Product 2101, The Player’s Handbook! Again, like the DMG, it is a large
book filled with so much information that it is impossible to break down into
sections to really talk about the basic parts in one sitting, this blog has
been doing just that for years!
Originally, Gary Gygax wanted to write this book, however
that didn’t happen because of inner turmoil at the TSR office; as a result,
Dave Cook took over the project and the goal was, as mentioned in earlier
posts, to gather up all information into three books, which proved to be
impossible. Cuts were made, some for reasons of space, some for political
reasons. Mom was cool with violence, but she don’t want us looking at pictures
of boobs, today TSR probably would had been charged with providing porn to minors,
else the books would be kept behind the counter in paper bags, but we all know
how messed up the US is in regards to bodies and that wasn’t the only thing
that got cut. In 2e it encouraged players to be of Good alignments, which I
feel makes the game better. Nothing sucks worse than to have players murdering
shop keepers just to save a gold piece or two. I think that the alignment
system itself was what saw the most improvement; one has a hard time playing a
cooperative game with someone who plays Chaotic Evil. One of the dumbest 1e
rules, I feel, was that rogues had to be evil alignment; thankfully they fixed
that in this book.
They also made None Weapon Proficiencies more enticing, you
didn’t have to use them if you didn’t want to! But, check these guys out! Yes,
they were awesome. Most tables included their use right away.
I feel like I am just repeating myself, so I’ll stop! The
book is made in the exact same specs of the DMG, which is tough and very
usable. I have seen some of these things beat up to the point where they had to
be replaced, but I have no idea how those players did that. I’ve used the same
book for over 20 years and it is still glossy and beautiful.
Instead of talking about the PHB, about the changes that were
made, which is information that one can find elsewhere, let’s talk about the
book itself and how people have used it, or, more specifically, how they don’t
use it. As a Dungeon Master, I have read this book, cover to cover, more times
than I care to admit to. When I say that players weren’t allowed to read the
DMG back in the day, people scoff, but here is the deal! Players don’t read the
PHB either. It is a rare player who will actually go out and buy his own copy
of the book, as a DM I keep several copies and I buy more as I find them. One
can’t have too many copies of the PHB! The fathers of this game would not like
the fact that I do this. According to them, there is a price of admission and
that price is purchasing a Players Handbook! I get it, if it was a perfect
world, then that is exactly what would happen! I tell my players all the time,
if they see a copy cheap, pick it up! But what separates players from Dungeon
Masters is the fact that to most players, the only time that they put any
thought at all into the game is when they are sitting at the table and are
So, you haven’t read the Players Handbook, I get it! It is
full of too much information. I myself have missed stuff, even though I have read
it so often; it just disappeared because I was thinking of something else when
I was reading it; maybe I was pondering a rule just before it, or I was
thinking about making a sandwich, who knows? One can always pick up this book
and find new things. Then you have the players, the only thing that most of
them have read in any detail are the tables, and only then because they are
using them all the time.
Now I can say that this is a modern happening, but I would
be wrong. Before playing the game, I purchased my books, and I read them! I
didn’t retain much information the first read, as much of this information is
best learned through practical use, but the point is that I read them. I got a
quick education in the game, and learned what I can do as a player, and I was
already ahead of most of the players at the table because I had sat down and
read the book. Folks who had played the game for years didn’t even know that
you could make bombs out of lantern oil, or that you can improve your AC by
giving up an attack to parry. Obviously, the Dungeon Master Guide holds
secrets, but when players don’t read the PHB, we can say that there are secrets
in there too.
Is this a good thing? Well, as a DM, it kind of is. It can
be said that the best way to become a great player is by trying new things, and
just learning on your own. If the players read too much, then that can put our
jobs as Dedicated DM in peril. We DMs would probably prefer an uneducated
player over one who goes out and looks for information, that researches the web
(the HORROR), that knows more about the interworking’s of the game than the DM.
This is a power struggle, isn’t it? I recognize that as a player, I totally
suck! I know too much about the game and how it works, and I get irritated with
other DMs, and it isn’t right, and it is a personal failure, but that doesn’t
mean that I don’t do it.
Does one need to read the PHB to play the game and become an
expert player? No! Does it help if one reads the book? Of course it does. The
book has options and tactics that can give you an edge during all levels of
play, not that the DM has to use all of the rules, but it does help if the
players are aware of them.
How would I rate this book? It is a perfect 10. It contains
more spells than you will ever need, the art in this version is superior to the
black reprinting, and I personally feel that it is easier to find what you want
from memory alone, but that is just because I’ve used it for so many years.
There are some facts that they got wrong, and errata that need to be hand
written into it, but those things are minor in comparison. I own the last
printing of 2101, and it says that it is newly revised, expanded, and updated;
but I also own other printings and to be totally honest, I have never figured
out if there is any difference in subsequent printings. There are many in the
Black PHB, it has a totally different layout and no longer matches the index
that one finds in the 2100 DMG, which is irritating. I suppose that the Black
Book has superior content, but I don’t care, I always stick with this version
of the book, as it is the perfect companion to my DMG.
Should all players purchase this book? In the perfect world,
yes they should. It would be nice if everybody owned their own copy, but since
the book is out of print, and even at one table you’ve got two different copies
in use at the same time, players may not know which one to buy, or even be able to find it. DMs are bigger
nerds then they are! We hunt the web looking for this stuff, and enjoy talking
about it more than is probably healthy, but we are what we are and we can’t
expect miracles. As long as the players show up and they are in the mindset to
play, I think that we are all doing well!