Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Interesting Observation

I've so far made three posts in my six-part series critiquing the covers of the Players Handbook and the one that has thus far elicited the most response, much of it dissenting from my own point of view, is today's entry discussing the AD&D 2nd Edition PHB. I'm honestly not surprised by this. In my experience, 2e was the first edition that the vast majority of still-playing D&D gamers played. It is, for them, what they think of when they think of "D&D." I think this is significant for a number of reasons, which I'll talk about in a future post. For now, though, I'll say only that I think anyone who discounts the existence of a gamer generation gap is either ignorant of history or trying to sell you something (or both -- I'm looking at you, WotC).


  1. I remember being happy that 2e came out -- it was supposed to better organize and codify the stuff that had been added on from the three core books of AD&D.

    But then they went crazy with supplements, splatbooks, etc. It became too much to keep up with.

  2. Well I'll chime in with more dissent regarding both the 2nd Edition PHB and the redone 1st edition one.

    2nd Edition- the foe is sitting where you the reader are. Who knows- you might even be the foe! It's not my game book cover, but complaining that the enemy isn't visible seems to miss the whole point and isn't one of it's problems (imho).

    1st Edition Redone- Yes, the wizard is a bit goofy looking with his Bear of Immense Proportions. Yet, I remember as a kid looking at these books- which belonged to my friend's older brother who let us use them- and just thinking "WHOA..this is freaking cool". We had a mixture of original 1st Edition books, redone 1st edition books, B/X, and BECMI- and we used them all together. It's sounds strange but the redone covers seemed "older" and more foreboding than the original 1st edition covers. Especially the Unearthed Arcana cover. That cover is awesome.

    One big difference I just thought of- the redone covers convey MAGIC much better. The original PHB doesn't indicate that's there's any magic in this game world at all.

    One last thought- I've never thought of the wizard on the redone cover being a PC showing off his kewl powerz as he fights some gargoyles. I've always figured he was the Evil Bad Guy Wizard- summonging the gargoyles and about to send them after the PC's.

  3. Bear of Immense Proportions

    that's a market I hadn't considered... now I'll never see those alltel ads the same way again.

  4. Hmm. Count me in as someone who started with the original PHB cover (the best piece of gaming art ever), but then proceeds to like the 2e cover better than the revised 1e one. Any piece of art in which the model is looking right at the camera is a weak piece of art as far as I'm concerned, so I dislike both the later covers. But I dislike the 2e cover less than I dislike the second 1e cover. I fit the generation thing, though, since the cover I like best is the one I started with...

  5. But I dislike the 2e cover less than I dislike the second 1e cover.

    It's a bit of a wash for me; I dislike them both almost equally. The 1e revised cover wins barely because of the content beneath it, which is admittedly not a fair basis for making a judgment.

  6. I like this series of posts and pretty much agree with you so far.

    I hope you review the DMG covers as well. (The MM I'm less interested in, because I guess I've never liked any of them). The 1E DMG's efreet battle is not very dynamic. In fact I think it's pretty boring, I've never examined the people fighting the efreet in detail (well, maybe one of them). But then you flip it over and see the back and go "whoah". It's got a party, a fantastical setting, and an implied story.

    The 1E wizard cover, at least you can look at and go "that's pretty cool". I remember it was striking looking, though it was never something that seemed worth examining closely.

    The message of the 2E book seems to be much more "hey, 15 year-old boys, you too can be a hero on a bland adventure." And it is pretty darn bland, and safe, no scary monsters to fight, no planning, no aftermath of battle, no blood, no hint of demons...

    And I think there's something more to be said about how the 2E's cover character is looking at you -- the TSR customer.

    Well, keep it going, and I hope that you give 3E's pathetic $5 craft project the thrashing it deserves.