The Player's Handbook, released in 2014, is one of the three core rulebooks for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. It is the primary rulebook which describes how to play Dungeons & Dragons, and is considered necessary for play. Unlike the other two core rulebooks, which are mainly reserved for use by the Dungeon Master, the Player's Handbook is intended for use by all players of the game.
Player's Handbook is commonly abbreviated to PH or PHB. The officially supported abbreviation PH is more technically correct, as "handbook" is one word, but usage of PHB is common in the D&D community.
The Player's Handbook is mainly divided into a preface and introduction, three main parts totalling eleven chapters, and five appendices.
According to the book's credits page, the cover of the Player's Handbook depicts the fire giant king Snurre, calling his hell hounds to help him fend off invading adventurers. Snurre here is dressed in a cloak crafted from white dragon hide.
King Snurre appears in the clasic AD&D adventure module G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King (1978), collected in the G1-3 Against the Giants (1981) trilogy. In this adventure, the player characters attack Snurre's volcanic hall, where he is guarded by two hell hounds. This scene is canonically located in the World of Greyhawk D&D setting.
Snurre's hall later appears in the AD&D adventure module Against the Giants: The Liberation of Geoff. Hall of the Fire Giant King was reprinted for D&D 4th edition in Dungeon #200 (Mar 2012), and for D&D 5th edition as part of Tales from the Yawning Portal (2017).
The cover art is drawn by Tyler Jacobson. A higher resolution wallpaper of this image can be found at Wizards.com.
A jocular disclaimer appears on the credits page:
- Disclaimer: Wizards of the Coast is not responsible for the consequences of splitting up the party, sticking appendages in the mouth of a leering green devil face, accepting a dinner invitation from bugbears, storming the feast hall of a hill giant steading, angering a dragon of any variety, or saying yes when the DM asks, "Are you really sure?"
This references several well-known Dungeons & Dragons tropes:
- Splitting up the party: A common D&D aphorism is "don't split the party". Doing so increases the danger to the party in the event of a combat encounter.
- Sticking appendages in the mouth of a leering green devil face: A reference to the large green devil face found in the Tomb of Horrors, an infamously deadly dungeon. The devil face contains a black portal, which is secretly a sphere an annihilation that destroys anything placed into it.
- Accepting a dinner invitation from bugbears: A reference to classic adventure module B2 The Keep on the Borderlands (1981), where a bugbear lair has signs outside offering free hot food and board to all humanoids visitors. The bugbears' meat skewers are actually swords, which the bugbears will use to strike the visitors in an unexpected surprise attack.
- Storming the feast hall of a hill giant steading: A reference to the classic adventure module G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief (1978).
- Angering a dragon of any variety: A popular online catchphrase is "Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup." This in turn is a parody of a quote from The Fellowship of the Ring: "Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger."
- Saying yes when the DM asks, "Are you really sure?": It is common for the Dungeon Master to ask the player "are you sure?" as a subtle warning that the action they have just described is likely to result in catastrophic failure. If the player fails to get the hint and persists, a particularly kind DM might ask a second time, "are you really sure?" The player who answers "yes" to this is likely to suffer catastrophic failure.
Preface and introduction
This section primarily describes how to create a new Dungeons & Dragons character. It takes up nearly half of the book's length.
Chapter 1 provides step-by-step instructions for creating a new character.
Chapter 2 details the initial playable races: dwarf, elf, halfling, human, dragonborn, gnome, half-elf, half-orc and tiefling. The first four, which appeared in the original Dungeons & Dragons 3-Volume Set (1974), are listed as common races, while the other five are uncommon. Several of the races are divided into sub-races: dwarves into mountain dwarf and hill dwarf; elves into high elf, wood elf and drow; halflings into lightfoot and stout; and gnomes info forest and rock gnomes.
Chapter 4 describes personality and background. Backgrounds are an additional character customization option which describe the character's origins prior to becoming an adventurer, and can grant additional skill proficiencies and unique abilities.
Chapter 5 describes equipment. Unlike the D&D 4th edition Player's Handbook, magic items are not described in this book.
Chapter 6 offers further purely optional customization options, including feats and rules for multiclassing.
Part 2 mainly describes rules for playing Dungeons & Dragons.
Chapter 7 describes how to roll ability score checks and saving throws, and how to use D&D 5th edition's advantage/disadvantage system.
Chapter 8 gives rules for non-combat activities, including travel, social interaction, resting, and downtime activities between adventures.
Chapter 9 gives rules for combat, including initiative, attacking, damage, and mounted and underwater combat.
Chapter 10 describes the rules for spellcasting.
Chapter 11 contains the spell lists for each character class, and the descriptions of all spells in the Player's Handbook.
Appendix A is a list of all the status conditions which can be afflicted on a character or monster in the game. Only fourteen status effects exist in the game. It also describes the rules for exhaustion.
Appendix B lists the deities of various major Dungeons & Dragons pantheons, as well as those of real-world myth. They include the Forgotten Realms pantheon, Greyhawk pantheon, Dragonlance pantheon, Eberron pantheon, Monster pantheon, Celtic pantheon, Greek pantheon, Egyptian pantheon, and Norse pantheon.
Appendix C briefly describes the planar cosmology of D&D, as described in the context of the traditional Great Wheel layout. This closely resembles the cosmology as understood during D&D 3rd edition, with minor changes to accomodate concepts introduced in D&D 4th edition: an Elemental Chaos, which surrounds the edges of the four traditional elemental planes of air, earth, fire and water; the Feywild, previously known in third edition as the Plane of Faerie; and the Shadowfell, synonymous with the Plane of Shadow.
Appendix D provides statistics for various creatures which player characters are likely to interact with, primarily animals which can be selected as a familiar or animal companion. They include the bat, black bear, boar, brown bear, cat, constrictor snake, crocodile, dire wolf, frog, giant eagle, giant spider, hawk (falcon), imp, lion, mastiff, mule, owl, panther, poisonous snake, pseudodragon, quasit, rat, raven, reef shark, riding horse, skeleton, sprite, tiger, warhorse, wolf, and zombie. Further animals are provided in the Monster Manual (5e), Appendix A: Miscellaneous Creatures (2014).
Appendix E provides a recommended reading list. (see Appendix N).
At the back of the book is a three page character sheet.
Development and release
Jeremy Crawford was lead designer on the D&D 5th edition Player's Handbook, and joint lead designer on D&D 5th edition overall with Mike Mearls. Crawford has credits on D&D sourcebooks as far back as D&D 3rd edition's City of Stormreach (2008).
According to the credits page, the Player's Handbook was released on August 2014.
Reception and influence
Dungeons & Dragons saw unprecedented success with D&D 5th edition, with profits growing year-on-year. In 2018, the Player’s Handbook reached #21 in Amazon's list.
- "It's this common wisdom that has been passed down, and it's become like a shibboleth: it's this thing we say to each other to reinforce the idea that we're all part of the same group; we all know the same things; we're all having the same conversation. I say 'don't split the party' to show off the fact that I know the common wisdom." Let's Split The Party! Running the Game #66
- Origins of quote: "Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup."
- How Well is 5th Edition D&D Selling?, Unpossible Journeys
|Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbooks|
|Players Handbook (1e) • Player's Handbook (2e)|
Player's Handbook (3e) • Player's Handbook (3.5) • Player's Handbook II (3.5)
Player's Handbook (4e) • Player's Handbook 2 (4e) • Player's Handbook 3 (4e)
Player's Handbook (5e)
|Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition|
|Player's Handbook • Monster Manual • Dungeon Master's Guide • Starter Set • Essentials Kit|
|Acquisitions Incorporated • Eberron: Rising from the Last War • Explorer's Guide to Wildemount • Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica • Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes • Mythic Odysseys of Theros • Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide • Tasha's Cauldron of Everything • Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft • Volo's Guide to Monsters • Xanathar's Guide to Everything|
|Elemental Evil Player's Companion • Mordenkainen's Fiendish Folio Volume 1 • One Grung Above • Plane Shift: Amonkhet • Plane Shift: Dominaria • Plane Shift: Innistrad • Plane Shift: Ixalan • Plane Shift: Kaladesh • Plane Shift: Zendikar • The Tortle Package • Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron|
|Baldur's Gate: Descent Into Avernus • Candlekeep Mysteries • Curse of Strahd • Ghosts of Saltmarsh • Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden • Out of the Abyss • Princes of the Apocalypse • Storm King's Thunder • Tales from the Yawning Portal • Tomb of Annihilation • Tyranny of Dragons (Hoard of the Dragon Queen • The Rise of Tiamat) • Waterdeep: Dragon Heist • Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage|
|The Barber of Silverymoon • Infernal Machine Rebuild • Locathah Rising • The Lost Kenku • Lost Laboratory of Kwalish • Return to the Glory • Six Faces of Death • X Marks the Spot • A Zib For Your Thoughts|
|Stranger Things Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set • Dungeons & Dragons vs. Rick and Morty|