D&D General So those of us who know later editions yet still play AD&D 2 - what are its draws?


I see myself returning to AD&D 2 from time to time for purely nostalgic reasons. Being my first contact with D&D, to me it feels the most like what D&D "is". But I also recognize that this is completely arbitrary and that every generation has their own D&D, or even multiple D&Ds. It's different for everybody, really.

So steering away from pure nostalgia (or that we just still have the books lying around), what are things AD&D 2 offers that later editions lost or that got diluted? I'm putting this in the general forum instead of the old editions forum because it's mainly about what we can learn from that edition for more recent play, for game design, retroclones and the like. Also, I'm mainly thinking about game mechanics, but of course the lore is not completely separable from that.

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Not your screen monkey (he/him) 🇺🇦🇵🇸🏳️‍⚧️
It kept saving throw ranges and armor classes to a relatively controlled range, a real contrast to 3e where save DCs and ACs could grow functionally unbounded. This meant, particularly for saves, that success was never unobtainable and, in fact, easier the higher your level. (None of this is to say that the saving throw table didn’t have serious problems - thief says “Hi”).


Having started in AD&D (mostly), and being a player in a long-running AD&D RAW nostalgia campaign, I would have to say, very little. Thankfully, the DM in question has mellowed greatly over the years, and has turned from a "No" DM to a "No, but/and" DM, which is nice. I'm a grid player, so totm with its arbitrary rulings irritates me. I like the simplicity of the build process. I like the limited options during play. I like the sense of momentum. Things happen fast--including character death, unfortunately. I despise initiative-driven caster interruption. You never know from one day to the next whether you're going to contribute to a combat. 3E did a great job with that.

Yet we're still playing, and it can't all be nostalgia. The system does its job, which is damning with faint praise, perhaps, but I'll always consider playing an AD&D campaign with the right DM.

Spelljammer nostalgia is the only thing that's gotten 2e on the table for me since 2000-ish, and even that's only been with the survivors of my 90's group, three of whom have died in the intervening years.


Reeks of Jedi
Best version of Faerun. Lots of great lore. Oh and Dragonlance!

As for the system, It's got an edge to it modern D&D doesn't. I won't lie and say it's not a bit fiddley but I find 5E to be fiddley in its own way.

For example, my 5E game the players forget a lot of their powers, and feats, and racial abilties, and spells, and blah blah blah. 2E doesn't have that issue as much.

And honestly, they played better (paid attention) because what they did mattered and could have real consequences. Healing potions and spells where something truly valued not just another thing on the sheet.

One player even said "I feel like what I do matters". when we played 2E
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2E's plethora of in-depth campaign worlds are easy to get lost in, and there was a lot of experimentation going on in pushing the bounds of what a D&D setting could look like.

Both 1E and 2E had tight controls on spellcasters, especially at low-levels. You had to really grit your teeth and want it to survive as a low-level caster, and it was often preferential to have either an NPC or secondary fighter character the wizard player would run for combat situations. Though, when the wizard did cast a spell it was usually spectacular. At high levels, saves were often good enough that spells would often fail to affect opponents, so that put an extra check on spellcasters.

To me, if you ignore some of the antiquated DM advice towards having an iron fist over the game (mostly in the arena of badwrong fun and attitudes towards certain class niches), it's probably the most versatile version of the game with official plug-ins for just about every aspect you might want to consider tweaking away from a fairly solid core. That said, I've found my 5E players having a hard time with some of the concepts of 2E (THAC0 & descending AC, some rolls high while others low) that's prevented me from using it directly more.

Enrico Poli1

I started with BECMI, went to 2e, then played with all subsequent editions except 4e.
What 2e does better then 3e and 5e? Psionics. Also, Settings; for example, when I want to play Dark Sun I use 2e. Play is faster. Art also is generally better.
What 2e does better then 1e?
Psionics. THAC0. Initiative. Bards. Thieves. Experience for monsters and magic items.
So, lot to love.
I'm not saying that 2e is best; every edition has its strengths and weaknesses. I play occasionally all of them, even 3.0.


Campaign settings and DM toolkits type book. Best DM version of D&D imho.

I like some of the mechanics in their own right eg priest spheres, old school multiclassing.

Voidrunner's Codex

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