It’s time to dig out your THACO conversion charts.

This morning, Wizards of the Coast announced that 13 classic Advanced Dungeon & Dragons games are now available on GOG’s digital storefront. The package includes the three Forgotten Realms collections, spanning releases from Strategic Simulations, Inc.’s (SSI’s) 1988’s Gold Box-kickoff Pool of Radiance to 1994’s rather forgettable Menzoberranzan. The three collections include:

  • Forgotten Realms: The Archives: Collection One (Eye of the Beholder I, II, and III)
  • Forgotten Realms: The Archives: Collection Two (Curse of the Azure Bonds,  Gateway to the Savage Frontier, Hillsfar, Pools of Darkness, Pool of Radiance, Secret of the Silver Blades, Treasures of the Savage Frontier, and D&D: Unlimited Adventures)
  • Forgotten Realms: The Archives: Collection Three (Dungeon Hack and Menzoberranzan)

These classics show off some of the PC’s most beloved role-playing games and give younger or newer players what has been a rare look at not just 1st Edition rules but how such games have grown from their 1980s’ roots. It now also means that players have access to 20 years of old D&D games, once you throw in the Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and Neverwinter Nights series on GOG.

“Oh, it’s totally rare, but really satisfying to experience. There’s such a great window into the creative mind of Ed Greenwood in the early Forgotten Realms material,” D&D spokesperson Greg Tito said over email. “The childlike sense of wonder is infectious — fantasy in the ’80s feels very different from some of the fantasy that’s more popular today. It can be really refreshing to go back in to those worlds. I’m interested to see how modern gamers react to these early games and I appreciate that GOG has taken the effort to make them playable for gamers of today. These games deserve to be played, not just sitting at the bottom of a disused basement covered in dust and cobwebs, waiting to be discovered by a plucky band of adventurers.

“Wait, that sounds kinda cool. …”

Some of these are 25 years old, but every time a new classic D&D game appeared on GOG, you’d see fans kvetch about wanting to see the Gold Box games. The turn-based, strategic gameplay of the games that came before Eye of the Beholder remain some of the best digital translations of the tabletop RPG.

“Playing the paper game of AD&D is a memorable experience and most people will tell you it’s addictive,” said Susan Manley, who did the art for these games starting with Pool of Radiance. “I think as far as interactive is concerned, people really liked the turn based aspects to it and that it was purely a strategy role playing game set in the TSR worlds. … I think they are blueprints for what was important to gamers about the original play.”

It’s this dedication from fans that led to SSI alums to form Tactical Simulations Interactive (TSI), which is trying to recapture that magic with Seven Dragon Saga (whose development continues despite its failed Kickstarter).

“I have always been impressed that games such as these still resonate as much as they do with both older and younger players. They certainly aren’t flashy, but they do provide great depth and fun,” said David Shelly, the lead designer of TSI who was also an associate producer at SSI during the Gold Box era.

Another epic series, Dragonlance’s Krynn games, is not part of this release, nor are other non-Forgotten Realms releases such as Spelljammer and Dark Sun. But with Faerun the “default” world for D&D these days, it makes sense that we didn’t see games outside of the Realms in this initial release.

To coincide with the Gold Box release, digital tabletop gaming story DriveThruRPG is selling all of its 1st Edition Forgotten Realms material at half-price beginning today through August 31. “It’s really cool to see the history of the Realms and how it’s grown over the years,” Tito said. “There’s a lot of great stuff there for DMs, players and just fantasy fans in general.

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