Last month Wizards of the Coast announced they would be reprinting the original Advanced Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks as part of a fundraiser for the Gygax Memorial Fund. While the books are still on track for an April release and promising to feature all of the original pages from the legendary tomes, the covers have been drastically altered for the new editions.
Okay, maybe not "drastically altered” so much as “almost completely painted over”.
While I was expecting some modifications to the covers identifying these special editions as being… well, special editions, I can’t help but feel disappointed about so much of the original, iconic art that graced the originals being removed. Do we really need books dressed up to look like books? Was this really a problem? “Ooo, what’s this strange picture propped up on a shelf in the bookstore. Oh, my! It’s a book!”
The original cover of The Players Guide pictured above told a story. The new one is simply filler. It is an afterthought put there just because they had to put something on the cover. It is evocative of nothing.
Looking at the (admittedly atrocious) art of the original Monster Manual we see another drastic change in context. What was once a land full of adventure is now just another faux leather game book with a dragon on the front, indistinguishable from dozens of others. If this is what passes for, in the words of Wizards of the Coast, “attractive new cover design” then the future is much more dull than I ever could have guessed.
Also curiously missing from the new covers is any mention of the Gygax Memorial or the legacy of these titles. What’s this? A new Monster Manual? Who cares, just give us your cash because you buy everything we put Dungeons and Dragons on. We even made it look like the last dozen so it’ll fit in with your collection and you’ll never know it’s there. Is the celebratory purpose of these books being republished not worthy of mention on the cover?
I’m not going to fly into a Nerd Rage over this. After all, most of us were raised not to judge a book by its cover. These new-old editions are a rare treat and, depending on your point of view, for a worthy cause. However, this ol’ dice rolling geek can’t help but feel more than a little let down about the first peek of what should have been a celebration of nostalgia. It is a shame that the only new piece of content Wizards chose to create for these “limited-edition reprints of the original 1st Edition” show so little of the love and reverence that the intended buyers surely have.