Dungeons & Dragons has numerous editions and hundreds of sourcebooks and adventures — and most of them are out of print. But now, Wizards of the Coast has opened up a treasure trove of classic reprints and digital books.
D&D is in a weird place right now — it's literally in between editions, as Fourth Edition is no longer supported and D&D Next is more than year from being released. To fill this enormous gap in their release schedule, Wizards of the Coast has been issuing deluxe reprints of select books from D&D's past.
Last year saw the release of the 3.5 core books, while the AD&D 2nd Edition core books will get the premium reprint treatment later in 2013. They also recently put out a deluxe edition of the 3.5 Spell Compendium, which is just what it sounds like: a book full of magic spells. I got my hands on a review copy to get a firsthand look at one of the reprints.
If you're wondering, "What is 3.5 and how could this book be useful to anyone but collectors?", let me explain. 3.5 is a revision of 3rd Edition D&D. It's also the edition that had the OGL, Open Gaming License, which allowed third party companies to make their own works based on these rules. The extremely successful Pathfinder RPG is also derived from 3.5 D&D — indeed, it's sometimes referred to as D&D 3.75.
Pathfinder probably offers the most obvious use for the Spell Compendium. While Pathfinder is slightly different from D&D 3.5, most of the spells in this book are completely compatible. Actually, I'd go so far as to say all of the spells are compatible, because if you're into RPGs you're clever enough to modify things as needed.
The premiumization of the Spell Compendium adds some shiny embossed gold patterns to the cover — it's otherwise identical to the original, although any errata issued since then has been incorporated. I wish they'd done away with 3rd Edition's silly fake metal book binding. Had they left it entirely gold, this would be a downright gorgeous book.
There's nothing fancy about the presentation — this book is literally a giant catalog of spells, collected from many sources, including obscure sourcebooks, magazine articles and web-only content. It's certainly nice to have Veil of Undeath, Shadow Landscape, and Curse of Impending Blades all in one place. All told, there are more than 1,000 spells here.
But if 3.5/Pathfinder is not your thing, you've got other options. The 1st Edition AD&D core books got the premium treatment last year, and while the covers were redesigned, all of the quirky old interior line art was kept. And if you're looking to go back even deeper, the legendary "White Box" original D&D set will be rereleased in a deluxe format later this year. It first came out in 1974, and original copies are not easy to get a hold of. This new version will have all the booklets from the original, but comes in an oaken box. It's probably worth the $150 price tag just for an excuse to say "oaken" a few times each gaming session.
For my money, the coolest reprints are the adventure collections. D&D adventures, or "modules" used to come out as linked series, and the reprints collect all the entries in a series into one hardcover package. The A-series, Against the Slave Lords, even includes a new adventure that allows you to start off with level one characters. The S-series, Dungeons of Dread, includes classics like "Tomb of Horrors" and "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks."
What about more obscure bits of D&D's past? That weird old adventure module you played in 8th grade, or that book about vampires you read until it fell apart? You'll want to check out DNDClassics.com. Wizards of the Coast has said that they plan to release every single published work they hold the rights to from every edition of D&D in PDF format. They've been steadily releasing them, adding new titles every few weeks over the last few months. At this point there's already a pretty comprehensive collection of previously out of print books available.
When the site first went live, I grabbed one of the 2nd Edition Ravenloft books, and unfortunately the scan was terrible — blurry and hard to read. Since then, I've talked to other gamers who've downloaded books from DNDClassics, and it seems that I got an isolated bad scan — other than some of the Ravenloft books, the PDFs are excellent quality.
It's something of a surprise twist that this lull between editions has created a mini golden age for fans of classic D&D.