D&D 2E On AD&D 2E

GreyLord

Legend
I agree with a lot of what you say here, but not that 2e rivaled 3e for options. It wasn't even close. Sure you had the Complete books and a few other books that provided kits and such, but that didn't even begin to touch the 66 full classes, 284 prestige classes and several hundred if not more than a thousand feats. 3e had 173 races. 2e had far less, but I can't find the exact number.

I don't know. I think it depends on HOW you define options. If you define it as narrowly defined classes and feats and races...then sure, 3.X blows 2e out of the water.

BUT, if you define it as open options...I think it becomes a LOT closer. This is because of 2.5 which had a book or two which opened up options (basically, build your own class) for players (though, technically the DMG did this already, it was even more open with Spells and Powers).

These were official rules, as opposed to 3e's more nebulous idea to take what you wanted...which really weren't rules at all. In that light, with 2e, in the latter part of it, you could basically have all the options from everything to do with as you want in your class creation/character creation.

I was NOT a fan of it personally, but...there you go.
 

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Voadam

Legend
2e's specialty priests were each a separate full class on the level of the druid and there was one for each god (and their other options philosophies, forces, and such). Complete Priest's Handbook, Legends & Lore, the three FR God Books, From the Ashes and other Greyhawk books, it went on and on. 2e TSR/WotC blew 3e WotC away for individual full D&D classes. Easily.
 

R_J_K75

Legend
2e's specialty priests were each a separate full class on the level of the druid and there was one for each god (and their other options philosophies, forces, and such). Complete Priest's Handbook, Legends & Lore, the three FR God Books, From the Ashes and other Greyhawk books, it went on and on. 2e TSR/WotC blew 3e WotC away for individual full D&D classes. Easily.
I loved the 2E FR Specialty Priests from the 3 deity books, and Prayers from the Faithful was good too. Those individual write ups for each deity and Specialty Priests were definitely the best of any D&D books on gods of any edition to date, nothing has come close before or since. 3E and forward were pretty pathetic on how gods, clerics and priests were presented, wasnt much to go on. Of course this is just my personal opinion, but those books contained everything from Clerics, Specialty Priests, Monks, Bards, Crusaders, Paladins and Druids. There was such a great level of detail, which is something I believe the game has lost to an extent.
 

Alby87

Adventurer
My biggest problem with Core Rules 2.0 is that it wasn't continued with support.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the program as it is, it's just that WotC has zero interest in providing updates to it. At this point, there isn't really any reason why pretty much all of AD&D (1 & 2E) isn't plugged into the program.
I've tried recently to mess around under the hood a bit to see if I could tweek the program a bit for modern machines. The fixed aspect ratio is another problem, but it's nothing other than a minor inconvenience.
Again, Core Rules 2.0 is probably the best table top game master assistance program ever made. It's far superior to what is out for 5E currently IMHO.

The best way to run it is via a Virtual Machine. I've looked the workings too, adding new book would be really easy. But doing something like this for something I will not use (I play 5E) and I couldn't distribute... Not worth the time. Made the patch for the errata.

And... yes. I know why D&D Beyond is an online service, but sometimes I think how much I would have loved a Core Rules CD for 5e

(Core Rules 2.0 would be nice if all the rulebook were implemented, and another software, companion of the forgotten realms atlas, with all the lore and books of the AD&D2 Forgotten Realms would be (chef's kiss))
 

Staffan

Legend
I loved the 2E FR Specialty Priests from the 3 deity books, and Prayers from the Faithful was good too. Those individual write ups for each deity and Specialty Priests were definitely the best of any D&D books on gods of any edition to date, nothing has come close before or since. 3E and forward were pretty pathetic on how gods, clerics and priests were presented, wasnt much to go on. Of course this is just my personal opinion, but those books contained everything from Clerics, Specialty Priests, Monks, Bards, Crusaders, Paladins and Druids. There was such a great level of detail, which is something I believe the game has lost to an extent.
I miss specialty priests too, but I get why they did away with them. They basically require you to design a whole new class for every god in a setting – three whole books were required to cover the FR gods. The 3e domain system lets you have some variability both between different gods and between different priests of the same god without needing a whole class, allowing for quantity over quality.

Also, I am not sure about Faiths & Avatars quality-wise anymore. It felt amazing at the time, but now it feels... formulaic. All the gods are described in the same fashion, and to some degree they feel like they're forced into a Christianity-like Mad Libs template ("The holy book is _______, and their primary holy day is _______. Things associated with the god are _______, _________, and ________, and priests often wear the color _______."). I actually think Faiths of Eberron is a better book, because it has more focus on the actual faiths rather than gods. Of course, I'm biased because I prefer the way Eberron handles faith and gods in general, and it definitely helps that the book gets to focus on four major and a handful of minor religions rather than a couple of dozen gods.
 

cbwjm

Seb-wejem
Faiths and avatars is still pretty good, however, I agree that it is better to design for a faith instead of specific gods. It's what I'm trying to do for my home campaign, you belong to the faith rather than a specific god.
 

Voadam

Legend
Also, I am not sure about Faiths & Avatars quality-wise anymore. It felt amazing at the time, but now it feels... formulaic. All the gods are described in the same fashion, and to some degree they feel like they're forced into a Christianity-like Mad Libs template ("The holy book is _______, and their primary holy day is _______. Things associated with the god are _______, _________, and ________, and priests often wear the color _______."). I actually think Faiths of Eberron is a better book, because it has more focus on the actual faiths rather than gods. Of course, I'm biased because I prefer the way Eberron handles faith and gods in general, and it definitely helps that the book gets to focus on four major and a handful of minor religions rather than a couple of dozen gods.
This is partly reflective of the cosmology of the two settings.

FR has definite active gods, being a henotheistic devotee of a single god grants powers, and the gods are dependent on follower devotion for divine power. So it makes sense to have semi-medieval church like individual church organizations for each of the dozens of gods in the pantheon including druidic nature ones.

Eberron has divine casters granted power no matter their specific faith and no definitive proof of any god so you have a variety of faith structures from god pantheon worship to cults to druidism to ancestor worship to blood of vol and philosophy based ones, each granting power.

I tend to like the Eberron model more, but the 2e FR god books give great lore and depth on both the church structures but also on the gods and their activities, often using their activities on the world during the time of troubles to flesh them out with individual stories that most D&D gods do not normally get. Those god stories push them to the top of the heap for me for D&D god descriptions.
 

I agree with a lot of what you say here, but not that 2e rivaled 3e for options. It wasn't even close. Sure you had the Complete books and a few other books that provided kits and such, but that didn't even begin to touch the 66 full classes, 284 prestige classes and several hundred if not more than a thousand feats. 3e had 173 races. 2e had far less, but I can't find the exact number.

On the balance issue, I found the core classes fairly balanced, but I also think that is because 2E was before the era of optimization you had with 3E (the entire spirit of play was different so it just wasn't as typical in my own experience for issues between classes to become a problem). I am still a big fan of the different XP tiers.

On options this is a pretty interesting discussion. Honestly I would need to compare book by book to give a truly genuine assessment, so anything I say here is with the caveat that I am persuadable if someone reminds me of a detail I am not immediately recollecting (I have been playing a lot of 2E lately, but haven't played 3E for a few years)

Again here the spirit of the games (two editions that I love a lot) were very different, and that makes comparing them hard. On the one hand, 3E gets the crown for the mechanical heft of its options and how those could be used to build so many different concepts. But it was also one of the more uniform editions. If I went from one group to another during the 3E era, the game was usually played very much the same from group to group, whereas in the 2E era, tables varied widely. Part of this is due to the fact that 2E was built around options. 3E had plenty of optional rules too, and it is possible I am not eyeballing the tally well (so perhaps in the end this conclusion is incorrect), but my sense and memory is so much of the core system in 2E (EDIT) is optional that this led to hugely different play experiences. NWPs, which most people think of as the default skill system for 2E were like one of two or three options (and I think they may have been the second one presented). Plus both weapon and non-weapon proficiencies were 100% optional. A lot of groups didn't even use those (most of the Ravenloft modules I have don't even bother with them in NPC entries). Then you had all those optional rules around things like weapon type versus armor, spell components, optional initiative methods, optional modifiers, weapon speed, parrying, jogging and running, etc. When I think of the 2E PHB, I think of the "Optional" tag.

Even the expanded books like the Complete series are described as optional. This may have been the case with 3E as well, I can't recall, but one thing I know is they were not viewed as optional by most people the way the brown books were for 2E. Much of that though I think had to do with the spirit of play. In the 2E days, as the GM I vetted everything that went into a campaign. By 3E you just didn't feel like you had the same level of authority over the setting when it came to players wanting to include a new class, prestige class, etc (and this was also the age of wish lists, which catered to optimization-----and I don't consider optimization a dirty word, it is just a key distinction between the systems in my view: 3E is very good if you want optimized play).

In terms of expanded material. 2E did have the complete books, the blue books and the green books. It also had a ton of GM optional material (for example the Van Richten Guides were littered with options for monsters from the GM POV). Stuff like the complete Bard was filled with material. However what it probably lacked that 3E had more of was mechanical heft. But this is either a pro or con depending on your perspective. Second edition emphasized flavor and the setting more, whereas 3E placed more emphasis on the system and crunch. The latter is great for creating characters with meaningful mechanical distinctions, and you could use it to create very focused characters that did something very well. 2E was more interested in characters that fit the setting, that gave players more roleplaying options, and help them outfit their character (for example the expanded musical equipment list in the Complete Bard was incredibly useful if you wanted to play a bard but didn't know a lot about musical instruments). Kits were also very good roleplaying tools because they were, usually, more about the concept and flavor and having a solid character idea, than they were about giving you huge mechanical effects (some notoriously did the latter, but mostly kits boiled down to minor things like NWP bonuses and such). I never saw a kit break a campaign, but I did see character builds strain a campaign in 3E (again, I don't see that as a flaw but as a GM it meant I had to boost my mastery of the system to appropriately manage things like challenge levels of encounters---which were pretty key in 3rd edition).

My feeling is these editions are not at war. Both had options. They approached options in very different ways (I would say 2E was much more focused on presenting options that helped the GM, whereas 3E was more focused on giving player options).

Also you can't tackle this without getting into things like Skills and Powers for 2E. That stuff was pretty hefty in terms of the options they provided. I actually prohibited it from my campaigns because I found it changed the way the game felt too much.
 
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Voadam

Legend
On the balance issue, I found the core classes fairly balanced, but I also think that is because 2E was before the era of optimization you had with 3E (the entire spirit of play was different so it just wasn't as typical in my own experience for issues between classes to become a problem). I am still a big fan of the different XP tiers.
I think that is partly a perception due to the internet forum being a thing that coincided with the 3e era.

AD&D had people mechanically optimizing where they could and you could read about them in Dragon magazine and such, they were often called munchkins.

AD&D had lots of room for mechanical imbalance with the bell curve of stat bonuses, different choices on stat generation, much bigger class mechanical power differences (thieves I am looking at you), specialization, spells, race options, and items. Not all were actual choices you could make, but a lot were and there were people who worked the options they had hard.

I was a big fan of 3e and on getting rid of xp differentials and having an explicit goal of combat balance for each class at every level.
 

I think that is partly a perception due to the internet forum being a thing that coincided with the 3e era.

You are probably right about that. I think the combination of the internet, and things like 3Es very fluid approach to multi classing (plus all its feats and other elements) played a role.

AD&D had people mechanically optimizing where they could and you could read about them in Dragon magazine and such, they were often called munchkins.

Definitely. I recall players doing what they could in 2E. Min maxing was certainly a thing. It could even occasionally present an issue, but just nothing like on the level I encountered in 3E. The biggest issue it presented in most of my campaigns wasn't so much about balance (as they only through it off so much, and if they threw it off too much, the spirit of the rules was considered much more important than the letter of the rules, so something that felt off got instantly nixed by the group (i.e. this combination was clearly not intended, it is way too powerful)...it usually presented more of a role-play issue (the player focusing more on mechanical benefit of choices rather than a character idea. And that didn't bother me that much as some players are there for the game aspect of play

AD&D had lots of room for mechanical imbalance with the bell curve of stat bonuses, different choices on stat generation, much bigger class mechanical power differences (thieves I am looking at you), specialization, spells, race options, and items. Not all were actual choices you could make, but a lot were and there were people who worked the options they had hard.

But again, these all felt fairly minimal in impact. For 2E especially, when it comes to attributes, they didn't go with the 4d6 drop the lowest method as default. It did offer like 6 different methods, and if the GM wanted to that certainly could open up the floodgates. But the default (Method I) was 3d6 straight down in order. The optional methods produced better characters but they were entirely under the decision of the GM.

I agree thieves could be quite good. Though other characters did have baselines on things like climb too in the later chapters of the book (not as good as a thief but they could still do it). What I like about the 2E thieve versus later editions is they do stand out, and they are good at things, that other characters simply aren't (but primarily non-combat things or if in combat, very specific instances of combat).

With things like races in 3E, I didn't really encounter too many issues. There were some things in the complete race books that had issues, but those were so optional we never allowed anything that felt over powered (and not allowing something that felt over powered was never really much of a problem). The times I did bump into resistance was when someone wanted to make a character like Drizzt. Again there the issue wasn't so much mechanical, but more of a flavor concern (in some campaigns a dark elf or deep gnome in the party felt a little odd for the setting). Again, definitely there were ways to game the system. And there were enough options you could do things. But it didn't reach the heights of 3E (which I think was one of 3E's strengths, you could bend that system in a lot of interesting directions). It was there to a degree, but players really had to work hard to max out the system and it just didn't lend itself to the kinds of builds you had in 3E

None of this is a knock on 3E though. My two most played editions were 3E and 2E by far. They are just very different engines that reflected very different eras of play.

I was a big fan of 3e and on getting rid of xp differentials and having an explicit goal of combat balance for each class at every level.
This very much comes down to preference. For me, balancing the game around combat wasn't really something I loved about the WOTC era of D&D. I really liked having characters that were good at other things, and maybe not that good at combat. I also loved, absolutely loved, the whole wizards start out feeble, advance slower than anyone, but become the most powerful by the end. That isn't to everyone's taste, but it is the flavor of D&D I most enjoy.

I do love 3E though. Especially because it is a system you can tinker with to get very specific campaign results (one of my favorite wuxia campaigns I ran used the 3E system and I think it worked better for what I was trying to do than many systems designed specifically for wuxia---it did involve tinkering but that is half the fun).

I also think 3E brought back some very big essentials to play that 2E lacked (especially towards the end of its run). I think bringing back the half orc, bringing the Barbarian in, bringing back the monk, bringing back the dungeon, getting back to fighting monsters more, these were all good things the game needed (one problem with 2E is it did start to get too focused on meandering RP and story to a degree that detracted from other aspects of the experience: I remember having some sessions that were just people talking in a tavern, and that was even something folks would brag about, but the older I got the less fun that kind of gaming experience was for me---I need some amount of action).

I think both systems were good, but both had weaknesses, and interestingly, I think their weakness both stemmed from their strength (which is somewhat inevitable).
 

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