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New Treasures: The Unearthed Arcana 1st Edition Premium Reprint

Thursday, February 21st, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

unearthed arcanaThe Premium 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons reprint series is one of the best ideas Wizards of the Coast has ever had.

By bringing Gary Gygax’s original AD&D rulebooks back into print in deluxe editions, Wizards is making the groundbreaking work of the father of role playing available to a modern audience. More than that, it’s a tacit acknowledgement of the growing popularity of retro-gaming, a nod to those players who still enjoy playing first edition (or OE, Original Edition) D&D and AD&D.

I’m one of them. My most recent game of D&D was last Sunday, and one of the books we reached for during play — as a troop of goblins chased my player characters through a dark wood — was the first edition AD&D volume Unearthed Arcana.

Unlike the Players Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Masters Guide, Gygax’s Unearthed Arcana — which, among many other innovations, introduced the Cavalier, Barbarian, and Thief-Acrobat classes — had never been reprinted, and the copy we used to quickly check the effects of my daughter’s druid’s “Goodberry” spell was the original TSR printing from 1985. That’s a hard book to come across these days, as one of my young players lamented.

But no longer. Wizards of the Coast released the Unearthed Arcana 1st Edition Premium Reprint on Tuesday of this week. Best of all, this edition incorporates the corrections and updates published under Gygax’s supervision in Dragon magazine, making this the definitive edition of the text. At long last, players can assemble a complete collection of the most essential rule books for the greatest role playing game ever written, without having to pay collector’s prices for long out-of-print volumes.

The Unearthed Arcana 1st Edition Premium Reprint was published by Wizards of the Coast on February 19, 2013. It is 128 pages in hardcover, priced at $49.95. There is no digital or softcover edition.

26 Comments »

  1. Very cool. When I was a kid playing AD&D every chance I got, the release of UNEARTHED ARCANA changed everything. Suddenly we had new spells! Weapon Specialization! Barbarians and Cavaliers! (One of the greatest long-term campaigns I ever ran centered around two players that exemplified the classic “buddy-cop” paradigm, although they were opposites: Lystoke the Cavalier and Braigore the Barbarian. One was all about civility and the martial code of honor, the other was a Chaotic Neutral ass-kicker who took no prisoners. Together they made a legendary team…at one point they kicked Mammon’s ass, drove him back to Hell, and plundered his treasure room. Ah, memories.) Oh, I almost forgot one of the other major game-changers from ARCANA: Tons of new Magic Items!!! First Edition just isn’t the same without this book.

    Comment by John R. Fultz - February 21, 2013 3:17 am

  2. UA has caught some grief over the years, but when it came out it was like a breath of fresh air. New classes! New spells! And all those images of weapons! I was a teen at the time, and I loved it, still love it.

    One thing I will say about the early AD&D books, they might not have been as tightly structured as the more modern books, but they were fun just to read, in my opinion. I used to sit around and read Gygax’s DMG from front to back all the day, and not just for the gaming material, but for all the rich information about fantasy tropes, literature, genres, etc. I learned of more than a few fantasy authors through that DMG.

    Comment by Ty Johnston - February 21, 2013 3:27 am

  3. I hope the new one has better bindings than my old one…

    I ended up using a staple gun to rebind the damn thing.

    (though, one good thing about the bad binding thing was that I was able to permanently affix the errata TSR published via DragonMag in it…)

    Comment by TW - February 21, 2013 6:24 am

  4. > First Edition just isn’t the same without this book.

    John,

    I think everyone has a story about the release of UNEARTHED ARCANA. Like most other old-time gamers, I’d been playing for a while when it was released and deep in a campaign, but my players were so excited by the new character classes that they wanted to use them immediately.

    I remember being oddly excited by the concept of cantrips, zero-level magic user spells, and wanting to build an entire adventure around them.

    It’s been a while since the arrival of a book stirred such excitement among my close friends.

    Comment by John ONeill - February 21, 2013 1:02 pm

  5. > they were fun just to read, in my opinion. I used to sit around and read Gygax’s DMG from front to back all the day, and
    > not just for the gaming material, but for all the rich information about fantasy tropes, literature,
    > genres, etc. I learned of more than a few fantasy authors through that DMG.

    Ty,

    Well said. Just as an example, there’s been a tremendous amount written about “Appendix N” in the DMG — Gygax’s famous list of fantasy titles and authors that inspired D&D.

    Over the decades I’ve seen that list debated, read, expanded on, and revisted countless times in blogs and fan discussions. It opened a lot of horizons for a great many young readers.

    The complete text of Appendix N is online here:

    http://www.digital-eel.com/blog/ADnD_reading_list.htm

    Comment by John ONeill - February 21, 2013 1:08 pm

  6. > I hope the new one has better bindings than my old one…

    TW,

    I haven’t seen my copy yet, so I can’t address the physical state of the new editions.

    My original copy from 1985 is still in great condition despsite multiple readers however… what on earth did you do to your copy to reduce it to a folio state??

    Comment by John ONeill - February 21, 2013 1:09 pm

  7. John: TW is correct, the UA is notorious for its bad binding. All four copies shared by my friends in the 80s fell to pieces, and although I hold a pristine copy now, I refuse to crack the binding just in case.

    This was my absolute favorite book ever produced by TSR, and I know that makes me shameful in the eyes of most OSGers, but screw that, this book took the cuffs of and made the game so much brighter for all the players who ever enjoyed it.

    I absolutely can’t wait to get a copy!

    Comment by Scott Taylor - February 21, 2013 2:18 pm

  8. I got out of gaming right before this book came out. However, my gaming buddies and I were avid readers of the early Dragon Magazine; so we had already begun incorporating several things–notably thief-acrobats–that eventually were published in Unearthed Arcana.

    Also, I just wanted to comment on some things said above: D&D books (and Dragon Magazine) were my sources for much of the reading I came to later love. For example, I first heard of Michael Moorcock, Fritz Leiber, and H. P. Lovecraft in the pages of early TSR products. I wonder if present RPGs get people reading source material like they used to?

    Comment by mcglothlin.13 - February 21, 2013 2:25 pm

  9. Thanks for the update. I’m mostly colecting the books and reading them for nostalgia’s sake, but they;re a treat to hold in one’s hands as well.

    Good news is, they’re reprinting the White Box: http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Product.aspx?x=dnd/products/dndacc/45390000

    Comment by periklis - February 21, 2013 7:21 pm

  10. I’m surprised this reprint is so popular, or that it was even reprinted at all. While there were some good ideas in the UA, it skipped over power-creep and went to power-leaps-and-bounds.

    Sadly, my thief’s campaign ended just as he reached the level for becoming an acrobat. My paladin’s campaign was mercifully cut short when I headed for grad school. (I hated the UA version of that class.) But my drow F/M/T’s campaign lasted off and on for well over a decade.

    Comment by Jeff Stehman - February 22, 2013 2:01 pm

  11. > This was my absolute favorite book ever produced by TSR, and I
    > know that makes me shameful in the eyes of most OSGers, but screw that

    Scott,

    Yeah! Screw that!

    Seriously, UE greatly expanded the first edition AD&D game, and it was an invaluable addition to the game. I’ve heard some grumbling over the years, but I never really took it seriously.

    Comment by John ONeill - February 22, 2013 6:49 pm

  12. > I first heard of Michael Moorcock, Fritz Leiber, and H. P. Lovecraft in the pages of early TSR products.
    > I wonder if present RPGs get people reading source material like they used to?

    Mcglothlin,

    You’re absolutely right that D&D turned a lot of readers on to some excellent fantasy.

    That’s a good question with regards to modern games. I don’t think the majority wear their influences on their sleeves the way D&D did, so perhaps modern players need to make more of an effort.

    But tabletop roleplaying is more a niche past time these days — the real question is “Does World of Warcraft bring new readers to fantasy?”

    Comment by John ONeill - February 22, 2013 6:57 pm

  13. > Good news is, they’re reprinting the White Box

    Periklis,

    Say what?

    Holy cats — you’re right! I had no idea.

    Thanks for the link! I definitely need to get in line for this one.

    Comment by John ONeill - February 22, 2013 6:59 pm

  14. > I’m surprised this reprint is so popular, or that it was even reprinted at all. While
    > there were some good ideas in the UA, it skipped over power-creep and went to power-leaps-and-bounds.

    Hey Jeff,

    I agree there were some play balance issues with the Barbarian and Cavaliar classes, especially versus vanilla fighters, but I thought Gygax’s rules on weapon spealization helped smooth that over.

    Was there something else you had issue with?

    Comment by John ONeill - February 22, 2013 7:01 pm

  15. John, I thought it was throughout, including the weapon specialization. And how about the new stat gen method for humans?

    Comment by Jeff Stehman - February 22, 2013 9:12 pm

  16. I don’t know why people didn’t like the Barbarian class–it was nicely balanced because they COULDN’T USE MAGIC ITEMS!!! That was a huuuuge trade-off to getting more hit points and tons of wilderness skills. Finally, you could have a Conan-style character that WORKED in the context of the game. I do see what you mean about the Cavalier, though–they were more like superheroes. However, the caveat to playing them was that THEY COULDN’T TURN DOWN A FIGHT! No running, no hiding, just straight-ahead combat and damn the consequences. That means a lot of them probably died when everybody else in the party was going “Run! It’s 99 orcs!” But the Cavalier was charging right in. If the DM enforced these two drawbacks, they did a lot to balance these characters. And the Specialization Rules finally made “regular” Fighters dangerous as hell–not to mention BOWS could finally do some real damage. The specialization rules are some of the very best additions to the core game.

    Comment by John R. Fultz - February 22, 2013 9:27 pm

  17. Also: Barbarians couldn’t wear much heavy armor–another balancing factor. Finally, unlike “regular” fighters, they didn’t get strongholds and keeps when they reached 9th level–instead they could only summon a horde of fellow barbarians like once a year. (However, that may have been enough…)

    Comment by John R. Fultz - February 22, 2013 9:28 pm

  18. Barbarians were extremely powerful at low level. Working from distant memory, that was balanced by, what, 6,000 XP needed for second level? Talk about a red flag. No heavy armor, but double dex bonus. At second level they could start hanging with clerics, which was the biggest penalty of the no-magic rule. They could use magic weapons and magic armor starting somewhere in the mid-levels.

    This is just like old times on rec.games.frp. :-)

    Comment by Jeff Stehman - February 23, 2013 11:11 am

  19. > And how about the new stat gen method for humans?

    Jeff,

    Actually, I had no problem with them. They got a lot of players back to rolling characters (as opposed to the various point-assigning methods that had started to pop up), which I always thought was a big part of the fun.

    Comment by John ONeill - February 24, 2013 3:10 am

  20. > I don’t know why people didn’t like the Barbarian class–it was nicely balanced because they COULDN’T USE MAGIC ITEMS!!!

    John,

    Exactly! A lot of people forget that. Barbarians are a great character class at low levels — lot of hit points, and don’t need armor — but that lack of magic is a very serious drawback at higher ones.

    > And the Specialization Rules finally made “regular” Fighters dangerous as hell

    Again, precisely right. I think that rule along made regular fighters more interesting again.

    Comment by John ONeill - February 24, 2013 3:13 am

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