Friday, July 15, 2022

Reviewing the POD Quality of AD&D Manuals

 Last month I had a banner month of sales, especially once I finally got Strange Ways up on DriveThru RPG. Enough for me to buy myself a rare treat: The hardcover rerints of the AD&D1e Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide, as well as the AD&D2e Monstrous Manual. I feel that this combination of manuals will give me the best AD&D experience, and the best concentration of OSR monsters in one place (so long as I print out the BECMI / AD&D2e treasure tables.)

When I first saw that these were available, I had a lot of questions about quality that I wished someone would answer, and each time I see someone share that they have bout these on Twitter, I see those same questions. Namely, how is the reproduction quality? Are they accurate reproductions?

So I thought I would put in my two cents on the books I have as physical objects. Then I might discuss the content separately.


I know some people were wondering if the obnoxious cover warnings that appear on the PDFs are there in the print versions. They are not.


The hard covers are solid. at least for the printer (in Etobicoke, ON) that my POD copies were made gave me a thick, durable cover. My son dropped my PHB on its corners and they did not blunt or crinkle. I dropped the DMG on my foot and the corners punctured my skin. They have not managed to accrue any nicks or scratches of not in a week of heavy reading and riding around in a backpack.

The soft cover on my Monstrous Manual is another story. it uses the same laminated cardboard you probably remember from Palladium books or early White Wolf softcovers: the laminate peels away at the edge a little bit after some wear, creating tiny ripples where the color is a bit cloudy. Despite some abuse, however, they have not creased.

Cover Art

The cover art of all of the reprints has been stripped down. A re-creation of the central idea of each image is placed in a lozenge at the centre of the cover: the thieves climbing the idol in the case of the PHB, or the snarling face of the Efreeti in the case of the DMG, the three monsters in the case of the 2eMM. Otherwise they use arabesque lettering in black and gold on the covers with Eastern European or Victorian patterning that makes them look more like fancy diaries than role-playing manuals. AD&D1e's covers are brown. AD&D2e's are forest green. Both have matte gold accents. None of the original back cover content has been preserved.

The lettering on the AD&D1e manuals, being black, is very hard to read. There is not much contrast between cover and lettering.

As I bought a full-colour version of the Monstrous Manual, a colour reprint of the original cover is on the inside. There is no reproduction of the rest of the original cover art for my B&W AD&D1e manuals. Which is a bit of a disappointment. Even in B&W I love those pieces.


The content of the AD&D1e manuals is unchanged with one exception. Where the books originally advertised other products (p.127 of the PHB, p.236 of the DMG) they have replaced the original "D&D Family of Products" catalogue pages with a page noting that 10% of the proceeds of the book were donated to the Gary Gygax Memorial Fund.

Stephen smith was kind enough to temporarily furnish me with an older electronic reproduction of the AD&D manuals so that I could double-check for edits and bowlderization. i found nothing on a semi-casual investigation.

Paper Quality

This is one where your mileage may vary. My POD  copy of these manuals was done on a very thick, high-durability paper. In fact, the manuals are much thicker and heavier than I remember. All three together weigh over 720cn.

The paper has proven resilient against rough handling by a 6 year of, and accidental jabs from thumb-tips that might have crinkled my original AD&D books or created pooches along the paper's edge.

Extreme heat and humidity has resulted in a small amount of rippling in my Monstrous Manual page shape, but less than I might have seen in a soft-over RIFTS manual in the 90s. Given the weight of the two AD&D hardcovers sitting on top of it , I expect that this will be swiftly corrected.


I ordered a full-colour copy of the Monstrous Manual, because it is a beautiful book and I would have been a fool to get it in black and white. It features, in my opinion, some of the best art of any D&D manual I have owned outside of the Red Box.

While I do not have my original to compare side by side, the colours are vibrant and definitely how I remember them.


All complaints I have about the text are ones that applied to my original books: they preserve the tiny sans-serif print of the original AD&D books, and my eyes are no longer nine years old. I had to take breaks from reading.

That said, with the brighter paper and high-quality of the print, i found that the text was actually crisper and easier on the eyes than my original Player's Handbook was. My original PHB had a muddy print quality, especially in the equipment section, and ink that appeared red when the light hit it at certain angles. Not the case with my new reprint.


  1. I greatly appreciate this review. Thank you!

    What obnoxious cover warnings are these that you speak of?

    1. It is my pleasure.

      Some of WotC's PDFs have warnings added to the sales page and in the book:

      We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

      I am not fond of editing and bowlderizing a past work to fit the current intellectual trends. Nor do I believe that stereotypical presentations are innately harmful. Just ignorant.

      Nor do I believe that WotC is genuine in their statement.

    2. I had seen that warning on the DriveThruRPG page of the books, but hadn't noticed they had actually included it in the PDFs themselves. Mine lack that, for some reason.

      I agree with your views on the matter, at least as you have written them here. I would even prefer to still have the original ads for other products in the books.

      This is a historical artifact, after all.

    3. I had seen that warning on the DriveThruRPG page of the books, but hadn't noticed they had actually included it in the PDFs themselves. Mine lack that, for some reason.

      I agree with your views on the matter, at least as you have written them here. I would even prefer to still have the original ads for other products in the books.

      This is a historical artifact, after all.

    4. I gather that the pressure to leave the books intact and unedited made them remove the warnings from actual products quickly.

      I felt it was important to point it out here as I know some people were worried about the warning being forced into the print copies. I have seen the question asked on twitter "did they put a warning label on it?" At least four times.

      I against censorship be it done by a government or a corporation. I belive Art can only thrive when the creator need not fear their creation butchered or that they might be punished for their work.

      And Art is far more important we understand.

      And I am with you on replacing the ads. I would have preferred the original.