Wednesday, August 5, 2009

2e Love

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?

89 comments:

  1. I started playing about the time that 2nd edition was released. I quickly became disillusioned with the ruleset. It was quirky, overly complex, and utterly non-intuitive. But the worlds - so many good campaign settings! I'll never forget trying to fight off desert bandits in Dark Sun, or being chased through the sands of Al Qadim, and certainly I can't forget Dragonlance, which sparked my interest in fantasy in the first place. Sure, I wrote my own campaign settings, too, but even those were very influenced by the settings presented by TSR during that time. Those settings were a huge part of the draw for me. I'm still a sucker for new, well-written campaign settings. Eberron, Pathfinder, you name it, I eat that stuff up.

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  2. I started with 2e and still have a soft spot for the edition. Now, I have moved on to OD&D/S&W and enjoy that system better and find myself at odds with what really went on in the 2e era. At the center is the question 'How can the game that started myself and others be so bad?'

    I still find myself waxing nostalgic over much of the artwork of the 2e era as that is what defined gaming and fantasy for me.

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  3. This falls into your "past and present" comment, but the Second Edition era was also the era that saw lots of other games hit the market and become very popular. Many of these new games were point-build games and had rules for skills, etc. D&D at the time seemed calcified as a result, and the deluge of sub-standard and universe-specific product didn't help.

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  4. I don't understand the vehement hatred some have for 2E. Obviously, everyone has different tastes, and some people aren't going to like it. But the venom some people spew about 2E is surprising to me.

    I actually like 2E, maybe more than 1E (I'm not sure; it's been a while since I've played 2E). And I don't see the differences between 1E and 2E as that huge--to me, 2E is primarily an attempt to clean up and streamline some of the rough edges and cruft of 1E. Of course, I'm just talking about the core books here--I never got much into to the various supplements. I think 3E is a [b]much[/b] bigger change to D&D than 2E was.

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  5. While the big black box was my intro to D&D in 1993, within a few months we were playing AD&D 2E. I had a lot of great times and great campaigns both as a player and as a GM using this edition, but in its later years, you are definitely correct that its path began to wander badly. The "complete" books were very hit or miss, as the later ones just became lists of Kewl Powerz and greatly overshadowed the books for the primary four classes. There were the Players Option books which were, by and large, just unnecessary. The list goes on. Some really great stuff came from this era, though (the green historical settings books in particular).

    In short, I'd agree that it was more the times the game found itself in (especially the later years), more than the core of the game itself, that has given it its sour reputation.

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  8. Add me to those who don't get the 2nd edition hate, especially prior to the Player's Option books.

    I bought 2nd edition when it came out and actually thought the Monstrous Compendium idea was a solid one. One page per monster punched for a three ring notebook. Put the monsters you need in your notebook and go game.

    If anything, 2nd edition was a turning away from UE and back towards the original 1st edition books. The only post DMG thing they really had was non-weapons proficiencies which I actually liked. It actually had a comprehendable combat system (if you've read the ADDICT chart you know what a mess 1st ed was).

    I've been asked to run a D&D game on a at most every other week basis. We've chosen 2nd edition as a lingua franca (most of the players came to the game in that era). I could have pushed for 1st but to be honest I'd rather 2nd if I'm going to be playing AD&D.

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  9. I started out with 2nd Edition, but wound up buying a lot of my books from used-book stores and so forth...which meant that I picked up a lot of old 1e and BECMI books, and integrated them into my 2e stuff. I mean, sure there were a few differences in the earlier editions, and it was kinda weird that you couldn't play an elven thief or fighter in some of the supplements, but it was all one awesome game.

    This is why I'm somewhat bewildered by the rage against 2e that some (esp. on K&K Ale) show, since for me, it's all the same game. That's how I went through the supplements, and that's how my friends and I played.

    More recently I've seen some of the divisions between playstyles, and shifted over to a more sandbox-y, free-form player driven method rather than the "story" method which I thought I should go for earlier. But 2e runs that sort of game just as well as 1e, and frankly they merge pretty well from my perspective.

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  10. From what I can tell a lot more people moved from second edition to third edition than did from first edition to second edition. When folks come back to second edition, it is usually the beginning of a voyage of discovery, during which they look at all of the analogue TSR era versions to make sense of second edition.

    That first edition and second edition are hardly different from one another at all in terms of rules and such is obvious. The differences were certainly not significant enough for Gygax to care over much when he signed off on the fan created Unearthed Arcania, which was basically a collection of material for second edition.

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  11. [i]MJS said: "That first edition and second edition are hardly different from one another at all in terms of rules and such is obvious."[/i]

    I mentioned something similar in my post. Does anyone know of a list of the major changes? I know a lot of them, but I'm especially curious which changes anger 1E adherents the most.

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  12. If nothing else 2e saved us from the Drow cavalier and the deep gnome thief acrobat, heck even getting rid of the (not needed in a fantasy setting) Monk and the psionics were a plus in my book. The core books were a much needed restart and clarification yet very backwards compatible. I even enjoyed the first four complete books and thought kits were a simple and elegant way to distinguish fighter 1 from fighter 2 without overbalancing the game and the complete thief has some great random tables for building thieves guilds. I also second the love for the Green books, essential mini setting, the “Mighty Fortress” inspired my best and longest campaign set in a 17th century like fantasy realm.

    Sure we didn’t need the “Complete Elf”, just like we didn’t need the “Wilderness Survival Guide”. Games should be judged on their initial merits not the bloated systems they become. I too eventually moved away from D&D after I thought “I’m to mature for a game with levels”, but I’m wiser now and would gladly support the first 2e clone that comes out.

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  13. Does anyone know of a list of the major changes? I know a lot of them, but I'm especially curious which changes anger 1E adherents the most.

    I know of a list of all the changes, which can be found here: Differences Between First and Second Edition. Most are too minor to mention, but there are some relatively big differences in there.

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  14. This is the first post I have ever felt I needed to make here, and I do enjoy the blog and the old-school movement in general, but I am glad to see 2nd Edition getting some respect. It's fine if you don't like it, but it's my favorite as (for many, it seems) it coincided with my prime gaming years (not that it's age related, more free-time related). Let me first say that one of the reasons I often see cited for 2e hatred seems to me almost nonsensical: the loss of "flavor" with the removal of devils, demons, and recognizable religious references. It has always seemed to me that these are just the sorts of things a DM can very easily introduce in his own campaign: the fact that they are not spelled out in the rulebooks seems to me a very minor failing at most.

    Secondly, allow me to propose a (perhaps) controversial theory for the general animus which seems to follow 2e. I think its greatest sin to its detractors is also its greatest success; that is, it brought many new people in to the game. 2e, in my opinion, represents, for good or for ill, the point at which D&D went from niche activity to a more generally accepted hobby. I think for many it was more fun when it was pseudo-illicit. In some way, 2e was like the first major label release by a band which people had followed religiously as an independent act. Anyway, this is just a theory--my philosophy has always been play what you like and what works for you, no matter the edition or the blog cred it has. Thanks.

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  15. I began my RPG experience in 1996 with AD&D 2nd Edition, and I liked the system. With time, however, its incongruences became apparent to me and began to bother me. Don't get me wrong: we played homebrewed settings, Dragonlance, Forgotten, Ravenloft, and Planescape, and we had a blast. But the rules...

    Then came 3rd Edition and me and my group thought it was an ellegant, new system. We didn't mind the long statblocks and we didn't stat each door and flowerpot :P

    I wouldn't go back to 2nd Edition, but I'm willing to try 1st Edition, 0D&D, or any of the retroclones :)

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  16. We are the redheaded step-children of D&D, really.

    The crustiest and staunchest grognards hate us because we weren't written by Gary's own hand. Or because they associate us with what's-her-face. Or bacause some things were changed and then it sucked. Or because it just wasn't exactly the same as what they wanted it to be.

    The New Schoolers tend hate us . . . well . . . it's almost impossible to say why some days. I almost get the impression that 2e became an effigy for everything they found "wrong" with D&D. The term "THAC0" has all but become a profanity to many of them. We're the cast of dreggs of evolution, not even worthy of the nostalgia quotient afforded to AD&D 1e.

    To non-D&D players, we were just popular to despise. Single orcs in 10 foot square rooms guarding chests and all that.

    Like you said, 2nd edition has one foot squarely in the past (i.e., 1e and 0e) and one foot squarely somewhere else (won't say "the present" or "the future" because it's unclear in my mind where they were trying to head in some instances).

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  17. getting rid of the (not needed in a fantasy setting) Monk and the psionics

    And what makes you the judge of what is or isn't suitable for fantasy, cousin?
    Not that I mean to cause a fight, it just seems to me that monks and psionics have as much place in D&D as elves and beholders.

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  18. The thing that strikes me most, then as now, is the vast difference in the attitude of its developers toward revision. 2E kept virtually everything from 1E with an eye toward reorganizing and enhancing AD&D. There was very little hacking away, making 2E a blood brother of 1E. That's one of the major things that kept me loyal to 2E as a GM.

    2E is the system I've used most. I loved it then and love it now. I'm not ashamed to admit it. If 3E had not come along, I have little doubt that we'd still be playing 2E. What bothers me more is the feeling that we've moved too far forward to go back, like a time traveler stuck in the future.

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  19. One of the things that I really like about 2e was how it made many of its more complicated subsystems optional, and clearly marked them as such. Nonweapon Proficiencies are often brought up as the precursors to 3e style skills, and they were (not to mention that they first appeared in 1e supplements), but they were also optional. In fact, the PHB gives three methods for determining what stuff your character can do outside of combat - the venerable if you can do it your character can (of course he knows how to swim!), the background occupations (leatherworker, farmer, etc., all lifted pretty much whole cloth from the 1e DMG) and finally the NWP system.

    I like 2e just fine. Like someone else said above, I started playing with a 2e player's handbook and DMG and a mashup of other stuff from previous editions - 1e Monster Manual, B/X adventures (we loved Drums on Fire Mountain and Temple of the Frog, those were kick-ass expert D&D adventures), etc. My friend bought some other kids collection of D&D books of all editions when he moved on to Rifts (I think that was what it was called, I always saw him playing a game with some cool mecha on the cover), so our starting collection was all kinds of stuff.

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  20. I didn't like it because I already had two or three copies of each 1st ed. book. Still do.

    I think that around the time 2nd came out I had dropped a class or two in school. When I tried the classes again a year later, I would have to buy an entirely new edition of the text if the teacher wasn't cool enough to let you use an earlier edition.

    As Joe Pesci said in the movie Casino "Tha dollars. Always about the tha dollars."

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  21. What some folks see as "minor changes" between editions some of us feel were major paradigm shifts. If Old School role-playing is simply a matter of attitude, than 1st edition folks want to return to early Metalica and Led Zeppelin and 2nd edition folks want to return to Bel Biv Devoe and Color Me Badd (or to use the rock groups from the same era: Poison and Winger).

    Yeah, they may all be playing guitars, but the music is a LOT different.

    Sorry to intrude on the love-fest.

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  22. Sorry, I just don't see that. One thing I can say about 2e that many may have overlooked is that the removal of things like assassins, demons and devils helped parents not see AD&D as 'that satan game'. I know when my parents read my 2e books they commented that what they heard was wrong and allowed us to play. This may have been the single most important event in my gaming life.

    So what some see as a stripping down or watering down actually became a doorway for newer gamers to get in that wouldn't have.

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  23. It doesn't surprise me so much that people dislike 2E. As someone who started with 2E, I have to admit it's not the greatest of systems. I don't really get the vehemence of some of the hatred for 2E, though. For all its flaws, it was the spark that lit up the world of RPGs for me and many of my friends. Ultimately, all of my gaming experiences draw back from that root (which itself draws from other roots).

    None of its shortcomings bear significant weight when I compare them against all the fun I've had. If it were really bad I wouldn't have gotten into the hobby at all.

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  24. I think 2ed isn't a bad game. I played it for years, and enjoyed it, however there were way too many things I bought and was disappointed with too...

    But it's absolutely true, that it's a different game than 1st ed. 2ed is a stoyteller game. From Ravenloft to Dark Sun. etc...

    It can be played as 1e but the published materials of that era doesn't teach that earlier kind of play to the young gamers.

    So this is the problem with that system. It is too much the same, and it is somehow way too different than the original. And the name is the same, so there is a big big confusion...

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  25. I don't understand the vehement hatred some have for 2E.

    I started at brown books and left at the beginning of 2E for third party systems like Heroes System. At least in my case, that progression should tell you why I hated 2E. The problem with 2E was that it was an attempt at a very "simulationist" RPG by people with absolutely zero understanding of basic mathematics.

    This is why I came back for 3E. Yes, it was a very simulationist system, and many of the grognards hated it for that. But it was honest about what is was and did it right. Until that mathematical illiterate Andy Collins got his hands all over it that is.

    I like both narrative-focused RPGs and simulation-focused RPGs. But I have found very few examples of the middle ground being any good.

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  26. I like 2e and would play it today if my group was interested. I think complaints about THAC0 are ridiculous. Seriously, how is a person confounded by subtraction?

    If I had a gripe with 2e it's that fighters at higher levels are useless. Clerics and Wizards reign supreme and make the rest of the party useless.

    Peace,
    Christian

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  27. JB: "What some folks see as "minor changes" between editions some of us feel were major paradigm shifts."

    Define "paradigm shifts" please. What are these differences that are so fundamental?

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  28. Reading this post and comments, and the K&K thread started by Mike B. that was linked to in an earlier post, has really gotten me interested in checking out 2E. I played B/X and AD&D from the early 80s up until just before 2E was released. I have never seen the inside of a 2E, 3E or 4E book, other than 2E Battlesystem & Battlesystem Skirmishes, which I think are quite nice.

    My philosophy toward all RPGs is to only ever look at the core books and ignore all the settings, adventures and supplements, which are largely useless to me. By doing so I mostly avoid all the crap that usually pisses off most people: the inevitable bloat. I'm betting core 2E is just as great as OD&D, B/X and iE are. And about 95% similar in any event.

    Reading that K&K thread was a real education. I'm amazed at the way 1E fans have sanctified Gary. It's like they think that if only he had retained control of TSR, D&D would have entered the land of milk and honey and developed into some pure form of RPG, avoiding all of the pitfalls of 2E 3E and 4E.

    Wrong.

    Gary himself started D&D down the road to 2E. He created UA, and he gave Zeb the job of editing OA and signed off on it. He would have had to respond to economic and market forces that were pushing TSR to take D&D in new directions, or perish in an industry flooded with new, innovative competitors. I know I was blown away when I saw games like James Bond 007, WEG Star Wars and GURPS. AD&D had to keep pace or wither. Had he retained control of the company, he would have still had all the same designers and editors working there. He'd have still been looking for new ideas for settings and options to keep the game fresh AND KEEP NEW PRODUCT FLOWING OUT THE DOOR. Gary was a businessman. TSR was a business. D&D stopped being a hobby for him back in 1977.

    But beyond all the business pressures, Gary was a very creative guy. There's no way he would have let D&D sit still in 1E. He'd have continued to develop the game just like any other gamer. He created a lot of different rule sets during his life. And in the process he'd have alienated all the same 1E fans that Zeb Cook & Lorraine Williams seem to have.

    Verification word: punky.

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  29. And what makes you the judge of what is or isn't suitable for fantasy, cousin?
    Not that I mean to cause a fight, it just seems to me that monks and psionics have as much place in D&D as elves and beholders.


    Of course they do, and to clarify I should have said pseudo-European medieval fantasy. The Monk and Psionics just feels out of place with MY feel of D&D so i was glad to see them go.

    I can’t even remember an illustration involving a monk in the 1e PHB or DMG (but I’m probably just blocking it out). The idea of the plate mail paladin alongside the kung fu master just doesn’t sit well with me. But I don’t like the sci-fi elements of Temple of the Frog either, just my preference.

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  30. 2nd Edition sources are scarce, which led me to create my own blog, Advanced Gaming & Theory, and it has been more successful then what I thought that it would be.

    I did fight a lot of hate-mongers who had some crazy ideas out there about the edition, insane stuff that just wasn't true.

    Now, very few of my readers actually play 2e, but the system is so smooth and clean that the ideas presented to them can be applied to all editions.

    D&D is not a video game, later editions do not have better graphics. I went into the RPG hobby because it was cheap entertainment. Lots of us could get together and have fun for hours and only spend a couple of bucks on soda and chips. What other form of entertainment is like this? Heck, we didn't even use commercial character sheets for the longest time! Now we do because you can easily print them off yourself.

    I love the versatility of 2e, products like Spelljammer and Masque of the Red Death really brought it home just what this system is capable of, add ease of invention and I have no idea why people have such a big problem with it, I really don't.

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  31. I personally dislike and skipped 2E. That said, I can't remotely hold it against people who got into D&D via 2E... it's what was available, and if you did a text comparison you'd find it's 80% copy-and-pasted from 1E (esp., spells, magic items, and monsters).

    Pretty much all the changes in 2E were crappy. Classes, specialist wizards, initiative, etc., all poorly thought out. One of my main gripes is that new systems and modules bore no evidence of having been playtested.

    Lesson learned late in life: Drop any serial entertainment when the original writer leaves (true for RPGs, comic books, TV shows, etc.) I should have stopped buying D&D when Gygax left; having suffered through TSR 1E purchases after he left, I remember 2E giving me a huge sigh of relief -- "Now I can finally quit buying D&D".

    But again, if people's first experience with D&D was 2E and they enjoyed it, more power to them.

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  32. @Hamlet:

    I said “major” not “fundamental;” the foundation of the game didn’t change (the system was basically the same) but the attitude and purview of the game did. Prior to 2nd edition, the Advanced version of the game was aimed at an adult market. Afterwards it was aimed at a juvenile market. If it brought in new (younger) gamers, it also alienated others.

    Folks may think that’s fine and dandy, but since the late 80s, D&D has been viewed (by non-gamers) as a “kids game” and openly wonder why people playing it “don’t grow up.” This was NOT the case in the early days of the hobby when it was played by more adults (and not necessarily grognard wargamers) than children.

    Removing mature themed items from the game (assassins, half-orcs, demons, and devils) was just part of this shift. Removing psionics makes a break from the game’s pulp roots (again, appealing to younger gamers over older). Creating detailed campaign settings and adventures with independent story plots is the company basically condescending its audience: “we don’t think you can world build yourself, we don’t think you can create your own campaign/adventure ideas, we are aiming at a youthful audience that needs a LOT of hand-holding.” Again all well and good for bringing a younger generation into the game (because apparently younger kids didn’t have older generations to bring them in!), but adding to the perception that “D&D is a game for children; they’ll grow out of it in adulthood.”

    RPGs are fun and entertaining, but I believe they have greater value then simple childish entertainment. Maybe I’M idealistic in that regard. Certainly they have value to ME as an adult. Creating a perception that the thing is juvenile alienates other (non-gamer) adults from the game and alienates adults from the children that might want to learn to play them. Can/should ALL this be laid at the door of 2nd edition AD&D? No, of course not. But D&D, being the most popular RPG on the planet…well, when the corporate powers shift the paradigm of the game it cannot help but shift the whole perception of RPG gaming.

    If I hold the “founding fathers” of gaming in high esteem, it is for what they originated, not any ever-present infallibility; not all of Gary’s works were gold. 2nd edition AD&D was an outcome of corporate consumer culture…an attempt to draw in a new generation of consumers, an attempt to stave off the attacks of disturbed parents. That’s a paradigm shift in my opinion. And it has had consequences for gaming culture ever since.

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  33. "I have never seen the inside of a 2E, 3E or 4E book, other than 2E Battlesystem & Battlesystem Skirmishes, which I think are quite nice..."

    Then you've seen the very best release from that era. Doug Niles is a genius with minis rules. It's not representative.

    "I'm betting core 2E is just as great as OD&D, B/X and 1E are."

    It's your time, but you're going to be disappointed. You should listen to the general concensus (2E value was in the settings), because in this case, it's true.

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  34. The only thing I have against 2E is all the crybabies. "Boo hoo hoo, we're redheaded stepchildren!" Kwitcher cryin', cupcake.

    Well, OK that's not really the only thing I have against it. Leaving aside travesties like The Complete Book of Elvish Onanism and all the billions of products ruined by Elminster, I think that... and this is perhaps personal but I think not unique... 2E was the edition where it became obvious that D&D had lost its way.

    What I mean is, you seemed to have this general idea that games were meant to be heavily plotted, with focus on hobnobbing with powerful NPCs, completing epic (railroady?) quests and the like. And this was combined with a veritable mountain of rules modules (a zillion different class kits, specialty thises and thats, tons of variant rules and gear, etc.) that if you used even half of it you were dealing with more rules than GURPS.

    Now I don't doubt that many people managed all of that deftly and created a comfortable "game space" for themselves within that context. But in retrospect, it looks like we ended up with a game that was neither rules-lite nor realistic, which had neither strong archetypes / niche protection nor true flexibility, which went back and forth between minutiae and abstraction, which awarded XPs for killing critters and yet wanted to encourage high-minded questing.

    I don't doubt that for some folks, that was an alchemy of success. But why do so many people disdain 2E? I found my interest in D&D waning in the 2E period. Perhaps the answer is that if you try to be all things to all people, you can end up being nothing to practically everybody. It was hard to see what made D&D special inasmuch as it didn't excel at anything.

    That's my shot at it anyway.

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  35. I think 2e was great for the time. Eventually I wore out on some rules stuff, and went and played Shadowrun and other games...but the settings, man, those settings are pure gold!

    Then I moved to 3E and never looked back. I think the rules are just that much better. Now, for the same reason, I've moved to 4E and am loving it.

    Basically, I've loved every edition from 1st as I've played it and moved onto the next. Now, if I were to go back, I'd probably play in a 3.x campaign, and if I had an awesome DM, I'd love to play in a 1e campaign...but I'd probably skip 2e.

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  36. JB: Fine, "major" rather than "fundamental."

    Much of what you talk about (Tannar'ri instead of demons, removal of assassins, etc.) were not, in my opinion, an attempt to aim the game at a younger audience, but to make it more acceptable in the tempest in a teapot public outcry over satanism and such that had gone up around the earlier game. In that light, I don't care overly much since those are such minor changes.

    Was that attempt misaimed and likely ill advised? Yeah. I'm not arguing that those particular changes were improvements. However, they were, in no real, substantive way, an effort to lower the target age of the game. They just made it more appealing to "the squares" so to speak.

    As for the assassin: I've always agreed with the 2e DMG at least partially. Isn't an assassin simply somebody who kills others for money? I don't recognize the need for another class to govern that archetype on a fundamental level. Of course, I have no problem adding the class back in if I see fit, but it's not, again in my opinion, a core part of the game and so I don't honestly miss it.

    The settings represent hand holding? Really? I've gone over that before, but the settings always represented the best thing about D&D. Not the pre-packaged goods, but the actual act of "imagining the hell" out of the rules. Making the rules bow to the game rather than the game to the rules.

    Yes, the plots included in some of the settings were terrible, horrible things. I've said that too. Yes, later on, the supplementitis that went on, especially in Forgotten Realms, smacked of "officialitis." But honestly, those settings were a great thing. It broke D&D out of the common (not gamer, but general public) view that it was nothing but knights in shining armor slaying dragons and rescuing princesses.

    I'm not sure I can agree with you on how the game was aimed at a yonger audience. Perhaps a more general audience, or an audience not deeply steeped in the Pulp Fiction of D&D's genesis, but it certainly wasn't objectively worse because of that.

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  37. Korgoth:What I mean is, you seemed to have this general idea that games were meant to be heavily plotted, with focus on hobnobbing with powerful NPCs, completing epic (railroady?) quests and the like.

    Eh?

    Baloney I say!

    Some of the absolute worst modules in terms of railroads and "epic plots" were 1st edition monstrosities.

    Your perception of what was done with the rules does not, in fact, reflect on the rules themselves. It's not like we're judging 1st edition on the merits of the Dragonlance modules.

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  38. I left D&D during the 2e era but not because of 2e. I left because I wanted to play GURPS and other systems more than D&D.

    After trying all those other systems, 2e also helped me appreciate what I liked about D&D. It catalyzed my journey back to D&D.

    I too really appreciate the way 2e called out many things as optional. Switch out the ability score modifiers for B/X’s, ignore all the optional rules, and I think you’ve got a decent alternative to B/X.

    I also think there is much to the “between two worlds” thing. 2e had a lot of good ideas that—for me—weren’t implemented well or didn’t go far enough.

    But like all other pre-2000 editions of D&D, you can easily borrow things from it to use in whatever edition you prefer as a baseline.

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  39. I too really appreciate the way 2e called out many things as optional. Switch out the ability score modifiers for B/X’s, ignore all the optional rules, and I think you’ve got a decent alternative to B/X.

    I would probably go further and say you pretty much have B/X in that situation. :D

    Rules, modules, settings, mood, and style are not all synonymous. In terms of rules, second edition is pretty much identical to first edition, with a crap load of options added.

    As far as target age group goes, the revised covers of the first edition PHB and DMG state "10 and up".

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  40. I actually like 2E, maybe more than 1E (I'm not sure; it's been a while since I've played 2E). And I don't see the differences between 1E and 2E as that huge--to me, 2E is primarily an attempt to clean up and streamline some of the rough edges and cruft of 1E. Of course, I'm just talking about the core books here--I never got much into to the various supplements. I think 3E is a [b]much[/b] bigger change to D&D than 2E was.

    I'm pretty much in agreement with Akiva here.

    In my case, it didn't hurt that some of the things 2E removed (monks, assassins) were things I didn't care much for anyways, and that the things they removed that I did like (half-orcs, demons and devils) were easy to drop back in, since the rules were effectively the same.

    I was also appreciative of having more options and flexibility with character creation. Thieves being able to specialize in a particular skill, clerics actually having different spells, weapons, and special abilities, and wizards being able to specialize... but some people didn't care for that, I guess.

    Really, it's not like you couldn't run a 1e-style game with 2E; nothing prevented you from doing so (unless you for some reason needed your hand held while trying to set the tone for your game). It's just that you could also try different styles of play, if you wanted to.

    Which seems to be the bone of contention for some people; you didn't have to follow the onetrueway with 2E, you could do your own thing with it, if you wanted to. To correct JB's rather poor musical analogy, you could still play old-school metal with 2E, but you could also play some smooth jazz or some dirty blues, if that was instead your preference.

    But of course, the idea that other people are playing something that they call "D&D", but it isn't the way that we play D&D... well, we can't have that, can we? Tribalism runs pretty darned strong in the RPG community. It's not unlike a religious schism, when you find out that village across the way proclaims to follow the same faith as yours, but they do their rituals a little different than you do, and maybe get something a little different out of it as a result. The only 'proper' response is, of course, to mock and harass them, and preferably drive them away so that they never shadow your door ever again.

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  41. I would probably go further and say you pretty much have B/X in that situation.

    Yeah. If I (or my group) really wanted separate race and classes, I’d probably go with 2e-with-most-options-off. Otherwise, I’m happy with B/X.

    Really, it's not like you couldn't run a 1e-style game with 2E

    At one point I tried to find the point at which Dungeon switched to 2e. There’s not really a issue you can point to as the switch. In fact, they actually said as much. (Paraphrasing) Yeah, 2e is out now, but since there’s not that much difference between 1e and 2e and since all the submission are and will continue to be 1e for a while, there won’t be a formal switch.

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  42. @Hamlet:
    “I’m not sure I can agree with you on how the game was aimed at a younger audience.”

    Well, maybe Wikipedia needs to edit its entry on 2nd edition AD&D:

    “Moreover, the release of AD&D2 corresponded with a policy change at TSR. An effort was made to remove aspects of the game which had attracted negative publicity… Moving away from the moral ambiguity of the First Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the TSR staff eliminated character classes and races like the assassin and the half-orc, and stressed heroic roleplaying…The target age of the game was also lowered, with most 2nd edition products being aimed primarily at teenagers…”


    I never said that AD&D2 was “objectively worse” because of these changes. What I SAID was what some folks see as MINOR CHANGES others (like myself) see as a PARADIGM SHIFT. And if I don’t like that shift, that’s my tough problem…though I do have to deal with the consequences of that shift to the hobby itself (as do we all).

    My motto? (borrowed from a large-minded philospher):

    "Don't hate the player, hate the game."

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  43. JB: I'll lend wikipedia's (a publicly edited encyclopedia that doesn't back up that statement with anything) article little or no weight.

    On the other hand, I'll lend my own experience with the game significantly more. It is in no way aimed at a younger audience any more than 0e was when it was sold in toy stores.

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  44. Not that hating the game is just as insane...

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  45. @Hamlet:

    As I said, it may need editing.

    ; )

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  46. JB:

    Like Democracy, the best thing about the internet is that everybody can speak their mind.

    Also like Democracy, the worst thing about the internet is that everybody can speak their mind.

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  47. Actually, I can think of better and worse things for both!
    : )

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  48. Hating 2e.
    It's not as easy as just hate for those who love or cherish the game as their first roleplaying experience as it is for hating what was a bland, milquetoast serving of lowered expectations. Having AD&D from the very early 80's the inclusion of Unearthed Arcana madness of drow cavaliers and gnome thief acrobats was not good. But when second editon was annouced, I welcomed a level playing field. What I was met with was a neutered and filtered version of AD&D that put an emphasis on the Forgotten Realms, made drow into dark elves (and more playable no Erelhei-Cinlu here kids), kits and books for every possible class and niche, psionics and monks re done and made campaign specific.
    All that was wrong with 1e AD&D was re included and then made bland and mundane and then recomplied and then re-done again in with a novel soon to follow.
    In short for one who was there, 2e was like a safer, cleaner version of AD&D that I had to buy lots of stuff to use what I had with 1e AD&D with some house rules.

    But to focus, 2e love? I note that many started gaming with 2e but moved on. You may have a different view. Some have fond memories. But few came back or kept with 2e. That in and of itself is telling.

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  49. Not long ago, I decided to revisit 1st and 2nd edition to select one to run an AD&D campaign.

    What I saw, on re-read, is that for world-building, 1st ed DMG is unequivocably a better manual. Gygax is more entertaining to read than Cook.

    But 2nd edition has some real strengths. In terms of being able to customize settings, it offers rules for:
    - Specialist priests
    - Specialist wizards
    - Thieves with different skill progressions per level

    It eliminates or streamlines all of the complex rules I ignored in first edition, such as pummeling, weapon speed, weapon v. armor, and psionics.

    It makes the bard actually a fun, playable class.

    In short, it's a respectable update to the game. It's not perfect, but judged *solely as a set of rules* it does not deserve hatred.

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  50. "I was also appreciative of having more options and flexibility with character creation. Thieves being able to specialize in a particular skill, clerics actually having different spells, weapons, and special abilities, and wizards being able to specialize... but some people didn't care for that, I guess."

    In real D&D, you know what fighters can do, what clerics can do, what thieves of a given level can do, etc. If an AD&D player tells you he's running a 3rd level fighter, you have a really, really good idea what his character is like. Ability scores will vary, of course, as will magic items, but not much else.

    In post-Gygax D&D (2E or whatever), you have no friggin' clue. All these kits and feats and proficiencies and customizable thief abilities and cleric domains and specialist wizards just muddle the waters of what's supposed to be a simple game about a few basic archetypal character types.

    Whoever said 2E didn't know if it wanted to be classic D&D or some GURPSian ultra-fiddly character customization fest really hit the nail on the head. Especially with the conclusion that it succeeded at neither as a direct result of trying to do both.

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  51. You speak as if all of this is core cut and dried material for every game. It is not. I have run AD&D 2e without any kits and only used two extra books ( Arms and Equipment Guide and Tome of Magic). Not once did I see any confusion. Maybe the confusion is really between what was optional and want was core.

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  52. P.S. Since I just *know* that somebody is going to get their panties in a wad over the "real D&D"/2E distinction I made above, don't bother.

    I have a tendency to tie the value and validity of any creative work to the influence of their original creator(s). Just as don't feel any regret about only deeming A.C. Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories "real Holmes" or "true Holmes", I don't feel any about calling post-Gygax D&D as it is; a fundamentally less legitimate and worthwhile body of work, albeit possibly enjoyable on its own humble lesser merits.

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  53. "Maybe the confusion is really between what was optional and want was core."

    Specialist wizards/clerics, non-weapon proficiencies, and customizable thief abilities are call "core" 2E.

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  54. All improvements on the original system. Hands down it was better than what came prior.

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  55. I've always been proud of my love for 2E. As someone who started their tabletop gaming life with 1991's Black Box basic set & the Rules Cyclopedia, I quickly graduated to 2E very soon after. Yes, I agree, a fair amount of the supplements were fluff, & yes, all the Player's Options books were just plain system bloat(I never owned any myself), but all in all, the system is fast-paced, fun, & if you run with just the PH, DMG, & MM, 2E is as "Rules Lite" as you care to make it.

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  56. Alexander said "It eliminates or streamlines all of the complex rules I ignored in first edition, such as pummeling, weapon speed, weapon v. armor, and psionics."

    Which I think is an importnat point - a lot of 1e boosters simply ignored the overly complex subsystems that they didn't like, while 2e made those optional or did away with them. It is easy to say that 1e is an awesome game after you houserule away a ton of rules that should probably have never been written, but you don't really have to do that with 2e. I wish more games would present "optional" subsystems and give player's alternatives if they don't want to, say, use a skill system (paging 3e). On top of that, the 2e player's handbook is MUCH better organized than the 1e - whatever Gygax's strong suits were, I am not sure if organization was one of them.

    It seems like a lot of the people above who dislike 2e are not talking about the core rules but about the (godawful) splat books, the railroady modules and the fact that some of the settings (coughForgotten Realms) became WAY to crammed full of details through the release of endless boxed sets.

    The only real criticism of the actual rules that I see above based on my quick read through of the comments is the complaint about the neutering of the tone of 1e - which may be true to an extent. The 1e DMG has rules for the effects of drugs and alcohol, there are demons and devils and assassins, oh my. But does that really make the rule system itself any worse? I mean, if you want flavor, that is pretty much what 2e excelled at. Assassins? Al Qadim had a pretty cool take on them - much better, IMO, than 1e assassins. Outer planar adventuring? Planescape is pretty awesome, if for nothing else but the AMAZING ambience created by that artist (Di Terlizzi? Something like that?). Gritty dangerous fantasy? Dark sun is there for you, brother.

    In a way, it isn't really surprising that there are few modules released that transcended these worlds because the 2e player base was so fractured into all the different campaign settings, and so many of the worlds had such strong flavors that it was hard to adapt many of the modules to other settings.

    Which is also why I put in my vote for the Ruins of Undermountain in the earlier blog entry, because it can be lifted out from under Waterdeep and plopped down anywhere. A huge dungeon with a mad wizard continually gating in new monsters and changing around the defenses of the place can find a home anywhere :)

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  57. @will mistretta - NWP were not only optional, but only one of three options as I mentioned in my first post. One of the others was the method suggested in the 1e DMG. SO yes, NWP were core, but they were not, at the same time.

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  58. "The 1e DMG has rules for the effects of drugs and alcohol, there are demons and devils and assassins, oh my. But does that really make the rule system itself any worse?"

    False premise. There's simply more to a game than just its rules. Where would professional baseball be without the uniforms, the crack of the bat, footlongs and peanuts, little plastic cups of warm Budweiser, fans being able to catch home runs, that corny "Charge!" organ music, and the fat shirtless superfan who's painted himself the team colors in 40 degree drizzly weather? :)

    Because we're not robots, these "little" aesthetic things really do matter. A lot.

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  59. Specialist wizards/clerics, non-weapon proficiencies, and customizable thief abilities are call "core" 2E.

    That's pretty inaccurate. In actual fact only thief skill points were not optional, and even that is not altogether clear.

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  60. I don't remember making much of a distinction. Book editions were on the gaming table. And when someone said, "Can I see the player's for a second?" they got the one closest at hand.

    Looking back, most of the options (because that's what they are rather than rules, right?) we used were those common to both sets-- i.e. no assassins, NWPs, demons, or specialist wizards. truth is, maybe we were just playing "basic"! (without the demi-humans)

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  61. Will Mistretta said Because we're not robots, these "little" aesthetic things really do matter. A lot.

    Sure, but this baseball business strikes me as a false analogy. The things mentioned are part of the experience of baseball, but not part of the rules. Likewise, all of the "atmospheric" elements one missed from 1e could be very easily brought back in to 2e. Simply because there is no table for the effects of alcohol, it doesn't mean there's no beer to drink in a 2e campaign. To prefer 1e for those sorts of things is perfectly fine, of course. I just think that acting as though the lack of devils and alcohol rules is some sort of systemic failure of 2e is a bit much.

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  62. truth is, maybe we were just playing "basic"!

    My 1e group was really playing Basic. I didn’t really realize it until years later. (Others have said similar.) We played 2e more “by the book” than we played 1e.

    The only real criticism of the actual rules that I see above...”

    Like I said, I saw lots of good ideas that I found didn’t work out very well in play. I loved the idea of specialty priests, but eventually realized that they were really creating new classes, and creating new classes well is hard. (Or, at least, I found it so then.) The idea of specialist wizards I liked, but I found the rough shoe-horning of the idea over the 1e MU that it actually delivered felt as forced as it was.

    But these things were clearly marked as optional. Kind of ironic that we (i.e. my group) ignored lots of 1e that wasn’t marked as optional (because our Basic books had taught us that everything was optional) but used so much of 2e that was. ^_^

    For myself, I don’t hold supplements against a game. If you ask me about 2e, I’ll tell you my opinion of the “core” books. I’ll only tell you how I feel about a setting or a rules supplement or an adventure if you ask me specifically about those things.

    That said, I’ve been impressed by the HR series. Those are the only 2e-era books I’m interested in collecting.

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  63. Arrrghhh that's the last time I try to post a long thought out comprehensive comment. Anyway James my other post which somehow didn't make it was to say thank you James for giving people who enjoyed 2ed a chance to express why. I swaer my original post was both eloquent and intelligent, praising the wonders of both 1 and 2 ed.

    heheheh

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  64. "False premise. There's simply more to a game than just its rules. Where would professional baseball be without the uniforms, the crack of the bat, footlongs and peanuts, little plastic cups of warm Budweiser, fans being able to catch home runs, that corny "Charge!" organ music, and the fat shirtless superfan who's painted himself the team colors in 40 degree drizzly weather? :)"

    While I totally agree with you, I just think it is kind of a weak criticism of 2e to talk about its lack of flavor (or footlong hot dogs, for that matter), because I think it is pretty widely acknowledged that the one thing 2e did really well was provide you TONS of flavor in its settings. Is there less flavor dripping from the core rules? I would agree with that statement. Is 2e lacking in flavor compared to 1e? Not in the slightest. Pick your flavor, 2e has it. It just isn't packed in the core rules, it is in the settings. I personally feel like 2e couldn't have had all those varied settings (everything from flying around in space to the outer planes, and two deserts in between!) without removing some of the default flavor from the core rules.

    Word verification: demen. Oh, I see this is a 1e word verification you are using, James. I am slightly offended and expect my next word verification to be "tanar'ri"

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  65. "I personally feel like 2e couldn't have had all those varied settings (everything from flying around in space to the outer planes, and two deserts in between!) without removing some of the default flavor from the core rules."

    This is getting into the larger issue of whether prepackaged campaign world sets are secondary optional elements or some vital component of the game.

    For those of us who don't use them, there's no upside to "removing some of the default flavor from the core rules." And I don't think that's wise or proper, since the core rules are the one and only thing that are assumed to be used by all players.

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  66. I'll give it some love, I can't see the need for the hate. I played 1e for something like 8 years, and switched smoothly to 2nd. I don't think our group(s) made any real distinction about flavor or feel or atmosphere. We used some options, left a lot out, made up some house rules.

    System-bloat is not a problem for me. We ignored Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance entirely, nearly everyone I played with ran Greyhawk or Greyhawk-like homebrew worlds. {Me, I fell for Birthright when it appeared.} Maybe that's why I don't feel any hate. We did like most of the brown books (except the elves, we didn't like them in the first place) and all of the green books.

    When Player's Options appeared, we grabbed onto that and experimented with them. If 3e hadn't come along, I suspect my group would have regularly used 30-40% of the PO things, depending on the DM. They were similar to our own house rules, anyway.

    I have been playing 3e/3.5 since they came out, but there was some debate before it happened. We have not really adopted 4e as a group, and it may be a long time before we do. As we've aged, playing time (and rules-adaptation time) has dwindled a lot. I do not feel as comfortable as a 3.5 DM, rules-mastery-wise, as I did in 2e, and I think lack of time spent is a bigger reason than rules-intricacy. (I play Star Fleet Battles, I have +4 to saves vs. Fear of a rulebook!)

    I have sons 10 and 7, and I think I would like to try breaking them in with 2e first, especially when they want to read the books and take up DMing.

    Someone above commented that the 1e books are more fun to read, and another that the 2e books are much better organized. I *strongly* agree with both opinions.

    It may just be nostalgia, but I would like to give either (both!) editions a whirl again someday.

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  67. good point Will. Perhaps that is exactly why 2e will forever be remember for its settings, and not its rules.

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  68. I'll cop to liking AD&D2e. As Lee so rightly put it, 2e was better organized than 1e, at the cost of some of the Gygaxian charm.

    Also, 2e's idea of kits, especially the ones for clerics, was a basically sound way of diversifying character classes without adding new ones.

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  69. The problems arise when dislike for the game translates into personal attacks toward people who likes it, or people who worked on it. Tastes seem to become something objective. This is juvenile at best, pathetic at worst. I like 1e, 2e, classic etc. and I play them all. I would never dream of calling an "idiot" someone who plays 4e. I do not like it, and that's all. Yet, abrasive and offensive behaviour seems to be a "trademark" of some oldschooler.

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  70. Also, many oldschoolers seem to be more royalist than the king. Even Gary Gygax defined 2e as "a passable version of the game". And it seems that Frank Mentzer uses it along with 1e.

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  71. I will finally add that I "moved" from Mentzer to 2e, and only in the last 3 or 4 years I "discovered" 1e (it was not easy to get those books in Italy). Knowing 2e helped me a lot to understand 1e, at least in terms of rules, which for about 90% are the same. The flavor is definitely different as someone pointed out, but 2e took flavor from its settings, not something "built" into the rules, or the writing style of Gygax. I can also see where 1e material needed to be better organised. I never had problems with finding rules in the 2e books, whereas with 1e it's somewhat more of a "hunt". If I had to start playing AD&D with 1e, I would probably never got into the game (and the fact that my native language is not english would surely not help)

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  72. I have to agree. I don't dislike 2nd Ed, I dislike what 2nd Ed meant. Now I have fond memories of playing 2e when it first came out and the glee of getting those huge oversized Monstrous Compendium binders. But I hated the later end of 2e.

    One day maybe I'll pull down my 2E books again. Who knows really.

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  73. Anyway James my other post which somehow didn't make it was to say thank you James for giving people who enjoyed 2ed a chance to express why.

    You're very welcome. As I say, it's not my edition of choice, but so many people involved in the old school revival started off with it that, whatever flaws I perceive in it, they obviously weren't enough to snuff out an appreciation for the Old Ways. And that's what really counts.

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  74. Removing mature themed items from the game (assassins, half-orcs, demons, and devils) was just part of this shift.

    This must be some usage of the word 'mature' I'm not familiar with.

    AD&D's handling of those topics has never, ever been 'mature.' That's just PR gobbledygook. This usage does shine a light on one of the cultural archaisms of D&D though: the 'pulp morality' that let(s) grownups feel good about playing in a fantasy world in which good, evil, law, and chaos were clearly labelled, by allowing them to play characters who were Just Not Very Nice.

    I'm not trolling here, just trying to point out that when people talk about 'paradigm shifts' and 'major changes' they're describing a much smaller-scale conceptual transition than they think they are. Marketing juvenilia to children instead of marketing juvenilia to adults sounds more like honesty than betrayal to me.

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  75. I've long considered 2E to be a ruleset outclassed by its setting material. To speak deepest heresy 3E is about what 2E should have been if it wanted to be anything more than "AD&D revised".

    I can't bring myself to actively dislike the edition that gave us material like Planescape, Dark Sun, Birthright, Al-Qadim, etc.

    To be honest though, even when we had the 2E books we were really always playing a cargo cult mash-up of BD&D/1E during the 2E era.

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  76. I also think there is much to the “between two worlds” thing. 2e had a lot of good ideas that—for me—weren’t implemented well or didn’t go far enough.

    This is a concern for D&D throughout the last two decades actually - long predating 2e. OD&D and AD&D were never much as simulations, but were also unwieldy tools ill-suited to complex 'roleplaying.' They clearly wanted to solve certain problems, but it's not clear to me which those might be.

    2e attempted to remedy this situation by providing lots of raw story material; 3e attempted to solve it by rationalizing mechanics and balancing the math (to make customization and the like easier, among other reasons).

    Meanwhile both systems were surpassed in every measure - GURPS had the swell crunch and variety, any of a dozen systems had the flavour, games like Over the Edge and Feng Shui pushed forward toward storytelling mechanics that materially aided storytelling, etc. White Wolf showed, if nothing else, that power fantasies needn't involve swords and sorcery (along with WW's mechanics/design innovations - have you ever read one of the scenarios from the new Changeling game? They're bracing stuff).

    To say nothing of actually mature systems like Call of Cthulhu.

    The D&D line has always contained a healthy dose of neat ideas. But D&D has rarely been the go-to game for elegant implementations of design ideas.

    (Though I'd argue that that's no longer true. But never mind.)

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  77. To speak deepest heresy 3E is about what 2E should have been if it wanted to be anything more than "AD&D revised".

    Yes.

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  78. The most common theme is that the settings were the strength of 2nd edition. I think that's getting it backwards.

    Rather, the neutral tone of the rules books (i.e., mostly divorced of Gary speak and Greyhawk specific material) is its greatest strength because it allows those rules to be applied better to various styles of play whether they be survival fantasy, pulp fantasy, pirate adventure, space fantasy, whatever you care to play.

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  79. @Hamlet -

    I made that point above, and then Will pointed out that
    "there's no upside to 'removing some of the default flavor from the core rules.' And I don't think that's wise or proper, since the core rules are the one and only thing that are assumed to be used by all players."

    I still agree with you that the more neutral tone of the core rules allowed 2e to go some many wildly different places, not just for published campaign worlds but for your own if you wanted to create them. I also think that Will's point is a good one and probably points to a conscious decision by TSR to push consumers towards buying published campaign settings. The PHB and DMG are less inspiring, IMO, for a potential worldbuilder.

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  80. Carl: I must have missed your comment above. Things seem to get kind of crotchety around here some of the time and it makes things a bit frenetic.;)

    I've said before in other places that Gary's style, voice, and intent are quite overbearing, even if you enjoy them. Sometimes, I really want to play 1e games, and for that I'll grab my old books. But for the most part, I like a more neutral book to which I can apply anything else I want.

    As for the mercantalism bent of TSR in that day . . . I can only say this:

    WELL DUH!

    I'll never defend what TSR did in some ways. They truly took the comodification of fun to absurd levels compared to what had gone before, though it still pales compared to the supplement of the week attitude of 3.x and 4e. In a lot of ways, it was a very bad thing, but I will say that if it weren't for that style, D&D would probably have died entirely at that point and would never have made it to the point where WOTC could have picked it up.

    In a twisted and evil sort of way, Williams saved D&D.

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  81. This is a concern for D&D throughout the last two decades actually...”

    You know, Wally, there was a time when I think I would’ve agreed whole-heartedly with everything you wrote in that comment. Today, however, I genuinely prefer classic D&D to GURPS. (Not to mention a good number of other games on my shelf.)

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  82. I don't remember making much of a distinction. Book editions were on the gaming table. And when someone said, "Can I see the player's for a second?" they got the one closest at hand.

    This is true for me as well, though more applicable to the DMG. The things TSR failed to carry forward into 2E I continued to use from 1E, particularly the "idea and adjective" indexes of the DMG, including:

    Appendix G: Traps
    Appendix H: Tricks
    Appendix I: Dungeon Dressing
    Appendix J: Herbs, Spices and Medicinal Vegetables
    Appendix K: Describing Magic Substances

    Appendix N (Inspirational and Educational Reading) should have been republished as well.

    One of the things each successive version of D&D increasingly fails at is education, about itself and the things its based on. Players can also no longer expect or hope to have the game "hook into" real world knowledge from the game at all, about armor, weapons, herbs, history or anything else. In some cases it even misinforms; somewhere, someone thinks the Urgosh is a "real" weapon and belladonna is the classic cure for lycanthropy.

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  83. What's interesting is at the time 2nd ed was king (because its got D&D on the cover and is thus the de facto most popular RPG regardless of quality as it pretty much has been since 79 or so..) nobody really cared if it was first or 2nd ed. We al pretty much used all the books together. UA, 1st ed MM, Basic... we just took whatever the hell we wanted and didn't really care. It all worked together and nobody ever played AD&D with the full on rules as Gary had wrote.

    (Mainly because playing full on AD&D with all of Gary's will was something nobody I ever met would want to endure. It would be like playing full on Advanced Squad Leader.)

    I ran it closer to the Gold Box series except without minis. Most other DMs were about the same.

    2nd ed was actually far more readable and usable than 1st ed, and many things most people ignored anyhow were in nice optional rules boxes.

    If anything 2nd ed's biggest flaw was that it was too close to 1st ed, instead of being closer to the streamlined awesome of Moldvay/Mentzer/Cook Basic D&D which is more how most people really played it.

    Plus these oh so horrible complete books and the Player's Option series?

    I don't think I EVER saw anyone use a kit or a power in them. I was the only one I knew to use anything out of one, and that was the Humanoids book and its selection of more PC races. Not the powers or kits.

    My distaste for 2nd is really a distaste for AD&D 1 and 2 in general.

    Once you see games like Call of Cthulhu and D6 Star Wars the needlessly complex for no reason, fidgety, and Garyism filled AD&D games with its multitude of resolution mechanics that really could have been a base percentile system just falls flat to me.

    Plus I got into RPGs from the electronic side and things like racial and gender based limits on classes never made any bloody sense to begin with.

    See 1st ed worshippers? Even in the 80s lots of people found AD&D's idiosyncracies stupid and pointless.

    (What a better gaming world we would have if Tunnels & Trolls or Runequest had managed to pull ahead or equal with D&D in mindshare...)

    And now we just get to argue 4 editions worth of differences with each other online, with every group seemingly disdaining every other one.

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  84. "They changed A, and left out B, and ..."
    Hold on. How did you know this?
    "What do you mean? I had my 1E books!"
    Ah. Please continue. 'And ...'
    "Uh, yeah ... and they put out all these option books and settings ..."
    Hold on. So, you had A and B, but somehow could not use them; and you did not have these other things, yet somehow were forced to use them? How does that work?
    "Well, uh, like, you ever see The Wizard of Oz? Yeah? You know those winged monkey things the Wicked Witch had? Right, so TSR had a whole army of them, man. They'd swoop down, and, and the next thing I knew, I was in a store, see, and I, I just couldn't help myself! For the love of God, stop me before I buy again! Aaaagh!"

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  85. "Even in the 80s lots of people found AD&D's idiosyncracies stupid and pointless."

    Yes, but there's no accounting for taste. I'm sure there are people out there who hate chocolate, sex, and the music of Beethoven.

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  86. (9_9)

    Who said they were forced to use anything? I wholeheartedly embraced 2e when it came out. 3e as well. I enjoyed them both. Am I bound to now not admit to not liking anything about them? In any case, I’d much rather read criticism from someone who actually gave a game an honest try.

    RPGs are a coöperative activity, so not every individual at the table gets to play with exactly the set of rules they want to. I happily leave the choice of rules up to whoever is willing to GM. Does that take away my right to comment on those rules?

    And who ever denied that there were people in the ’80s that didn’t like 1e? I was one of those people. But I now feel that in many ways I was unfair to those rules, and I no longer feel that other games are clearly superior as I once did.

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  87. I don't think I EVER saw anyone use a kit or a power in them. I was the only one I knew to use anything out of one, and that was the Humanoids book and its selection of more PC races. Not the powers or kits.

    Excellent recollection... I never did either. I abhorred kits; hate prestige classes almost as much. I never cared for multiclassing either and that's an unpopular position with players. Give me base classes! But the combinations (along with race) are more ridiculous than they've ever been. I mean what is a half-dragon fighter/rogue/cleric/wizard anyway if not just plain confused?

    Word verification: reekin. How prophetic. ;)

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  88. It is ridiculous and rather pitiful that the very small gaming community tends to splinter into mutually hostile subcamps based upon arcane disagreements about which rules system is optimal.

    The rules are just an interface. D&D is fun because it brings intelligent and imaginative people together in the collective creation of an epic fantasy saga. If you do it right, that saga is more compelling than a mere novel, because the players' strategic creativity and roleplaying flair take the narrative in unexpected directions, with results that range from comic to tragic to truly inspiring.

    Squabbles over rules systems only contribute to the continued anemia of our already marginalized, misunderstood, stigmatized and maligned hobby. Given the degree of external intolerance our pastime faces, we would be wise to be more tolerant of one another.

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  89. i created a site to celebrate AD&D 2nd edition and to argue that, in some ways, it was better than current D&D (from 3.0 on).

    For those who are able to read italian language, it's here:

    http://addsecondaedizione.blogspot.com/

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