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The original 1985 release of Unearthed Arcana™ changed Dungeons & Dragons® forever by introducing new races, classes, magical items, and rules written by Gary Gygax. This new printing will appeal to nostalgic D&D® fans looking to add this classic to their collections. 

The most complete version of Unearthed Arcana ever printed!

The original Unearthed Arcana was corrected and updated through articles published in Dragon® magazine. Completists will want to pick up this version because it has been, for the first time ever, painstakingly edited to include the original errata and supplements created in the 1980’s under the supervision of Mr. Gygax himself. 

Product History

Unearthed Arcana, by Gary Gygax, is TSR's seventh hardcover for the AD&D game. It was published in June 1985.

Origins (I): Gygax Waning. Gary Gygax's major contributions to the D&D game began to fade around 1980. A few last Greyhawk adventures appeared, thanks largely to Rob Kuntz coming on board in 1981 to finish up S4: "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth" (1982) and others. But other than that, Gygax just didn't have the time to produce gaming material, first because he was running TSR Hobbies and later because he was off in Hollywood, running TSR Entertainment.

As a result, others picked up the mantle of leadership in TSR's design studio: Lawrence Schick created the studio and brought on Basic D&D designers David Cook and Tom Moldvay, then Gygax's hand-picked right-hand-men Frank Mentzer and Francois Marcela-Froideval led much of the D&D design work afterward.

Origins (II): Dragon Rising. Though Gygax didn't have the time for major releases, he wasn't willing to abandon game design entirely. Instead, he began to produce new material for Dragon magazine. He'd had a "From the Sorcerer's Scroll" column as far back as The Dragon #11 (December 1977), but it disappeared in 1981, around the same time that Gygax's book-length contributions did. A year later, there was a resurgence: the Sorcerer's Scroll made a return in Dragon #55 (November 1981) and would continue through Dragon #75 (July 1983). But, this was a different Scroll. Gygax's early columns had often been editorial in nature, but now he focused largely on crunch.

Many of these columns from 1981-1983 would be ground-breaking, including: the introduction of cantrips in Dragon #59 (March 1982) through Dragon #61 (May 1982); the creation of three new classes, the barbarian in Dragon #63 (July 1982), the thief-acrobat in Dragon #69 (January 1983), and the cavalier in Dragon #72 (April 1983); and the debut of many (now classic) spells, such as goodberry (and other druid spells) in Dragon #71 (March 1983).

At the same time that he was writing these rules expansions, Gygax was also designing "Featured Creatures", which eventually appeared in Monster Manual II (1983). There was discussion that Gygax's mechanical articles from the Sorcerer's Scroll would similarly be incorporated into an "AD&D Expansion volume", but those discussions ended in early 1983, when Gygax was bundled off to Hollywood; his magazine writing ended shortly thereafter.

Origins (III): TSR Waning. Unfortunately, TSR didn't do well in Gygax's absence. Due to any number of financial issues, layoffs began in June 1983 and continued into 1984. Gygax rushed back to the midwest to help his ailing company. Among other proposals, Gygax suggested that TSR produce a slew of new products bearing his name. For the first of these, Gygax "instructed that [his] Dragon magazine articles be compiled". (Finally.) The result was Unearthed Arcana (1985) — a book that was so successful that Gygax later claimed its royalties allowed him to exercise enough stock options to regain control of his company.

Of course, Gygax still wasn't up to producing book-length RPG work of his own, due to the time required in running the ailing company. Thus, Unearthed Arcana was actually the product of divers hands, including collaborator Frank Mentzer, design consultant Jeff Grubb, and editor Kim Mohan. But Gygax's work is clearly predominent.

Two more of the Gygax projects were largely or entirely his work: the novel Saga of Old City (1985) and WG6: "Isle of the Ape" (1985). However the rest of the projects pushed out with Gygax's name in 1985 were mostly the work of others. Oriental Adventures (1985) was by David Cook, while the D&D Companion Set (1985) was by Frank Mentzer, who also completed Gygax's T1-4: The Temple of Elemental Evil (1985).

Together, Gygax's three authentic projects of 1985 form an interesting trilogy. "Isle of the Ape" looks back at Gygax's earliest take on D&D, Saga of Old City reveals the company's future direction in fiction, and Unearthed Arcana offers Gygax's final vision of the D&D game, in his last days with the company he founded.

A Different Sort of Players Handbook. In 1985, AD&D had been around in a "finished" form for six years. The only hardcovers released during that period were books of deities and monsters, not rules. These were also the years of D&D's greatest growth, so it's pretty safe to say that by 1985 most players of AD&D never knew anything but the status quo. This is why Unearthed Arcana was entirely ground-breaking to those fans; it was the sort of revamp of the system that most players had never seen.

Now, players delved into what was essentially a supplementary Players Handbook, full of new character classes, new races, and new rules. The changes were so large, that Unearthed Arcana is now used to mark the beginning of AD&D 1.5e, an expansion of the core game that also included Oriental Adventures (1985), the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide (1986), and the Wilderness Survival Guide (1986).

Unearthed Arcana has a section for GMs too — a split that would be repeated through several of the later AD&D hardcovers. However it was the player's section that really revamped and relaunched the game.

Continuing the Premium Reprints. Almost forty years later, Wizards of the Coast reprinted Unearthed Arcana in a premium edition (2013), with reset text and rescanned artwork. It followed on from a premium AD&D 1e Players Handbook (2012), Dungeon Masters Guide, and Monster Manual (2012) that had been released the previous year; due to their success, Wizards was now expanding the line. The inclusion of Unearthed Arcana as the fourth 1e reprint showed its importance to the classic game. (Afterward, Wizards would finish the 1e reprints with two adventure compilations.)

Expanding D&D. Unearthed Arcana is full of expansions to the D&D game. Besides the aforementioned new classes and new races, AD&D also picked up a 7th attribute, Comeliness — which was meant to be different from Charisma, but was never that popular. Unearthed Arcana also contains plenty of new magic items and spells, including the introduction of 0-level cantrips — an idea that's been much more long-lived.

Various existing character classes got adjustments too, the most notable of which was the fighter's new "weapon specialization", which allowed improvement in a weapon of choice. It was a somewhat ironic addition, because back in The Dragon #16 (July 1978), in a much earlier Sorcerer's Scroll, Gygax wrote, "There are a number of foolish misconceptions which tend to periodically crop up also. Weapons expertise is one. … For those who insist on giving weapons expertise bonuses due to the supposed extra training and ability of the character, I reply: What character could be more familiar and expert with a chosen weapon type than are monsters born and bred to their fangs, claws, hooves, horns, and other body weaponry?"

Unearthed Arcana also contains a well-remembered "Appendix T" which shows what all the game's pole-arms actually look like. Gygax had written a similar article way back in The Strategic Review #2 (Summer 1975), with a small supplement in The Strategic Review #4 (Winer 1975).

The Forgotten Heroes. Unearthed Arcana introduced three major new character classes to AD&D: the barbarian, the cavalier, and the thief-acrobat. Of them, only the barbarian has retained a major presence in later editions of the game.

The Resurrected Races. Unearthed Arcana also expanded D&D's rolls of PC races by subdividing dwarves, elves, and gnomes. Dwarves now included gray, hill, and mountain variants; elves now included dark, gray, high, valley, wild, and wood variants; and gnomes now included svirfneblin (deep gnomes). Much of this work was probably in response to Dragonlance (1984-1986), which was similarly expanding the races of Krynn.

Of all the new races, it was probably the drow (dark elf) that was the most popular — and would soon grow moreso with the publication of The Crystal Shard (1988) and the introduction of Drizzt Do'Urden.

More importantly, Unearthed Arcana also increased the level limits for demihumans, capping their advancement at higher levels. This was a reflection that the whole AD&D game was increasing in level, requiring what Gygax called "more potent non-human characters".

About the Media Tie-In. The three new classes that Gygax introduced to Dragon readers between July 1982 and April 1983, and which were updated for Unearthed Arcana, also made it into the D&D cartoon that premiered on September 17, 1983. Bobby is a Barbarian, Diana is an Acrobat, and Eric is a Cavalier.

Whoops! Unearthed Arcana was probably rushed out too quickly, due to TSR's financial problems, because it was beset with errors. Dragon #103 (November 1985) contained two pages of corrections meant to be cut out and pasted into the hardcover book. This errata was never included in reprints … until Wizards' 2013 release of the book! Dragon #117 (January 1987) then contained a complete Sage Advice column on the book.

There were also serious questions about the balance of the new classes, races, and items in the book — though this isn't the sort of thing that was being corrected by errata at the time.

About the Creators. Gary Gygax was of course the co-creator of D&D. His other major publications on his return to the TSR heartland were the novel Saga of Old City (1985), the adventure WG6: "Isle of the Ape" (1985), and the mega-adventure T1-4: The Temple of Elemental Evil (1985), the last completed by Frank Mentzer.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

Reviews (13)
Discussions (17)
Customer avatar
Chet S July 03, 2021 9:07 pm UTC
What's the difference between the premium hardcover and the standard hardcover?
Customer avatar
James O July 03, 2021 11:47 pm UTC
I had the same question and found this explanation.
Customer avatar
James L March 21, 2024 5:54 pm UTC
Hi, your link seems to be cut off
Customer avatar
Loren D March 27, 2021 9:37 pm UTC
This product has four errors all on page 72
On the CHARACTER RACE TABLE III.:MULTI-CLASSED CHARACTER OPTIONS in the 1st row there is a column labeled "OM" this is supposed to be "DM" for Druid/Magic-users.
On the THIEVES TABLE II in the Column "No Armor" there is suppose to be a superscripted 1 at the end of "No Armor" and in the Row labeled "Hide in Shadows" there is suppose to be a superscripted 2 at the end of "Hide in Shadows" right now the notes for 1 and 2 have no context as these are missing from the table.
On the THIEF-ACROBAT TABLE V in the Column "No Armor" there is suppose to be a superscripted 1 at the end of "No Armor", right now the note for 1 have no context as this is missing from the table.
Please keep these error in mind if you are thinking about buying this product, compared to the Monster Manuel and Players Handbook these are rather small but important errors. The only 1st edition core rulebook...See more
Customer avatar
James O February 04, 2021 1:30 pm UTC
Can anybody tell me if the text is searchable or are the pages just images of the originals?
Customer avatar
James O February 04, 2021 7:04 pm UTC
Answering my own question as I couldn't wait to pick up the updated edition: The text is fully searchable and not just images of the original pages. Excellent quality pdf!
Customer avatar
Phillip H October 08, 2020 3:39 pm UTC

I'd also like to know what the difference is between the Standard and Premium "color" versions

thank you
Customer avatar
Steven B September 14, 2020 4:31 pm UTC
Just not the same if the pages aren't falling out.
Customer avatar
Chris M August 01, 2020 9:06 pm UTC
There needs to be an option for the original cover. The cover this has is terrible.
Customer avatar
John S May 31, 2020 8:25 pm UTC
Is there anywhere to see a preview of the softcover versus hardcover, or in the case of UA, the standard color versus premium color books? It is hard to make a purchase decision without having even seen the product.
Customer avatar
Brian A May 02, 2020 6:38 pm UTC
what is the difference between the premium color and standard color book
Customer avatar
christopher B March 18, 2020 2:58 pm UTC
What's the difference between Hardcover, Premium Color Book and Hardcover, Standard Color Book? Also, this book is black & white, so what's with the color print options? Lastly. does this have gilded pages or the built in book mark like the regular premium version?
Customer avatar
George F October 11, 2018 4:42 pm UTC
I'd like to see softcover versions of this and the rest of the books for a lower price.
Customer avatar
Jeremy H January 06, 2019 9:03 am UTC
Agreed. I was just thinking the same thing. Soft covers would probably travel better and not have the binding issues that the originals had.
Customer avatar
Anthony Christopher H July 12, 2018 3:27 pm UTC
The answer to Gygax's silly rubbishing of weapons expertise bonuses, is that trained boxers or martial artists can hit you harder and cause more damage than untrained humans.
Both are using 'natural body weaponry'.

That's the kind of dismissive WE OWN THE RULES AND THE GAME attitude that Gygax frequently displayed. Objecting to power creep (unless TSR published it, as here with the cavalier class - in which case it's totally okay), writing TPK modules like 'Tomb of Horrors' from a wargamer's perspective (hey just roll a new character up!) and generally failing (with some exceptions eg Tracy & Laura Hickman) to understand that the rôleplaying-collective storytelling-worldbuilding part of the game meant that players formed a much deeper attachment to their characters than a wargamer ever did to his skirmish troops.
Customer avatar
David M March 22, 2018 6:30 pm UTC
i got the POD but not the pdf. I really like this book. Typical sturdy POD copy. The internal print contrast is better than the original (I own the original and was able to compare side by side). The illustrations also look very good.
Customer avatar
Stanley B February 15, 2018 9:17 pm UTC
While this version is much more complete, even the reprint version and this PDF taken from it forgot one crucial item from one class, because of an oversight (there was a several-page article that the 2-page pull-out of errata accompanied, and one item didn't make into the pull-out because of space available on those two pages). As the article itself was overlooked in the reprint revamp, it's the one official change that didn't make it in the new printing. On the off-chance that someone is actually using the Thief-Acrobat, though, this change is major.

The following is from the Dragon #103 article, page 14, and was supposed to replace the second paragraph of the Thief-Acrobat.

"Nobody brought up the issue, but we decided to do something to help out thief-acrobats. First of all, every thief-acrobat can and does achieve 6th-level skill (not just 5th) in pick pockets, open locks, and find/ remove traps. Second, a thief-acrobat does gain the ability to "decipher magical writings...See more
Customer avatar
Anthony Christopher H July 12, 2018 3:07 pm UTC
Great spot!

You have to say that TSR were poor when it comes to proof-reading for mistakes.

For example, the D&D Cyclopedia is essentially a cut and paste of the Basic/Expert/Companion/Masters sets which had existed for years and years.

And yet it was riddled with mistakes, something I spotted immediately way back in 1991.

So clearly TSR staff didn't have the same recall as mere players and customers or they just didn't care that much.
Customer avatar
May 22, 2016 9:34 pm UTC
I still have a print copy of this book from the 80s. I once read online someone complaining that the "million and one" polearms in D&D is unrealistic, followed by an immediate rebuttal that these many varieties of polearms were from history (true). This is the book that brought the many varieties of polearms into (A)D&D. The appendix covering the polearms is complete with descriptions, tells what each was designed for and with many illustrations. It's also surprisingly accurate, considering that D&D even now carries the legacy of ridiculously overweight replicas of weapons and armor (not to mention creating a great deal of confusion over what a "longsword" is). The polearms appendix is well-written and informative, comparing surprisingly well to whole books written on the subject. In short, for those of us knowledgeable about armor and weapons, Unearthed Arcana is worth keeping around for that section alone. And at $9.99, it's cheaper than some new books on polearms too.
Customer avatar
Anthony Christopher H July 12, 2018 3:13 pm UTC
The polearm is the 'national weapon' of Gygax's national origin, Switzerland, hence the obsessive level of detail, and, arguably, his pet weapon is too powerful.

The problem with such long staff weapons is that they are really supposed to be used 'en masse', in other words with serried ranks of troops, many more than any adventuring party would ever have, or as a defence against a mass mounted charge.

That's a generic 'fault' with D&D, in that it doesn't reflect how mediaeval warfare was fought, but still sort of tries to incorporate all of the weapons of that time.
Customer avatar
Jeremy R January 18, 2016 8:29 am UTC
I don't really think that's true about the "status quo". Dragon magazine had been printing new character classes since it was The Strategic Review and that continued through 1985 (and indeed, as you later point out, most of UA originally appeared in The Dragon).
Customer avatar
Thomas D January 15, 2016 3:07 am UTC
Your description is quite unclear. Does this edition include the corrections that the 2013 edition includes, or is it the original 1985 edition?
Customer avatar
Timothy S January 02, 2019 12:55 pm UTC
The PDF I purchased is the updated/Deluxe version without the original 1985 typos.
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