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

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
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.
I...I don't think there's anything more to say. If there was a level over "love" for this post, I would use it.
 

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James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Are system shock and resurrection survival good things? Hear me out, because this is based on my experience with the game over the years.

-System shock seems to exclusively come up when bad things happen to you (I count aging due to Haste as a bad thing, YMMV). So as if being aged by a ghost or polymorphed against your will isn't bad enough, we have to tack on this percent chance you also just die? How is that a good thing? The game already has plenty of ways you can die due to circumstances out of your control, now you get to add "man, too bad you didn't have a 16 Constitution instead of a 17" as well?

-Resurrection Survival. It's not easy to get Raised from the dead in D&D. It's expensive, hard to find a caster who can or is willing to cast it (unless you're lucky to have one in your party). There are already penalties inherent in the game for being brought back to life, and a maximum value of times this could be attempted in the first place. So given all of that, where's the benefit in "you did the quest, you paid the priest, he goes to cast the spell and...you die anyways. Too bad you didn't have a 13 Constitution instead of a 12, huh?"

If this is about stat dumping or people playing Elves (who have their own woes when it comes to returning to life), and penalizing people who choose to dump Con, I'd like to point out there are other ability scores you can skimp on that players tend to find more attractive to do, like Charisma or even Wisdom (which has a fairly trivial penalty to as low as a 5!).

Now most people I've played with wouldn't want a Wisdom of a 5, but sometimes that's how the dice fall, and I don't see any low ability score being really worse than any other in the grand scheme of things, but the subsystem for system shock and resurrection survival penalizing you for not having a high value in Constitution seems extra punishing for no real benefit, given the sheer amounts of ways you can already die or have death be permanent to begin with.
 

I am curious, though. Some of you mentioned specialty priests being better at differentiating faiths and clerics. Are we talking Faiths & Avatars kind of priests or simply access to spheres?
Mostly the new spells and spheres in Tome of Magic, and things built on top of them. They feel priestly, not wizardly (except for maybe Mental Domination), but in a way quite different from PHB priestly spheres. As a result, a priest of mathematics feels very different from a priest of thought or animals or persuasion, but still like a priest.

E.g. a wizard's role in war is to nuke enemies with fireballs; a priest of war's role is to ensure that food and drink don't spoil, to allow armies to march longer and further, to boost morale, and maybe in a clinch (or maybe not) to provide access to some elementals or conjured animals or undead. Wizards and priests scale differently as the number of combatants on your side increases.

$0.02.
 
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Retreater

Legend
Are system shock and resurrection survival good things? Hear me out, because this is based on my experience with the game over the years.
They're not de facto good or bad. They were a flavorful addition to the rules that reinforced the style of play in that era.
Honestly, in the current era, I've not had a single character brought back from the dead. It's not because of the cost, either. It's because players would rather try a new character build, and there's nothing lost to them when bringing in a new character. It hurts a DM more to bring in a replacement character than it does the player: to tie in story elements, introduce the character in a meaningful way, rebalance encounters and magic items, etc.
 


Voadam

Legend
Honestly, in the current era, I've not had a single character brought back from the dead. It's not because of the cost, either. It's because players would rather try a new character build, and there's nothing lost to them when bringing in a new character. It hurts a DM more to bring in a replacement character than it does the player: to tie in story elements, introduce the character in a meaningful way, rebalance encounters and magic items, etc.
For me in the 5e era the general toughness of characters combined with death saves and no AD&D style save or die effects has been nice.

When two died in my current campaign they came in with new characters though.

In a prior one there was a TPK so no going back for raise dead options.

I generally prefer less overall casual deaths but also less raising dead as a regular game element.
 

Voadam

Legend
Y’all are making me want to introduce 2nd Edition to my kids. Do you know how much work I would have to redo? Sigh.
A lot of 2e stuff can be used in 5e games.

There is a ton of AD&D lore on settings, gods, and monsters that can be used straight in 5e. I use a bunch regularly in my 5e conversion of a Pathfinder 1e adventure path. :) I think a lot of 2e modules would work well in 5e with 5e rules and 5e monster equivalents used.

The specialty priest classes and the seven 200+ page encyclopedia book entries of spells are the fairly big PC mechanics things that are real nice and do not cross editions easily to my mind (they can be converted, but depends how comfortable you are on designing class and spell balance yourself for the specifics). Also psionics and Dark Sun are another niche you'd have to do a bunch of work to get working in 5e.
 

A lot of 2e stuff can be used in 5e games.

There is a ton of AD&D lore on settings, gods, and monsters that can be used straight in 5e. I use a bunch regularly in my 5e conversion of a Pathfinder 1e adventure path. :) I think a lot of 2e modules would work well in 5e with 5e rules and 5e monster equivalents used.

The specialty priest classes and the seven 200+ page encyclopedia book entries of spells are the fairly big PC mechanics things that are real nice and do not cross editions easily to my mind (they can be converted, but depends how comfortable you are on designing class and spell balance yourself for the specifics). Also psionics and Dark Sun are another niche you'd have to do a bunch of work to get working in 5e.
Well, I had been moving further back, into an era in which I was never able to play (Basic and 1e). However, 2e was my first real D&D, and is much like a first love.
 

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?
Oh, it had flavorful classes and races that fit the default zeitgeist of fantasy at the time, amazing experimentation of what fantasy could do and reach, a very hackable system that was mostly transparent, customization out the wazoo, no fear in limited options for the sake of a particular feel or setting, magic items that improved all classes, historical advice in DM books and player handbooks, tins of advice for building characters, campaigns, and settings, phenomenal art that evoked the style of the settings, easy-to-read core books, monsters that fit in the world and which gave context in order to place them, no end to experimentation, a creator’s dream and a hobbyist’s wish come true.

There was support for every tier of play and virtually every play style. Adventures ran the gamut. Previous edition stuff was actually supported via supplements (acrobat, assassin, barbarian, cavalier, monk), and new archetypes were added for support. Theater of the Mind play style was the assumed default (OG PHB gives an example of it). No one was afraid to try new things.

There was lore EVERYWHERE, and it wasn’t forced onto each world. Rules previously thought unbending were bent to breaking in various campaign worlds. Comics were made. Soundtracks were made. Other fantasy and science fiction and RPGs were regularly reviewed in Dragon (that’s where I first learned of Warcraft, and tge Vlad Tallis novels, as well as how to do a fantasy Indian subcontinent setting). They had novels galore, including at least three mystery novels starring mages in FR.

The sheer amount of creativity unleashed during the 2e era is unmatched by anything since. It really was a magical edition, for all the criticism flung at it, both deserved and undeserved (and I did both during that period).

There is a magic to classic D&D and 1st edition. There is also a magic to 2nd edition that nothing since has approached.
 
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Retreater

Legend
For me in the 5e era the general toughness of characters combined with death saves and no AD&D style save or die effects has been nice.
I have had so many more characters die in WotC era D&D than in AD&D. But that's because I had no illusion of balance and tried to avoid challenge in the early days, always rolled behind a screen, and kept the PC's HP in a notebook so I could make sure they didn't die. Actually playing by the rules, TSR-era games are grinders.
 

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