loudly in this review, but I’d also have paid attention to things like the page count and preview art, which would have confirmed long in advanced that we were getting 2.5…and then I’d have cancelled my preorder. Yay for reviewing I guess.

So this reprint of 2.5 is exceptionally well done. The hardcovers are in a green background (dragon skin mayhaps?) while the letters and designs are embossed in gold. The cover has a far better look (and is made of better materials) than the 1995 version, and there is definitely more of a heft to this version, meaning the cover and pages are of a heavier stock. Interior-wise, this reprint is ALMOST exactly the same as my 1995 edition, albeit it with glossier pages, brighter colors in the art and easier-to-read text. If you look at the 1995 version, there was a lot of hyphenation going on, as words and/or sentences would be spread across two pages. I also like that the end pages of the new version are blank sheets of goldenrod rather than ads as they were in the original 1995 edition of 2.5. It’s also worth noting that two pages of art in this new re-release are different from the 1995 edition. On page 78 of the original, there is a battle between a Lich and two heroes (one a bard, the other a warrior) while in the reprint it is now the original 1995 cover to the Player’s Handbook. On page 246 of the original the art was of what appears to be a funeral march. In the reprint, it’s the cover to the Dungeon Master’s Guide. There are a couple other visual differences. The Wizards of the Coast logo is wherever the TSR logo was. The title page, cover of the reprint and wherever else the phrase, “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition” appears is done with the logo and font from the 1989 edition rather than the 1995 one (Thank Cthulhu). There are little changes like these that you’d only notice if you went through both this 2013 reprint and the 1995 version page by page, which for the sake of you, the reader, I have (Much like when I went through the 20th and 30th Anniversary Editions of Call of Cthulhu) There are several other things corrected. If you have the 2.5 errata sheets for example, you’ll see these have been corrected in the reprint, which is a wonderful touch. It’s especially nice to see the spell issues from 2.5 fixed here. In fact, in every way possible, this reprint is superior to the 1995 version, and that thrills me to no end. Sure, we’d ALL rather have the 1989 version in a premium edition, but who knows, perhaps Wizards of the Coast couldn’t get the rights to the art in that version and so they went with what they COULD reprint.

Content-wise it’s the same version of AD&D you grew up with if you played the game in the 1990s. I won’t deny that it’s my favorite version of the game, primarily due to the campaign settings that only exist for it. Planescape, Spelljammer Al-Qadim, Birthright, the quality version of Dark Sun and of course, my beloved Ravenloft. I have so many great memories of this edition, from playing adventures to reading old issues of Dragon and Dungeon magazine, that I’m ecstatic that newcomers can relive and play the classic encounters that 2e was full of. The fifty dollar price tag is a bit hard to swallow however, as you can get versions of the 1989 and 1995 version for less than that, albeit not in fresh from the printer condition like this. The catch is that the people who LOVE Second Edition probably already have copies of both 2.0 and 2.5 (I know I do) so ponying up fifty dollars for a version that costs as much as both printings combined when they were originally available is a hard sell…especially since it’s 2.5 rather than 2.0 that has been reprinted. I honestly don’t think I’d pay fifty dollars for this, even though it IS better than the original 1995 version of 2.5. That said, my copy of the 1989 edition is falling apart from overuse, and while my 1995 version is in “Very Fine/Near Mint” condition, I’ll definitely be getting rid of it and placing this new version on my RPG bookshelf. It’s a better version, and now I don’t have to worry about my 2.0 rendition falling apart any more than it already is. The good news is places like Amazon have this reprint for approximately thirty dollars – the same cost the 1995 version had when it came out – and that, my friends, is a steal well worth picking up. You get a better cover, better ink, better colouring, better typeset and some of the errata corrected in the pages of the Handbook itself. If you’re a Second Edition fan, I’d definitely track this down wherever you can find it for a third off the MSRP.

So, nitpicking about 1989 vs 1995 arguments aside, this re-release of the Second Edition Player’s Handbook is incredibly well made, and in terms of materials, binding and the aesthetics of the production, this is my favorite of the reprint/re-releases Wizards has done so far. Some of the first edition reprints, for example, had blurred art and various other things that the more anal gamer (or astute reviewer) had problems with. Content-wise, the quality will vary based on edition wars, personal preferences and the like, but I know that if/when I play Second Edition again, it’ll be this version of the book that I bring to the table. I’m definitely happy with what’s here, and while I’d love to see the 1989 version of Second Edition get reprinted, we all know it’s probably not going to happen, so I’ll be happy with what’s here. Now if only we could get Wizards to reprint some old boxed campaign settings from this era of the game!



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