Tuesday, January 22, 2013

DnDClassics: It *IS* OCRed, But...

First off, DnDClassics.com is now active. It is indeed a branch of RPGNow/DriveThru (as we all knew/suspected it would be) and it has a pretty great starting selection which comprises a really good cross section of editions, a sort of "greatest hits" collection.

Currently Free @ DnDClassics.com
Here's the bad news: these are straight scans and not OCRed scans, meaning you can't just do a simple copy & paste job or (should you be a little more tricky and unlock your pdfs like I do) edit the actual text. 
[EDIT] These pdfs ARE OCRed. The OCR looks so good that you wouldn't know you're reading OCRed text, which is exactly what I wanted out of them. Holy crap do these things look good. The text in B1 looks exactly like it does in my print copy. [/EDIT] The good news about this is that the scans are really, really high quality scans that make the bootleg product look terrible. So, WotC is establishing a quality standard, just not the quality standard I was hoping for. 

Another observation I made are the specific editions that get the nod. As far as rules go, there aren't too many comprehensive rulesets available on DnDClassics. And by "aren't too many," I mean there are two. Moldvay Basic (thank god!) and the 3.5 Rules Cyclopedia. No OD&D (like I was hoping for), no Holmes (which I'd really like to see), no BECMI and no AD&D at all. Here's what I think is going on:

WotC is reprinting the 3.5 core books, so why should they release the pdfs? There's plenty of 3.5 content to be found on DnDClassics, including the Expanded Psionics HB, the PHBII, the DMGII & 3.5 Unearthed Arcana. The core books just aren't there (although the 3.5 Rules Cyclopedia could be said to replace the core rules, it's not as handy as having the 3 separate books). I'm predicting right now (well, I predicted it last week, really) that WotC is going to use this pdf marketplace as the support network for the reprints of previous editions and to drive sales of the currently-in-print edition.

Unable to find a reasonably-priced
copy or a good scan for years,
I finally paid $4.99 for this 
For example, AD&D 1e was reprinted last year, to much fanfare and you can still get the reprints. Thus, WotC does not release the pdfs of these books but releases pdfs in support of them; particularly, right now, DnDClassics has the entire N-series ("novice" series) for AD&D; you know, the one released in '82 that starts with Against the Cult of the Reptile God. (I was tempted to snatch up this series, but +Brian Takle is starting an Adventurer, Conqueror, King game on Wednesday, ostensibly using this as a jumping-off point, so I'm behaving.) 

And so I get to the mad ramblings and inane theories part of the post. Be forewarned.

What aren't we seeing here? 

AD&D 2e: We know that a reprint of AD&D 2e is in the works for what it's worth. 2e was my go-to game for a good long period, so I'm glad to see it getting some love. I may even buy these (I never bought the Monstrous Manual and my Monstrous Compendia are in rough shape) after two decades. 

BECMI: I've been a big proponent of the reprint of BECMI D&D whether in individual set format (which I'd honestly prefer) or in Rules Cyclopedia format. Honestly, I'll gladly take either one. I loved BECMI and thought it was astonishingly well-thought out. +Jez Gordon, I finally agree with you that if WotC is going to reprint anything from BECMI, I'd rather it be the Rules Cyclopedia. Now if they'd just publish the individual boxes as pdfs, we'd all be happy.

D&D 4e: Because it's currently in print, no matter how many people are telling you it's dead. D&DNext isn't here yet, thankfully, and no matter what you think of the edition, it's still the flavor of the day. I do expect that support for 4e will continue here on DnDClassics in the same way that it is for the other editions. I do expect, however, that such support will be thinly spaced out due to the relative slimness of the overall 4e catalog. By the time that Next comes out, it will only have been in print for 6-7 years; hardly the 12 that 1e had or the 11 that 2e had. 

OD&D: Is it possible that WotC is daring to reprint the original whitebox? If they do, this will be a banner day for geeks everywhere. How will they do it? LBBs only? LBBs and Chainmail? LBBs, Chainmail & Supplements? This could get seriously awesome, so let's not get our hopes up too much. 

All in all, I'd say that DnDClassics is off to a great start. I'm pretty amazed at how fast they went from rumor (here on this blog) to an actual usable, well-stocked marketplace. I've already spent money there, too. Turns out I've never owned a Moldvay Basic set as every time I've bid on one or seen one for sale, it's gotten too rich for my blood. Pdfs of Moldvay Basic have been disappointments, too. Now, for $4.99, I have a copy of the ruleset that is so terribly important to the OSR set that it's treated like a gold standard. AND IT LOOKS GREAT! The scan on this thing is beautiful, even if it's not OCRed.