Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University. This week, Thorne looks at the phenomenon driving demand for WotC's reprint of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons core books.
I see Wizards of the Coast announced last week the company plans to reprint the first three books for 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons--the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide and Monster Manual in premium limited editions. Of course, the company is charging what buyers would have considered a premium price back when the books first came out. Today, customers don't bat an eye at paying almost double what the original books sold for back in the late 1970s/early 80s. We have taken pre-orders for two sets, I know of one store that has pre-orders for over a dozen and another that pre-sold 40 copies the first weekend after the announcement. Not bad, considering that WotC will reprint the books in the original black and white, with the complete set retailing for just under $115. The fact that WotC announced it will make a contribution (amount currently unknown) to help put into place the planned Gary Gygax statue in Lake Geneva for each book sold has probably helped sales as well. At the store, it certainly picked up interest in our collection of 1st edition AD&D books.
It also indicates the fond memories a lot of people have of 1st edition AD&D, even though this version of the rules went out of print in the late 80s. Given what sociologists know about human behavior, it shouldn't surprise us to see the reprints greeted so enthusiastically. The high school and college students that played 1st edition AD&D had plenty of disposable time, not so much in the way of disposable income, were able to play the game for hours but not always able to buy all the books and modules they would have desired. The Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide were rare and treasured things, at least in the groups with which I played. Well, maybe rare, not necessarily treasured. They often suffered lots of wear and tear from getting passed around so much, which is why you find copies in comparatively good shape so seldom (Unearthed Arcana was notorious for the pages starting to fall out after only a few readings). Not uncommonly, one Player's Handbook, Monster Manual and Dungeon Master's Guide would support an entire group.
Now, thirty years later, those players have entered their 40s and 50s and find themselves with much more disposable income (and sadly, much less disposable time) and nostalgic for the things they read, listened to, and (most importantly for our purposes) played. Americans, in general, look back most fondly on those television shows, movies and music that they first encountered during their high school and college days. They remember the fun they had with 1st edition, while they realize they probably won’t ever play a game of 1st edition AD&D again, and in reality may not want to, still, having copies of the books on the shelves to look at and thumb through on occasion, serve as touchstones to bring back those days of their youth. While it is quite possible to find PDFs of the material floating around the Internet, for a collector or for someone who hasn't played 1st edition AD&D in over two decades, having the pages of a book, even a premium limited edition one, to turn while reminiscing, will be a thing to savor.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
Column by Scott Thorne
Posted by ICv2 on January 30, 2012 @ 2:51 am CT