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The Players Handbook is a 128-page sourcebook for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition released in June 1978. It is one of the three core rulebooks for that edition, containing the main rules for play. It is the first D&D book to bear the title Player's Handbook.

Official synopsis[]

Idol cover[]

No more searching through stacks of books and magazines to find out what you need to know. The Players Handbook puts it all at your fingertips, including:

  • All recommended character classes: Fighters, Paladins, Rangers, Magic-Users, etc.
  • Character Races: Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, Half-Orcs, Humans, etc.
  • Character Level Statistics
  • Equipment lists with costs
  • Spell listings by level and descriptions of effects (including many new spells!)

As a dungeon adventurer or Dungeon Master, you will find the contents of this book to be what you have been waiting for. All useful material is now compiled under one cover, especially for players!

Wizard cover[]

"A wealth of information for the AD&D™ game player"

E Gary Gygax
—creator of the AD&D™ game phenomenon and author of this book.

This is it!

It's the perfect player's game-playing aid and best compantion to the referee's Dungeon Masters Guide. As a player, this handbook will help you determine your character's abilities such as strength, wisdom and charisma. Character races including elves, halflings, dwarves, gnomes, and others are explained in detail to make the adventure fast, fun and exciting. You'll learn the rules for progressing in character levels and the most advantageous mapping and combat procedues. And they're all in this easy to use book.


This section is incomplete. Please complete this section and remove this {{secstub}} notice.

Development and release[]


The book was written by Gary Gygax. Art was provided by Dave Trampier and Dave C. Sutherland III. The original idol cover was drawn by Dave Trampier, while the later wizard cover was drawn by Jeff Easley.

Gygax blamed pressure from Chicago players for his inclusion of psionics, a system originally appearing in Eldritch Wizardry (1976).[1]

Trampier's idol cover was a scene of his own invention. Gygax speculated that the idol figure may hae been inspired by the Mesopotamian deity Baal;[2] anecdotal evidence is that Trampier nicknamed it "Molly", in reference to Moloch, which would be supported by Moloch's later depiction in Monster Manual II{{UnknownBook}}, and made explicitly canon in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes (2018).[3] Gygax also noted that most of the the human characters bear a resemblance to Trampier himself, except for one figure who resembles Gary Gygax himself.[4]


Players Handbook was released by TSR in June 1978 for $9.95. The original cover featured artwork of adventurers attempting to pry large gemstones out of a massive idol of a demon. The art was provided by Dave Trampier.

At least seventeen printings were made between 1978 and 1990. The first three printings placed "ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS" at the top of the cover and "PLAYERS HANDBOOK" at the bottom, whereas subsequent printings moved "PLAYERS HANDBOOK" to the top and moved "ADVANCED D & D" to a ribbon in the top left.

In 1983, the ninth printing introduced a new cover art, featuring a wizard casting a spell. This new version had an orange spine. The contents of the book were not updated, meaning that it incorrectly states "6th printing, January 1980".[5]

The Players Handbook continued to be reprinted until July 1990, even after the release of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition.[5]

In 2012, the Players Handbook was reprinted by Wizards of the Coast with a new cover.

On July 7, 2015, it was re-released in digital format. It is currently available on DriveThruRPG and Dungeon Masters Guild for $9.99.

Reception and influence[]


Between 1979 and 1990, the AD&D 1st edition Players Handbook sold a total of 1,546,670 copies. Sales figures for 1978 are unavailable.[6]

Year Sales
1978 Unknown
1979 68,344
1980 207,255
1981 318,230
1982 246,117
1983 290,570
1984 131,311
1985 103,002
1986 61,902
1987 54,383
1988 54,113
1989 6,041
1990 5,402

It was discontinued after 1990, being superceded by the Player's Handbook (2e) (1989).

Critical reception[]

The Players Handbook was reviewed by Richard Berg in Strategy & Tactics, criticizing it for being a revision of the existing D&D game. Gary Gygax penned a rebuke in Dragon #22 (Feb 1979), p.44, suggesting that Berg's lack of familiarity with D&D hindered his ability to assess the innovations of AD&D. A reader letter in Dragon #24 (Apr 1979) in turn criticized Gygax for his harsh tone; editor Tim Kask responded supporting Gygax.

As of 2023, the Players Handbook reached the rank of Adamantine seller on DriveThruRPG, the site's highest rating.

Influence on other works[]

The "Player's Handbook" (thereafter usually spelled with an apostrophe) became one of the standard D&D rulebooks for editions going forward: the Player's Handbook (2e) (1989), Player's Handbook (2e revised) (1995), Player's Handbook (3.0) (2000), Player's Handbook (3.5) (2003), Player's Handbook (4e) (2008), Player's Handbook (5e) (2014), and Player's Handbook (5e revised) (2024).

The iconic scene in Trampier's idol cover would be depicted in artwork in later D&D books, including Dungeon Master Guide (2e revised) (1995), p.125 and the cover of Player's Handbook II (3e) (2006). The temple itself would be detailed in Infernal Machine Rebuild (2019) as the Temple of Moloch.[7]

External links[]


Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbooks
Players Handbook (1e)Player's Handbook (2e)Player's Handbook (2e revised)
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)Player's Handbook (5e revised)
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition
Core rules
Players HandbookDungeon Masters GuideMonster Manual
Battlesystem: Fantasy Combat SupplementThe Book of LairsThe Book of Lairs IIDeities & Demigods (Legends & Lore) • Dungeoneer's Survival GuideFiend FolioManual of the PlanesMonster Manual IIOriental AdventuresThe Rogues GalleryUnearthed ArcanaWilderness Survival Guide
Desert of Desolation (PharaohOasis of the White PalmLost Tomb of Martek) • Queen of the Spiders (Against the Giants (Steading of the Hill Giant ChiefGlacial Rift of the Frost Giant JarlHall of the Fire Giant King) • Descent Into the Depths of the EarthShrine of the Kuo-ToaVault of the DrowQueen of the Demonweb Pits) • Realms of Horror (Tomb of HorrorsWhite Plume MountainExpedition to the Barrier PeaksLost Caverns of Tsojcanth) • Scourge of the Slavelords (Slave Pits of the UndercitySecret of the Slavers StockadeAssault on the Aerie of the Slave LordsIn the Dungeons of the Slave Lords) • The Temple of Elemental Evil (The Village of Hommlet) • DungeonlandThe Land Beyond the Magic MirrorThe Secret of Bone HillThe Assassin's KnotDeep Dwarven DelveThe Sinister Secret of SaltmarshDanger at DunwaterThe Final EnemyAdventure Pack IAgainst the Cult of the Reptile GodAll That Glitters...Baltron's BeaconThe Bane of LlywelynBeyond the Crystal CaveDark Clouds GatherDay of Al'AkbarDestiny of KingsDwellers of the Forbidden CityEgg of the PhoenixEye of the SerpentThe Forest OracleThe GauntletThe Ghost Tower of InvernessThe Hidden Shrine of TamoachanThe Lost Island of CastanamirMidnight on Dagger AlleyNeedleRavager of TimeRavenloftRavenloft II: The House on Gryphon HillThe SentinelThe Shattered StatueTales of the Outer PlanesTo Find a KingTomb of the Lizard KingTreasure HuntWhen a Star Falls