Advanced Search

PHBR1 The Complete Fighter's Handbook (2e)Click to magnify
Quick Preview
Full‑size Preview

PHBR1 The Complete Fighter's Handbook (2e)

Watermarked PDF

Who says fighters are the poor cousins of the AD&D game? No one will say it aloud after reading the Complete Fighter's Handbook: 128 pages of mind-expanding advice on how to make your fighter the leanest, meanest threshing machine for leagues around.

New weapons, new proficiencies, new fighting styles, and fighter "kits" make this optional AD&D accessory a useful item for players and DMs.

Product History

PHBR1: Complete Fighter's Handbook (1989), edited by Aaron Allston, was the first “splatbook” for 2nd edition AD&D. It became the model for every Complete book that followed (and there were a lot, not all of equal quality or similar usefulness), and it is jam-packed with rules for expanding the role of fighters in an AD&D game.

The Complete Fighter's Handbook is also the book that first introduces kits in D&D. Somewhat maligned by the end of 2nd edition AD&D due to uneven standards of game balance across different titles, kits were nonetheless a godsend at the time they first appeared. They allow players to clearly and dramatically differentiate their fighter characters. Sick of playing a 2nd edition vanilla fighter with few choices? This is the book for you.

Contents Under Pressure. The Complete Fighter's Handbook is a superb example of how good layout and attention to detail can make a book more useful; considering that this 124-page book didn't have an index, the table of contents is so complete that it didn't require one. Both sections and sub-sections in each chapter are called out, making it simplicity itself to find the rule you need.

And there are a lot of rules – this is a book that prefers rules crunch to evocative flavor text. Other than a 17-page nod to roleplaying different types of fighters and other martial characters, the book is filled primarily with new optional rules and combat techniques.

Kit-Bashing. Character kits were initially designed to differentiate fighter builds without adding (much) additional power to the character. There were 14 kits in this book, from “amazon” to “wilderness warrior”: barbarians, berserkers, cavaliers, peasant heroes, pirates, samurais, and more. If you ever wanted to play a gnome beast-rider mounted on a giant bat, you came to the right place.

Character kits worked hard to balance mechanical benefits with roleplaying hindrances, but they weren't always completely successful. The swashbuckler, for instance, was particularly interesting since it offered a version of the normally heavily armored fighter that the regular core rules couldn't easily provide. However, that the swashbuckler's hindrance of "trouble seeks out the character" isn't really much of a hindrance at all. (It's D&D, right? Trouble always seeks out the character, and that's what makes the game fun.)

The Fighter's Handbook also cemented non-weapon proficiencies as a necessary, almost mandatory, rule of 2nd edition AD&D. It's easy to forget that in the core rules NWPs are completely optional. With kits using them so extensively, though, in practice that optional status didn't last for long.

Rules, Rules, Rules. This book contains the first major combat rules expansion for the 2nd edition of the game. It was pretty complete and inclusive, providing optional systems for weapon proficiencies, ambidexterity, fighting style specialization (such as "two-weapon style"), punching, grappling, called shots, parrying, hit locations, and many more. There are guidelines for mounted combat and tournaments, and advice for how to deal with problematic combats. Players are even provided with excellent tactics for fighting, such as wolf-pack tactics and adjusting the group's tactical mix.

Gear Up. Most of the Equipment chapter concerns new weapons for the specialized kits introduced in this book. Samurai weapons, pirate weapons, swashbuckler weapons, savage weapons... if you have a nifty new kit, you'll need gear to go with it. It's impressive that (with the possible exception of the katana) none of the new weapons are particularly over-powered. New armor is also introduced, along with a system for damaging and repairing armor that never found much favor in the gaming public.

What this book does not provide is a plethora of new magic items. There are only seven listed in the whole chapter, most useful but none iconic.

Solid and Useful. Devoid of the game imbalance excesses that made some of the later Complete books a little more difficult to use, the Fighter's Handbook is a fun, well-written rulebook that demonstrably improves the game for anyone playing a martial-based hero.

About the Creators. Aaron Allston is a prolific author whose recent works include Star Wars novels and the new non-fiction book Plotting: A Novelist's Workout Guide. He has worked on games such as Car Wars, Champions, Dying Earth, GURPS, Ghostbusters International, Dungeons & Dragons, and many more.

About the Product Historian

History and commentary of this product was written by Kevin Kulp, game designer and admin of the independent D&D fansite ENWorld. 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.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (0)
Discussions (5)
Customer avatar
Chris M March 21, 2023 9:14 pm UTC
March 2023 and still hoping/waiting for Print on Demand versions of the entire series.
Customer avatar
Hunter M February 25, 2023 12:38 am UTC
POD for PHBR series would be great!
Customer avatar
Carl B September 22, 2022 9:53 pm UTC
Here's to hoping we can see the PHBR series brought to POD.
Customer avatar
Nicholas P July 13, 2021 9:59 pm UTC
POD please
Customer avatar
Grumpy G May 07, 2021 9:09 pm UTC
Any chance of the PHBR Complete books for classes be put into a pdf bundle?
Browse Categories
 Follow Your Favorites!
NotificationsSign in to get custom notifications of new products!

Product Information
Gold seller
Rules Edition(s)
Publisher Stock #
TSR 2110
File Size:
54.19 MB
Scanned image
Scanned image
These products were created by scanning an original printed edition. Most older books are in scanned image format because original digital layout files never existed or were no longer available from the publisher.

For PDF download editions, each page has been run through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to attempt to decipher the printed text. The result of this OCR process is placed invisibly behind the picture of each scanned page, to allow for text searching. However, any text in a given book set on a graphical background or in handwritten fonts would most likely not be picked up by the OCR software, and is therefore not searchable. Also, a few larger books may be resampled to fit into the system, and may not have this searchable text background.

For printed books, we have performed high-resolution scans of an original hardcopy of the book. We essentially digitally re-master the book. Unfortunately, the resulting quality of these books is not as high. It's the problem of making a copy of a copy. The text is fine for reading, but illustration work starts to run dark, pixellating and/or losing shades of grey. Moiré patterns may develop in photos. We mark clearly which print titles come from scanned image books so that you can make an informed purchase decision about the quality of what you will receive.
Original electronic format
These ebooks were created from the original electronic layout files, and therefore are fully text searchable. Also, their file size tends to be smaller than scanned image books. Most newer books are in the original electronic format. Both download and print editions of such books should be high quality.
File Information
Watermarked PDF
Watermarked PDF

These PDF files are digitally watermarked to signify that you are the owner. A small message is added to the bottom of each page of the PDF containing your name and the order number of your purchase.

Warning: If any files bearing your information are found being distributed illegally, then your account will be suspended and legal action may be taken against you.

Here is a sample of a page from a watermarked title:

File Last Updated:
March 04, 2013
This title was added to our catalog on March 05, 2013.