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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

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Marc_C

Solo Role Playing
Played it. Loved it. My preferred TSR edition. Used AD&D2e to run my longest and most successful campaign. Characters were a paladin, a cleric, a thief, a wizard and a ranger. It concluded properly at level 12. Only 5e may surpass it. Will know only once we can play face to face again after Covid.
 

auburn2

Explorer
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
D&D 3E
D&D 4E
Survey Results (24 Apr 2020)
It is good. It is not nearly as good as 5E but it is better than 3E IMO.

2E is very close to 1E in a lot of respects and it cleaned up some of the things in 1E. I like the 2E classes and races better, but in most other respects I like 1E better. When I played it, it was early in 2E and we were using mostly 1E adventures and incoprorated the canges into an ongoing 1E campaign.
 


Stormonu

Legend
My memory may be failing but I think this was 1E. In 2E a Rogue decided what abilities to invest in, so he could be much better than 10% at disarming traps at level 1.
Yeah, but it wasn't much better. I think at most you could sink 15% into the base at 1st level, at the expense of all your other skills.

I do remember one game where the player of the Thief balked about being sent first, as his chance was so low to notice the trap and if he failed, it'd kill him.

The paladin's reply was, "You have a chance. We got zip."
 

Yeah, but it wasn't much better. I think at most you could sink 15% into the base at 1st level, at the expense of all your other skills.

I do remember one game where the player of the Thief balked about being sent first, as his chance was so low to notice the trap and if he failed, it'd kill him.

The paladin's reply was, "You have a chance. We got zip."

not quite. The thief by default has a base 5% chance to find/ remove traps. They can put up to 30 skill points at first level giving them a possible 35% chance (allowing for further racial/ armour modifiers). They have that chance to find the trap which takes 1d10 rounds. They can keep searching if they want to waste time. If found, they can attempt to disarm it. If the thief fails to disarm a trap, it will only spring on a roll of 96-00, only a 5% chance of it blowing up in their face. Not necessarily certain death at first level.
 

Starfox

Adventurer
I sort of liked it. It was clear that AD&D needed a revision, but I felt this one was done by people who didn't understand the game on a deeper level. But it too long ago to go into more detail. I did like the new bard, but it was bugged - at certain xp values it was a much better caster than a wizard was, and could cast in armor, had limited thief skills, and so on. Had the authors really been into 1E, they would not have made that kind of mistakes.
 

I’m playing it now. I’m running a westmarches campaign in Rob Conley’s Blackmarsh setting. I’m keeping it old school, mashing in some 1e and BXisms (focusing on turns and resource management) in the dungeons and wilderness exploration. My players have a stable of three characters each. Also keeping the level limits, THAC0, everything that I guess frustrated people who played it in the day to emphasise the differences to my normally 5e players.

From modern players’ perspective, we are loving it. It give our group something we found lacking in modern editions, a sense of mortality, stakes, consequences for actions, a feel of pride at clawing for and earning levels. Acquiring treasure and powerful new magic takes work. We are loving the fast, frenetic combat and from a DM point of view, I’m loving how hackable and lightweight it can be. I love not having to calculate encounter balance, or work out monsters to the nth degree. I just draw up a dungeon, whack some creatures and environments that I feel should be there and create a wandering monster table.

If you only use the base rules (nothing optional), it actually gets pretty close to basic d&d. I use the optional group initiative with weapon speed, select kits, spells (and revised spell lists) from spells and magic, NWP, weapon specialisation, xp for gold, training etc.

I love that, to my players, it is mostly inscrutable. Roll low, roll high, why? Because I call for it. They are engaged more with the fiction and not spending time looking at their (digital) character sheets. It’s mostly me carrying the system, yet I don’t feel overwhelmed or the need to check the books in play (beyond table referencing) as I can fit it in my head.
 
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cbwjm

Hero
2e Bards couldn't cast in armour. In general the bard would have a higher caster level than a wizard but fewer spells and generally of lower level. As is, I always felt the bard should have required more experience to advance when compared with the thief, similar to how the paladin/ranger needed more than a fighter.
 

I sort of liked it. It was clear that AD&D needed a revision, but I felt this one was done by people who didn't understand the game on a deeper level. But it too long ago to go into more detail. I did like the new bard, but it was bugged - at certain xp values it was a much better caster than a wizard was, and could cast in armor, had limited thief skills, and so on. Had the authors really been into 1E, they would not have made that kind of mistakes.
Given that the main author of 2e was Zeb Cook, that doesn't really hold water. The game was developed by some very experienced people. However, they had a mandate to retain a large amount of numerical compatibility with existing (1e) source material. So this put some pretty serious limits on what they could tinker with (for example all the to-hit numbers map exactly to the 1e attack tables, with a couple of minor quirks). Likewise all existing spells had to be supported, etc. although they were able to get away with dropping most of what was in later 1e supplements, and some races/classes that were deemed 'too evil' or just marginal/weird.

The 2e Bard was a pretty nice option, but their spell casting has several restrictions. It cannot be done while wearing any armor (so you are stuck with a bad AC and thus your fighting ability becomes pretty much worthless (well, it was not great to start with, but still...). Also your casting is MUCH more restricted on an equal level basis, and even on an equal XP basis. For example: a level 9 bard at 110k XP can cast 3rd level spells, but a level 8 wizard at 135k XP can cast 4th level spells (and more of them). Bards don't get a spell per level, they don't get to pick any level 1 spells, etc. While all this may or may not be a severe restriction, the fact is that the unarmored spell-casting bard can't really do much in combat, has MUCH less thief skills than a 'real' thief, and because he is a rogue his advancement is not based on using magic. Whether he even gets XP for spell casting at all is an open question! In his favor he does get some bard abilities, which can be very handy, in some situations.

Frankly I think you just didn't perhaps read the bard that carefully?

I mean, I have beefs with 2e myself. I didn't think it was a very significant update in terms of fixing real problems with 1e, and yet it did manage to eliminate a lot of the best parts of 1e, though many people who just picked up the books and assumed that it was 'tweaked 1e' probably didn't notice things like the loss of ALL the exploration rules.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Given that the main author of 2e was Zeb Cook, that doesn't really hold water. The game was developed by some very experienced people. However, they had a mandate to retain a large amount of numerical compatibility with existing (1e) source material. So this put some pretty serious limits on what they could tinker with (for example all the to-hit numbers map exactly to the 1e attack tables, with a couple of minor quirks). Likewise all existing spells had to be supported, etc. although they were able to get away with dropping most of what was in later 1e supplements, and some races/classes that were deemed 'too evil' or just marginal/weird.

The 2e Bard was a pretty nice option, but their spell casting has several restrictions. It cannot be done while wearing any armor (so you are stuck with a bad AC and thus your fighting ability becomes pretty much worthless (well, it was not great to start with, but still...). Also your casting is MUCH more restricted on an equal level basis, and even on an equal XP basis. For example: a level 9 bard at 110k XP can cast 3rd level spells, but a level 8 wizard at 135k XP can cast 4th level spells (and more of them). Bards don't get a spell per level, they don't get to pick any level 1 spells, etc. While all this may or may not be a severe restriction, the fact is that the unarmored spell-casting bard can't really do much in combat, has MUCH less thief skills than a 'real' thief, and because he is a rogue his advancement is not based on using magic. Whether he even gets XP for spell casting at all is an open question! In his favor he does get some bard abilities, which can be very handy, in some situations.

Frankly I think you just didn't perhaps read the bard that carefully?

I mean, I have beefs with 2e myself. I didn't think it was a very significant update in terms of fixing real problems with 1e, and yet it did manage to eliminate a lot of the best parts of 1e, though many people who just picked up the books and assumed that it was 'tweaked 1e' probably didn't notice things like the loss of ALL the exploration rules.

The counter argument was at levels play at the bard was just as good as the wizard and had a higher caster level and bard abilities on top of that.

If they run out of spells they can still don armor and weapons and use wands iirc.

Throw in D6 hit dice and saving throws that scaled with level and yeah they were very competitive with wizards most of level 1-10.

They do fall behind slightly above that but not by much.

2E bard was good imho just got a bad rap because reasons. Artwork didn't help.
 

Starfox

Adventurer
Frankly I think you just didn't perhaps read the bard that carefully?
If this is the gist of your argument, you won't ever convince the one who made that argument. But that aside, if I did misread the rule, that can be blamed on those who wrote unclear rules. This back-and-forth gets us nowhere. I explained why 2E was lackluster TO ME.

Edit: I actually met Zeb Cook when 2E was new, he came to a game con in Sweden to present the new edition. But I don't much care who wrote it. I have very little respect for figures of authority in situations like this. Again, that is ME.
 

Orius

Adventurer
They did add Monstrous Compendium Annual III quietly. :)

It seems to have mistakenly been given a date added of Jan. 1, 2001 when it was added a few months ago so it did not show up on the recent additions.

Which means they have the two weaker Annuals IMO.

Annual 2 has the encounter tables that were left out of the MM, as well as some old school staples like dinosaurs and the Pleistocene animals and giant mammals as well as some of the more interesting 2e additions like the Yak Folk. But OTOH. the encounter tables probably were in either MC 1 or 2, and MCA 2 has the 2e stats for the flumph, which surely costs it points. :p Annual 4 had a partial focus on gathering together aquatic monsters from a number of older sources. I've always liked Annual 1 myself, though they forgot to number the pages! Annual 3 I think is definitely the weakest, but it does have an index for the MM and the first three Annuals, and it possibly got chosen for that.
 

Strider1973

Explorer
For a looong time AD&D 2e had been my favourite go-to game for heroic fantasy. Kits were wonderful, and clerics of specific mythoi, from the Complete Cleric Handbook, are still today the best version of the class, in my opinion, because of all their diversity and variety in weapon, armor and skill proficiences: they offered so much more than the simple armored priest archetype with some nuances depending on the divine domain chosen! Now I wouldn't play it again because I didn't enjoy all those class/race/level restrictions. Nowadays I'm fine with D&D 5e.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
It was the first system I played, so I didn’t know any different. Of course I liked it, it was D&D... and as we all know system doesn’t really matter. 😜🤪😂

In all seriousness it was of its time. I wouldn’t play it now as there are too many things which would be a step back in terms of fun - needing clerics to heal, wizards that aren’t fun until 5th level then become ridiculous etc etc.
 

The counter argument was at levels play at the bard was just as good as the wizard and had a higher caster level and bard abilities on top of that.

If they run out of spells they can still don armor and weapons and use wands iirc.

Throw in D6 hit dice and saving throws that scaled with level and yeah they were very competitive with wizards most of level 1-10.

They do fall behind slightly above that but not by much.

2E bard was good imho just got a bad rap because reasons. Artwork didn't help.
Yeah, I thought it was a reasonably solid class. The toughest comparison is really with the Elf mage/thief. Yes, you're a bit more than a level ahead, maybe even 2.5 to 3 levels ahead in a few spots, but the MC character can wear armor and cast spells, which is pretty nice. Plus they have ALL the thief abilities (and are better at most of them even with the level difference). Again, its a toss up, and the bard abilities are definitely worth having.

Anyway, I think I almost always was DM in 2e days, but I did play a 2e bard once or twice and it was fun.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Yeah, I thought it was a reasonably solid class. The toughest comparison is really with the Elf mage/thief. Yes, you're a bit more than a level ahead, maybe even 2.5 to 3 levels ahead in a few spots, but the MC character can wear armor and cast spells, which is pretty nice. Plus they have ALL the thief abilities (and are better at most of them even with the level difference). Again, its a toss up, and the bard abilities are definitely worth having.

Anyway, I think I almost always was DM in 2e days, but I did play a 2e bard once or twice and it was fun.

I very rarely saw them in play never by a great player.

I thought they were crap as I compared level for level.

Until I saw a rogue get three or four levels ahead of the party. Then had a closer look at the bard.

So yeah totally not a crap class. And it's not like you're gonna reach level 10 anyway most games.
 

If this is the gist of your argument, you won't ever convince the one who made that argument. But that aside, if I did misread the rule, that can be blamed on those who wrote unclear rules. This back-and-forth gets us nowhere. I explained why 2E was lackluster TO ME.

Edit: I actually met Zeb Cook when 2E was new, he came to a game con in Sweden to present the new edition. But I don't much care who wrote it. I have very little respect for figures of authority in situations like this. Again, that is ME.
Yeah, armchair game designers... ;)

Anyway, Zeb was a long time TSR veteran and worked closely with Gary. They definitely used their best guy for the job.

As for the clarity of AD&D's rules... anyone who tried to defend that would be a rock head in my book. Still, it is spelled out in plain English, and overall I don't see much that is ambiguous in the bard's writeup in the 2e PHB. Honestly, I never found 2e (core at least) to be all that fuzzy. It is more just a pretty loose system that doesn't try to spell everything out. Nowadays people heap lauds all over 5e for trying to reprise that. It didn't impress me much back in the old days, nor does it now ;)
 

I very rarely saw them in play never by a great player.

I thought they were crap as I compared level for level.

Until I saw a rogue get three or four levels ahead of the party. Then had a closer look at the bard.

So yeah totally not a crap class. And it's not like you're gonna reach level 10 anyway most games.
Right, if you are playing at level 3, whatever, then the wizard has very little over the bard. Maybe a spell or two here and there. If they are smart they will trade spells, so any deficit the bard has in getting new ones will be overcome (or he'll inherit the dead mage's spell book when he becomes the replacement, lol).

We did like to play high level though, especially in our later years when 2e was the thing. So bards were generally a rare sight. I think someone played a laughing gnoll bard in our 'evil monster campaign' though. I don't remember the details, but we all shanked each other pretty regularly, so it never got much past about 6th level.
 

GreyLord

Hero
Bard Spell spellcasting...some rule they can in armor...as long as it is...

Elven Chain...

Very plausible to have at higher levels.

Bards were pretty good in AD&D 2e. Got depowered by a LOT in 3e.

PS: One of the BEST spells a Bard could cast on an unprepared Magic-User in the first round was Color Spray. Have to win initiative and then you have a possibility of having ended that battle right then and there.
 

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