D&D 2E What does AD&D 2E do better than 5E?

One thing to remember regarding NWPs and secondary skills in 2nd was that you weren’t supposed to be a master of these non-adventuring professions. Instead, your profession was adventurer, and that meant less time to master sculpting, obscure history, and so forth. Unlike the inestimable Dr. Jones, whose day job was archaeology professor, it was expected that adventuring PC spent most of their time and energy into exploring forgotten ruins, battling evil, and saving the town/kingdom//world/cosmos. That leaves little time for improving one’s skills at the forge. That’s the reasoning behind there being no increases beyond unlocking it or raising your attributes. The only ones who could improve were supposed to be retired adventurers.
You could spend another NWP slot to raise the score by +1. It was incredibly inefficient, but they left open an avenue for it to happen.

NWPs in general are a double-edged sword for me, nostalgia-wise.

On the plus side, they really did give you an opportunity to make selections that differentiated your character from every other human fighter or whatnot, and I remember obsessing over the right combinations of them (and 'min-maxing' my character by choosing the right kit to get me two NWPs from my wish-list).

At the same time, the actual NWP system was a bit of a hot mess. Many of them were pulled straight out of the 1E Oriental Adventures and Wilderness & Dungeoneers Survival Guides with no revision or cohesive vision. Every facet of wilderness survival was split out into individual bits (because fine distinction amongst those skills makes sense for a Wilderness Survival Guide) -- meaning making a simple "warrior who can go out into the wilderness and live off the land" require 9 slot (Direction Sense, Fire Building, Fishing, Hunting, Survival(2), Tracking(2), Weather Sense; more if you want to Swim or be an animal-person or the like) - most of a no-kit, average intelligence warrior's career. At the same time, making a "scribe" require maybe 2 slots (reading/writing, and maybe heraldry), since no one had taken a keen interest in splitting out the finer details of that career path three years earlier. Likewise, a lot of the actual rules/subsystems for each NWP was not really built around use in-game (perhaps, as you point out, these are "non-adventuring professions") -- ex. swimming has rules for how many hours you can swim towards shore if you fall off a boat, but nothing about swimming in dungeon-water-trap situations. Most of the action (such as jumping) and survival-type skills do provide solid rules (although each their own subsystem), but a lot of them are so limiting or failure-prone (survival in particular taking special care to point out that relying on it "may lead to overconfidence and doom!") that the general message is 'don't put yourself into a position to ever need to use this.' I seem to recall much of our 2e gaming being us painstakingly choosing NWP to thematically differentiate our characters, and then absolutely ignoring the printed book rules for what they do, leaving it to DM fiat how they worked.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Voadam

Legend
You could spend another NWP slot to raise the score by +1. It was incredibly inefficient, but they left open an avenue for it to happen.

NWPs in general are a double-edged sword for me, nostalgia-wise.

On the plus side, they really did give you an opportunity to make selections that differentiated your character from every other human fighter or whatnot, and I remember obsessing over the right combinations of them (and 'min-maxing' my character by choosing the right kit to get me two NWPs from my wish-list).

At the same time, the actual NWP system was a bit of a hot mess. Many of them were pulled straight out of the 1E Oriental Adventures and Wilderness & Dungeoneers Survival Guides with no revision or cohesive vision. Every facet of wilderness survival was split out into individual bits (because fine distinction amongst those skills makes sense for a Wilderness Survival Guide) -- meaning making a simple "warrior who can go out into the wilderness and live off the land" require 9 slot (Direction Sense, Fire Building, Fishing, Hunting, Survival(2), Tracking(2), Weather Sense; more if you want to Swim or be an animal-person or the like) - most of a no-kit, average intelligence warrior's career. At the same time, making a "scribe" require maybe 2 slots (reading/writing, and maybe heraldry), since no one had taken a keen interest in splitting out the finer details of that career path three years earlier. Likewise, a lot of the actual rules/subsystems for each NWP was not really built around use in-game (perhaps, as you point out, these are "non-adventuring professions") -- ex. swimming has rules for how many hours you can swim towards shore if you fall off a boat, but nothing about swimming in dungeon-water-trap situations. Most of the action (such as jumping) and survival-type skills do provide solid rules (although each their own subsystem), but a lot of them are so limiting or failure-prone (survival in particular taking special care to point out that relying on it "may lead to overconfidence and doom!") that the general message is 'don't put yourself into a position to ever need to use this.' I seem to recall much of our 2e gaming being us painstakingly choosing NWP to thematically differentiate our characters, and then absolutely ignoring the printed book rules for what they do, leaving it to DM fiat how they worked.
This matches my experience a bunch as well. Mostly narrative hooks but with an eye out for the occasional niche specific mechanics being relevant. Healing for the minor healing options, tumbling reducing fall damage, juggling giving a chance to bat away daggers and darts, blindfighting, languages, etc.
 

This matches my experience a bunch as well. Mostly narrative hooks but with an eye out for the occasional niche specific mechanics being relevant. Healing for the minor healing options, tumbling reducing fall damage, juggling giving a chance to bat away daggers and darts, blindfighting, languages, etc.
There certainly were a few. Juggling to grab daggers I remember being one of the ones never to actually use. You had to make an attack roll (most likely as a Thief, mind you) vs. AC 0, and if you fail you are automatically hit (to quote, "sticking your hand in the path of a dagger is likely to hurt"). There's probably a sweet spot where the Thief has a sufficiently low AC, good ThAC0, and the attacker a sufficiently good ThAC0 that the attempt is advisable, but man it never seemed a good bet bitd.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
My gaming group has been switching back and forth between 2E and 5E over the last few years and we really like both. However, we also find that both systems have parts that irritate us. Obviously, many discussions about the benefits and drawbacks of both systems followed. So, I thought I'd see what this forum has to say. It's been a long time since I've been active in one, but ENworld does seem like a rather nice community.

As an example answer to my question: Magic. I know magic was considered overpowered in older editions (hell, even in 5E), but we never saw it that way. I love how special magic feels and that it isn't just one saving throw away from going away.

What do you think?
Lore. All the way across. I also liked specialty priests and vancian magic. Spells and magic items in general were more interesting, versatile and evocative. The game felt like it was trying to simulate a fantasy world and not simply a backdrop for big damn heroes.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
2e specialty priests allow a ton more PC divine power customization than 5e cleric domains.

I like a lot of 2e's various psionics better than the few subclasses we have gotten for 5e.

In depth monster entries. I like the 5e MM and a lot of Volo's but the 2e monstrous compendium series is fantastic and I like a lot of the 2e descriptions. The 2e Monstrous Arcanas and such (draconomicon, giantcraft) are a lot of fun too.

Full on campaign settings.

Fleshing out campaign settings.

Campaign setting sourcebooks detailing one area.

Ravenloft :) I prefer the 2e setting with politics between dark lords over the 5e isolated dream prisons.

Greyhawk.

I prefer 2e fleshed out FR over advanced 100 years 5e FR soft reboot where most old lore is now inapplicable.

2e God books are pretty fantastic. 5e only has a set of decent charts in the PH appendix.
Best monster book in mainline D&D.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I agree with every thing you said except for this part.



2E is clearly designed to a morally unambiguous heroic fantasy game. They removed assassins, changed demon names etc. In Jim Ward's quest to be loved by angry moms that will never love him back he thoroughly sanitized the game. I can't think of anything even approaching sword and sorcery until much later in the line with stuff like Dark Sun and Planescape. Those core books are all sunshine and rainbows, as much as I love them I have to admit that much.
The tone was clearly heroic, yes, but the rules still kept what was needed for a gritty, verisimilitudinous game.
 


MGibster

Legend
I was looking at things from a rules perspective, but since others have mentioned it, I'll say settings. In my opinion, WotC has done a terrible job with settings in 5th edition whereas 2nd edition was a kind of golden age. A few months back Barnes & Noble had a 1/2 off sale on on games, including D&D books/boxed sets, and I was seriously thinking about picking Spelljammer up. But since they didn't have rules for ship-to-ship encounters and it wasn't much on setting I decided to skip it even at half price. AD&D 2nd edition certainly had its duds, I'm looking at you, Maztica, but overall I think most of the setting material was of good quality.

I'll fully admit that it's quite possible what I'm looking for in a setting book isn't what younger players are looking for.
 


Retreater

Legend
I've skipped reading all the previous responses to answer the OP without any influence on my memories.
  • Richly detailed campaign settings that exhibited great originality and uniqueness.
  • The 2e psionics system was a skill-based magic system that encouraged creative problem-solving.
  • Priests of specific mythoi and specialty wizards felt unique, flavorful, and full of character.
  • Fewer modifiers and smaller numbers kept the game from feeling too bloated.
  • The monster manual was packed with numerous creatures, including Morale, Numbers Encountered, and Natural Habit to give them lives outside of combat stats.
  • Not all the art was better, but some of those oil paintings were very evocative. The line art could also be flavorful. When D&D wasn't just a "life style brand" with a set artistic style, it showed more diversity to better capture that each of us applied our own imaginations - instead of a corporate trade dress.
  • The novel tie-ins did more to build a world than any multimedia marketing blitz I've seen in the WotC era.
  • Sometimes you just want a 32-page adventure (or Dungeon magazine side trek) instead of a level 1-13 mega campaign adventure.
  • The "green" books connected the game to real world historical periods and mythology. There were many "D&Ds" back then, not just the standard "D&D" experience.
  • Yes, the kits were badly balanced, but I enjoyed these class-featured books. For example, I was typically the thief in the group, so that book appealed to me. Not just for class features, but also getting expanded equipment, advice for how to play the class, etc.
  • Boxed sets felt like an adventure of discovery as we delved into their variety of contents. You can't get that in a book.
  • I didn't have social media and message boards to make me feel as jaded about the hobby.
  • Theatre of the mind was okay back then (for our group). 3.x/PF and 4E robbed my groups of that. I don't think we're ever going back now.
  • Sentient magic items.
  • Cursed magic items.
  • Lingering magical effects (i.e. Mummy Rot) that would impact characters long-term (or short term, if they died, obviously).
  • Mystery about how to defeat foes, often based on folklore (you can't just drop a creature to 0 hp and that be enough)
  • Spells like Hold Person didn't end after a single round.
  • Requirements to qualify for specialized classes - so that a paladin (for example) was rare and special.
  • Challenging traps and hazards - with no Passive Perception "auto-pass"
  • Disrupting spellcasting
  • Spell components
  • Rolling to learn spells
  • System Shock/Resurrection Survival
  • Jennell Jacquays' Campaigns and Catacombs Guide is still one of the best DM books I've ever read.
 

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top