Monday, January 28, 2013

Survey of D&D Classics PDFs

So here's a somewhat more comprehensive survey of what's currently available at the new website (started last week as a partnership between WOTC and DriveThruRPG). The site currently has a total of 87 products, broken down by edition (Basic and 1E-4E).

Basic/Expert – 12 products. Specifically: The B-adventure modules (B1-12, with the exception of the B/X bridge B10, Night's Dark Terror), and the D&D Basic Set Rulebook (by Moldvay, 1981). Most popular: D&D Basic Set Rulebook (#1 of 87 on the site).

1st Edition – 23 products. Includes: Fiend Folio, Deities & Demigods, Manual of the Planes, Greyhawk Adventures (1E/2E bridge product), along with modules in the following series: C, D, G, N, OP, Q, T, and U. Most popular: T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil (#2 of 87).

2nd Edition – 20 products. Mostly various adventures and the historical Campaign Sourcebooks (HR1-7). Most popular: Greyhawk Adventures, the 1E/2E bridge product. (#24 of 87).

3rd Edition – 19 products. Includes the 3E core adventures, as well as the 3.5 Rules Compendium, Player's Handbook II, Dungeon Master's Guide II, Fiend Folio, Unearthed Arcana, Manual of the Planes, Expanded Psionics Handbook, and the Epic Level Handbook. Most popular: Grand History of the Realms (#33 of 87).

4th Edition – 9 products. Includes a few adventures (including H1, HS1), the Quickstart Starter Set, and Dragon/Dungeon Magazine Annuals Volume 1. Most popular: Dungeon Delve (#48 of 87).

Conclusions: In their initial offering, the people putting together the D&D Classics site have concentrated more on the earlier editions (the most products for 1E, the least for 4E, etc.) Fairly extensive historical background notes have been added by Shannon Appelcline for Basic, 1E, and 2E materials – but not for 3E or 4E. Somewhat oddly, they've avoided presenting any of the core rulebooks, with the exception of the D&D Basic Set Rulebook, and arguably, the 3.5 Rules Compendium (and probably this helps explain why the Basic rulebook holds the #1 spot for sales at the site).

Campaign-setting materials are clearly popular, with the most popular 2E product being the Greyhawk Adventures hardcover (a very weak product IMO; I don't recommend it), and the most popular 3E product being the Grand History of the Realms. Hey, isn't that the reverse of what 2E/3E presented as their "default" campaign settings? Anyway, more grist for the mill: looking at 2E, the second- and third-most popular are also Greyhawk-branded items (Greyhawk Player's Guide at #25 overall at the site, and Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins at #27).

One might be tempted to use this opportunity to compare the popularity of various editions at the site, which I think are publicly on sale together for the first time ever. Comparing the most-popular products in each category (or average popularity rating, or a number of other possible measures), it's easy to see that the best sellers are the Basic/Expert and 1st Edition materials, followed by a steep dropoff for 2E, 3E, and 4E, in that order. But this is clearly biased by what products the developers have chosen to present at this time, the fact that the only full core rulebook available is the D&D Basic Set Rulebook, and other similar considerations.

Update 2021: After a few years, the address was retired, and that now redirects to the DM's Guild site. Alternatively, you can use the following affiliate link to search for any of the classic D&D products (and help support the Wandering DMs channel at the same time) at -- DriveThruRPG.


  1. With the core rulebooks of 1E, 2E & 3E, they may avoid selling the pdfs for a time to avoid competing with their premium reprints of the same.

    I recently discovered that Shannon Appelcline has a column (basically a blog) on, and the most recent one discusses his work on this project. He mentions that someone else is writing material for the 3E & 4E products.

    1. I see. I guess it's Kevin Kulp of ENWorld who has written some history notes for the 3E adventures, but currently there aren't any (other than just brief ad copy) for the other 3E rulebooks or campaign books. Generally I'd say that Shannon's looks way more robust to my eye.