2E Returning to 2nd Edition

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
Tony, when comparing traits among editions, like lethality, we have to use how the game was designed. Not how you totally modified it. Or how I played it. That's subjective and isn't worth a lot to the discussion. You certainly can't make some of the claims you made because you changed the rules to get that experience. I made my post based on how the game is designed, not how it might have been played from group to group. That's the only objective way to make the comparison.

Like your comment about how by 9th level it wasn't that dangerous anyway. You can't claim that with any sort of objectivity when you say you heavily modified the rules. Looking the rules, how the game was designed, and it was incredibly dangerous even at that level. A single breath weapon attack from a red dragon in 1e would kill half the party at name level even if they made their saves instantly. A couple hits from a vampire would reduce the most stout name level PC to nothing. Magic resistance as a % rendered casters almost worthless. The list goes on.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
My favorite part of 2e was the beefed up dragons. Such an improvement over 1e IMO. However, having said that this is kinda a cherry-picked example (intended or not). 2e dragons were the toughest dragons (relatively) of any edition.

Also, a 5e adult red dragon is CR17, it is not meant to be a challenge for 17th level party. Per the encounter guidelines it is a deadly encounter for (4) 12th level PCs, only hard for a group of higher level, and only a medium encounter for a 17th level party. IMO "deadly" is the metric of a "challenging" encounter. So in my mind, and adult red dragon in 5e is meant to challenge PCs in the 12-13 range. . That is also a lot closer to your 2e metric, as failed save could equal out right death for a 5e wizard at that level. Of course, I still think the dragon needs to hit harder too. ;)
Dragons was the easiest comparison since that's what we're most familiar with, but it's hardly cherry picked. Many of the undead with level drain, umber hulks with confusion, purple worms with swallow, numerous monsters with high magic resistance, medusa/cockatrice/basilisk, chimeras, etc. the list goes on. Monsters as compared to PCs were more deadly in 2e than in 5e. By a wide margin of what they could do to you. And then of course all the other things I mentioned like rot grubs, green slimes, oozes, etc. Way more deadly.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
Some quick math illustrates just how big a difference it makes to be able to cast lower spells at higher slots, and why Tony's dismissal at that point is either ignorant of the rules, or disingenuous to the argument. If the cleric maximized on healing spells, this is how much damage they could cure once per day:

2e 10th level cleric:
4 cure light: 4-32
3 cure serious: 9-50
2 cure critical: 12-54

Total: 25-136

5e 10th level cleric, assuming modifier of +4 by this level*
1st level, 4e: 20-48
2nd level, 3ea: 18-60
3rd level, 3ea: 21-84
4th level: 3ea: 24-108
5th level: 2ea: 18-88 (84-648 if mass cure wounds is cast)

Total: 101-388 (with mass cure wounds in conjunction with cure wounds at level 4 and below): 165-948)

As you can see, it's not even close. Even if you keep the 5e cleric to only cure wounds spells. Then factor the 5e cleric having additional utility with spells like healing word (reaction) and mass curing? Or the added flexibility to keep casting a cure spell if that core level of slots has already been used (a 2e cleric could still have all level 3 slots available and not be able to heal, whereas a 5e cleric can)


*this illustrates another key difference where 2e was tougher: In 2e, your stats didn't keep going up.
 
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Tony, when comparing traits among editions, like lethality, we have to use how the game was designed. Not how you totally modified it.
IDK, it was designed to go to -10, but that seemed to disappear to make it /more/ leathal. ::shrug:: ...and AD&D was notorious for being run very differently from place to place & DM to DM.

And, how the game was designed sometimes just didn't work, it contradicted itself or punted to the DM for a judgement or ruling, making comparison even more fraught. Likewise, there was no helpful CR guide, so if you figured it was fine for purple worms, for instance, to eat 3rd level characters with regularity or whatever, you'd have a much more lethal game than someone who reserved those for deep/high-level dungeons.

You start running 5e without regard to encounter guidelines, you'll get all the TPKs you want.

A single breath weapon attack from a red dragon in 1e would kill half the party at name level even if they made their saves instantly. A couple hits from a vampire would reduce the most stout name level PC to nothing. Magic resistance as a % rendered casters almost worthless. The list goes on.
Those all seem like over-statements, to me. They might be OK, if you made a number of assumptions, fairly meh stats, exactly average hp rolls, no magic items that in any way help, a Huge/Ancient dragon, etc...

Some quick math illustrates just how big a difference it makes to be able to cast lower spells at higher slots, and why Tony's dismissal at that point is either ignorant of the rules, or disingenuous to the argument.
You don't /need/ to insult me to register disagreement. Just say'n.

In 2e, spells scaled with class level. In 5e, with slot. The former is much more powerful, in general...


If the cleric maximized on healing spells, this is how much damage they could cure once per day
Is not hugely relevant. Yes, 5e Cure Wounds scaling with up-casting theoretically lets you burn every last slot for healing. 5e also scales hps & damage more rapidly than 2e so that scaling is called for. The same was true in 3e, by the simple expedient of having a healing spell at every spell level.
But, ultimately, if you're putting your whole slate to healing, you're not in the middle of an adventure, you're on to downtime, and you'll prep & cast as many full slates of healing as you need.

5e spontaneous casting, though, /is/ a more valid point. If a 5e party does get unexpectedly pasted, the cleric /can/ burn slots on healing like crazy, he didn't have to prep all his 1st, 4th & 5th level slots specifically for that purpose, that morning.

this illustrates another key difference where 2e was tougher: In 2e, your stats didn't keep going up.
They didn't go up with level, there were items that could boost them, though some radically while you had the item, some incrementally but permanently.

The scaling in the two games was different. Attack & Saves scaled more quickly in 2e, hps/damage in 5e.


...anyway, perhaps more cogent, to make 5e feel more lethal:

Stick to lower levels (in particular, replacement PC start at first regardless of the party average level).
Toss the CR guidelines: feel free to use higher-CR monsters and to outnumber the party.
Feel free to narrate death the same way you would success or failure, numbers notwithstanding. You don't have to add-back SoD to kill a PC with a trap, you just describe the results of an action as a trap going off and killing him.
Don't pull any punches.
 
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dave2008

Adventurer
Dragons was the easiest comparison since that's what we're most familiar with, but it's hardly cherry picked. Many of the undead with level drain, umber hulks with confusion, purple worms with swallow, numerous monsters with high magic resistance, medusa/cockatrice/basilisk, chimeras, etc. the list goes on. Monsters as compared to PCs were more deadly in 2e than in 5e. By a wide margin of what they could do to you. And then of course all the other things I mentioned like rot grubs, green slimes, oozes, etc. Way more deadly.
And that is what you want?

Personally, I think using the available options to a make 5e more dangerous (rest, healing, dying), in cooperation with more deadly encounters gets me where a I want.

Of course, in my group we have modified AC and HP too, but I feel that is personal taste and not needed for a dangerous feel. I don't want PCs to be wiped out by one bad roll on a regular basis or have to buff them with magical items (which is what I did back in 1e). But everyone is different.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
Some quick math illustrates just how big a difference it makes to be able to cast lower spells at higher slots...

...As you can see, it's not even close.
Shouldn't the comparison take into account relative HP and damage. I feel like the difference is not so great if you factor those in.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
And that is what you want?

.
My posts weren't so much in what I want, but in response to Tony saying "I'm not sure where people get the idea 2e was anymore some sort of grueling fantasy Vietnam, anyway." I.e., in comparison to later editions, 2e was very much more lethal by a large amount.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
Shouldn't the comparison take into account relative HP and damage. I feel like the difference is not so great if you factor those in.
Even then, 5e PCs don't have 3x-4x the amount of HP as a 2e PC (the ratio of healing output capability). Between 1.5-2x. Not only do 5e clerics get way more healing capability, but 5e PCs get hit dice and heal to max after a long rest, so the 5e cleric can spend all that healing in combat without having to worry about spending all of their spells on a rest.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
Even then, 5e PCs don't have 3x-4x the amount of HP as a 2e PC (the ratio of healing output capability). Between 1.5-2x. Not only do 5e clerics get way more healing capability, but 5e PCs get hit dice and heal to max after a long rest, so the 5e cleric can spend all that healing in combat without having to worry about spending all of their spells on a rest.
However, it is relevant on a per encounter basis and a much narrower margin I imagine. Look at the total healing available is, to my mind, not as relevant as relative healing available during the average fight.

Regardless, I get your point.
 
Shouldn't the comparison take into account relative HP and damage. I feel like the difference is not so great if you factor those in.
HP/dmg balloon in 5e more rapidly than in 2e. You can calculate roughly how much healing a 5e party might burn through in a 'day' of 6-8 medium-hard encounters, and it's probably a lot. But there's nothing to compare that to in 2e, as there weren't meaningful encounter guidelines. The party would go through what it could go through before resting & recovering.

In either case, the DM can keep challenges well within the party's capabilities, or, well, kill 'em. In 5e, it's a little easier to peg it correctly (even if only a little, they're not /great/ guidelines, but they're neither nothing nor worse than nothing).


Part of the beauty of 5e is that it does give you tools to run it the way you want. You want it deadly, you dial it up. You don't have to change a bunch of rules to do it (though you're certainly free to), just adjust how you run it.
 
The lethality of combat is only one aspect of the differences between 5E and 2E that make them feel very different.

The one that matters more to me is the "fantasticality" of the PCs. 5E is not just inherently higher magic than 2E, it is higher octane and more vibrant for lack of a better word. The mechanics support a cinematic, tentpole blockbuster style in combat and interacting with the world I don't really want in this particular context.

There's also the issue of casters: 5E casters are too capable, with too few restrictions on them and too many resources at their disposal. For certain kinds of fantasy, the squishy wizard with powerful but limited spells works much better in play and, IMO, helps maintain versimilitude in a setting meant to look something like our own European medieval period. It may mean that people don't want to play wizards, and that's okay, too. In this case, I am looking for fantasy so low its in the mud.
 
The one that matters more to me is the "fantasticality" of the PCs. 5E is not just inherently higher magic than 2E, it is higher octane and more vibrant for lack of a better word. The mechanics support a cinematic, tentpole blockbuster style in combat and interacting with the world I don't really want in this particular context.
Cool as that sounds, I'm not sure I see it. ;)

Your 5e wizard can dive behind cover and squeeze off magic missiles while prone, which you couldn't do in 1e (and, I'm just gonna stick with examples from the AD&D I'm more familiar with, from here-on in), so there's that.

There's also the issue of casters: 5E casters are too capable, with too few restrictions on them and too many resources at their disposal. For certain kinds of fantasy, the squishy wizard with powerful but limited spells works much better in play and, IMO, helps maintain versimilitude in a setting meant to look something like our own European medieval period. It may mean that people don't want to play wizards, and that's okay, too. In this case, I am looking for fantasy so low its in the mud.
If you want a true-to-life, medieval European wizard, in 5e, take the Charlatan Background! ;) You'll be able to do a fair Paracelsus imitation.

But, even if you want a true-to-legend medieval European wizard, look elsewhere than D&D, Vancian is not going to cut it, not remotely. It's far too repeatable, dependable - and not nearly dangerous or limited enough. Also, to really go medieval on your campaign's hapless wizards, their stuff prettymuch has to fold when opposed by the divine. Less save:1/2, more quoting-scripture:negates.

That said, if you want a classic-D&D glass cannon of a wizard, sure, 5e does make it tempered glass in a big way. You could, without messing with 5e in any too-fundamental ways: return Concentration to all casting (not all durations, just the act of casting a spell), add back opportunity attacks vs casters in melee, and allow readied actions to interrupt spells. If that's not enough, you could give select spells a 'casting time,' even just simply finishing at the end of the round rather than on initiative, making them that much easier to interrupt (no Ready required, just hit the wizard on the round he's casting, before or after his turn, and force Concentration).
That, alone, should make caster's lives a lot harder, in an old-school sorta way. For bit more pain, failing the concentration check when interrupted means loss of the slot, too, or even loss of the prepared spell (for wizards &c who prep spells, that'd be pretty serious).
 
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But, even if you want a true-to-legend medieval European wizard, look elsewhere than D&D, Vancian is not going to cut it, not remotely.
I don't want that. I want a world that looks something like medieval Europe, and wizards that are rare because they either die young or sequester themselves away in their towers because research is much safer XP helps with that. Cantrips as they appear in 5e change everything if even 1st level casters are slightly less rare than 4 leaf clovers.
 
Hm, I don't remember that from 1E at all. As far back as I can remember in any group I was in, being brought back from negative HP to positive HP meant the character was able to get up and do stuff. None of that coma stuff.
Yep. That was why you needed to keep ahead of damage with healing, instead of doing the 5e whack-a-mole.

...OK... fine, there's a difference I admitted to.

I don't want that. I want a world that looks something like medieval Europe, and wizards that are rare because they either die young or sequester themselves away in their towers because research is much safer XP helps with that. Cantrips as they appear in 5e change everything if even 1st level casters are slightly less rare than 4 leaf clovers.
Might try Ars Magica, or Mage: Dark Ages.

OK, but seriously... cantrips aren't all that. If you can cast one Vancian spell, you're as conspicuously magical in setting terms as you are casting cantrips. Systematically using magic with no risk or cost is systematically using magic with no risk or cost, whether it's 1/day or 1/round hardly makes a difference at all in the grander scheme of things.

That said: banning cantrips, giving casters that lose 'em, say, X-bow proficiency if they don't already have it, not going to make a huge difference until some levels have gone by. Simply taking them away, not a huge issue, either: 5e casters have power & to spare. Plus, the lower-magic the setting, the greater the relative power of casters, so there's really no such thing as a nerf too far...
 
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Mort

Community Supporter
There's also the issue of casters: 5E casters are too capable, with too few restrictions on them and too many resources at their disposal. For certain kinds of fantasy, the squishy wizard with powerful but limited spells works much better in play and, IMO, helps maintain versimilitude in a setting meant to look something like our own European medieval period. It may mean that people don't want to play wizards, and that's okay, too. In this case, I am looking for fantasy so low its in the mud.
This is not my recollection of 2e at all, and I played A LOT of it in high school and college!

Once you got past the lower levels (where admittedly mages, at least, could have a rough time), casters were basically superheroes. The linear fighter, quadratic wizard was a huge issue back then. I remember getting access to stone skin: when the DM has to change his approach to encounters just to challenge 1 spell, there's a problem.

And once you got past those low levels, low magic as a setting ceases to exist for the players - casters had access to too much.

Now if you dump/nerf casters, maybe you'd get there.
 
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Mort

Community Supporter
I don't want that. I want a world that looks something like medieval Europe, and wizards that are rare because they either die young or sequester themselves away in their towers because research is much safer XP helps with that. Cantrips as they appear in 5e change everything if even 1st level casters are slightly less rare than 4 leaf clovers.
The problem is, it doesn't really matter how rare wizards are in the world if the party has 1 or more of them.

That said, published 2e settings and adventures had wizards be anything but rare - they were around every corner.
 

Xaelvaen

Explorer
One of the reasons I initially liked 5th Edition is how, to me, it felt a lot like 2E. Second Edition was what I call my "formative" edition. It wasn't my introduction to D&D (that was the BECMI line). I came to it after a brief stint with 1E -- we played BECMI for a long time before discovering AD&D and 2E came out within a few months of that discovery -- but 2E WAS D&D from 1989 to 1999. Through it I played my most memorable and affecting campaigns in both high school and after, and through it I fell in love with the world of Dragonlance.

After a few years of running 5E on and off, and bouncing off of it more than once, I have started to wonder if I should give 2E another try. If nothing else, I will find out whether it is merely nostalgia pulling me back toward level limits and non-weapon proficiencies. I feel like I want to return to that world of faux medieval fantasy, unburdened by the d20 era and its excesses.

Has anyone else returned to 2E since adopting 5E, or even since 3.x/Pathfinder? What was your experience? Is there more there than nostalgia?
Absolutely have, and will again. After playing 5E, some of the odd mechanics of 2E certainly take some effort to enjoy again, but it is mostly all the wonderful modular character creation of 2E that has me still enjoying it. Kits, multi-classing vs. dual-classing, and the ability to create your own class with the point buy supplement (forget the name of it, but somewhere in my 2E archive). It was my formative edition, and like you, I believed it would be purely nostalgia making me remember it fondly - however, upon practice, it didn't end up feeling that way at all.

I'll admit to 20+ years of house rules being involved there - things made up by my DM from highschool that just made a lot of sense, and we carried over (like level restriction removal, to name one off the top of my head).
 

Azzy

Cyclone Ranger
I don't want that. I want a world that looks something like medieval Europe, and wizards that are rare because they either die young or sequester themselves away in their towers because research is much safer XP helps with that. Cantrips as they appear in 5e change everything if even 1st level casters are slightly less rare than 4 leaf clovers.
Wizards dying young or choosing to research rather than adventure doesn't make for a good player experience. :D If you want wizards to be rare in your campaign/setting, that's entirely in your hands. All you need to do is say that only PCs and important NPCs can be wizards, and *boom* that's it. I've been doing this since the early 90s when I decided that I didn't like the idea of spellcasting priests (and wizards) being as ubiquitous as they are protrayed in setting books.
 

Bacon Bits

Explorer
I have a lot of nostalgia for 1e/2e AD&D, basic D&D and OD&D. Out of all the rules, there's only one that keeps me from playing it ever again: Descending armor class. Everything else I can deal with. I'm never going to put up with the attack roll -- the most basic roll in the entire game -- being even slightly more complicated than it is in 3e+. I don't care if the DM is willing to completely handle the charts or run THAC0. It's not happening.

It's not that I think it's difficult. It's not difficult. It's needlessly cumbersome. It's rolled sometimes upwards of a dozen times in a single combat round, and it's needlessly cumbersome! It's the single most severe design flaw of all 20th century RPGs. It touches every PC, NPC, and monster in the game. Hard pass.

I'm not wasting my time recalculating all those ACs to ascending, either. The nostalgia is simply not worth the time.
 

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