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D&D 2E Edition Experience - Did/Do you Play AD&D 2E? How Was/Is It?

How Did/Do You Feel About 2nd Edition AD&D?

  • I'm playing it right now; I'll have to let you know later.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I'm playing it right now and so far, I don't like it.

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    198
2E is the D&D we played most of. I got it not that long after it came out in 1989, assuming that the 2nd edition of something had to be better than the 1st (I feel I was vindicated in this, despite not playing 1E until a year or two later), and we kept playing it right until 3E came out. Most of the people I was playing with by 1993, I'm still playing with now (though there are others too).

My experience was that 2E was a flawed game, but an excellent one, and one that dramatically improved over the 1990s. I mean, by 1993, we'd actually mostly drifted away from D&D, into games like Vampire, Werewolf, Shadowrun, Earthdawn, Cyberpunk 2020 and many others. But then Planescape came out in 1994, and the Skills & Powers books, and the Complete books were improving (had been since 1992), and we'd got the Monstrous Compendium (instead of the ghastly binder monster book), and gave AD&D a second lease of life for us. We still played other games, but we pretty much had a D&D game going from when Planescape came out until 3E came out, and it is because of Planescape that that was the case. It made D&D "cool again", even when weren't playing Planescape (which was most of the time). I mean, it was such a 1990s thing, Planescape, it doesn't fit in well now (hilariously the general approach and what it's interested in seems almost counterculture to 2020), but given it was the 1990s, that worked.

Rules-wise, as noted, it kept improving. 2E seemed okay in 1989, but by 1992 even it looks terrible, rules-wise, compared to more modern games. Very limited. Gradually the "complete" books changed that, and Skills & Powers and so on overthrew it. Then you had the multi-volume spells and magic items books, which were a tremendous resource. Because they added to 2E, and opened it up, though, we kept playing it. By 1998 we'd done pre-3E stuff like turning THAC0 into +to hit, and inverting proficiencies and saves so they were roll-overs, which helped.

So yeah, my experience of 2E was kind of that it was an amazing introduction to RPGs, had amazing settings, gradually started to look a bit dumb/dated, and then Planescape + loads of books opening up the rules and adding tons of content made it cool again.

I've heard that from a few people. I've heard them described as an early "Unearthed Arcana": tons of options of varying levels of quality and balance.

That's definitely true, but at their worst, they were still typically far better than the house-rules and homebrew and so on you'd see people posting on the internet (people were just objectively worse at games back then), and they were huge because they opened up tons of stuff that was totally locked-down before that. They changed how people thought about the game.

Plus, let's be real - a lot of the core rules themselves were of extremely dubious quality and balance. Acting like S&P was bad, but basic 2E was solid is really dodgy.
 

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Shroompunk Warlord

Archdruid of the Warp Zones
I've heard that from a few people. I've heard them described as an early "Unearthed Arcana": tons of options of varying levels of quality and balance.

Yes, that's precisely what they were-- they were 2e's answer to the Unearthed Arcana of 1e and 3.5 and they functioned very similarly... like Unearthed Arcana 1e and unlike the 3.5 version, you technically can use all of the options at once, but you really shouldn't.

For instance, I use the Character Points system for WPs/NWPs... weapon mastery and martial arts from Combat & Tactics... and a lot of the Mage/Priest options from Spells & Magic...

... but I don't use Subabilities, I don't use the Proficiency Score system, and I don't actually let players engage the race/class customization options without a lot of restrictions and hand-holding. Plus, you can only use so many of the optional non-Vancian spellcasting systems at the same time without explodiating the number of classes.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I played 2E until I got sick of it and moved on to other roleplaying games for a while (mostly WEG Star Wars and WW Vampire). I got a bit tired of D&D "being in a rut" with the class-based system while most other "modern" RPGs were going to an ala carte menu of choices to build characters.

Still, if I was to go back to a previous version of the game these days, 2E would be my version of choice. I'd likely stick with just the "core" books, maybe some of the earlier Complete books, but not any of the Player Option books. And while I'd happily use any of the 2E game worlds, I'd steer clear of the modules for 1E or homebrew fare - most of the 2E modules were railroads and/or tried to be too grounded and failed to account for the fantastic elements of a non-medieval fantasy world.

However, this was the edition I got myself published ("The Winter Tapestry" in Dungeon), which had been what I'd dreamed of doing since I started playing D&D. Unfortunately, it happened a few months before TSR went bankrupt, so I backed away from my dream of working as a game designer.
 

Mepher

Adventurer
However, this was the edition I got myself published ("The Winter Tapestry" in Dungeon), which had been what I'd dreamed of doing since I started playing D&D. Unfortunately, it happened a few months before TSR went bankrupt, so I backed away from my dream of working as a game designer.

Nice. Dungeon #78. Will have to check out your adventure.

Actually I removed the link because i'm not sure on the status of old Dragon/Dungeon magazines but anyone can easily google it and check it out.
 

Mepher

Adventurer
I'd steer clear of the modules for 1E or homebrew fare - most of the 2E modules were railroads and/or tried to be too grounded and failed to account for the fantastic elements of a non-medieval fantasy world.

I am guessing that you meant to say that you would steer clear except for the 1E? I ran almost exclusively homebrew for 30 years. A few years of 5E got me trying some published modules and I have been pretty disappointed in the quality. Lately I have been diving head first into old 1E modules and they are pure gold. There are some real treasures there.

I just actually picked up 2 modules today and they should be here next week. I first learned about them a couple days ago and the reviews for Cairn of the Skeleton King made me email Black Blade Publishing to see if they still had copies. Sure enough they did and I bought it plus the followup. We'll see if they are as good as the reviews but the story for CotSK sounds great.


1586452615446blob.png1586453228284blob.png
 

With all of the talk about the Golden Age of Gaming, and all of the retro-clones floating around, it's made me curious about the older editions of the game. I'm curious how many folks on ENWorld have ever played these older editions, and what their level of satisfaction was. Or is, if you are one of the rare birds that are still rocking it O.G. Style.

This week I'd like to examine the AD&D 2nd Edition. Have you played it before? or are you still playing it? What do you think about it?

By "played," I mean that you've been either a player or a DM for at least one gaming session. By "playing," I mean you have an ongoing gaming group that still actively plays this version, however occasionally. And for the purpose of this survey, I'm only referring to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition set, first published in 1989 and updated through 1995. You remember it; it was the version with a knight on the cover, and had "2nd Edtion" printed on it in bold red letters...this one right here:

View attachment 120691

Note that this edition is different from the 1st Edition AD&D game, which was released in 1977 and had a ruby-eyed statue on the cover. That was a completely different survey (see below).

Feel free to add nuance in your comments, but let's not have an edition war over this. I'm really just interested in hearing peoples' stories of playing the "Advanced" rules, and what they remembered (for better or worse) about it.

Next week we will tackle the post-TSR Era of Dungeons & Dragons, beginning with the 3rd Edition rules. So if that's your flavor of choice, stay tuned!

Other Surveys
OD&D
Basic D&D
B/X D&D
AD&D 1E
BECMI / Rules Cyclopedia
2e was disappointing in the sense that AD&D was FAR behind in terms of the state of the art by 1989, clunky, poorly matched to the style of game it attempted, etc. 2E basically made it worse, not better!
OTOH it's D&D, which has a bunch of positive advantages. TSR larded a lot of cruft on top of 2e which pretty much didn't deliver mechanically. I guess you can argue that birthed 3e, which finally provides coherent core rules (for good or bad).
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
2e was where I started, around 1994 or 95, and when you count the multiple simultaneous campaigns, 24+ hour sessions, and general pleasant chaos of youth, I probably still played it more altogether than every other edition or game put together. The various rules add-ons were truly modular; none depended on anything else and they were all independent.

That setup prompted a LOT of experimentation and bending of rules, which was even more heavily and explicitly encouraged back then. To play the game WAS to write the game, and it was great.

I feel sorry for those who have either come into the hobby since WotC started trying to codify everything but breathing into discrete rules and set up the unified mechanic that by its nature started discouraging real innovation and progress.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I am guessing that you meant to say that you would steer clear except for the 1E? I ran almost exclusively homebrew for 30 years. A few years of 5E got me trying some published modules and I have been pretty disappointed in the quality. Lately I have been diving head first into old 1E modules and they are pure gold. There are some real treasures there.

I just actually picked up 2 modules today and they should be here next week. I first learned about them a couple days ago and the reviews for Cairn of the Skeleton King made me email Black Blade Publishing to see if they still had copies. Sure enough they did and I bought it plus the followup. We'll see if they are as good as the reviews but the story for CotSK sounds great.


View attachment 120842View attachment 120843
Yeah, 1E modules (and most B/X) are fairly good (they do have their oddities as well), but most of the 2E modules suffered mostly because A) the designers attempted to put them in a mundane, humdrum world and B) assumed the players were "stupid good" and would blindly follow abusive NPCs (who would betray them at some point in the adventure) and take on adventure because "it was the right thing to do", even when the smart thing was to walk the other direction or triple the asking price for undertaking the quest. 1E adventures were more the thing that a reaver like Conan might get drawn into, where 2E adventures were saturday morning cartoon fare.
 


Orius

Adventurer
Did I play 2e?

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Does that answer the question? (Tome of Magic not pictured)

Since I first played in 1993, 2e would have been the edition I played eventually. D&D finally got discontinued, and the 1e stuff was pretty much OOP by then.

Of the classic pre-3e rulesets, it's my edition of choice. But it needs houseruling. Honestly, I'd rather play 3.0, but any future 2e games would start with core on top followed by some Player's Option material, and then elements from the splats.
 

Shroompunk Warlord

Archdruid of the Warp Zones
Of the classic pre-3e rulesets, it's my edition of choice. But it needs houseruling. Honestly, I'd rather play 3.0, but any future 2e games would start with core on top followed by some Player's Option material, and then elements from the splats.

The PHBRs are great for flavor but mechanically... eeeeeeee. I mostly use them for guidance, as a DM, for using the Player's Option books to design classes-- they're invaluable for really nailing down the alternate race/class selection that I'm trying to implement.
 

Karsten

Villager
I was introduced to this game back in early 90's with 2ed rules. Ever since I have not changed.
2nd edition along with some house ruling is by far the best set to play....and still today I follow this path.

The most played by me are FR, Planescape and Ravenloft.

In all honesty I do not like any other edition (3rd and on) as I consider them to be heavily "computer" oriented.
 

I played 2E until I got sick of it and moved on to other roleplaying games for a while (mostly WEG Star Wars and WW Vampire). I got a bit tired of D&D "being in a rut" with the class-based system while most other "modern" RPGs were going to an ala carte menu of choices to build characters.

Still, if I was to go back to a previous version of the game these days, 2E would be my version of choice. I'd likely stick with just the "core" books, maybe some of the earlier Complete books, but not any of the Player Option books. And while I'd happily use any of the 2E game worlds, I'd steer clear of the modules for 1E or homebrew fare - most of the 2E modules were railroads and/or tried to be too grounded and failed to account for the fantastic elements of a non-medieval fantasy world.

However, this was the edition I got myself published ("The Winter Tapestry" in Dungeon), which had been what I'd dreamed of doing since I started playing D&D. Unfortunately, it happened a few months before TSR went bankrupt, so I backed away from my dream of working as a game designer.

Wow, a testament to how big a backlog of accepted modules Dungeon had, if you had the module accepted in 1997 (when TSR went bust), and it wasn't published till 3 years late. (Issue #78, Jan/Feb 2000)
 

Stormonu

Legend
Wow, a testament to how big a backlog of accepted modules Dungeon had, if you had the module accepted in 1997 (when TSR went bust), and it wasn't published till 3 years late. (Issue #78, Jan/Feb 2000)

Gah! Been a while (damn, 20 years ago!) and I must have gotten my timelines somewhat mixed, but I still have the acceptance letter from Jan 6, 1999 (after 3 previous months of working on it). Second best day of my life to see it in print.
 

Gah! Been a while (damn, 20 years ago!) and I must have gotten my timelines somewhat mixed, but I still have the acceptance letter from Jan 6, 1999 (after 3 previous months of working on it). Second best day of my life to see it in print.

Oh, don't worry, I actually wasn't disbelieving you! I knew they had backlogs, I just thought 3 years was long - but put it down to TSR's troubles. 1999 and then published in 2000 is actually much closer together than I imagined. Christopher Perkins had so many modules accepted that the magazine was publishing them for every single issue even AFTER he became editor.
 

2e was where I started, around 1994 or 95, and when you count the multiple simultaneous campaigns, 24+ hour sessions, and general pleasant chaos of youth, I probably still played it more altogether than every other edition or game put together. The various rules add-ons were truly modular; none depended on anything else and they were all independent.

That setup prompted a LOT of experimentation and bending of rules, which was even more heavily and explicitly encouraged back then. To play the game WAS to write the game, and it was great.

I feel sorry for those who have either come into the hobby since WotC started trying to codify everything but breathing into discrete rules and set up the unified mechanic that by its nature started discouraging real innovation and progress.

See, there are two schools on this matter (maybe more, nobody feel left out, please ;) ). FOR ME, who started playing in the mid-70's with the LBBs, 2e felt very packaged. I look at it now and what I see is a bunch of disconnected and not really integrated parts that required an amazing amount of effort to even use, as-is. Whereas everything from 3e onward (definitely 4e onward) provides all the basic tools, and a solid formula for extensions. I can spend my creative resources on the things that matter, not on how the heck to munge together all the 9 different systems for martial arts that exist in 2e+OA...
Maybe because I got to playing D&D when the first bits of the rulebook literally said "this is just some material you can use to make a fantastical fantasy wargaming campaign" but FOR ME there's no question of not being able to just add whatever I want, nor any reason not to, maybe beyond "someone else is already doing this better than I can, so I will go use their version", which is legitimate, but a WIN in my book, as now I can do some other crazy thing. Speaking at least of 4e (I am no expert on 5e, don't really play it much) but there are a HUGE amount of areas where you can exercise your own creativity in terms of material and even subsystems.
 

MGibster

Legend
I started playing 1st edition but it was 2nd edition where I started spending my hard earned money to purchase books. $18 for a PHB was a lot of money when I was 13. It's been more than twenty years since I've played 2nd edition so memories of specific rules are a bit fuzzy but I do remember liking it. What I remember most about 2nd edition is that it was the golden age of settings. Ravenloft, Dark Sun, Birthright, Al-Qadim, and Planescape were all pretty darned good.
 

MGibster

Legend
And I will both criticize and praise kits. I think the idea behind kits was to further customize your character and I generally like that in any game I play. There were a lot of kits there were uninteresting, some that were overpowered, and some that were just weird. I mean the Amazon one was completely odd to me in a setting where female fighters weren't uncommon. I think the Amazon kit gave women a bonus to fighting men who were unfamiliar with the concept of women fighters. Even in the 1990s, the idea of a woman being a fighter wasn't exactly shocking.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I think the Amazon kit gave women a bonus to fighting men who were unfamiliar with the concept of women fighters. Even in the 1990s, the idea of a woman being a fighter wasn't exactly shocking.

Maybe, but for those DMs who want to portray a "historical" setting (whether sincerely or as a cover for their own male chauvinism), the character could reasonably claim to get more mileage out of that option.
 

Ulfgeir

Adventurer
I played in a long campaign back when it came out. I do recall that I wasn't quite that fond of THAC0. But it was better than 1e.

Have played all versions of D&D as far as I recall. I wouldn't mind playing it again, but I think 5e is much better. Only version I wouldn't play again is 4e. That was a computergame without a computer.
 

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