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Players Handbook, 1st edition  
Author(s) Gary Gygax
Cover artist David A. Trampier
Publisher TSR, Inc.
Publication date June 1978
Pages 128
ISBN 0-935696-01-6
OCLC Number 13498304
Dewey Decimal 794 19
LC Classification GV1469.62.D84 G94 1980

The Player's Handbook (Players Handbook in 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D)) is a book of rules for the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). It does not contain the complete set of rules, but only those for use by players of the game. Additional rules, for use by Dungeon Masters (DMs), who referee the game, can be found in the Dungeon Master's Guide. Many optional rules, such as those governing extremely high-level players, and some of the more obscure spells, are found in other sources.

Since the 1st edition,[1] the Player's Handbook has contained tables and rules for creating characters, lists of the abilities of the different character classes, the properties and costs of equipment, descriptions of spells that magic-using character classes (such as wizards or clerics) can cast, and numerous other rules governing gameplay.[2] Both the Dungeon Master's Guide and the Player's Handbook give advice, tips, and suggestions for various styles of play.[3] The Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual make up the core D&D rulebooks.[4]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons[]

The first true Players Handbook was released in June, 1978 as a 128-page hardcover.[5][6] It was written by Gary Gygax and edited by Mike Carr, who also wrote the foreword. The original cover art was by D.A. Trampier,[5] who also provided interior illustrations along with David C. Sutherland III.[7] In this edition, the game rules were divided between the Players Handbook and the Dungeon Masters Guide, which was printed later.[1] Later editions of the game moved the bulk of the game rules to the Player's Handbook, leaving information needed chiefly by the DM in the Dungeon Master's Guide. The new rules were so open-ended that game campaigns required a referee or Dungeon Master.[8]

The Players Handbook contained the information needed to play the standard character classes: clerics (including druids), fighters (including rangers and paladins), magic-users (including illusionists), thieves (including assassins), and monks.[5] The book also included information on non-human races, such as dwarves, elves, and halflings, character abilities, armor and weapons, spell descriptions, and optional rules for psionics.[5]

The original Players Handbook was reviewed by Don Turnbull in issue No. 10 of White Dwarf, who gave the book a rating of 10 out of 10. Turnbull noted, "I don't think I have ever seen a product sell so quickly as did the Handbook when it first appeared on the Games Workshop stand at Dragonmeet", a British role-playing game convention; after the convention, he studied the book and concluded that "whereas the original rules are ambiguous and muddled, the Handbook is a detailed and coherent game-system, and very sophisticated."[1] Turnbull felt a bit of apprehension at the amount of time it would require to digest all the new material, but concluded by saying "I said of the Monster Manual that it was TSR's most impressive publication to date; that is no longer true—this accolade must belong to the Handbook which is nothing short of a triumph."[1]

In 1983, TSR changed the cover art of the Players Handbook, although the interior contents remained the same.[6] This printing featured cover art by Jeff Easley.[5] Printings with this cover also bear an orange spine that fits in with other Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books.[9]

Numerous foreign editions of the Players Handbook were published, including versions for the United Kingdom, Australia, France, and Germany.[10] Games Workshop (U.K.) published a softcover version also in 1978.[5]

Dealers continued to place orders for the 1st edition Players Handbook even after 2nd edition was released, causing the final printing to be in July 1990, a year after the release of 2nd edition.[6]

Wizards of the Coast released a new printing of the original book, billed as the "1st Edition Premium Player's Handbook". This was released in April 2012, as part of a set of limited-edition reprints of the original 1st Edition core rulebooks: the Monster Manual, Player's Handbook, and Dungeon Master's Guide. These premium versions of the original AD&D rulebooks will be reprinted with the original art and content, but will feature a new cover design. Purchase of the reprinted Player's Handbook will help support the Gygax Memorial Fund—established to immortalize Gary Gygax with a memorial statue in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.[11]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition[]

Player's Handbook, 2nd edition  
Author(s) David "Zeb" Cook
Cover artist Jeff Easley
Publisher TSR, Inc.
Publication date 1989
Pages 246
ISBN ISBN 0-88038-716-5

The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition Player's Handbook was a 256-page hardcover book written by David "Zeb" Cook and released in 1989.[5][12][13] The original cover art is by Jeff Easley, and the book featured eight full-page color illustrations,[5] as well as other interior illustrations by Douglas Chaffee, Larry Elmore, Craig Farley, John and Laura Lakey, Erik Olson, Jack Pennington, Jeff Butler, Jeff Easley, Jean E. Martin, and Dave Sutherland.

The Player's Handbook for 2nd edition was compatible with 1st edition rules, but was streamlined and clarified.[5] The book included information on how to play the standard character classes: warriors (including fighters, paladins, and rangers), wizards (including mages and specialist wizards such as illusionists), priests (clerics and guidelines for variance by mythos, including the druid as an example), and rogues (including thieves and bards); while most character classes remained about the same as in the 1st edition rules, the bard was regularized, and the assassin and monk were dropped.[5] TSR, Inc. also removed some races from the game, such as half-orcs,[14] although some of these were added back into the game in supplements, such as The Complete Book of Humanoids.[15] Optional rules for skills, known as proficiencies, were added, and sections describing role-playing, combat, magic, time and movement, equipment, and spell descriptions were all expanded.[5] The book included major changes regarding character classes, races, and magic, and incorporated many new rules that had been published in supplements such as Unearthed Arcana and Dragonlance Adventures.

The 2nd edition Player's Handbook was an Origins and Gamer's Choice award winner.[5] Lawrence Schick, in his 1991 book Heroic Worlds, called the book "a vast improvement" over the 1st edition book; he noted that the monk character class had been "banished to Oriental Adventures where it belongs", but commented that the spell descriptions "have positively bloated to over 100 pages".[5]

In 1995, a new version of the 2nd edition Player's Handbook was released as part of TSR's 25th anniversary.[13] The book was revised, becoming sixty-four pages larger,[16] mainly due to layout changes and new artwork.[17] A new foreword in this edition specifically stated that the book was not Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition.[16]

The 2nd edition Player's Handbook was reproduced as a premium reprint on May 21, 2013.[18]

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition[]

Player's Handbook, 3rd edition  
Author(s) Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams
Cover artist Henry Higgenbotham
Publisher Wizards of the Coast
Publication date August 10, 2000
Pages 302
ISBN ISBN 978-0-7869-1550-7

The third edition, published August 10, 2000,[19] (with the Player's Handbook debuting at that year's Gen Con[8]) represented a major overhaul of the game, including the adoption of the d20 system. The third edition also dropped the word Advanced from the title, as the publisher decided to publish only one version of the game instead of both basic and advanced versions.

Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, and Skip Williams all contributed to the 3rd edition Players Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual, and then each designer wrote one of the books based on those contributions.[20] Tweet is credited with the book's design. Cover art is by Henry Higginbotham, with interior art by Lars Grant-West, Scott Fischer, John Foster, Todd Lockwood, David Martin, Arnie Swekel, and Sam Wood. The 3rd edition Player's Handbook also saw the return of half-orcs and monks to the core rules set,[19] along with some all-new classes.[19]

The reviewer from Pyramid commented on the release of third edition, stating: "There's a lot to like about Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition as seen in the Player's Handbook. The new artwork is gorgeous and evocative, and in the 286 pages of the main rulebook there's a lot of well-written and tightly packed rules."[21] Another reviewer wrote a response to the first review.[22] A third reviewer felt that the design team "smoothed out the rough edges from Advanced Dungeons & Dragon 2nd Edition and added tons of new goodies to make D&D 3rd Edition the best combat-oriented RPG you can buy".[23]

In July 2003, the rules were revised again to version 3.5 based on two years of player feedback.[24] Revisions to the Player's Handbook included the classes becoming more balanced against each other.[24] When asked about the changes from the prior Player's Handbook release, Skip Williams said "I think they range from the almost invisible (unless it affects your character directly) to the pretty radical," while Andy Collins replied "Well, I don't think I'd call any of the changes "radical." Even though some characters will undergo some significant changes, the aim is for the character to still feel like the same character, only with more interesting and balanced options."[25] Andy Collins is credited for the Player's Handbook 3.5 revision. Cover art is by Henry Higginbotham, with interior art by Lars Grant-West, Scott Fischer, John Foster, Jeremy Jarvis, Todd Lockwood, David Martin, Wayne Reynolds, Arnie Swekel, and Sam Wood.

May 2006 saw the release of the Player's Handbook II, designed to follow-up the standard Player's Handbook.[26] This book was designed by David Noonan. It contains four new classes, along with new spells, feats, and new role-playing options.[27] Its cover pays homage to the 1st edition Player's Handbook.[19]

The 3.5 edition Player's Handbook was reproduced as a premium reprint on September 18, 2012.[28]

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition[]

Player's Handbook, 4th edition  
Author(s) Rob Heinsoo, Andy Collins, James Wyatt
Cover artist Wayne Reynolds (front) , Dan Scott (back)
Publisher Wizards of the Coast
Publication date June 6, 2008
Pages 320
ISBN ISBN 0-7869-4867-1

On June 6, 2008, the Fourth Edition Player's Handbook, subtitled Arcane, Divine and Martial Heroes, was released. It was originally announced that the 4th edition's three core rulebooks would be released over a three-month period,[29] but the date changed after customer feedback revealed a majority preference among D&D customers to have all three core rulebooks released in the same month.[30][31][32] The Fourth Edition Player's Handbook was designed by Rob Heinsoo, Andy Collins, and James Wyatt. The front cover illustration was by Wayne Reynolds and the back cover illustration was by Dan Scott, with interior illustrations by Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai, Matt Cavotta, Eric Deschamps, Wayne England, David Griffith, Ralph Horsley, Howard Lyon, Raven Mimura, Lee Moyer, William O'Connor, Steve Prescott, Dan Scott, Anne Stokes, Franz Vohwinkel, and Eva Widermann.

The first Player's Handbook includes eight classes: cleric, fighter, paladin, ranger, rogue, warlock, warlord, and wizard, and eight races: dragonborn, dwarf, eladrin, elf, human, half-elf, halfling, and tiefling. The warlock and warlord classes, and the dragonborn and tiefling races, represented new additions to the core rules, while the book left out previous core elements such as the monk and bard classes and the gnome and half-orc races. Wizards of the Coast emphasized that those elements would be coming in subsequent Player's Handbooks and would be considered to be as central to the game as those in the first book.

The reviewer from Pyramid referred to the fourth edition as an "MMORPG".[33] Another reviewer from Pyramid stated simply, "This is not Dungeons & Dragons." The reviewer commented further by saying, "Or at least if Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition is Dungeons & Dragons, then it is not the Dungeons & Dragons as the gaming hobby has known it for some 34 years. For a mere five years after the last rules update, Wizards of the Coast have given what is the most well-known, number-one RPG the most radical of makeovers. This is, in fact, even more of a radical redesign than the intellectual property received when it was upgraded from Dungeons & Dragons to the First Edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. It is, though, a redesign that is more in keeping with contemporary gaming -- more so than with either Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition or Dungeons & Dragons 3.5. For Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition is heavily influenced by MMORPGs (Massively Multi-player Online Roleplay Games), such as World of Warcraft, and by the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Game."[34]

The 4th edition Player's Handbook 2, subtitled Arcane, Divine and Primal Heroes,[35] was released on March 17, 2009.[35] The Player's Handbook 2 includes eight classes: the avenger, barbarian, bard, druid, invoker, shaman, sorcerer, and warden, and five races: the deva, gnome, goliath, half-orc, and shifter.[36] The book reached No. 28 on USA Today's bestseller list the week of March 26, 2009 and No. 14 on the Wall Street Journal's non-fiction bestseller list a week later.[37][38]

A third book in the series, Player's Handbook 3, subtitled Psionic, Divine and Primal Heroes, was released on March 16, 2010. Retrieved on 2011-02-20. The book was designed by Mike Mearls, Bruce R. Cordell, and Robert J. Schwalb, and featured cover art by Michael Komarck and interior art by Ralph Beisner, Eric Belisle, Kerem Beyit, Wayne England, Jason A. Engle, Carl Frank, Randy Gallegos, Adam Gillespie, Ralph Horsley, Roberto Marchesi, Jake Masbruch, Jim Nelson, William O'Connor, Hector Ortiz, Shane Nitzche, Wayne Reynolds, Chris Seaman, John Stanko, Matias Tapia, Beth Trott, Francis Tsai, Eva Widermann, Sam Wood, Ben Wootten, and Kieran Yanner. It includes six classes: ardent, battlemind, monk, psion, runepriest, and seeker,[39][40][41] along with four races: wilden,[42] the minotaur, githzerai,[43] and shardminds. The PHB3 also includes new multi-classing rules for hybrid characters.[44]

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition[]

On August 19th 2014 the fifth edition Player's Handbook was released.[45]

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Turnbull, Don (December 1978 – January 1979). "Open Box: Players Handbook". White Dwarf (Games Workshop) (10): 17. 
  2. Turnbull, Don (April–May 1979). "A Dip Into the Players Handbook" (analysis and critique). White Dwarf (Games Workshop) (12): 24–25. 
  3. Pulsipher, Lewis (April–May 1981). "An Introduction to Dungeons & Dragons, Part II" (overview). White Dwarf (Games Workshop) (24): 10–11. 
  4. Livingstone, Ian (Aug–September 1979). "White Dwarf Interviews Gary Gygax" (interview). White Dwarf (Games Workshop) (14): 23–24. 
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Prometheus Books. pp. 84–85. ISBN 0-87975-653-5. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Players Handbook at Retrieved November 22, 2008.
  7. Gygax, Gary (1978). Player's Handbook. TSR. ISBN 0-935696-01-6. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Dungeons & Dragons FAQ". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2008-10-03. Retrieved 2008-10-03. 
  9. RPGnet d20 RPG Game Index: AD&D First Edition Players Handbook (1983 TSR edition). Retrieved on November 22, 2008.
  10. PHB Foreign at Retrieved November 22, 2008.
  12. AD&D Player's Handbook, 2nd Ed. (1989) at the Pen & Paper RPG Database. Retrieved November 22, 2008.
  13. 13.0 13.1 "The History of TSR". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2008-10-04. Retrieved 2005-08-20. 
  14. To Be Orc Not To Be from RPGnet. Retrieved on November 22, 2008.
  15. Slavicsek, Bill. The Complete Book of Humanoids (TSR, 1993)
  16. 16.0 16.1 DataBase: AD&D Player's Handbook, 2nd Ed. Revised (1995) at Retrieved November 23, 2008.
  17. AD&D Player's Handbook, 2nd Ed. Revised (1995) at the Pen & Paper RPG Database. Retrieved November 23, 2008.
  18. "Player's Handbook". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved June 24, 2013. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 D&D Alumni: A Look Back at Player's Handbooks. Retrieved November 23, 2008.
  20. "Profiles: Monte Cook". Dragon (Renton, Washington: Wizards of the Coast) (#275): 10, 12, 14. September 2000. 
  21. Pyramid, Steve Jackson Games
  22. Pyramid, Steve Jackson Games
  23. Pyramid, Steve Jackson Games
  24. 24.0 24.1 Dungeons & Dragons 2003 Core Rulebook Revisions FAQ. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  25. Ryan, Michael (July 4, 2003). "Product Spotlight: D&D 3.5". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved August 11, 2013. 
  26. 3rd edition Player's Handbook II product page. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  27. Noonan, David. Player's Handbook II (Wizards of the Coast, 2006).
  28. "3.5 Edition Premium Player's Handbook". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved June 24, 2013. 
  29. Ampersand: Exciting News!. Retrieved November 24, 2008.
  30. EN World – Morrus' D&D / 4th Edition / d20 News – View Single Post – Corebooks in June!: News from the Alliance Retailer Summit
  31. EN World – Morrus' D&D / 4th Edition / d20 News – View Single Post – Corebooks in June!: News from the Alliance Retailer Summit
  32. Slavicsek, Bill. "Ampersand: Exciting News!", Dragon Magazine, Published 2007-10-19, Wizards of the Coast
  33. Pyramid, Steve Jackson Games
  34. Pyramid, Steve Jackson Games
  35. 35.0 35.1 Crawford, Jeremy; Mearls, Mike; Wyatt, James. "Contents". Player's Handbook 2. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved 2011-10-05. 
  36. Crawford, Jeremy; Mearls, Mike; Wyatt, James. "Contents". Player's Handbook 2 excerpts. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved 2009-03-06. 
  37. "BC-Best-sellers-Books-USA Today". USA Today. The Associated Press. March 26, 2009. Retrieved May 29, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  38. "BC-Best-sellers-Books-WSJ". Wall Street Journal. The Associated Press. April 2, 2009. Retrieved May 29, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  39. Heinsoo, Rob. (2009-11-05) Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Official Home Page – Article (Playtest: Player's Handbook 3, The Monk). Retrieved on 2011-02-20.
  40. Cordell, Bruce R.. (2009-07-07) Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Official Home Page – Article (Debut: Player's Handbook 3, The Psion). Retrieved on 2011-02-20.
  41. Schwalb, Robert J.. (2009-10-06) Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Official Home Page – Article (The Seeker). Retrieved on 2011-02-20.
  42. Wyatt, James. (2009-04-24) Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Official Home Page – Article (Playtest: Player's Handbook 3, The Wilden). Retrieved on 2011-02-20.
  43. Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Official Home Page – Article (Debut: Player's Handbook 3, Githzerai). Retrieved on 2011-02-20.
  44. Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Official Home Page – Article (Playtest: Player's Handbook 3, Hybrid Characters). Retrieved on 2011-02-20.
  45. { Player's Handbook Product Overview]

Further reading[]

  • Review: AD&D Second Edition Player's Handbook, White Wolf #17 (1989)
  • "Sage Advice", Dragon #148.
  • "Sage Advice", Dragon #149.
  • "Sage Advice", Dragon #157.

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