D&D 2E Let's Read the AD&D 2nd Edition PHB+DMG!

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Level limits were always a terrible way to try to balance all the goodies demihumans got. No matter how Gary argued it, you can't really balance two character options against each other by making one simply superior for the early and mid parts of a campaign and then making it start to suck late campaign, sometimes at a level the game never actually gets too.
You mean like Wizards?

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Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
You mean like Wizards?
Yes, to some extent. Though in TSR-era D&D Sleep is SUCH an encounter nuke at low levels (and Charm Person can be to a lesser extent) that an M-U is good to have even at 1st level, when they're at their weakest. They normally DO get good well before you get to those levels where the demihumans cap out. I don't think one can reasonably say that, say, a Fighter is strictly better at 1st level than an M-U, the way an elf is just better than a human.

M-Us also have those weird spots on the xp charts in OD&D and 1E (though they fixed it in B/X and 2E) where they actually advance faster than Fighters.


Chapter 2: Player Character Races (continued)

We wrap up our look at PC races in 2nd Edition with Half-Elves, Halflings, and Humans, as well as Other Characteristics.

Half-Elves have an unusual opening paragraph. Before getting into their physical traits, they first explain how half-elves are born. Basically, if you have equal or more elven ancestors than human ancestors, you’re a half-elf, and if you have more human ancestors than elven ancestors, you’re a human. I’m not sure how they were imagining this. I guess the idea is that if you have three elven grandparents and 1 human grandparent, you’re a half-elf, but if you have the opposite, you’re a human. I get the feeling for that this stuff, new to 2nd Ed., is probably to avoid the idea that a half-elf is always the product of an elf and a human, and thereby avoid the more unpleasant connotations that came with half-orcs. Thus, it’s not about parents, it’s about ancestry.
Physical – Resemble elves in appearance, but only slightly taller: average height of 5’6”, average weight 150 lb. Live about 250 years, but without all the abilities of the elf, or the unlimited advancement of a human. Possibly viewed with suspicion in less civilized nations.
Culture – Curiosity, inventiveness, and ambition of humans, combined with the refined senses, love of nature, and artistic tastes of the elves.
Habitat – Found in both elven and human communities. Reactions to them in those communities ranges from intrigued fascination to outright bigotry.
Classes – Cleric, druid, fighter, ranger, mage, specialist wizard, thief, bard, cleric (or druid)/fighter, cleric (or druid)/fighter/mage, cleric (or druid)/ranger, cleric (or druid)/mage, fighter/mage, fighter/thief, fighter/mage/thief, or mage/thief. Level limits are Bard Unlimited, Cleric 14, Druid 9, Fighter 14, Mage 12, Ranger 16, Thief 12. This is quite different from 1st Edition, where it was Cleric 5, Druid Unlimited, Fighter 8 (with 18 STR), Ranger 8 (with 18 STR), Magic-user 8 (with 18 INT), Thief Unlimited and Assassin 11.
Languages – Half-elves can start with common, elf, gnome, halfling, goblin, hobgoblin, orc, and gnoll.
Special Features – 30% resistance to sleep and all charm-related spells. Infravision to 60’. 1-in-6 to spot a concealed door if merely passing within 10’ of it, 1-in-3 chance of finding a secret door, and a 1-in-2 chance of locating a concealed door if actively searching.

– Halflings are still hobbits in all but name: short, generally plump, with round, broad, and florid faces. Hair is typically curly and tops of their feet are covered in hair. Prefer not to wear shoes, and live to 150 years old.
Culture – Sturdy and industrious, quiet and peaceful. Prefer comforts of home over adventures. Observant and conversational, wealth is only a means of gaining creature comforts. Not overly brave or ambitious, but honest and hard-working. Straight Bilbo.
Habitat – Live in well-furnished burrows. Liked by elves in a patronizing way, tolerated by dwarves, but well-liked and thought of kindred spirits by gnomes. There are three types of halflings: Hairfeets (Tolkien Harfoots), Tallfellows (Tolkien Fallohides), and Stouts (Tolkien Stoors). Which kind of halfling doesn’t really matter as far as character generation goes, and the differences are not explained in the PHB.
Classes – Cleric, fighter, thief, or fighter/thief. Limits are Cleric 8, Fighter 9, Thief 15. (1st Ed. was Druid 6 (NPC only), Fighter 6 (if Tallfellow that gets 18 STR), Thief Unlimited. Halflings got the, uh, short end of the stick in 1st Ed., and it wasn’t much better in 2nd Ed.
Languages – Common, halfling, dwarf, elf, gnome, goblin, and orc.
Special Features – Same resistance to spells and poison as dwarves. Natural talent with slings and thrown weapons give them a +1 to their attack rolls with thrown weapons and slings. Same bonus to surprise as elves. Infravision depends on lineage. Any halfling has a 15% to have 60% infravision, which means they are a pure Stout. (So if you actually choose to be a Hairfoot or Tallfellow, you’re SOL. Or have one hell of a role-playing hook.) Otherwise, there’s a 25% chance of having 30 feet infravision, which indicates some Stout lineage.
Halflings with Stoutish lineage can not if a passage is sloping up or down with 75% accuracy if they are concentrating.
Given that the description says most PC halflings are Hairfeets, it’s bizarre that they then give two special abilities only to those with Stout lineage. I utterly fail to see the point of having the three types, and only mechanically differentiating one.

Humans don’t get a write-up in the usual pattern. They get four short paragraphs: 1) all humans are treated as a single race in AD&D and so can have any real-world racial characteristic the DM allows. 2) Humans’ only special ability is to be any class and unlimited advancement. 3) Humans are more social and tolerant than other races, mixing with all the races with less complaint. 4) Because of these “abilities and tendencies” humans have become significant powers within the world, ruling empires that other races would find difficult to manage.

This was pretty par for the course in TSR (A)D&D, so I never thought anything of it. These days, I think it’s better just to give everyone goodies.

Other Characteristics
Here the book suggests coming up with some basic background information on your character: notably sex, name, height, weight, age, hair/eye color, body shape, voice, noticieable features, and general personality. Sex and name is completely up to the character, as are the other features listed here, except for: height, weight, and age should be agreed upon with the DM. If desired, these can be rolled on tables provided. Base height and weight are split into male and female columns, 2nd Edition’s lone comment on sex differences.

Per the starting age tables provided, dwarves are expected to be 45-70, elves 105-130, gnomes 63-96, half-elves and humans 16-20, and halflings 23-32. (Still underage by Shire reckoning!) There is also a maximum age table that the DM is expected to roll and determine for all the characters. This seems less due to the assumption that players will play their characters to old age, but more so because of magical aging effects. A table for natural aging effects at middle age (half base max; -1 STR/CON, +1 WIS/INT), old age (two-thirds base max; -2 STR/DEX, -1 CON, +1 WIS), and venerable age (base max; -1 STR/DEX/CON, +1 INT/WIS) is also provided. Notably, magical aging does not provide the bonuses to INT and WIS, since those must be from the actual passage of time, but all penalties, which are cumulative, do apply.

The primary difference between 1st Ed. PC races and 2nd Ed. PC races are the level limits, which Voadam helpfully pointed out are likely because 2nd Ed. is going off Unearthed Arcana rather than the PHB. However, given that 2nd Ed. removed prime requisite restrictions to the highest level limits, and the fact that the actual limits are noted only in the DMG, in a section that includes various ways to raise or even eliminate level limits, it seems that this was an idea that was on its way out the door, perhaps only nominally left in as a nod to prior edition continuity.

I do wish that the PC races could have seen the degree of revision and innovation seen in the character classes, but perhaps precisely because the classes received so much revision, they elected to keep the races as similar as possible. Certainly to a degree more than the classes, the races have lore implications in the various settings, as well as presumably in homebrew worlds.

Next up: Player Character Classes


However, given that 2nd Ed. removed prime requisite restrictions to the highest level limits, and the fact that the actual limits are noted only in the DMG, in a section that includes various ways to raise or even eliminate level limits, it seems that this was an idea that was on its way out the door, perhaps only nominally left in as a nod to prior edition continuity.
In a way, they kept the prime requisite restrictions on the top levels, except it got reversed. Instead of having a table with level limits and then a footnote saying you needed a high stat or the level would be lower, you had a table with a level limit and then a bonus for having a high stat. Same principle, except expressed as a bonus instad of a penalty.


Halflings got the, uh, short end of the stick in 1st Ed., and it wasn’t much better in 2nd Ed.
Agreed and (y)on the phrasing.

AD&D pushed halflings hard into being Bilbo Burglars and did not really feel like they supported the B/X halfling swordmaster/swashbuckler, even with the fighter thief options due to the fighter level limits.

Although looking back level 9 is a decently high fighter cap that works well for a lot of campaigns.

Interestingly if you look at MC1, it says Tallfellows and Stouts can rise to 6th level fighters if they have 17 or higher strength scores. This seems to be over a default hairfoot limit.

"Tallfellows of strength 17 or more can rise to 6th level fighting ability."

"Stouts with a strength score of 17 or better can work their way up to the 6th level of fighting ability."


I'm of two minds when it came to the class and level limits; on one hand it helped push into tropes like halflings being excellent thieves, dwarves being great warriors, etc. But on the other hand, it really did limit a lot of great ideas, I think a lot of people would have thrown both class and level limits out, I know I got rid of limits pretty quick, though I think back in the day I kept the class limits.

Side note, I do recall being against dwarves not being able to be wizards, they were great crafters of magical items in Norse mythology, I felt like they should have kept that ability. Not sure if spells and magic allowed them to be artificers, but I'd have allowed it back when I was actively playing 2e.

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