log in or register to remove this ad


D&D 2E Thinking of doing up some 2e house rules.


I'm starting to feel the whole grognard pull towards the classic versions of the game.

I felt a lot of frustration last time I tried running a 3e game. I didn't have the usual problems with the game a lot of people do, namely the math. My biggest problem was the whole 3.0/3.5 split. My 3e library is pretty small and it's all 3.0. The problem is is that the whole 3.5 revision makes a mess of things. The core books aren't a big problem, since the SRDs are easily accessible, but it's the splats where the frustration started to kick in. I have some of the 3.0 splats, and some of the material in them was updated into the SRD and core books, some was updated into the 3.5 splats, and some wasn't updated at all. Trying to make sense of the mess was less than fun, and it did nothing to change my opinion that 3.5 was in large part an unwelcome cash grab (maybe it wasn't but I'm not going get into that, it's irrelevant these days anyway).

This is where 2e starts to look attractive again. I don't have a giant split in the rules do deal with from the revised rulebooks and Player's Option material vs. all the 2e material published before 1995. And there's the simple wealth of material to draw on. Where I only have 8 3.0 books, and a handful of Dragons, I have a rather extensive 2e library - core, PO, the Encyclopedia Magica and the Spell Compendiums, nearly the whole PHB splat series, the MC Annuals and various other assorted books. For settings, if I want to dive into them, I've got a good chunk of the Planescape material, the Tales of the Lance box for DL, and an assortment of the old free .pdfs that WotC used to have on their site, including a decent chunk of FR.

Of course 2e as written isn't exactly...perfect. So I'll look at some house rules to clean up some of the problems. First thing I'm going to look at is Dragon 264's "10 Ways of Playing 3e Today", or whatever the article was called, since it might have some approaches I want to use. I haven't looked at that article in years, so I don't remember most of it. I do remember how it mentioned switching to an ascending AC and replacing THAC0s with attack bonuses; I used that in my last year of 2e and it worked very well, and I'll probably keep that at least as an option. Other things I know I'm going to look at are: Exceptional Strength (as in getting rid of it), level limits for demihumans and giving a real benefit to humans, multiclassing, and proficiencies.

log in or register to remove this ad


First Post
Well for myself I see the same list as you do plus......

For humans I would give them an XP bonus percentage to express humans versatility and ability to adapt and +1 skill point per level, 3e's multiclassing and skill system and the skills and powers book (i dont care if its broken, it was awesome in its brokenness), kits from the various optional books, 3e's psionics (earlier editions psionics sucked) , the master worked items from 3e, pathfinders character abilities and 3e's experience point and CR system. It wasnt perfect but it was a lot better then the seemingly completely random and arbitrary XP value of enemies in 1e and 2e.


Some of that I'm considering, and some of that I'm not. I'll get to specifics once I crack open the rulebooks and take a look at them. I also don't necessarily want to turn the whole thing into a 2e/3e hybrid, though 3e does have some good ideas, and early 3e felt like an attempt to clean up some of the long-standing problems of 2e. So 3e's approach makes a good baseline, but there's also ideas from Basic, 1e, 4e, and Next that can be useful as well.

Anyway Dragon 264's 10 3e inspired house rules for 2e. It was partially meant as a preview for 3e, but since I'm familiar with what 3e eventually and actually did, I won't use all of these as written.

#1: This is the ascending AC bit I mentioned above.

#2: Basically says to ignore all class restrictions and level limits on demihumans, and give a 20% XP penalty to all new classes added after the first.

I am not going to approach things exactly like this. Level limits will still be in, while class restrictions will be discarded. Human will have to get a new racial ability to compensate though, and an XP bonus is one of the things I'm considering.

#3 Use Scarlet Brotherhood for monks and assassins. Yeah, this is usually mentioned when people think of going to 2e, so it's pretty much standard. Unfortunately I don't have Scarlet Brotherhood. That's not a big deal though, monks aren't that important, and there's plenty of kits and class variants for assassins in 2e.

#4: 4d6 for stats. Yeah, that's in the 2e PHB, and it was the method I had in my games.

#5: Ignore Exceptional Strength, and have 19+ Strength start at the first percentile category. This is a pretty simple way of dealing with Exceptional Strength, but it's also vague. What do we do when we get to 25 Str? Do we stop there and ignore the unused parts of the table (because 2e stats had a range from 1-25), or do we keep going up from 25 until we get to the end of the table? I'll look at it more closely when I start examining the rules in detail.

#6: Refocus and delay options for initiative. Basically this is roll only once in combat for initiative, and sacrifice a turn to go first or last in later rounds. This one is really dependant on if I decide to roll init every round or not. It's also not a really good representation of how 3e init works either, and doing 3e init in 2e can be handled better than this if I wanted.

#7: 6 second combat round. Again this one is no big deal, you just got to make sure all the time dependant stuff with spells and such aren't messed up. And decide if spell durations should be rounds or minutes.

#8: Bonus spells for high Int or Wis. This is give all casters the same bonus spells priests get for high Wis, except wizards and bards get it from Int. I might make bards dependant on Cha instead.

#9: Rolling a 20 is a crit threat, and rolling a hit makes a crit for double damage. This is pretty close to 3e, except there's no bigger crit ranges or triple/quadruple damage. It would be no big deal to just use the 3e crit rules with 2e (or for more fun, use them together with Combat & Tactic's crit system).

#10: Spontaneous casting of healing spells for clerics and druids. Clerics and druids can sacrifice a memorized spell to heal 1d8 points of damage per spell level. Big problem here: it makes every cure _ wounds spell besides cure light wounds in 2e almost useless. This is because of how much those spells heal: cure moderate is 1d10 + 1, cure serious is 2d8 + 2, and cure critical is 3d8 + 3. Even worse, cure serious is level 4 and cure critical level 5, so priests can cure similar amounts at much lower levels. And 3e druids don't even spontaneously cast healing spells either. Needless to say I won't be using this rule. I'll probably tweak the cure spells as well: bump cure moderate to 2d6, and drop cure serious and cure critical 1 level.


First Post
I would definitely get rid of exceptional strength and just make the ability tables go as high as you need them.

Delay and refocus arent things I would worry about because IME no one ever used them anyway.

The length of round really only changes how you narrate what happens unless you were to move all the spells to per round duration which would seriously nerf any stat buffing spells. Whether thats a good or bad thing is up to personal taste. But i would rather have some sort of concentration rule controlling how many spells a caster can maintain.

Which is a houserule I've used before. Making casters concentrate to maintain long duration spells goes a long to way bringing down primary casters power.

I would not use the bonus spells or spontaneous casting either. They increase caster power and versatility unnecesarily. That was something 2e had right IMO.

Or if you must have a version of spontaneous casting tie it to what god the divine caster follows so that its not always healing spells and not an HP healing spell for each level even for say a god of healing.

And if you do that I would give wizards something similar but tie it to a favored school of magic to make specialists more appealing.


Bonus spells shouldn't be too overpowered, after all priests already get them to begin with. The spontaneous casting though is unnecessary and like I said I wouldn't use it. I was merely commenting on how mechanically broken that suggestion was. Possibly though it could serve as an ability for some specialty priests.


First Post
Bonus spells shouldn't be too overpowered, after all priests already get them to begin with. The spontaneous casting though is unnecessary and like I said I wouldn't use it. I was merely commenting on how mechanically broken that suggestion was. Possibly though it could serve as an ability for some specialty priests.

If you just give arcane casters the bonus spells from the 2e divine table it would be fine. If you used the 3e chart its too much.


I haven't forgotten this topic, just been busy and kept putting it off.

I'll generally structure the rules by the same order the PHB uses for its chapter for the sake of convenience.

First is ability scores. Not much to really talk about here. I usually allowed Method V (4d6) when I played 2e, and most of the group I played with also used it, so i'd continue to do so. I'd largely keep ability score unchanged, with Exceptional Strengthgeting ditched as dicussed above, and letting wizards and bard get bonus spells for high score like priests do.

The only other idea would be to simplify ability bonuses by using the bonuses from Basic instead which are +1 at 13, +2 at 16, and +3 at 18. This gives better hit and damage bonuses for Strength, but OTOH, 18 Dex has a lower AC bonus, warriors lose a +4 hp bonus at 18 Con, and I think 18 Wis has a +4 save bonus. So I'm still undecided here.

Next chapter is Races. The main thing I'd bother with changing here are the class limitations and level limits. Level limits in theory are supposed to be a balancing factor, only humans don't have limits which is supposed to be their main racial ability. Unfortunately, 2e's limits are too high to be relevant; as a result, humans really don't get much of anything special unless the campaign goes into unusually high levels for 2e which is above 10-12.

Here's my approach to the issue. First, no class restrictions by race. Any race/class combination that doesn't appear in chapter 2 of the DMG has a level limit of 6. Second, the level limits will still be observed, but they don't completely end advancement; once a PC hits the level limit for a class, double experience is required for subsequent levels. In addition, the higher level limits for high ability scores option in the DMG will also be observed. Last is what to do for humans. Human PCs will get a choice of one of three abilities at character creation which can't be changed later: a 5% bonus to earned XP which is cumulative with the bonus for high Prime Requisitve scores, +1 hp/level, or bonus proficiencies.

Next is classes. That's going to take a bit of work to get through, so that'll be the next post I write on house rules.


First Post
Just thought I'd point out that...

The only other idea would be to simplify ability bonuses by using the bonuses from Basic instead which are +1 at 13, +2 at 16, and +3 at 18. This gives better hit and damage bonuses for Strength, but OTOH, 18 Dex has a lower AC bonus, warriors lose a +4 hp bonus at 18 Con, and I think 18 Wis has a +4 save bonus. So I'm still undecided here.
If the entire system of dice rolls were replaced by a computer that simply gave results, no one would be able to tell the difference between the computer adding +4 or +3 under a few special circumstances. (Indeed, these kinds of arbitrary bonuses and penalties are endemic to real gaming - the polyhedral dice most people use roll like junk, and you can learn all about it here.)

At the end of the day, the BECMI attribute system clearly worked well for BECMI, and a similar system was instituted for 3rd Edition D&D. There's no good reason why it wouldn't work for a modified 2nd Edition.


Ok, on to classes.

I'd simplify the warrior melee attacks per round to 2 attacks at level 7 and 3 attacks at level 13. The whole 3 attacks per 2 rounds bit was more complicated than it needed to be and really switching this to whole numbers shouldn't be overpowered when compared to the abilities wizards and priests have access to at these levels.

Otherwise, I see no need to make big changes to fighters and paladins.

Rangers on the other hand could use a bit of tweaking. I'd probably remove alignment restrictions like 3e did and have the class be the expert hunter rather than the wilderness protector. I'd adjust the species enemy ability. In 2e, it only works against 1 specific monster which is a limited compared to the giant class bonuses from 1e or the favored enemies from 3e. I'm not entirely sure how I want to approach it though.

Wizards I'll probably treat like a single class like 3e does. 2e was already moving toward that approach as the edition progressed and the 2e and 3e wizard is about 90% identical anyway. The biggest difference is 3e applying feats to the class. I might dial back the ability score requirements for the specialists but not remove them completely. I'll also let the player choose the opposition schools, the fixed opposition schools from 2e were kind of arbitrary. They also didn't properly reflect the schools' actual power either, why for example did Illusion have 3 opposition schools? I assume it's a holdover from 1e's illusionist which I understand was more powerful than the MU, but the 2e illusionist isn't really all that powerful. Anyway, choosing opposition schools will be similar to 3.0's approach which recognized that some schools were stronger than others and had more restrictions (3.5's flat two schools ignore how some schools are better than others). Bascially each school is worth a certain number of "points" and to specialize in it, a wizard needs to give up at least 2 (Divination only requires 1) schools that have an equal or greater number of points.

Divination: 1
Abjuration, Necromancy: 2
Enchantment/Charm, Illusion/Phantasm: 3
Conjuration/Summoning, Invocation/Evocation: 4
Alteration: 5

No Greater or Lesser Divination silliness either. That was just a kludge to make sure all wizards got detect magic and read magic. Divination is a single school, and the Universal magic school from Spells and Magic will be used instead.

Priests first and foremost would get the sphere fixes from Spells and Powers, as well as the Tome of Magic spheres mentioned in the Priest's Spell Compendium (Wards and either Law or Chaos depending on alignment for clerics, Travelers for druids and rangers, and Law for paladins).

I probably wouldn't tweak anything else for clerics. Druids I'd probably expand alignment to at least NG and NE, and I'd get rid of the level restrictions that require the druid to fight higher level druids to advance.

Thieves won't get too many changes. I'm thinking of letting aplayer choose 8 starting abilities including some of the new thief abilties introduced in Skills and Powers for more customization options. Then let the thief add new abilities gradually at higher levels. High Level Campaigns adds all the S&P abilities at once at level 21, but that's a bit high. I would restrict the detect magic and detect illusion abilties to higher levels though (that is a thief don't get to take them at level 1, but can learn them later). I'd probably treat the Backstab ability much like 3e's Sneak Attack for clarity, that is the sorts of situations where Backstab applies.

Bard would probably get a spell list tweak. The RAW lets the bard pretty much learn any wizard spell, which is a bit powerful for the class. I'd probably use the Player's Option school of Song as a baseline for the bard, and probably let the class freely choose from Enchantment and Illusion (though a lot of the spells in Song come fromthose two schools to begin with).

Finally, there's the whole matter of dealing with 2e's multi- and dual-classing rules, which are kind of arbitrary.

I have a bigger problem with dual-classing that multi-classing. For one, it's pretty restrictive: you need a 15 prime requisite in your first class, and a 17 prime requisite in the new class just to do it. Then there's the whole can't use abilities from a previous class or you get massively penalized on XP bit. The RAW tries to rationalize it as gimping the learning process, but it's honestly a bit too restrictive, and why do demihumans have no problem using more than one class at once?

I think I'll kind of combine the two, using the multi-classing as a baseline. The rest goes like this:

Humans can't start as multi-classed characters. Demihumans can because they have longer lifespans (and thus the time to train multiple casses to level 1), and/or a natural affinity for certain classes (thus halfling fighter/thief, or dwarf fighter/cleric, frex).

Any character can add a multi-class after level 1. There are no ability score requirement other than the class minimums. Demihumans are restricted to adding a class only in their given multi-class combinations.

Humans can multi-class with up to three classes. They can pick any combination of fighter, ranger, wizard, cleric, druid, or thief, but cannot have more than one class from the same class group. Paladins and bards cannot multiclass.

If a new class is chosen after level one, previous class abilities can still be freely used. XP is simply divied equally among the classes like a typical multi-classed character.
Last edited:

An Advertisement