The other day I asked for some recommendations for "classic" adventures from the 2e era of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. I asked, because, while I did play AD&D at that start of that era -- and even used the 2e rules -- I didn't buy much in the way of adventures. Likewise, I eventually grew tired of 2e and so fell out of touch with what products were released during the mid to latter parts of its reign. What really amazed me was how many responses I got. That post generated almost as many comments as my far more contentious one a few days earlier. This suggests a number of things to me, some of which I'd noticed before.
First and foremost, regardless of its merits as a game system, 2e succeeded in bringing a lot of people into the hobby. Many of the guys and gals I interact with online first started gaming post-1989 and 2e was their first game. I know it's fashionable to claim that 2e was a wretched failure -- and perhaps it was from a business perspective -- but, at least in terms of its introducing people into the hobby, it seems to have succeeded. Or at the very least, it succeeded in creating a lot of lifelong gamers, since, here we are 20 years later and they're still around talking and, one hopes, playing their game of choice.
Despite this, though, most 2e gamers online seem a bit sheepish about admitting their love for Second Edition. Perhaps that's just an artifact of the focus of this blog -- and indeed the whole old school movement to date -- on OD&D and 1e. I know, for example, that a lot of posters over at Dragonsfoot aren't nearly as reticent to declare their allegiance to this edition (often much to the annoyance of others who take the site's moniker, "home of 1st Edition AD&D" very seriously). Even so, it's interesting and suggests that much of the ex post facto history of TSR and D&D constructed in recent years (by myself, among others) has come to be accepted even by those whose personal preferences are slighted by it. After all, given that the majority of 2e's existence falls, by my reckoning, into the Bronze and Dark Ages, is it any wonder 2e fans would be reluctant to admit their love for it?
For myself, 2e will always be the edition that caused me to fall out of love with D&D. That's not (wholly) a reflection of the game itself, which I did play and enjoy for some time, but of the shift in the culture of gaming that coincided with its time on the stage. Some of those changes I applauded at the time, while others I decried, but, in both cases, the 2e product line sat uncomfortably on the fence between them, being neither sufficiently like the games of my youth nor like the newfangled RPGs everyone was raving about in the 90s. By having one foot in the past and one in the present, 2e simply didn't have what I was looking for at that time and, now that I've returned to the Old Ways, 2e's dalliance with the "present" -- now a different past -- is what I see most in it rather than its very real connections to the much farther past.
All of this is a characteristically long-winded way of saying that much of my "dislike" for 2e is actually a dislike for the way TSR of that era managed D&D and advanced certain developments in gaming that I greatly dislike and think were ultimately bad for the hobby. But that's a separate issue from 2e itself, which in my opinion still shows enough of its Gygaxo-Arnesonian heritage (at least in its three main rulebooks) as to be "part of the family." It's not my edition of choice by any means, but since when should that matter to anyone?