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Player's Handbook

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Players Handbook
AuthorGary Gygax
Cover artistDavid A. Trampier
GenreRole-playing game
PublisherTSR, Inc.
Publication date
June 1978
Publication placeUnited States
Media typePrint (Hardcover)
794 19
LC ClassGV1469.62.D84 G94 1980

The Player's Handbook (spelled Players Handbook in first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D)) is the name given to one of the core rulebooks in every edition of the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). It does not contain the complete set of rules for the game, and only includes rules 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 first 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] For most editions of D&D, The Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual make up the core rulebooks.[4]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons[edit]

The first 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 open-ended nature of the new rules mandated that for game campaigns to be run successfully they would now need a referee or Dungeon Master.[8]

The Players Handbook contained the information that players needed for playing the standard character classes: cleric, druid, fighter, ranger, paladin, magic-user, illusionist, thief, assassin, and monk.[5] The book also included information on non-human races, such as dwarves, elves, and halflings, as well as character abilities, equipment such as armor and weapons, descriptions of spells, and optional rules to add psionics to the game.[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]

In 1999, a paperback reprint of the first edition was released.[11]

In 2012, Wizards of the Coast released a new printing of the original book, billed as the "1st Edition Premium Player's Handbook", 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 were reprinted with the original art and content, but feature a new cover design. Purchase of the reprinted Player's Handbook helped support the Gygax Memorial Fund—established to immortalize Gary Gygax with a memorial statue in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.[12][13]

Scott Taylor for Black Gate in 2014 listed the 1st edition AD&D Player's Handbook by David Trampier as #1 in The Top 10 TSR Cover Paintings of All Time.[14]

Scott Taylor of Black Gate listed the Player's Handbook as #5 on the list of "Top 10 'Orange Spine' AD&D Hardcovers By Jeff Easley, saying "you aren't going to top Trampier's version, but nonetheless, for many players who didn't start D&D in the 1980s, THIS is their Players Handbook, and many of us have imagined this fantastic fight as we sat around a gaming table."[15]


Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition[edit]

Player's Handbook, 2nd edition
AuthorDavid "Zeb" Cook
Cover artistJeff Easley
GenreRole-playing game
PublisherTSR, Inc.
Publication date
Publication placeUnited States
Media typePrint

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][18][19] The original cover art is by Jeff Easley, and the book featured eight full-page illustrations in color,[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 designed to be compatible with 1st edition rules, but the information in the book was streamlined and clarified.[5] The book contained the information on how to play the standard character classes organized in categories consisting of warriors (fighters, paladins, and rangers), wizards (mages and specialist wizards such as illusionists), priests (clerics, with guidelines for variance by mythos, including the druid as an example), and rogues (thieves and bards); while most character classes remained similar to their versions in the 1st edition rules, the bard was regularized to function more like the other classes, and the assassin and monk were removed.[5] TSR, Inc. also removed some races from the game, such as half-orcs,[20] although some of these were added back into the game in supplements, such as The Complete Book of Humanoids.[21]

It was in the Player's Option - Spells & Magic book for the second edition that the artificier was first introduced, as a specialist choice for magic users specifically.[22] A set of optional rules for proficiencies was added, to represent skills, and sections detailing role-playing, combat, magic, time and movement, equipment, and spell descriptions were all expanded from the original book.[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.

In 1995, a new version of the 2nd edition Player's Handbook was released as part of TSR's 25th anniversary.[19] The book was revised, becoming sixty-four pages larger,[23] mainly due to layout changes and new artwork.[24] A new foreword in this edition specifically stated that the book was not Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition.[23]

The 2nd edition Player's Handbook was reproduced as a premium reprint on May 21, 2013.[25][26]


In the May 1989 edition of Games International, James Wallis called the 2nd edition "an improvement over the original", but concluded that it was "a step forward for the game, but a very small step." Wallis felt that the many improvements called for by the "archaic mechanics" and "hugely overly-complex" rules had not been addressed, and that the game still provided "a terrible introduction to role-playing." He concluded that the designer "lacked the vision to see what could have been done with the material", and gave the book a below-average rating of 2 out of 5, saying, "AD&D may be the biggest selling rolegame of all time, but like the IBM PC, that doesn't mean that it isn't thoroughly obsolete and to be avoided."[27]

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]

Stephan Wieck reviewed the Player's Handbook within a broader review of the 2nd Edition rules in a 1989 issue of White Wolf.[28] He saw the revised rules as a clear improvement.[28] He noted that its "interior is laid out very well and is graphically attractive" with a helpful color scheme.[28]


Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition[edit]

Player's Handbook, 3rd edition
AuthorsMonte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams
Cover artistHenry Higgenbotham
GenreRole-playing game
PublisherWizards of the Coast
Publication date
August 10, 2000
Publication placeUnited States
Media typePrint

The third edition, published August 10, 2000,[31] (with the Player's Handbook debuting at that year's Gen Con,[8] in August 2000[32]) 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.[33] 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,[31] along with some all-new classes.[31]

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."[34] Another reviewer wrote a response to the first review.[35] 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".[36]

In July 2003, the rules were revised again to version 3.5 based on two years of player feedback.[37] Revisions to the Player's Handbook included the classes becoming more balanced against each other.[37] 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."[38] 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.[39] This book was designed by David Noonan. It contains four new classes, along with new spells, feats, and new role-playing options.[40] Its cover pays homage to the 1st edition Player's Handbook.[31]

The 3.5 edition Player's Handbook was reproduced as a premium reprint on September 18, 2012.[41]


Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition[edit]

Player's Handbook, 4th edition
AuthorsRob Heinsoo, Andy Collins, James Wyatt
Cover artistWayne Reynolds (front), Dan Scott (back)
GenreRole-playing game
PublisherWizards of the Coast
Publication date
June 6, 2008
Publication placeUnited States
Media typePrint

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,[45] 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.[46][47][48] 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 4th edition Player's Handbook 2, subtitled Arcane, Divine and Primal Heroes,[49] was released on March 17, 2009.[49] 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.[50] 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.[51][52]

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,[53][54][55] along with four races: wilden,[56] the minotaur, githzerai,[57] and shardminds. The PHB3 also includes new multi-classing rules for hybrid characters.[58]


Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition[edit]

Player's Handbook, 5th edition
AuthorWizards RPG Team
Cover artistTyler Jacobson
PublisherWizards of the Coast
Publication date
August 19, 2014

The fifth edition Player's Handbook was released on August 19, 2014.[59] The Player's Handbook contains the basic rules of the 5e system, the base classes and races, and character customization options.[60]


In Publishers Weekly's "Best-selling Books Week Ending September 1, 2014", Player's Handbook was #1 in "Hardcover Nonfiction" and sold 22,090 units.[61] It remained in the top 25 for four weeks.[62][63][64] The Player's Handbook was the top selling book at Amazon on its release day.[65]

The 5th edition Player's Handbook won the 2015 Origins Award for Best Role Playing Game and Fan Favorite Role Playing Game.[66] The book won three 2015 gold ENnie Awards, "Best Game", "Best Rules", "Product of the Year", and one silver award for "Best Writing" by Jeremy Crawford, James Wyatt, Robert J. Schwalb, and Bruce R. Cordell.[67]

Chuck Francisco of mania.com commented: "While it was an easily accessible system, 4e left a lukewarm feeling with my gaming group. There was something too generic and uninteresting about player characters which pervaded the system, especially in the wake of 3.5e (which some felt provided too many options so as to be confusing). In the process, 4e characters lost an indescribable crunchy feeling, but I'm pleased to say that it's been brought back for the newest installment of this venerated table top series."[68]

Andrew Zimmerman Jones of Black Gate comments on the 5th edition Player's Handbook: "Their rules light approach make it a natural system for old fans to bring new players into the hobby, but even with this initial offering there are enough customization options to keep old school gamers happy playing with it."[69]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Turnbull, Don (December 1978 – January 1979). "Open Box: Players Handbook". White Dwarf (review). No. 10. Games Workshop. p. 17.
  2. ^ Turnbull, Don (April–May 1979). "A Dip Into the Players Handbook". White Dwarf (analysis and critique). No. 12. Games Workshop. pp. 24–25.
  3. ^ Pulsipher, Lewis (April–May 1981). "An Introduction to Dungeons & Dragons, Part II". White Dwarf (overview). No. 24. Games Workshop. pp. 10–11.
  4. ^ Livingstone, Ian (August–September 1979). "White Dwarf Interviews Gary Gygax". White Dwarf (interview). No. 14. Games Workshop. pp. 23–24.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Prometheus Books. pp. 84–85. ISBN 0-87975-653-5.
  6. ^ a b c Players Handbook at acaeum.com. Retrieved November 22, 2008.
  7. ^ Gygax, Gary (1978). Player's Handbook. TSR. ISBN 0-935696-01-6.
  8. ^ a b "Dungeons & Dragons FAQ". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2008-10-02. 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 acaeum.com. Retrieved November 22, 2008.
  11. ^ Fogens, M. (August 1999). "Classic AD&D books are back". InQuest Gamer. No. 52. Wizard Entertainment. p. 20.
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  13. ^ "Art of the Genre: The Old School Renaissance – Black Gate". 28 August 2012.
  14. ^ "Art of the Genre: The Top 10 TSR Cover Paintings of All Time – Black Gate". 17 September 2014.
  15. ^ "Art of the Genre: Top 10 'Orange Spine' AD&D Hardcovers by Jeff Easley – Black Gate". 14 September 2016.
  16. ^ "Casus Belli #005". 1981.
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  55. ^ Schwalb, Robert J.. (2009-10-06) Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Official Home Page – Article (The Seeker). Wizards.com. Retrieved on 2011-02-20.
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  66. ^ "2015 Origins Award Winners".
  67. ^ "2015 ENnie Award Winners". ENNIE Awards. 2015-08-12. Archived from the original on 2019-03-08. Retrieved 2020-06-21.
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Further reading[edit]