The Almost-Definitive AD&D 2E Player's Handbook
If you're looking for a review of AD&D 2nd Edition generally, then this is not for you. There's no reason to experiment with 2nd Edition if you're not already familiar with it. This is a product for those with nostalgia, not for new players seeking a thrill.
Okay, so assuming you're already familiar with 2nd Edition - should you buy this product?
The original product:
- This is the 2013 WotC reprint of the Revised 2E PHB.
- As a result it DOES feature the best version of the 2E PHB rules text, with clarifications, fixes, and other improvements.
- But it does NOT feature the gorgeous painted art or line drawings of previous 2E PHB editions, and new interior art is not nearly as attractive.
- The many, many tables that characterise 2E are particularly well-presented in this version, both at the point where they appear in the rules, and in extensive and easy-to-use appendices, which will be a boon to DMs and players alike.
- For whatever reason, this edition does NOT include a template for a blank character sheet, but that shouldn't be a barrier to the modern player.
The DM's Guild PDF version
- The PDF copy available on DM's Guild appears to be drawn from WotC's master files for the 2013 republication, and does NOT appear to be a scan - so that's good.
- File size is about 40 MB.
- It's text-searchable - yay.
- It is thoroughly bookmarked - right down to individual spells.
- The original product made a lot of use of red text in its layout. This was probably to discourage photocopying at the time - and it will likewise frustrate attempts to print the PDF today. This is NOT a printer-friendly file.
The print-on-demand hardcopy
- The POD version is an oversized softcover of the same dimensions as a modern 5E PHB.
- The spine is about 1.5 centimetres thick. The cover wraps around onto the spine, including spine titling consistent with the presentation of the 2013 release it's based on.
- The book is perfect-bound, and the binding appears to be strong.
- It is printed in colour. I'm not able to compare the colour depth to the original 2013 release but it's clearly printer-quality colour, not publisher-quality.
- The cover is made of very thin card, easily damaged in normal use.
- Interior pages are relatively thick and stiff.
- Interior text is crisp and properly aligned.
- Pages have appropriate gutters and there is no gutter loss.
- The interior artwork is a little grainy but I'm not in a position to tell whether this is consistent with the original publication - it may simply be how the original images looked.
This is pretty much as good as could be expected from a DM's Guild retro product. It's usable, contains no meaningful errors or flaws, and accurately presents the original content in an attractive format.
If you're buying the hardcopy to actually use at your table, be aware that it WILL get wrecked. This is NOT a tough book, and certainly not remotely as bulletproof as the original hardcover 2E PHB. But it's probably cheaper to buy a second copy of this POD version than to get an original book off Ebay at this point.
If you were looking for a digital copy of the 2E PHB, this will meet your needs, and is easy to recommend for that purpose.
[5 of 5 Stars!]