Can Dungeons & Dragons And PDFs Co-Exist?

Last week's news that Wizards Of The Coast would make classic editions and modules for Dungeons And Dragons available for download had me initially excited; I love classic AD&D/D&D. Then I remembered. I still have all that stuff in physical form! How do the PDF versions compare?

That photo above? My RPG shelf, sans miniatures. Sure, some of it is a touch kobold-eared here and there, but it's been well-loved over the years. It's a canny move on Wizards Of The Coast's part to re-issue the books as PDFs; while they're in no way free (and my inner cynic suggests there are probably dodgy scans of them out there somewhere), those who left AD&D behind somewhere around 2nd, 3rd or 4th edition might find some old-school roleplaying glee in there somewhere.

There's the obvious conclusion that I could save myself some shelf space — for now, the site only offers AD&D/D&D content, although it's part of the larger Drive Thru RPG site, which has plenty of other role playing goodies — and take things into the digital age with it.

So, I decided the best thing to do was to pick up a PDF and give it a spin. The ordering process is nicely simple. The PDFs are priced (with some already on "special", although there are a whole host of classic modules that I can't see there yet); you pick out your order, pay via credit card or Paypal and a watermarked PDF is prepared for you. For the sake of familiarity, I went for the $4.99 D&D Classic Set Rulebook. (The now very old red box set, for those of you of a certain vintage.)

There is something deep in my soul that's a little upset that it's only a 7.5MB download, but then, in theory, it's not the size that counts, and at least that means it's a quick download. There's no evident DRM beyond watermarking (which appears at the bottom left of each and every page), so transfer to a tablet or phone is trivial. I was somewhat concerned from the appearance of the first couple of pages that they might be lazy image scans, but thankfully that's not so. These are fully searchable PDFs, which means whenever I need to know how many spells a level 3 Elf has (2 first level + 1 second level), I can do so seamlessly.

As an entry point to the classic games, they're quite good value. I genuinely couldn't tell you how many hours I've plumbed into these games over the years. Still, I've got to admit that I don't think I'll be dumping my classic books just yet. There's something nice about physical paper for a game with physical dice. I could be tempted, however, with some harder-to-get modules at these kinds of prices.


    I found a first edition AD&D collection (DM and player's guides) in an antique shop a couple of years ago and snapped them up but they aren't something that I'd take to game with because of their age and weight.

    And, as someone who wants to get back into proper playing but doesn't want to invest in tons of books at outrageous prices, I'd go with either a PDF or Android App that contains both the classic and current books.

    A good idea, so hope they implement it well.

    The advantage of rpg material as pdf is the ability to run your games using a computer, or to help reduce the amount of prep time. Copy/paste from a sourcebook and you don't need the book readily at hand during the session.
    Also for the newer editions it is a way to decide if you want the physical book before having to shell out that money.

    I grabbed most of my pdfs when they were originally available a couple of years ago through rpgnow.

    PDFs means that pilots can take them on their iPads along with their flight manuals.

    And the lack of DRM means I have copies for multiple pages on multiple devices: Spells on phone, monsters on one tablet, specific rules on another. It's a digital GM Screen!

    I've downloaded copies of all the 4th Ed books that I own. It makes preparing for a game 10x easier, but it's still lovely to have the books, and they do see use.

    That said, I'm currently running a game through, so everything is digital. It's been roughly similar to how a game works on tabletop, but with better writing since it's less improv voice acting and more improv fiction.

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