Back Catalog D&D PDFs Begin to Resurface on DriveThruRPG

PDF editions for D&D products have begun to reappear on both DriveThruRPG and the new completely branded site D&D Classics. DriveThruRPG’s twitter account has been clarifying some details of the return, mainly that it is still part of the main site, so you can use your same account on D&D Classics, store credit carries over, and most importantly, those of us who had bought titles when they were first available can download them again from our libraries once they become available on the site.

If you’ll recall, during those far flung halcyon days of 2009, Wizards of the Coast suspended all PDF sales of their product, which primarily meant taking them away from DriveThruRPG. As in the blog post where I talked about it, outrage was high among gamers of all kinds, as it not only took the supposedly tech-friendly 4e back behind nearly every other modern RPG, but also directly harmed fans of older editions. Several high profile stories about the 4e books being pirated were largely blamed for this move on the fan side (though I’m not sure if we ever had actual confirmation of that.) Of course, the removal of official PDFs did nothing to stop piracy: it just removed the only avenue to actually give them money for product. And I can tell you, in the interest of reporting, I had no problem finding every single D&D PDF available, from basic D&D to the 4e book that had just hit the streets.

The return of PDFs had been rumored for a while- if there’s one thing that WotC doesn’t do, it’s move quickly on these kinds of business decisions. There was some talk of tying back catalog into their D&D Insider service for a while, as well as some kind of separate downloading service. Thankfully all those plans were rejected, because quite simply, DriveThruRPG has the most experience selling RPG PDFs, and their history together is a benefit to customers.

The site officially launched today, and contains only a smattering of books compared to the entire catalog, with promises of more to come. Talk at Gen Con was that WotC would be making the entire back catalog available eventually, provided they still had a source to make it happen and still had the rights to do so. (So, don’t get your hopes up for the Deities & Demigods with Cthulhu in it.) The actual core books (PHBs, etc.) are so far non-existent.  In the meantime, you can download B1: In Search of the Unknown for free. Pricing for the rest of the books seems to be largely in line with how they were before they were pulled: that is, some discount, but higher than most comparably-sized products from other companies in DriveThruRPG.

While we wait for the rest to come online (more added each month), here’s a few that are up now that I recommend:

  • Temple of Elemental Evil – One of the granddaddies of megadungeons, I took the dungeon layout and added my own spin for use in my 4e campaign.
  • The “HR” Historical series – If you’ve ever wanted to run a D&D game set in a specific period of adventure in history, these provide a few options. I don’t know how well they’ll hold up, but I remember enjoying them. I also hope the “blue book” series of these make a return soon.
  • Tales from the Infinite Staircase – One of the most exciting parts of the return for me is making the Planescape setting truly available again. While we wait for the core settings book to reappear, Tales from the Infinite Staircase is a series of planar adventures showcasing the variety possible in a Planescape campaign.
  • Expanded Psionics Handbook – My love of psionics is well known, but after being disappointed with the first 3e Psionics Handbook, the Expanded Psionics Handbook blew my mind (see what I did there?) From becoming watered down utility characters to a sourcebook that allowed you to jettison casters altogether and play with psioinics instead, all kinds of characters came to life.

I should also point out that my affiliate codes are pretty much everywhere in this article, which is another benefit: D&D bloggers can get a kickback by writing about these products and sending people to buy them directly. So that’s another win for having them back.

About Dave

Dave "The Game" Chalker is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Critical Hits. Since 2005, he has been bringing readers game news and advice, as well as editing nearly everything published here. He is the designer of the Origins Award-winning Get Bit!, a freelance designer and developer, son of a science fiction author, and a Master of Arts. He lives in MD with e, their three dogs, and two cats.


  1. Dave, I am assuming the newly released pdf versions have been tweaked up with all the appropriate errata? I have looked in several places and haven’t seen that specifically stated.

  2. Brandon Morgan says:

    I downloaded four titles last night:

    – Against the Giants (G1-3)
    – Descent into the Depths of Earth (D1-2)
    – Vault of the Drow (D3)
    – Queen of the Demonweb Pits (Q1)

    I’ve only been playing a couple of years now, but a friend of mine has talked about these with a great deal of fondness. I’m going to do a 4e conversion of these. I’m only getting started with the reading, but they seem like fun.


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