1st Edition AD&D Player's Handbook (or the Nerd's Bible)
As I look back on my youth, I can see a definite formative function that role-playing had on growing up for me, and for me, role playing began with Advanced D&D. I might actually be better off asking: what didn't AD&D teach me as a kid? I can tell you a few things I did learn from Advanced Dungeons and Dragons:
- Creative thinking habits
- Organizing and classifying into traits (character attributes led to real life attribute assessment)
- Visualization and problem solving
- Sharper math skills (calculating die rolls and probabilities; knowing what you are likely to need to hit something)
And much, much more. I remember the very first day I played first edition D&D. I spent the first 2 hours creating my character sheet: rolling attributes (and figuring out which attribute to assign each roll to, because that's how the DM did it), buying gear (my personal favorite), picking a class and alignment, and choosing a race. Finally I had to pick a name.
All of this, and so much more, is covered in this classic first edition AD&D player's guide. You can sense Gary Gygax's original creativity in the text. Subsequent editions are great in their own rights, but to me there is something about this first effort by TSR and Gygax that shouts of authenticity and adventure, and the later editions, while thorough, comprehensive, and easy to play, just lack some of this original creative impetus.
Absolute classic, one of the many 1st ed. AD&D books in my collection
The art contained herein is another thing that really makes the book. See the fighters, magic-users (later called wizards), clerics (goody two-shoes), monks, and thieves. Pick daggers, long swords, two-handed swords; plate mail, chain mail, or leather armor; a composite or a long bow; daily rations with water or mead. The imagination begins to take hold from the very creation of your first character, and it only revs up even further from there as you begin your first adventure.
As a consequence of reading and thumbing through these books endlessly as a kid and a teenager, I was often inspired to create my own swords and sorcery artwork. My creative spark has continued to this day, often manifesting itself in my articles here on the web! What can D&D do for you? There's no telling, but I highly recommend you start playing today if you haven't yet given it a shot. Unlock the creative part of your brain and have a great time doing it.
If you're looking for the lighter side of role playing, or want to have fun at someone else's expense (or your own, if you're like me), you might want to check out fuzzy D&D dice. Alternatively, if you're more interested in the history of D&D, there's a great deal of resources out there nowadays. No matter what, it's a fantastic time to be a fan of Dungeons and Dragons, or role playing in general. You're no longer the social pariah you were when I started playing as a kid, to say the least!
My 1st edition AD&D books
eBay, a surprisingly good resource
If you're looking for the original first edition books, you might not be able to find them easily in your local bookstore (or anywhere else, for that matter). However, eBay is constantly an amazing source for some of the older first edition books, including many that may be out of print. I love the original books, although more recent reprints (like in the video) are better than nothing.
eBay also has really great deals on the original stuff. It is truly a buyer's market, as you can choose how much you pay if it's an auction format, and you can do "buy it now" if it's available. No matter what, make sure to look around and make an educated purchase.
I spent about a decade from the late 90s to the early 2000s buying and selling stuff on eBay, including D&D books, collectible comic books, paperbacks (sci-fi and fantasy included), and just about everything else you can imagine. The market has changed a great deal- I'd say it's much, much more of a buyer's market nowadays, so it's worth checking out, especially if you're on a budget, or you're looking for something harder to find in stores (like the aforementioned first edition AD&D books).