What was so bad about the Core 2e rules? Why is it the red-headed stepchild of D&D?


First Post
2E core rules stripped out too much and left it flavorlless. I was actually very happy when 2E came out because I could confidently stop buying anything from TSR and save some money.

Things it took out -- Subclasses. Half-orcs. Monks. Gygax's voice. Clerics became priests. Didn't like initiative rules. Priest spheres were more complicated. Thief skill point fiddliness were more complicated. Demons and devils. Magic item price values. Magic item creation guidelines. Illusionists.

Like a lot of off-edition tweaking, it seemed to make fiddly changes in systems without understanding the intent or integration of the original system.

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I crit!
I bought the first two core books right out of the shoot. I didn't really like them. I didn't like to read them. I'd always drift back to 1e stuff.

I'm not sure about the rules, I like thac0 and some of the other things, but my groups really, unconsciously, played a mish mash of house ruled 1e with 2e rules. I drifted away from the hobby then.

I've still got my 2e phb and dmg, and I have yet to give them a good read.


I recall Gary was already working on a second edition while in California dealing with the cartoon, and was givien his walking papers before he got to do much and then 2nd was made without him. That is what some peoples gripes are.

Others I here that never played 2nd just say it was so bad that caused WotC to make 3rd....

For me and many I know I agree that 2nd edition AD^D was about the best thing made. 1st had the prose of Gary, but also had the excesive wordiness and bad book organization.

2nd, especially revised, had much better organization. They set out to NOT be strict rules, but just guidelines for creating your own game and said so right int he books to stop all the rules lawyer interruptions. This of course didn't help the RPGA set rules when things were different everywhere.

THAC0 was simple and the easiest system to hit with. Also it didn't deny anyone from being able to hit anything because it had a limit to what protection you could have even from magic and made the game more, to steal a word from 4th design, cenimatic, in that there is always a chance you could hit something rather than having things be futitle.

NWPs were elegant, had rules, and were optional. My favorite example to explain this was with fire-building. Not using the rules for a limit to NWPs but to cover instances of where you may have difficulty was a player telling me why there character would be able to perform this act. If they could give a good enough reason then they could build fires, but if they didn't want to know how to build a fire they didn't have to. Not everyone in the real world can make a proper cooking fire!

You even had roles outsides of the acting like another peson in 2nd. You role was the fighter, the mage, the cleric, the thief (your the burglar go burgle something!)

The only reason I have found around me for people that didn't like 2nd was that that didn't like D&D. Oddly they play 3rd or even 4th now and even claim it isn't like D&D but another game, and some still don't play either of those because they just don't like D&D.

I can never find a valid reason especially for the problems people had with THAC0. 90% of the time it involves the negative AC numbers being the problem, yet those people have no problem with any modifiers being a negative making it a penalty to hit rather than a bonus. I mean it is all subtraction.

2nd was best because it just organized 1st up into better reading books for the rules but kept all the good of 1st and added a few clarifications.

I will have to dig out my original 2nd edition books and see what really changed form them and revised, but don't think it was anything but an errata update and a face lift.

It is still the longest lasting edition of D&D at 11 years in production, so I don't know how it could be considered by any the worst edition or RHSC.


Not your screen monkey (he/him)
I liked 2e but there were some definite problems. The ranger redesign didn't make much sense for the game (though it made sense for cross-promotion with the books) and was much weaker than the paladin class, with which it shared the XP table. The 2e DMG was a much weaker and less useful tool compared to the 1e DMG.
But for the most part, a lot of the rule changes were nice ideas or definite improvements. Surprise rules had gotten cumbersome with too many creatures/classes having non-standard dice or modifiers and needed to be cleaned up. Non-weapon proficiencies were a welcome addition. Customizable thief skills were fantastic. And specialty priests were an interesting idea but one that needed work, particularly with sphere access.

But what really annoyed me at the time was TSR's attitudes. From squelching things on the internet to timidly pulling demons and devils off the table to spreading their resources too thin among campaign after campaign to developing other games of dubious quality, artistry, and popularity, the company management just didn't seem to be able to make good decisions for the good of the game. The decisions were intended to be for the good of the company, but it was almost like they were plundering AD&D more often than not rather than really trying to nurture it.
Now, that's my take on things and I don't really expect everyone else's impression of TSR stewardship of the AD&D game match mine. But there it is.

Vyvyan Basterd

For me it was because 2E was the game we were already playing. The only change mentioned above that we weren't already using was thief abilites.

THACO? Check! (Based on the monster charts in the DMG)
NWPs? Check! (From DSG & WSG)

The number of things taken away outnumber the one useful change gained.

On top of that they didn't change the core rules mechanics in any significant way compared to how we played 1E.

To me 2E -> 1E as 3.5E -> 3.0E, not worth a new edition at all.


Second Most Angelic Devil Ever
When my gaming group switched from 1E to 2E every single member of the group was happier. 2E was structurally more sound than 1E--it was less hodgepodge and more carefully designed. I played in a Hackmaster campaign and it made me remember how much I disliked the overwhelming sense of "many rules that don't mesh together" feel of original AD&D.

That said, I felt the same thing about 3E when it first came out, except that it resembled Champions/Hero Game System more than I had expected.


First Post
I liked 2E the best. The monsters were tougher, the rules were better, and I liked it enough, with house rules, to use it regularly for about 11 years.

I do remember I didn't like it at first, but the more I used it the more I liked it. I did use very, very, very little from splat books though. The only "splat" I went all the way with was "Faiths and Avatars", I LOVED specialty priests!

I didn't use "kits" in my games, and I used maybe 6 rules from the optional books. We didn't use kits because I was already doing something along those lines in my games and my players liked my house rules better, and so did I.


First Post
Thoughts on 2e:

- I really like the fact that the monk and assassin classes were removed.

- Demi-human level limits are sky-high, which make humans clearly the weakest PC race. I rarely saw human PCs in 2e campaigns.

- Bards cast more damaging fireballs and lightning bolts than magic-users of equal experience points. This gets really distorted in high-level play (which our group did a lot of). When a bard achieves 20d6 fireballs, a magic-user is casting 15d6 fireballs.

EDIT: Yeah, I forgot about the 10d6 cap on fireballs in 2e (the group I played in never used the damage caps). Still, the point remains that bards have a higher spellcasting level than a mage with equal experience points. This means that any spell that varies by level will be more powerful if cast by a bard than a mage.

- I think that priests of specific mythoi are too open-ended for the player's handbook. I'd prefer them in the DMG along with plenty of well-balanced examples. I'd like to see only the basic cleric and druid in the player's handbook.

- I generally like the redesign of the ranger.

- I like the fact that psionics were removed from the core rules.

- I greatly prefer the gritty, sword-and-sorcery feel of 1e over the more colorful high-fantasy feel of 2e. I especially dislike the renaming of the demons and devils.

- The Gygaxian prose of 1e adds a lot of flavor that is missing in 2e.

Overall, when I run AD&D, I prefer to run 1e while incorporating some of the good ideas of 2e.
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Staff member
Perhaps I just haven't paid close enough attention, but I never realized there was much griping about the core 2E rules. I always thought the displeasure was due to all the splatbooks and other supplements.


I liked 2Ed for the most part, and even most of the supplements.

My main issue was that there was a LOT of sub-par editing and I don't know how many of my 2Ed books fell apart within a few weeks of use, but it was definitely too many.

I liked the way 2Ed handled clerics- especially after the Player's Option books came out.

I liked kits, though in a remarkable foreshadowing of 3Ed PrCls, I found that there was a wide variety in the kits' power levels.

The only thing that consistently bugged me about the game was THAC0- I understood it well enough, I just couldn't do the math in my head.

OTOH, I cannot say that I actually played pure 2Ed. We mainly played a 1Ed/2Ed fusion. Some of the stuff that was left out of 2Ed we just yoinked from 1Ed.
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