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OSR Differential Characteristics of OSR/TSR D&D versus WotC/Paizo D&D

  • Descending AC and THAC0. (My impression is that most OSR games have abandoned this.)
  • Nonhuman races have level limits.
  • Emphasis on domain-level play after 9th, divine ascension after 30th in Classic.
  • Preparing spells took much more time, and a high-level spellcaster who had cast everything might take days recovering.
  • Magic items were vulnerable to area attacks and could easily be destroyed.

First off I note that your favourite era was my favourite era of D&D also. Though I did enjoy 4E and enjoy 5E also (I did not enjoy 3E, overall).

I think these are the weakest identifiers for how AD&D was actually played, at least in the 2E era. I also think there's such a stark difference in how people who started in the 1970s and early 1980s played, and people who started in the late 1980s and 1990s played that it's more like there are at least three eras here. The very dungeon-crawl-y, gritty, sometimes monty-haul, sometimes just mean-spirited era of 1E, and the more role-playing-oriented, more story-oriented, less dungeon-centered play of 2E, before 3E, where mechanics took center stage more than they ever did before.

THAC0 was trash. No rules-related moment in 2E was better than when, in the late 1990s, we did was a lot of groups were doing, and simply flipped THAC0 and AC so it was an attack bonus and ACs went up. This had absolutely zero impact on how the game felt, atmosphere-wise, but it made game run faster, and make more sense to people.

Nobody actually enforced racial level limits. I mean, I'm sure someone did, but I played with quite a number of groups, and spoke to people on the early internet about this a lot, and it was not something people actually enforced. Particularly as they were levels rarely reached and if the High Elf does hit his cap as a Fighter or whatever, are you seriously going to say "Well that's that for you buddy!" whilst the rest of the group keeps leveling? You are not going to say that. You are going to make an exception, which is what people did. Or a Wish or or divine blessing or something will get involved.

Domain-level play? In 1E I can believe it, but in 2E? Nah. As Quentin said, people didn't actually play it like that. It was nice to have it as an option, and the idea was not unsound, but it wasn't really a thing in any 2E group I played in. The design of 2E settings other than the admittedly-wonderful Birthright tended to reflect this.

Preparing spells taking forever also didn't get enforced in 2E. I suspect most groups weren't even really aware of the rule.

Finally, magic items being vulnerable was one of those things that only got remembered when it was dramatically convenient for either the DM or the PCs. The DM would suddenly realize actually, he could destroy a bunch of items he foolishly gave out, or the PCs would be like "Well we fireballed that dude, so his staff should be toast!" (even though they'd be appalled if the same applied to them). That was definitely not consistently applied that I ever witnessed.
 

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Zardnaar

Legend
First off I note that your favourite era was my favourite era of D&D also. Though I did enjoy 4E and enjoy 5E also (I did not enjoy 3E, overall).

I think these are the weakest identifiers for how AD&D was actually played, at least in the 2E era. I also think there's such a stark difference in how people who started in the 1970s and early 1980s played, and people who started in the late 1980s and 1990s played that it's more like there are at least three eras here.

THAC0 was trash. No rules-related moment in 2E was better than when, in the late 1990s, we did was a lot of groups were doing, and simply flipped THAC0 and AC so it was an attack bonus and ACs went up. This had absolutely zero impact on how the game felt, atmosphere-wise, but it made game run faster, and make more sense to people.

Nobody actually enforced racial level limits. I mean, I'm sure someone did, but I played with quite a number of groups, and spoke to people on the early internet about this a lot, and it was not something people actually enforced. Particularly as they were levels rarely reached and if the High Elf does hit his cap as a Fighter or whatever, are you seriously going to say "Well that's that for you buddy!" whilst the rest of the group keeps leveling? You are not going to say that. You are going to make an exception, which is what people did. Or a Wish or or divine blessing or something will get involved.

Domain-level play? In 1E I can believe it, but in 2E? Nah. As Quentin said, people didn't actually play it like that. It was nice to have it as an option, and the idea was not unsound, but it wasn't really a thing in any 2E group I played in. The design of 2E settings other than the admittedly-wonderful Birthright tended to reflect this.

Preparing spells taking forever also didn't get enforced in 2E. I suspect most groups weren't even really aware of the rule.

Finally, magic items being vulnerable was one of those things that only got remembered when it was dramatically convenient for either the DM or the PCs. The DM would suddenly realize actually, he could destroy a bunch of items he foolishly gave out, or the PCs would be like "Well we fireballed that dude, so his staff should be toast!" (even though they'd be appalled if the same applied to them). That was definitely not consistently applied that I ever witnessed.

Acid bolt spell (Drow if the Underdark 2E) specifically nuked items carried.

Nailed a holy avenger with it. PC almost cried delicious pubbie tears fuel me;).

Let him quest for a new one. I'm not that mean but I'm a fan of bad stuff can happen. Not mean enough for bad stuff will happen.
 

Acid bolt spell (Drow if the Underdark 2E) specifically nuked items carried.

Nailed a holy avenger with it. PC almost cried delicious pubbie tears fuel me;).

Let him quest for a new one.

Brutal but yeah that was notable because it called that out as a thing it did - which makes my point re: inconsistency stronger I think. It was downright weird and a bit mean that this one spell did actually destroy magic items, when DMs would hem and haw over whether others did.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Brutal but yeah that was notable because it called that out as a thing it did - which makes my point re: inconsistency stronger I think. It was downright weird and a bit mean that this one spell did actually destroy magic items, when DMs would hem and haw over whether others did.

I applied it.

I set up 3 treasure chests. The one with elven cloak and boots plus potions had glyph of warding flamestrikes on it. They didn't bother checking/ cast detect magic and cloth magic items and potions had terrible saves vs fire.

Shrugs.
 

I think my most brutal magic item destruction was a pretty low-level one when a L2 or L3-ish party raiding some ancient temple they had to climb down a rope to get into (like 80'), and after lots of monsters, they found a bunch of potions, which the Cleric* who was leading them insisted on putting all of into his backpack. They had to leave by climbing up the rope, which they all did, with him last. He insisted he would keep his plate mail on whilst climbing the rope, and that despite going up last, he would not, as they offered, be pulled up - it was undignified.

Obviously he managed to fall off about 30' up and I ruled that he smashed all the potions, and I didn't even feel a little bit bad. He had quite a lot of potions - I think all the ones the party had collected in 2-3 adventures up to that point, and this was 2E so potions were all over the place in pre-gen adventures.

* = (one of the very few actual Clerics I saw in 2E, almost every other Priest was some sort of Speciality Priest or other variant - I saw more Mystics than Clerics!)
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I think my most brutal magic item destruction was a pretty low-level one when a L2 or L3-ish party raiding some ancient temple they had to climb down a rope to get into (like 80'), and after lots of monsters, they found a bunch of potions, which the Cleric* who was leading them insisted on putting all of into his backpack. They had to leave by climbing up the rope, which they all did, with him last. He insisted he would keep his plate mail on whilst climbing the rope, and that despite going up last, he would not, as they offered, be pulled up - it was undignified.

Obviously he managed to fall off about 30' up and I ruled that he smashed all the potions, and I didn't even feel a little bit bad. He had quite a lot of potions - I think all the ones the party had collected in 2-3 adventures up to that point, and this was 2E so potions were all over the place in pre-gen adventures.

* = (one of the very few actual Clerics I saw in 2E, almost every other Priest was some sort of Speciality Priest or other variant - I saw more Mystics than Clerics!)

We only had clerics early in 2E.

Once we discovered Complete Priests and the Faith's and Avatars trilogy they disappeared.
My holy avenger PC wasn't a Paladin but one of the Mulhorand specialty priests.

5E domain system a bit on the boring side.
 

Yardiff

Adventurer
I think my most brutal magic item destruction was a pretty low-level one when a L2 or L3-ish party raiding some ancient temple they had to climb down a rope to get into (like 80'), and after lots of monsters, they found a bunch of potions, which the Cleric* who was leading them insisted on putting all of into his backpack. They had to leave by climbing up the rope, which they all did, with him last. He insisted he would keep his plate mail on whilst climbing the rope, and that despite going up last, he would not, as they offered, be pulled up - it was undignified.

Obviously he managed to fall off about 30' up and I ruled that he smashed all the potions, and I didn't even feel a little bit bad. He had quite a lot of potions - I think all the ones the party had collected in 2-3 adventures up to that point, and this was 2E so potions were all over the place in pre-gen adventures.

* = (one of the very few actual Clerics I saw in 2E, almost every other Priest was some sort of Speciality Priest or other variant - I saw more Mystics than Clerics!)


Did you roll to see what happened when all those potions mixed in the backpack?
 

Did you roll to see what happened when all those potions mixed in the backpack?

I did, but as I recall it was nothing exciting/applicable, which disappointed me.

We only had clerics early in 2E.

We had Specialty Priests from the get-go due to our first settings being Taladas and The Forgotten Realms (the latter via Forgotten Realms Adventures, which did an amazing job on Specialty Priests), so Clerics never really got a look in.

And yeah Faiths and Avatars, Powers and Pantheons, and Demihuman Deities (all sitting on the chair next to me right now!) arriving in later 2E ensured it was Specialty Priests forever. I guess that's another thing that for me makes the 2E era kind of distinct from the older D&D and 1E eras - characters could become much more specialized, much more particular. You had vastly more options, and the options were more complex.

And then Skills & Powers and so on went even further with this (as the OP of this thread noted), so I really see three major eras of D&D, and later 2E is much less distinct from 3E than some might suggest. The big difference with 3E is really the combination of rule-unification (d20s for everything) with "a rule for everything", which actually significantly limited, rather than expanded, combat options, I found and which Pathfinder expanded upon (even having modifiers for stuff like the handedness of stairs you are fighting up), but which 4E and 5E abandoned in favour of fewer, more generalized rules (Advantage/Disadvantage being the sort of apotheosis of this).
 
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