The new Original Edition D&D Premium Reprint from Wizards of the Coast is truly a wonder to behold, and it gives the buyer a good glimpse at Hasbro's D&D corporate strategy moving forward. I'll discuss this a bit more in a minute, but first let's just have a look at the box.
The original three D&D booklets were sold as a part of a collector's edition which featured either a woodgrain box (super rare) or a white box (the version I have at home), and this new edition comes in an engraved wooden box that I found to be pretty spectacular.
One of the nice little features that stood out as a real highlight for me was the reflective image on the inside of the box top. Wizards/Hasbro could have let the wood alone speak for the product, and that would have been great, but this Wizardly image really sets a nice tone.
Here you get a glimpse of what the box looks like when the booklets are stored within. Notice the red ribbon? That ribbon will allow you to remove the 7 paper saddle stitched books without damaging the edges, this is a nice bit of design that like LORDS OF WATERDEEP demonstrates a significant amount of thought has been put into both presentation and utility.
The box itself contains the original 3 booklets as well as all four of the eventual supplements that were published for the original D&D game. This new edition provides new cover art for all of the booklets. The Eldritch Wizardry cover that freaked my neighbor out so much when I was a kid is no longer present, instead there is a picture of a Wizard summoning tentacles. This would probably still upset said neighbor, but it is a less controversial image. And the old cover is one that would stir up some serious discussions on my Facebook feed where the battle lines of some Lamentations of the Flame Princess fans would do virtual battle with some of the Athena Anthology supporters would debate its appropriateness. I won't enter that fray as I am a fan of LotFP and of many of the Progressive game design that has been created over the past few years. Regardless of anyone's thoughts on the Eldritch Wizardry cover, the Greyhawk cover is a beauty.
Covers aside, there is plenty to discuss regarding the interiors of the booklets which are unchanged from the original -- or largely unchanged. Part of me thinks this is endearing as it lets gamers see the art that inspired a 40 year old hobby. The other part of me thinks that if they were going to redo any of the art, they might as well have replaced the interior art. There are talented artists who could have done chiaroscuro work that was an homage to the old art, but didn't look like doodles that ...well...I drew. Then again, that might just be the point. Anyone is a good enough artist to draw visual monsters for their home campaign. All you need is suspension of disbelief.
There is no inclusion of the Chainmail rules set here, so you will have to play D&D using the "optional" combat system presented in the first booklet. Thankfully, that system was the basis for the modern d20 engine and can be easily learned by the modern gamer. Or, rather it can be created rather easily by the modern gamer as this game is nigh unplayable by itself without some interpretation and house rules. This is why there were articles written and an explosion of alternate RPGs. The modern gamer has 40 years of interpretation, precedent, and house rules to work with so we can actually use these rules, but I do warn you that they are a bit different from what you might be used to.
Which brings me to the point I hinted at during the opening paragraph. This product points to Hasbro's new corporate strategy -- or rather a better tactical application of their long time strategy -- they want to have "a D&D experience for every gamer at your table." They make this abundantly clear with an advertising flier containing that very quote. In the past, the tactic used by Hasbro to advance the strategy of "a D&D for everyone" was an attempt to create a "perfect D&D" that was balanced, appealed to old gamers, and was hip for new gamers. This was what 4th edition was trying to be, a D&D for everyone. That tactic failed. It insulted some gamers and further fractured the customer base.
The new tactic is very different and is what Hasbro should have been doing all along. That tactic is to provide products with D&D Intellectual Property and Brand that match the needs of various gamers.
Want old school games?
Cool. Hasbro will release old rule books in collectors editions and pdfs. You can play D&D as it was originally played.
Want to play 2nd through 4th edition?
Those are being supported too in different ways.
Interested in D&D Next our new rules set that is a combination of old and new school design and fairly easily converted between editions?
That will be coming out this year.
Are you a Eurogamer?
Have you seen LORDS OF WATERDEEP?
Have you seen CONQUEST OF NERATH?
Casual RPG/Board Gamer?
Our Ravenloft, Ashardalon, and Drizzt game is just right for you.
New to gaming?
Try DUNGEON out.
The same is true for video games etc. and I think that this is a wonderful approach by Hasbro. The games they have been designing to support their IP have been excellent. RAVENLOFT and LORDS OF WATERDEEP have been played several times by my group over the past two years and the digital app version of WATERDEEP is looking pretty compelling to me.
So how about it? Would you like to play a game?