Dungeons & Dragons books

Like a lot of role-players, Dungeons and Dragons was the first RPG that I had the opportunity to play. When I started there was a variety of D&D books to choose from which confused me. Why did some friends have a blue D&D rule book and others burgundy red? Why was the first red book I ever owned different from the other red book my friends had? Advanced Dungeons and Dragons? Basically it was all D&D to me and I had no problem moving back and forth between the editions depending upon who wanted to play.

Luckily my parents never jumped on the “Dungeons and Dragons is evil” bandwagon despite the efforts of misguided religious groups and Geraldo Rivera. However I do recall one incident when they decided to punish me by taking away my books because I had done something bad. I don’t recall what it was. I was the typical teen so I’m sure they had valid reasons. But I didn’t mind that they had taken the books because they had left me the dice which was the true engine of the game. I had most of the rules memorized by then. After a short time I had earned my books back (again I don’t recall how I did that) and life was back to normal.

Playing Dungeons and Dragons introduced me to a lot of friends. It allowed us to socialize and work together. We had to plan on when we were going to play, what characters we were going to roll up and eventually solve the problems that the Dungeon Master. I also recall a Junior High teacher being impressed that we were aware of some of the pantheons from Egypt, Greece and Rome (thanks to the Deities and Demigods book.)


For me, these three editions blended together because they were the first and, as mentioned above, all three sets were available in my circle of friends. I understand that online resources have allowed fans for each version to find their own niche. But I’d easily play any of them now if I could. The Basic Set from BECMI (Basic/Expert/Companion/Master/Immortal) was the first game that I actually owned. I still remember getting home just as the UPS delivery guy pulled up. He didn’t even get out of his vehicle, just handed me the package and said “enjoy”. Getting all of the BECMI box sets was a challenge. Luckily TSR released the Rules Cyclopedia. While this did not introduce new players to the world of gaming, it did contain all of the data needed to run the game. I also like how the B/X (Basic/Expert) rules has spawned some interesting spin-offs such as Gangbusters B/X and Tall Tales B/X. There is also an interesting set of retro-clone games such as Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game.

Another product from BECMI was the Gazetteer series of products which gave detailed information of the world created for the BECMI world. Everything from the Grand Dutchy of Karameikos to the vast empires that cross the known world. Just reading these alone was worth the costs I had paid at the time.

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons-

As with the “basics” listed above, AD&D was one of the earliest games that I played. We moved fairly easy between the editions. I remember friends being interested in the black and white artwork found in the books. Especially the “Holy Paladin fighting against the forces of Hell” full page image. There were also a lot more modules created for AD&D. I especially enjoyed the Dragonlance and Greyhawk campaign settings.

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition-

I had a subscription to Dragon Magazine which was the first place that announced the second edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. I remember calling one of my gaming friends about it and reading the article to him over the phone. When the Players Handbook came out, I remember raising an eyebrow over THAC0. I don’t recall our games in this system, but I enjoyed reading the player supplements for the different classes with the brown covers. Spelljamer looked interesting, but I couldn’t get anyone to play it at the time. DC Comics had produced several publications based off of this edition. I recently re-read them all and recalled enjoying them at the time.

Dungeons and Dragons 3.0/3.5 Edition-

Another step up for the game. I was glad that TSR had removed the “Advanced” title out of the name. This was still all just D&D to me. I recall having discussions with geeky co-workers about how to handle ‘attacks of opportunity’. The Players Handbook was very well organized. This was also the first game that had a type of open-gaming license for the D20 system. A lot of “companion supplements” were released on the market which was both good and bad. This led to a lot of gaming companies getting off the ground, but some of these third-party supplements unbalanced the game. Just recently my wife and I participated in a 3.5 campaign with a very experienced Dungeon Master who only allowed the official books in his campaign. One of the clones that I want to check out is Castles & Crusades.

Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition-

Didn’t play this edition very much. I remember going with my wife to participate in a Dungeons and Dragons league at a local game store and I wasn’t impressed. It seemed too much like a board game than a role-playing game. Yea you still had the characters, but there was a big focus on the miniatures. Someone described this edition as Wizards of the Coast’s attempt to pull in the World of Warcraft player, and it stuck with me. I purchased the Player’s Handbook, but didn’t get a chance to pick up any other books. If I were to obtain them on the cheap, I’d add them to my bookshelf of games, but I’m not going out of my way to get these.

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition-

We have the Players Handbook and I was excited that Wizards had moved on from fourth edition. The book reads well, but I haven’t had a chance to get into a campaign yet. My D&D buddies were still die-hard 3.5 fans, so that is what we played. In a discussion with another gamer he described it as 3.5 but smoother. My daughter has enjoyed this edition. If the opportunity presents itself, I’ll be picking up these books and hopefully I’ll get a chance to play this edition.