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WotC Releases Old Dungeons & Dragons Catalog As PDFs 224

jjohn writes "Wizards of the Coasts, holders of the TSR catalog, have released rulebooks and modules for most editions of Dungeons and Dragons through a partnership with The web site,, may be a little overloaded right now. Most module PDFs are $4.99 USD." The article points out that these are all fresh scans of the old books. It's also worth noting that the decision to make these PDFs available reverses WotC's 2009 decision to stop all PDF sales because of piracy fears. The only reference to this in the article is a quote from the D&D publishing and licensing director: "We don't want them to go to torrent sites. Why not give them a legal route?"
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WotC Releases Old Dungeons & Dragons Catalog As PDFs

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  • by imikem ( 767509 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @04:44PM (#42660893) Homepage

    Made vs. common sense. It must have been a natural 20.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @04:55PM (#42661013) Homepage

      Considering they stopped for several years, I'm more thinking they adopted the strategy from War Games: The only winning move is not to play. Unfortunately for WotC it doesn't work quite as well for AD&D as for global thermonuclear war.

      • Re:Saving Throw (Score:5, Insightful)

        by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @05:01PM (#42661073)
        Probably because there was nothing stopping anyone from scanning a printed copy of the rulebook or module, converting it to a PDF, and then putting it online. Google even has an auto-complete option for PDF when I just typed in "dungeons and dragons 2nd edition" and wouldn't you know, the second link is to a torrent, and there are several other links within the top ten results to file sharing sites or other torrent sites.

        Some people are going to pirate no matter what you do. However, there are a lot who will gladly pay if you give them to opportunity to do so.
  • Piracy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @04:52PM (#42660969) Journal

    The books are going to be scanned and shared whether they post PDFs or not. The only question is whether there's a legit option for those who want to pay.

    • by Nyder ( 754090 )

      The books are going to be scanned and shared whether they post PDFs or not. The only question is whether there's a legit option for those who want to pay.

      yep, i've had scans of all their books and modules for over 10 years, sheesh, almost 20 years. Now when I don't play D&D or AD&D anymore, they make it available legally.


  • Finally (Score:5, Interesting)

    by asmkm22 ( 1902712 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @04:52PM (#42660977)

    I ended up pirating the entire catalog of D&D products because I couldn't find the AD&D 2nd Edition books for sale in either print or PDF form. So at least in my case, not printing them in the first place lead to piracy. Hopefully more companies get with the program.

    • I'm willing to bet shutting down the old editions was more about forcing people into the new than anything else.

      Take it from someone who played pen-and-paper in the '70s, you second edition bastardized version sucker.

    • I have many AD&D books I am looking to sell. Please PM me if you are interested.

  • Are these pdf's clean copies, and not just scans of an aging rulebook or module?
    • by sdnoob ( 917382 )

      "fresh scans" tells me that they're well, scans.. where's the original quark or pagemaker files or whatever was used in pre-press?

      reference materials need search, scanned-to-pdf does not allow that without a serious round of ocr first.

      • by jandrese ( 485 )
        I'm hoping that they're doing the OCR work on these. If you're charging $5 for material as old and obsolete as this you had better be putting at least the minimum amount of effort into it.

        My guess is the originals are either lost or sitting in a box in a storeroom somewhere on ancient backup tapes in some unsupported format and it's easier to just find an old copy of the books and scan them in.
        • What's obsolete? These aren't computer games, they're as useful today as when they first came out.

          • by jandrese ( 485 )
            Yes, but any new material (monster manuals, adventure packs, etc...) coming out will not be compatible. That's how gaming products become obsolete.
            • Ah now a good weekend will have any setting converted to another system, and it takes even less time within the same system. That's if you don't just build on your system yourself, hacking this stuff is one of the great pleasures of TTRPGs for me.

            • by blueg3 ( 192743 )

              You know, you don't need the new materials.

              There are only two valuable things in tabletop RPG books: the ideas and the mechanics (or fluff and crunch, if you prefer). The ideas can be translated to any system, regardless of the one they were written for, as long as there are some mechanics to back it up. Most of the really useful ideas aren't strongly bound to any mechanics, anyway. Translating mechanics is certainly doable, but is a lot more work to do well.

              But you don't need to even do that. You could hav

        • I'm hoping that they're doing the OCR work on these. If you're charging $5 for material as old and obsolete as this you had better be putting at least the minimum amount of effort into it.

          That is hardly "minimum amount" of effort. That is a great deal of effort. They did that for the 1E books they reprinted, and I know and have talked to the guy that did it. He said it was the hardest thing he has every worked on. OCRs need to be reviewed and practically rewritten again, especially if trying to get the same or similar layout. Stuff from the opposite side bleeds through so all artwork has to be manipulated and have about as much work put into it as the original artist took to draw it (and you

          • I have no doubt that it's tiring work, but how many man-hours is that to do? If WotC sells 100,000 copies of the PDF, that's half a million dollars in their pockets (ignoring DTRPG's take, probably 1/3), for paying (just a guess) two guys $30K to work on that PDF for six months.

      • by cusco ( 717999 )
        Hey, we never had any search function with the dead-tree copies, I don't see a problem with not having it in the online version. I knew more or less where things were anyway, if I opened the Monster Manual and Kobold was on the page then I had to go back a page or two for Kirin.

        Summary says "most editions", I wonder if they'll have the original three softcover books that came in the white box with a couple of dice. That was the set I first learned on. Haven't seen those anywhere since about 1983. I r
        • I could do without text searching. After all we don't have it for dead tree editions. What I would like is for these PDFs to have bookmarks.

        • Besides, one of the more fun things to do in any offline type of encyclopaedia is to go to a random page and read something, be it in a skill tree, monsters, Encyclopaedia Britannica or Wikipedia [].

      • There is not a chance they still have originals.

      • by tilante ( 2547392 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @05:28PM (#42661409)

        Quark or Pagemaker files? You do realize that a lot of this dates back to the '70s and '80s, right? I doubt any of it before the late '80s was done with any sort of desktop publishing software. They may have been using professional publishing software, like And, of course, until writable CD drives became reasonably affordable in the mid-90s, they were probably storing any files they were creating on floppies, then later on Zip drives. Chances are good that all the early stuff only existed in dead-tree format before they started scanning it.

        At a guess, I'd say that all the original D&D, the first two versions of Basic D&D, and most of the first edition AD&D materials would be in that boat.

        I just downloaded the free one they have, though, and the scan is very clean - clean enough that I'm sure they've gone to the trouble of cleaning it up. They've also OCR'ed it at the least, since I can do text searches in it. The module in question is B1, "In Search of the Unknown", with a copyright date of 1981.

        Oh... and they are watermarking the PDFs, with the purchaser's name and the order number at the bottom of every page.

      • by pthisis ( 27352 )

        The first 3 books (Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual) weren't originally digitally typeset, but WotC has already gone through the process of doing that for the "1e premium" releases and they're in InDesign, so there should be clean text available without OCR.

        In case you aren't aware, the files for the original printing don't exist. In fact, there were never any files. The books were created long before the advent of the personal computer and its introduction into the publishing i

      • "fresh scans" tells me that they're well, scans.. where's the original quark or pagemaker files or whatever was used in pre-press?

        For most of this, there was no pre-press files. They were tape and wax board affairs.

      • reference materials need search, scanned-to-pdf does not allow that without a serious round of ocr first.

        I have not seen them, but although they are scans, reports on is that they are "indexed and searchable".

    • Yes, these appear to be clean.

      I just downloaded the (free) B1 "In Search of the Unknown" module and it looks great - even has bookmarks.

  • Case in point, their site has crashed due to load.

    Provide official torrents instead of trashing torrents in general.

  • $5 seems high (Score:4, Interesting)

    by slaker ( 53818 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @04:59PM (#42661057)

    Yale-educated artist and porn star Zak Sabbath's DiY D&D site (with occasional exposed nipples art or links to his girlfriend's tumblr and therefore not safe for work) [] should be required reading for RPG nerds. He's very big on RPG theorycraft, quick rules of thumb and stepping away from canned adventures like those used in many of the prepackaged modules. Having followed his blog for a while, I really see where he's coming from.

    It's probably worthwhile to take a look at that stuff, if only to see the historical basis for a lot of role-playing tropes, but any seasoned player can't exactly look at "Tomb of Horrors" with fresh eyes and newbies probably don't want to do the work of converting old stuff to new systems. In the end I suspect that all this stuff is only worthwhile as nostalgia or for historical purposes. Given that, I'm not sure why the price per document is even as high as it is. I understand that this is content that probably shouldn't be free, but I can't see spending $5 on a 32 page PDF that maybe has one or two good ideas to incorporate into a living game.

  • by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @05:14PM (#42661239)

    The retro clones [] have taken off (in relative terms, this is a niche product obviously) in the last few years. All the old TSR stuff is available on torrents and file download sites anyway. WotC might as well try and get some of the money.

  • This presents an interesting challenge for the D&D design team. They're working on a new edition of D&D (it's in open playtest [] as they develop it).

    Now, the new edition will have to compete for sales against D&D's own back catalog. If their upcoming product doesn't appeal to fans of First Edition AD&D, or Second Edition, Third,or Fourth, then people will just buy and play the old stuff. The next edition will have to compare to the classics or it will fail in the marketplace.

    This is a victory

  • I remember cutting lawns for the old 2nd edition books. I loved the smell of them.
  • by kdogg73 ( 771674 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @06:01PM (#42661875) Homepage

    FTFA: "The scans are good quality, and best of all, the PDFs are searchable."

    I was curious if they had re-set the type for a slimmer PDF. I would expect 320 pages of the Dungeon Master's Guide (even at 1-bit) may be hefty, but maybe not. Certainly more economical for a lost art.

  • I've still got physical copies of the core books from both first and second edition. Plus a big handful of companion books. The monsters in my Monster Manuals are even colored in. Who's going to have that in a PDF?

    Though considering I've moved those books about 17 times over the years, maybe a PDF form factor would be slightly more convenient.
  • This is the perfect excuse to read up, get your fix, then hop into D&D Online [] and get some tabletop action come to life. The client and a decent amount of content is free, and the DM voiceovers rock.

    NOTE: This is Dungeons & Dragons Online, not WoW. There be TRAPS in dem dar dungeons, and they can and will kill you very dead!

    • by seebs ( 15766 )

      DDO is really very different from most other MMOs, and yes, it really does reflect D&D's feel a lot more than the other MMOs do. It's not perfect, but it's got some very nice implementation choices.

  • By that I mean the 83-87 Mentzer revisions of the D&D Basic and Expert sets (and Companion, Master and Immortal sets) or better yet the Rules Cyclopedia, and the Gazetteer series, Wrath of the Immortals, Dawn of the Emperors, Champions of Mystara and Hollow World sets. Had a bunch lost em in a flood.

  • It isn't AD&D if you aren't rolling THAC0. 2nd Ed FTW!

  • []
    Keep on the Borderlands, module B2. Originally printed 1979 - 34 years ago.
    Selling for $4.99 as pdf.
    I bought that module at Jolly's Games in Southtown, Bloomington MN in the summer of 1980, for, as I recall, about $5.

    Yeah, SURE that's going to work, I'm certain of it.

    Seriously? You *first* re-engineer the rules for what, the FIFTH time in 15 years(?), expecting y

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.