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2E Returning to 2nd Edition

jgsugden

Explorer
...For me, a heroic story has nothing to do with how powerful a PC is, but what happens in that story. In fact, for me it feels more heroic when the actions in the story have overcome greater odds to achieve said actions. I.e., when you're already powerful, doing a powerful thing doesn't feel so special. But when you start out as pretty much a normal person, and have all these things stacked against you, and you still succeed? That to me is heroic. Having a PC survive to level 10 in AD&D felt a lot more heroic and accomplished than having a 5e PC make it to level 10.
Overcoming odds means that more often than not, you don't beat the odds... and the PC dies. You're rooting for mostly PC death. Does that feel heroic? To have the character you've brought along for 200 hours of play suddenly - go?

If you're playing a video game style campaign and you just have another PC of equivalent power walk into the combat, you're not going to be too bothered. If you built a PC and crafted a good back story with continuing character development... it hurts. That is not fun.
 

EpicureanDM

Villager
The cost/benefit analysis of any given set of rules is highly subjective. A lot of people like 5E because it runs smoothly and is easy to DM but lament the lack of player facing options and granularity. It's the opposite with Pathfinder in a lot of cases. 2E is no different, but because the pre-d20 systems were very modular (combat rules did not look much like skill rules which did not look much like social interaction rules) it was easy to jettison entire chunks of the game system as well as bolt on new or alternate systems. This makes it hard to talk about the 2E experience in any consistent way, of course, but D&D's popularity can probably be at least partially attributed to how easily it was molded to fit the needs and desires of any given group.
This hits around the question I keep thinking about: are you going to run 2E RAW or houserule it? That's the trick. If you're going to houserule it, you're almost certainly going to be bringing in pieces of 5E and suddenly you're making modern design concessions. The Ship of Theseus appears on the horizon. ;)

From your responses so far, you seem pretty committed to RAW and, if that's the case, then I think it's a great idea. Very few people play any edition of D&D RAW and it can be eye-opening for those who commit to it. I've played with groups who play old RPGs strictly according to the rules and it takes on an archeological tone. You're explorers of old systems and old designs, unearthing old styles of play and ways of thinking about RPGs. You might also find your new favorite game!
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
Overcoming odds means that more often than not, you don't beat the odds... and the PC dies. You're rooting for mostly PC death. Does that feel heroic? To have the character you've brought along for 200 hours of play suddenly - go?

If you're playing a video game style campaign and you just have another PC of equivalent power walk into the combat, you're not going to be too bothered. If you built a PC and crafted a good back story with continuing character development... it hurts. That is not fun.
As I said, it's matter of preference. It felt more accomplishing to beat Ninja Gaiden for the NES than it does to beat most video games today where you're assured of winning and save points everywhere.

It's like anything else. If you never have the negative, then you don't have the context of how to appreciate the good. Go sleep in the woods on a mat for a week, and then you'll have a greater appreciation for your bed and hot shower. Same basic premise for gaming. It makes me appreciate the PC and the story of the game in AD&D more knowing it's a much more lethal world. Getting PCs to higher levels in 5e doesn't feel special in any way, but feels like it's pretty much a guarantee if I just put the time in. Also, PC death can be heroic. They aren't mutually exclusive things.
 
So you enjoy a story being disrupted in the middle when a PC that you've spend hundreds of hours playing steps into a hallway, sets off a trap, rolls a low number on the dice and disappears forever? No completion of the story? All those hours of character building ending in random death?

We're not talking about preferences here, really. We're talking about universal human instinct. We don't like to have things taken from us, we don't like things being incomplete, and we do not like confusion. Those are all greater problems in prior editions, especially 2E and AD&D.
You have a character you have been playing for hundreds of hours, with a deep backstory and the accumulated depth of character that comes with so much play. That's awesome.

I'm inclined to wonder, though, why you are having such a valuable, beloved character amble mindlessly down a trap laden corridor? One of two things would seem to be true: either whatever reason put the character there is important, and therefore dying in that circumstance is inherently heroic; or, it isn't important and your beloved character has survived so long in spite of a career filled with foolish decisions and it's about time fate turned against them.

People should play they want to play. For me, games without stakes are boring exercises. Uncertainty and consequence make the game worth playing. I absolutely do not want a character to ever be safe.
 

Giltonio_Santos

Adventurer
That's what a lot of people assume, but it's not actually true. The "Hovering at Death's Door" rule was explicitly an optional rule presented in the DMG. The PH says the character dies at 0 hit points. Most people may have used it, but it's not in the core assumption and I find it interesting that the game stepped toward more lethal territory in 2e than 1e in this respect.
I run it without "hovering at death's door" and without critical hits, which were also optional. Later, I started to believe that dies immediately at 0 was too brutal for our tastes, so I introduced a house rule that allowed your allies to save you if they somehow managed to heal you above 0 before the end of the next round.
 
in games with lots of human or humanoid armored foes the weapon vs armor type rules are more impactful. I like systems like that, especially as they relate to making the "boring" fighter more interesting and making weapon choice about more than damage potential and the shield bonus trade off.
Comrade! ;) I knew I wasn't quite alone in appreciating those obscure/maligned rules.

You throw these out and your drastically reduce the capability of the fighter, because they are the ones that have weapon versatility. Instead every fighter walks around with a long sword.
To be fair, they end up running around with two-handed swords (or maybe the odd bec de corbin or Lucerne hammer), until they realize the random treasure tables are dropping lots of longswords*, then they end up walking around with those, instead. But, by then, it's tool late to change their weapon specialization (especially in 2e, when going with double-specialization in a weapon you could dual-wield in pairs was the fighter's killer** app).

This is a bit off topic, but I wonder if people coming new to D&D in this era do that as well. Is houseruling a thing in the era of streaming games and Adventurer's League?
Very much so, but /outside/ of AL. (I suspect the same was true of the RPGA when it got rolling - while 2e was very likely customized to the nth degree out in the wild, you couldn't really run organized play like that.)

That's what a lot of people assume, but it's not actually true. The "Hovering at Death's Door" rule was explicitly an optional rule presented in the DMG. The PH says the character dies at 0 hit points. Most people may have used it, but it's not in the core assumption and I find it interesting that the game stepped toward more lethal territory in 2e than 1e in this respect.
It was an option in the 1e DMG, also, so I'm not sure how it stepped towards lethality by keeping a similar rule? The 1e version was pretty brutal, too, with a mandatory week-long recovery...

… and what was the -3 threshold about, again...? … it's teasing at the edge of my memory...

5e has PCs that have more power, and start off with more power at level 1 than 2e, but for the rest? I guess that depends on what your definition of "heroic" is.
Also when it kicks in. And whether it has 'posthumous' in front of it. ;)

IRL, "heroic" often means facing great odds or terrible challenges, and dying, with or w/o out accomplishing some/any of what you were struggling for.

In a story, "heroic" often means facing what appear to be great odds, and overcoming terrible challenges, all with the understanding that no one would be telling the story if you'd failed. If the story is fiction, and not a classic or post-modern-grimdark tragedy, the audience prettymuch knows it's going to be written so that the hero survives insane odds so he can triumph by the end. "Plot armor," it's sometimes called in fannish circles.

Since heroic /fantasy/, by definition, has no choice but to be fictional, it very often shakes out more like that last sense of "heroic." I say "very often" because there is stuff like GoT out there, when a character is set up like he's going to be the hero, then killed off.

D&D, traditionally, was not very heroic. It was a fairly cynical to comically paranoid exercise in treasure-hunting and one-up-manship. It was cooperative in the sense of rivals working together to survive, while competing to come out ahead when the treasure & XP was counted.

Not that nearly every group was like that, of course, but it's very much how the game was presented (I'd hate to try to count all the times EGG cautioned that the players would "naturally" want to do something greedy, cowardly, unethical or amoral), and what a lot of the talk in what passed for a community (as communicated in 'zines & The Dragon & such) seemed to assume.

But, D&D /did/ model plot-armor, but not for the guy designated 'Hero' at the outset - as no one really was - but as you got higher level. Hit Points and Saving Throws were the mechanics that modeled plot armor, and you got more of the former, and lower targets for the latter, as you leveled up. So D&D models the latter sort of narrative hero - eventually (really, in the 'sweet spot'). But you have to pay your dues first (in the classic game, survive 1st level, maybe finally get a name at 5th, as the old joke goes - in 5e, well, by surviving 1st and exiting Apprentice Tier and entering the eponymous 'Heroic' Tier, at - funny coincidence - 5th level).

Point being, 5e is even more faithful to the classic game than it might seem at first glance.





























* "I can keep using my non-magical bec de corbin, or the +1/+2 vs giant weasels two-handed sword I finally found, or I can choose from the +3 frostbrand, the sword of sharpness, or one of the six other magical longswords we've found over the last 8 levels..."
**pun so totally intended.
 
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Saelorn

Adventurer
I'm inclined to wonder, though, why you are having such a valuable, beloved character amble mindlessly down a trap laden corridor? One of two things would seem to be true: either whatever reason put the character there is important, and therefore dying in that circumstance is inherently heroic; or, it isn't important and your beloved character has survived so long in spite of a career filled with foolish decisions and it's about time fate turned against them.
This gets back to the variability between tables. I think we can all agree that players should avoid making foolish decisions, and that when they do make a foolish decision, the danger should be proportional to how foolish the decision is. Taunting an enemy is usually foolish, but taunting an ogre has lower stakes than taunting a dragon or taunting a god.

Is it foolish to try and disintegrate a giant skeleton, if it doesn't show any special signs of intelligence or weird magical properties? That's going to vary from table to table. Certainly, you could subject the skeleton to a battery of non-invasive magical tests to discover its powers, before you try anything on it. Of course, if it is just a mindless undead, then you will have wasted both time and spell slots while it goes about its rampage unimpeded. Given the information at hand, the latter course of action seems far more foolish than the former; and the fact that the former course resulted in instant and irrevocable death, is not consistent with the level of foolishness I would typically expect to yield that outcome.

Wandering down a hallway while poking every tile with a chicken that's strapped to the end of a ten-foot-pole may seem like a wiser course of action than just walking down the hallway like a normal person, but does the world really work in such a way as to warrant that level of caution? As the DM, you have control over all of the background variables (like geology, wild magic phenomena, and the economy of death traps) to determine which concerns are reasonable and which ones are just paranoia. As a player, I would certainly hope that the world doesn't work in such a way that the chicken stick becomes a reasonable course of action.
 
As a player, I would certainly hope that the world doesn't work in such a way that the chicken stick becomes a reasonable course of action.
That's certainly a thing one would know after hundreds of hours of play, though. I mean, it's possible the GM suddenly started using "gotcha traps" out of nowhere but it seems highly unlikely. What's arbitrary or out of place varies and people are going to get used to whatever is normal for their regular group.

Now, that said I admit a bias, or rather blind spot: I don't engage in organized play. It is possible in that world to have a character one has invested huge amounts of time and creative energy into and not necessarily know what to expect from a given GM at a given table. I can see being angry at getting killed arbitrarily by a random death trap dungeon under those circumstances.

As to the skeleton situation in specific: gotcha monsters can be a problem, especially the first time it happens. At a point though it becomes clear such things are an aspect of the GM's style. At that point it's a feature of the game your playing and something you should account for.
 

Orius

Adventurer
My current game is 2e having last played 3e and some PF previously. I'm reminded of just why I went fully over to 3e BitD.

2e has a lot of great ideas, but the rules, well they have problems. 1e has a lot of passionate fans, and I think it's because the early edition is fairly consistent, largely being under Gary's direction. From some of the discussions I've seen over on Dragonsfoot, the unpopular parts of the edition largely tend to be the post-Gary stuff.

2e though doesn't have a unified vision. There's in-house writers and freelancers and there's core material and settings and it's all pulling in different ways. Different writers have different ideas of how the game should be played, so rules get tacked on all over the place. Then the writing combines cuts and pastes from Gary, attempts from other writers to match Gary's style with varying degrees of success, and more vanilla writing with less flavor. And there are plenty of parts of the rules that get maddeningly vague or throw things in the DM's court without any solid guidelines of how to proceed. It's a mess. A glorious mess at times, but still a mess.
 
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billd91

Hobbit on Quest
There may be a lot of different directions TSR material was going in the 2e era, but I think its core is a lot less of a hodgepodge of semi-disconnected ideas than 1e was.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
As I said, it's matter of preference. It felt more accomplishing to beat Ninja Gaiden for the NES than it does to beat most video games today where you're assured of winning and save points everywhere.

It's like anything else. If you never have the negative, then you don't have the context of how to appreciate the good. Go sleep in the woods on a mat for a week, and then you'll have a greater appreciation for your bed and hot shower. Same basic premise for gaming. It makes me appreciate the PC and the story of the game in AD&D more knowing it's a much more lethal world. Getting PCs to higher levels in 5e doesn't feel special in any way, but feels like it's pretty much a guarantee if I just put the time in. Also, PC death can be heroic. They aren't mutually exclusive things.
I have to agree with this. We've only been playing 5E for about 8 months now, but that is just what it feels like:

Getting PCs to higher levels in 5e doesn't feel special in any way, but feels like it's pretty much a guarantee if I just put the time in.

Don't misunderstand me. It is nice getting to higher levels, getting better spells, more features, etc., but I feel a lot like it is too easy. We're are probably going to implement rules to make the game harder but to each their own.
 

digitalelf

Explorer
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?
I dropped 3.5/Pathfinder RPG/d20 back in 2012.

I got tired of there being a rule for every little thing, with more and more of those types of rules constantly being added with every new book that was released. Back in 2000 when 3rd edition came out, I made the switch from 2nd edition, and I was one that bought every new book/resource that came out... When 4e came out, part of the reason I did not make that switch, was that I did not want to re-buy everything all over again just to keep up with the newest ruleset.

Starting about 2009, I started to feel frustrated with the d20 system (as a whole). And I started looking at my collection of 2nd edition stuff, and recalling that, while I enjoyed the games that used the d20 system, I recalled having "more" fun overall back when I used 2nd edition.

At first, I thought it was just nostalgia I was feeling... So, in 2011, I ran a couple of one-shot adventures using 2nd edition, and found that it was not just nostalgia...

In 2012, I made the switch back to 2nd edition, and have not looked back since! I use all of the 2nd edition material, save for the Player's Option books (using only a few of the rules found therein).

I am currently running a campaign set in the World of Greyhawk, using the "From the Ashes" material.
 

oreofox

Explorer
I wanted to attempt to make 5e closer to 2e, with a big part of that being the ability scores. The drawback of that is all the numbers on monsters needing a huge redo. Since a creature with a 14 Con wouldn't get +2 hp per hit dice/level, or deal +3 damage with a 16 Str, etc. I did make one change, and that being no ability score could go above 18 without magic. I get the desire to do it every now and then, but I quickly lose that desire because of how daunting of a task just that little bit is. It might honestly be easier to start with 2e AD&D and add in 5e bits, than do the opposite.

I haven't read about 100 of the replies to this thread, having jumped to the end after reading about 40, so apologies on that.

If you want to run 2e, then run 2e. It could be nostalgia, or not. Only way to find out is to do it. People like to throw around "nostalgia" as a perjoritive, but not everything old is bad, just like not everything new is good. Sometimes it is the opposite (though 5e is overall good, to me).
 

jgsugden

Explorer
You have a character you have been playing for hundreds of hours, with a deep backstory and the accumulated depth of character that comes with so much play. That's awesome.

I'm inclined to wonder, though, why you are having such a valuable, beloved character amble mindlessly down a trap laden corridor? One of two things would seem to be true: either whatever reason put the character there is important, and therefore dying in that circumstance is inherently heroic; or, it isn't important and your beloved character has survived so long in spite of a career filled with foolish decisions and it's about time fate turned against them.

People should play they want to play. For me, games without stakes are boring exercises. Uncertainty and consequence make the game worth playing. I absolutely do not want a character to ever be safe.
Or, there wasn't a reason for that PC to expect the corridor to be trapped, rather than a trap it was an ambush, etc... you're attacking the minutia, not the core issue.

If you want no character "to be safe", you should have no expectation of ever playing a higher level character or completing a campaign. Does that sound fun? To run through the lower levels of PCs over and over waiting for them to get unlucky and die so that you can start over?

And I might add: These arguments seem to indicate that without the reasonable risk of death to the PC, the game is boring and is not heroic. You're missing out on a lot of elements of the game if you believe that to be true. We want encounters to be challenges, with stakes, but there are far more interesting challenges and risks to throw in a game than deadly combats. If the PCs are trying to stop something, but failure does not mean the end of the game due to character deaths, you can actually set up challenges where there is substantial risk of failure without sending everyone how early.
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
I have to agree with this. We've only been playing 5E for about 8 months now, but that is just what it feels like:

Getting PCs to higher levels in 5e doesn't feel special in any way, but feels like it's pretty much a guarantee if I just put the time in.

Don't misunderstand me. It is nice getting to higher levels, getting better spells, more features, etc., but I feel a lot like it is too easy. We're are probably going to implement rules to make the game harder but to each their own.
I never quite understood the argument about "getting to higher levels feels special". Level is a game setting, with a built-in tone and its own narrative and mechanical considerations. It's also a dial that I, as the DM, have full control over. If I want the PCs to start at level 15, they will. If I want the game to take 30 sessions to go from level 1 to 5, then it will.

It's also fully edition agnostic. I've run games in 5e that started at 1st level, and I've run games in 2e that started at 10th. It's purely a matter of campaign narrative.
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
If you want no character "to be safe", you should have no expectation of ever playing a higher level character or completing a campaign. Does that sound fun? To run through the lower levels of PCs over and over waiting for them to get unlucky and die so that you can start over?
I think there's some nuance here. A lot of games are playing stories that fundamentally aren't predicated on any one character's story hook. (See pretty much and adventure path ever.) When we did Curse of Strahd, we went from 1 to 11, and we ended up with only one PC surviving the adventure from beginning to end. We just did what I think a lot of groups end up doing, which is bringing in new PCs at the level of the current PCs and coming up with some vague reasons for them to join with the rest of the party.

I do agree that a game where exploring the PC's story arcs and playing the game to see those arcs through to their conclusions does not mesh well with a game with even low levels of random mortality. I'd also argue games with PC's story arcs as a primary locus of play don't mesh well with standard assumptions of D&D play. It's certainly a play style I associate with more modern narrative play.
 
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If you want no character "to be safe", you should have no expectation of ever playing a higher level character or completing a campaign. Does that sound fun? To run through the lower levels of PCs over and over waiting for them to get unlucky and die so that you can start over?
Or it means that players and their characters interact with the world under the working assumption that they are not safe. If they know there is no such thing as plot armor, if they know a bad turn of the dice could spell doom, if they know the world exists independent of their wants and desires, they will approach challenges in a very different way than if they believe they are the protagonists of a grand heroic epic. They might well be, but they'll only know that for certain at the end.
 

Arnwolf666

Explorer
I always found the LFQW argument a joke with respect to the games I played in 2E. At high levels the fighters
Has multiple attacks combined with
Weapon specialization. The wizard spells did a lot of damage. But the had to get through high saves and magic resistance. So I never really encountered that problem. Plus by high level the fighter had a few magic items of his own (although nothing like the Christmas tree effect)
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
I never quite understood the argument about "getting to higher levels feels special". Level is a game setting, with a built-in tone and its own narrative and mechanical considerations. It's also a dial that I, as the DM, have full control over. If I want the PCs to start at level 15, they will. If I want the game to take 30 sessions to go from level 1 to 5, then it will.

It's also fully edition agnostic. I've run games in 5e that started at 1st level, and I've run games in 2e that started at 10th. It's purely a matter of campaign narrative.
I disagree completely. I discussed this point with my table yesterday and they agreed: you put in the time, you level--there just isn't a feeling of struggling or accomplishment really. A lot of this comes from the ease of avoiding death. We implemented a new house-rule concerning Revivify (as this is particularly an issue):

When you are the target of Revivify, you must make a death save. If your body is healed to your damage threshold (CON score + character level) before the revivify is cast, your death save is made with advantage. If you succeed on the death save, you return to life and are stable. If you fail the death save, the revivify fails to restore you to life.

After you are successfully revived by revivify, you lose one point of Constitution. This point requires a number of months of rest and recovery equal to your previous Con modifier to be restored. Ex. if you have a CON 16 and are revivified, your CON drops to 15 and you require 3 months (from CON 16 +3 modifier) of rest to gain the point back.


It is our first attempt to make revivify useful but not a guaranteed thing. I don't mind the concept that the DM came up with, but it is a bit cumbersome IMO. I thought about it after the game and going to suggest to make revivify reset death saves for the target. The target must roll death saves again, gaining another chance to stabilize/return to life. It is simpler, not a sure thing, and seems more in par with the power of 3rd-level spell.

But if your experiences are different then no worries. :)
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
I disagree completely. I discussed this point with my table yesterday and they agreed: you put in the time, you level--there just isn't a feeling of struggling or accomplishment really. A lot of this comes from the ease of avoiding death. We implemented a new house-rule concerning Revivify (as this is particularly an issue):
But you're not really disagreeing with me. You're choosing to implement a play style in which levels are difficult to gain and maintain. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, it's just simply one play style among many.

I'm just saying that levels and experience are ultimately 100% the purview of the DM and the type of game they want to play. They're a tool for the DM to use to shape the game experience.
 

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