What was good about AD&D 2nd Edition?

edited October 2013 in Story Games
I was listening to the Nerd Poker podcast, and they were talking about switching back to D&D 2nd Edition from 4th, and it reminded me that in spite of buying all the 2E books as a kid I never actually played it as written - I just skimmed the books incessantly and uses them as inspiration for a weird mishmash of house-rules and freeform play. (I wrote a longer account of this here: http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/comment/371706#Comment_371706)

I regret nothing, but I realized that, to this day, I basically know nothing about how 2E works or what it's like to play. It seems like sort of the lost edition - lots of people play Basic, AD&D, and 3.5, but not so many still play 2E. So, what was/is good about it? What did it do better than other editions? What kinds of adventures did you have with it?
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Comments

  • The other day I heard someone say that it was the least-loved edition. I'm curious about this, too, having had a similar experience to yours. What made it less-popular?
  • I liked 2nd Edition. It introduced non-weapon proficiencies (read: skills) as something that every character had. If I remember right, it made monks and bards playable classes at 1st level.

    I think it institutionalized THAC0 (which had been a house rule / Dragon Magazine suggestion until then).
  • edited October 2013
    The best thing about 2nd edition D&D were the variety of really crazy cool and creative settings made for it. You get Dark Sun and Spelljammer and Planescape and stuff coming out at this time in D&D's history. Those are all awesome.
  • Is it off-topic to ask what people didn't like about it? I got really curious when I heard that "least-loved" comment.
  • edited October 2013
    2nd edition was probably the D&D edition that I played the most, but I'll second the "least-loved" designation. It eventually made me stop caring* and I didn't play RPGs for years until 3E and (later) indie/hippie/story games made me like gaming again.

    I liked that it was an attempt take the 30 years of random detritus that was D&D and make it ONE GAME. I'd say that was not entirely successful, but props for the effort. Oh, and the "kits" from the various, endless splat books were kind of a fun thing.

    * I don't know exactly what wasn't fun about it. I guess all the not-fun things about D&D? So many rules and numbers and details to keep track of.
  • 2nd edition arguably had some of the most exciting and technically sophisticated art in the game's history. It not only brought those crazy new settings to life, but also gave renewed vim to the old stand byes like FR and Dragonlance.
  • One of the books--I think the Player's Handbook or Unearthed Arcana?--had this picture inside the cover of a group of adventures /hanging/ some kind of dragon. I can't remember if it was a bipedal dragon-humanoid or an actual dragon.

    That picture really grabbed me. There was so much story there. It wasn't just killing and looting. At that point in my life I was still in high school, so the racial overtones didn't occur to me (hanging people different than you in trees? not cool). It just suggested a kind of play I was yearning for, with emotion and story beyond the dungeon crawl.

    Of course, 2E didn't at all /support/ that kind of play beyond some nods to the fact that you might want to do that, and the aforementioned NWPs. Good luck to the DM trying to run adventures that weren't focused on killing and looting. It was all left to fiat.
  • Having a non-weapon proficiency was a big thing for me. It gave characters something to cling to that wasn't killing. A skill or profession. I remember really wanting to have the mechanics support more 3-dimensional characters and it seemed like a step in the right direction.

    We always used a mix of basic/advanced/2E material anyway so 2E never really felt like a distinct edition.
  • 2nd edition was probably the D&D edition that I played the most, but I'll second the "least-loved" designation. It eventually made me stop caring* and I didn't play RPGs for years until 3E and (later) indie/hippie/story games made me like gaming again.

    * I don't know exactly what wasn't fun about it. I guess all the not-fun things about D&D? So many rules and numbers and details to keep track of.
    Yeah, all of this (except liking 3rd, which didn't fix my most fundamental problems with 2nd, which were the same as yours). 2nd ed is "my" D&D, in that it's the one I spent the most time with and is the baseline I compare other editions to (I started with Red Box Basic and collected the line, but actual play moved to AD&D very quickly), but it is also the D&D I burned out on and frankly never regained my taste for.
  • 2nd edition had several things that were unique and were positives or negatives depending on your tastes:

    * Exotic settings like Planescape, Dark Sun, and Al-Qadim.
    * Probably more rules support than any other edition. There were countless supplements.
    * "Kits," specialized spins on classes. D&D Next seems to be bringing back this idea.
    * Decide-for-yourself layer of rules depth. You could play with the main books, but if you wanted to have more in-depth combat, grab the Player's Option: Combat & Tactics book. Want to make your own types of elves and specialized classes? Grab the Player's Option: Skills & Powers book.
  • 2nd Edition was actually the one D&D that I read during my teen years. I think it never got to the game table with us, though; too confused all around, was our thinking at the time.

    I guess that the only part of 2nd edition that interests me from today's perspective are the settings, some of which feature pretty nice fantasy authorship; I suspect that they would be difficult to use for actual play for me (would need to design a game specifically to utilize them, I suppose), but as rpg setting literature they're occasionally pretty nice reads. The vast majority of everything else 2nd edition has proved to fail the test of time: the game design is either insipid or half-baked much too often, failing to provide either elegance or completeness. The contrast of original D&D on the bottom, Mentzer Basic sideways in the next slot, and 3rd edition on the topside leaves 2nd edition seeming entirely inferior, looking at it as a design with the benefit of hindsight.

    For the sake of fairness, some people give 2nd edition big points for modular complexity. I don't, but that's mostly because I don't particularly desire modularity from a game. Even if I did, though, I would find the level of consideration in the design completely unacceptable by modern standards (and probably the standards of the day as well, but that's more difficult to gauge), and would rather just pull 101 house rule documents off the Internet rather than subject myself to those Player's Option books and their ilk.
  • Did 2nd edition introduce skills (or, rather "non-weapon proficiencies", urgh)? Because all the Gazetteers from Red Box D&D had those, and I think they came first. Maybe they just came first for my group. But I feel like we switched to 2nd edition AD&D right when it came out, and we had been using skills for a while.
    One of the books--I think the Player's Handbook or Unearthed Arcana?--had this picture inside the cover of a group of adventures /hanging/ some kind of dragon. I can't remember if it was a bipedal dragon-humanoid or an actual dragon.
    I remember that! It was weird, because it was, like, a little baby dragon, and there were a whole band of heroes all happy that they just killed it. That thing had fifteen hit points, max.

  • @Brian_Minter Technically, NWPs were introduced into the AD&D line in several 1st Edition hardbacks. (Dungeoneers' Survival Guide, Wilderness Survival Guide, Oriental Adventures, possibly a couple of others). But each supplement had different rules. 2nd Edition made NWPs part of the core ruleset and eliminated the inconsistencies.
  • Thanks, everyone, this is really interesting and informative. Keep it coming. Some specific comments and questions:
    2nd edition arguably had some of the most exciting and technically sophisticated art in the game's history. It not only brought those crazy new settings to life, but also gave renewed vim to the old stand byes like FR and Dragonlance.
    Totally agree, the illustrations were a big part of why I had the books - especially the Monstrous Manual, which got more use than either of the other books.
    * "Kits," specialized spins on classes. D&D Next seems to be bringing back this idea.
    Are kits more or less analogous to what Pathfinder does with Class Archetypes? (http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/ultimateCombat/classArchetypes.html)
    Did 2nd edition introduce skills (or, rather "non-weapon proficiencies", urgh)? Because all the Gazetteers from Red Box D&D had those, and I think they came first. Maybe they just came first for my group. But I feel like we switched to 2nd edition AD&D right when it came out, and we had been using skills for a while.
    In my (limited) understanding, non-weapon proficiencies had been previously introduced in optional supplements, but were made more-or-less official in AD&D 2E.


    I'd love to hear some war stories about people's AD&D 2E campaigns and characters, to get a sense of the kinds of play the game produced!

  • edited October 2013
    Is it off-topic to ask what people didn't like about it? I got really curious when I heard that "least-loved" comment.
    Current D&D players generally fall into two camps: the OSR guys and the WotC era guys. (Yeah, 3.x and 4e fans bicker, but they share many traits in what they want from D&D.)

    2nd edition isn't old school enough for the OSR types, as it is about big damn heroes on epic quests instead of fantasy Vietnam (and a large number of rules and supplements, especially by the end of the run). 2nd edition isn't modern enough for the WotC era crowds, as it is a jumbled mess of decades worth of houserules rather than a coherent system like 3.x or 4e.

    2nd edition wasn't very well loved even when it came out. It was the edition where Vampire started outselling D&D. (That period and possibly the 4e period are the only times that D&D wasn't the best selling rpg on the market.) Not coincidentally, it was also the edition of TSR's slide into bankruptcy and getting bought by WotC. So there aren't as many people yearning for the old edition with nostalgia as there are for, say the editions from the early 80s when D&D was growing rapidly. Nor are there as many folks still around who have been playing continuously, as there are for 3.x or 4e.
  • I think it institutionalized THAC0 (which had been a house rule / Dragon Magazine suggestion until then).
    To Hit Armor Class 0 actually comes straight out of the 1st edition Dungeon Master's Guide. The appendix that has the listing of monsters and their combat stats -- hit dice, AC, etc. -- one of the columns is labeled exactly that.
    @Brian_Minter Technically, NWPs were introduced into the AD&D line in several 1st Edition hardbacks. (Dungeoneers' Survival Guide, Wilderness Survival Guide, Oriental Adventures, possibly a couple of others). But each supplement had different rules. 2nd Edition made NWPs part of the core ruleset and eliminated the inconsistencies.
    This is correct.
  • @Brian_Minter Technically, NWPs were introduced into the AD&D line in several 1st Edition hardbacks. (Dungeoneers' Survival Guide, Wilderness Survival Guide, Oriental Adventures, possibly a couple of others).
    Oh, yeah, right! Now I remember them from Oriental Adventures 1st Edition. D&D historical knowledge FTW.

    Also the "giant three-ring binder" format that they decided on for the 2nd edition Monstrous Manual? Not a fan.


  • Also the "giant three-ring binder" format that they decided on for the 2nd edition Monstrous Manual? Not a fan.
    While I totally agree in principle, it was seeing an older family friend pull that ridiculous binder out of a big tupperware box that first ignited my passion for RPGs, so it has a special place in my heart! (By the time I purchased my own copies, it was the glossy black-and-red revised books.)
  • The good: Yeah, that one piece of art in the 2nd Ed PHB, I guess. (It was from the PHB, you guys.)

    The bad: Pretty much everything else? See, even the things that were good in concept, like NWPs, were ruined by the basic math not making sense. You could spend an NWP slot to either gain a new NWP or improve one of your old ones by... +1. Wow. Tough choice there. *rolls eyes* And the entire game is like that.
  • I remember 2nd Ed *feeling* very exciting, between the nice hardcover books, glossier design, better art, and endless splats. I also remember none of it hanging together in play whatsoever. The "Player's Options" and "Complete Handbooks" were fun to read but inevitably ruined each game they were brought to and were subsequently outlawed, by every group I played 2nd Ed with.

    That drawing of the dragon always caught my eye. Not because it was amazing art, but because it was so unlike all the other art. Instead of an epic battle of improbable dimensions (I've always wondered how a knight with a sword was supposed to believably defeat and kill a 35-ft long, several ton, fire-breathing monster!), it showed a group of "realistic" adventurers (tired, pot-bellied, mismatched) completing a believable "adventure": they'd caught and hung a monster. The monster was a dragon, but one you could imagine a group of such "adventurers" capturing: maybe 8 ft long, somewhere between the size of a dog and a horse, and looking a bit deflated.

    That suggested a much more realistic take on D&D, and one perhaps closer matched to the realities of low-level play.
  • 2nd Edition was actually the one D&D that I read during my teen years. I think it never got to the game table with us, though; too confused all around, was our thinking at the time.
    This about sums up my personal relationship with 2E. At the time I didn't have anyone to play with, so my exposure to roleplaying was primarily via the internet. Which mostly meant 2E D&D, though there was some other stuff. The settings came through strongly even second-hand. Still haven't actually played with 2E, despite knowing a lot about it.

    I guess that the only part of 2nd edition that interests me from today's perspective are the settings, some of which feature pretty nice fantasy authorship; I suspect that they would be difficult to use for actual play for me (would need to design a game specifically to utilize them, I suppose), but as rpg setting literature they're occasionally pretty nice reads.
    (Planescape was clearly meant to be played with Burning Wheel.)
    I'd love to hear some war stories about people's AD&D 2E campaigns and characters, to get a sense of the kinds of play the game produced!
    Ditto. A retrospective look on how it worked in play would be illuminating.
  • edited October 2013
    That drawing of the dragon always caught my eye. Not because it was amazing art, but because it was so unlike all the other art. Instead of an epic battle of improbable dimensions (I've always wondered how a knight with a sword was supposed to believably defeat and kill a 35-ft long, several ton, fire-breathing monster!), it showed a group of "realistic" adventurers (tired, pot-bellied, mismatched) completing a believable "adventure": they'd caught and hung a monster. The monster was a dragon, but one you could imagine a group of such "adventurers" capturing: maybe 8 ft long, somewhere between the size of a dog and a horse, and looking a bit deflated.

    That suggested a much more realistic take on D&D, and one perhaps closer matched to the realities of low-level play.
    The image in question is indeed bizarre and evocative (I don't think I've ever seen it before - it wasn't in the revised 2E PHB):

    image

    I also really like the sad little wooden box of treasure on display (at least I think that's what it is).
  • * "Kits," specialized spins on classes. D&D Next seems to be bringing back this idea.
    Are kits more or less analogous to what Pathfinder does with Class Archetypes? (http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/ultimateCombat/classArchetypes.html)
    It looks a lot like it.



  • The image in question is indeed bizarre and evocative (I don't think I've ever seen it before - it wasn't in the revised 2E PHB):

    [img...]

    I also really like the sad little wooden box of treasure on display (at least I think that's what it is).
    It reminds me of a group of fishermen posing for a photo with a whopper of a fish. I think we've all seen the type (if not in real life, then certainly as a trope in some fiction). This is probably not true, since I doubt they have a camera, but maybe they hired a painter?

    - Alex
  • This might be a regional thing and is definitely anecdotal from personal experience, but my answer is: it was there. When you went out to find people to play with, Alice doesn't know GURPS, Bob doesn't know Palladium and Carol doesn't know White Wolf - but we all knew AD&D 2E, or enough concepts from other editions and products that we could make a game of it. It was the lowest common denominator at that time.


  • The image in question is indeed bizarre and evocative (I don't think I've ever seen it before - it wasn't in the revised 2E PHB):

    [img...]

    I also really like the sad little wooden box of treasure on display (at least I think that's what it is).
    It reminds me of a group of fishermen posing for a photo with a whopper of a fish. I think we've all seen the type (if not in real life, then certainly as a trope in some fiction). This is probably not true, since I doubt they have a camera, but maybe they hired a painter?

    - Alex
    The name of the piece is "Dragonslayers--And Proud of It!". It's by Larry Elmore, who has done a lot of fantasy RPG art; he did Dragonlance covers and the cover for 1st edition Fantasy Hero as well.
  • I came to 2e after 10 years of other RPGs, so I don't have any nostalgia for it. And... I honestly can't say that I liked a single thing about it. Like others said, the math was off, kits were complicated, and even though my gnome was an illusionist, after my one spell per day, my only use was as a knife thrower. My other character, a rogue that made it to L5, also felt restrained in the number of useful actions. But then I had a GM who analyzed PC actions by "realistic effects" rather than cinematics (or fun), so any attempt to do something cool or neat was basically harder and less fruitful than just "I attack."

  • Also the "giant three-ring binder" format that they decided on for the 2nd edition Monstrous Manual? Not a fan.
    :grumpycat pic goes here:

    Those three-ring binders were the BEST monstrous manual format ever. Period. The insane number of unique monster sheets, ecological information, maps of lairs, etc. that would be inserted after (say) the owlbear entry made my Monstrous Manual the most useful thing at the table. That format was genius. We should have thrown away hardbacks and softbacks for ALL RPG materials and just done three ring binders, you know, like people actually do with reference material they need to use "on site."

    Dumb jerks who didn't put anything personal into their binders probably didn't like the format, whatever.
  • At the time I was introduced to AD&D2e, I was playing a lot of different RPGs at the same time. I was playing Rolemaster, MERP, Cthullu, GURPS, BERP, StarWars d6, Mechwarrior, and maybe a few others I'm forgetting. The thing I felt AD&D2e was best at was getting out of the way. It seemed to me that none of the other systems just let me play my character. There were all these skills and points and rules and crap. The Weapon/Non-Weapon proficiency system in 2e was so loose and so easy that I felt at liberty just to ad-lib my character doing stuff and only rolling to add emphasis to the action. Outside of combat, that is. If I wanted a system that really supported staying in character, talking in character, and immersion, it would be AD&D2e. If I had any sort of real goal, then it totally sucks. But when it comes to just pretending to be a made-up person, it's the best IMO.

  • Those three-ring binders were the BEST monstrous manual format ever. Period. The insane number of unique monster sheets, ecological information, maps of lairs, etc. that would be inserted after (say) the owlbear entry made my Monstrous Manual the most useful thing at the table. That format was genius. We should have thrown away hardbacks and softbacks for ALL RPG materials and just done three ring binders, you know, like people actually do with reference material they need to use "on site."
    That is actually a good point, this is an interesting and positive 2nd edition feature. In the interest of complete honesty, though, I have to remark that while the binder format can be used proactively like that, the overall game and the culture around it perhaps didn't encourage or support it. I mean, if I were doing the binder thing, I would surely publish more varied material for it, including e.g. lairs and optional-depth content pertaining to individual monsters, as well as advice and schemes for how the binder should be actually tricked out for an individual campaign. In execution the binder fell short in small practical ways, such as by printing unrelated monsters on the backsides of sheets, and by sticking so close to the stat block accountancy scheme that it was somewhat rare for a given monster to actually have useful, gameable content in its description. I never realized before Jason pointed it out just now that the loose-leaf monster manual could be seen as a starting point for self-made campaign prep, it always seemed more like a sort of precursor to Pokemon or something.

    (Of course the true grognard can now say that it's a failure of imagination on my part to require somebody to tell me that I can trick out a binder to actually serve my own needs. This well may be, but the fact remains that the only concrete use case that I ever heard of from TSR was that you could remove and add pages to only carry the ones that you're using in your campaign. That's not really that useful a remark, given that at least I don't begin campaign planning by whitelisting a bunch of monsters that I intend to use.)

    Definitely an idea worth revisiting, though. I could see room for a D&D binder product that came with a bunch of generally useful things, as well as advice and ideas for how to build up your own binder to best serve a campaign's needs. Nowadays you can print your own sheets, too, so no need for the massive TSR publishing machine to sell monster entries in drips and drabs.
  • You're right, the binder could have been improved/pursued more aggressively!
  • The binder is just the laptop or tablet full of PDFs of yesteryear, grandpas. ;)
  • The difference is always utility, interface, realistic use cases. The tablet full of PDFs is fully within my reach, yet I fail to utilize it, as a random collection of 200 old school D&D PDFs is an entirely useless thing by itself, without a mind driving the material. To make any such mass of information on-the-spot useful for actual play, you need very carefully planned procedures, a high degree of familiarity with the material, and indexing, so that you know what material to draw from the files, for what reason, when. Of course one could trick out a tablet to achieve this utility, but it is not particularly more suited to it than a binder.

    The guy who DMs the campaign I'm currently playing in uses both a binder and a tablet, in fact, but it is notable that the tablet is for adventure module referencing (a single file open in it for the entire session), while all the complex interconnected sandboxing shit (random encounters, maps, monster references, charts, randomizing tables, etc.) is in the binder. He's maybe not quite as facile with computer tools as I am myself (he is a programmer by trade, though), yet I'd say that I would prefer working primarily on paper myself as well.

    Last year, when I was running a full-blown campaign, I actually wrote and developed my material on a computer, but opted to print it out for filing and use at the game table; you just get more filing options and utility with less overhead when dealing with paper. It's just quicker to do almost any information-handling operation (turn a page, make a margin note, find a page, close file, switch files, open several side by side, show something to the players...) on this scale when you're working with paper, as opposed to a portable computer set-up.

    But while the actual utility of various tools used in D&D is an interesting topic (and one on which I apparently have an Opinion), perhaps we'll save it for some other thread.
  • you just get more filing options and utility with less overhead when dealing with paper. It's just quicker to do almost any information-handling operation (turn a page, make a margin note, find a page, close file, switch files, open several side by side, show something to the players...) on this scale when you're working with paper, as opposed to a portable computer set-up.
    I agree completely, but I just figured I felt that way because I'm so. damn. old. ;)


    I remember the big MM binders, though. They really were pretty awesome, although you had to treat them more gingerly than a conventional book because you could easily tear or mangle the pages in it otherwise. And while we also didn't take advantage of the ability to insert additional pages, we did make pretty extensive use of the ability to take pages OUT of it. Running a game at someone else's house? Leave the big heavy book at home, and take just the dozen or so monsters you actually plan on using!

  • edited October 2013
    I am a fan of 2E. Wrote this small defense of it about a year or so ago on our blog: http://thebedrockblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/brief-defense-of-2nd-edition-ad.html

    And here is a related entry on unified mechanics: http://thebedrockblog.blogspot.com/2011/12/unified-mechanics.html
  • I share a lot of the experiences with others in this thread! So my first RPG experience ever was Star Frontiers, and the game that got me "into gaming: playing/running" was Paranoia. And I was always into eclectic RPGs, at least buying/reading them with allowance money, but not having enough energy to organize sessions except for at Boy Scout Camp or once every few months on a weekend day.

    I got in very early on AD&D 2E, and it was the first version of D&D that I played or read. Just a random number of factors added up in high school, and my sophomore year (the year where I took, IIRC, about 1/3 of the school year off and no one noticed) I found myself in a wonderful, enthusiastic, friendly RPG group that consisted mostly of my best friend, a young DM who would also later become a lifelong friend, and another 1-2 of his friends, well meaning and active. So it was definitely one of those "non-painful introductions".

    This was, again happenstance, a year-plus before Vampire, before Shadowrun, before the new settings dropped (I remember being excited for each one!). I got in on the ground floor with AD&D. I think the first supplement I bought was the Fighter's Handbook, which was okay, but the Thieves' one was cover-to-cover inspiration.

    And the thing is, even though at that point I had created and run homebrew RPGs (based on Paranoia!) and was reading and experimenting with others (again, as they came out, TORG, Shadowrun, etc), I never saw anything necessarily "bad" or "problematic" about the rules. They Just Were. So I would read the "Complete X Handbooks" and the like to see ways to make characters and DMing and settings more interesting, but never thought "this weird conglomerate of crap is incoherent", rather "Oh, a new kind of Non-Weapon Proficiency. This will look FABULOUS on my two-sword fighter!".

    I do remember that when Gamma World 4th Edition came out, it reversed THAC0: Armor started at 10 and went up, levels gave you +1 to hit and the like. I thought "This is SUPER intuitive!" and I actually stole that method, importing it into my Dark Sun games and the like from that point on; ditched THAC0 entirely from that point on. Nodded in satisfaction when I was following Eric Noah's D&D3E fanpage, when it was confirmed that 3E would have the same system.

    The Player's Option books came out just as I was going into college, which is where my gaming mostly died/went into a coma for a few years (which is like the exact opposite of Everyone Else's experience!), so while I thought they were pretty cool, I never utilized them in more than 3-4 sessions as either a DM or Player.

    So, in my eyes, there was a lot of prolific shit in 2E for all its myriad settings; and we definitely had fun with the game, but a lot of it was despite/around the system rather than because of it. But because it was the biggest system, and we were in love with what we were doing at the table, we embraced it, warts and all, and navigated it from within than attempting to destroy it from the outside.

    No, that latter would come later. Wow, Nostalgia! http://www.textfiles.com/rpg/newmagic.txt

    -Andy
  • edited October 2013
    Nice link to the past, Andy! Here's mine: http://members.tripod.com/~tac_ezine/current.htm#boo
  • So I would read the "Complete X Handbooks" and the like to see ways to make characters and DMing and settings more interesting, but never thought "this weird conglomerate of crap is incoherent", rather "Oh, a new kind of Non-Weapon Proficiency. This will look FABULOUS on my two-sword fighter!".
    This, totally. Looking back at 2nd edition I realize it wasn't as fun as I wanted to to be, and I see why, but at the time it was The Most Modern and Proper D&D, so there was no question but that we would play it.
  • Oh, I totes forgot about the Villain's Handbook! Awesome stuff there.
  • There is something philosophically aligned about the complete handbooks and the binder monstrous manual. They are both first attempts to systematize the one major part of D&Dism that 1e didn't: freewheeling messy rules that incorporate whatever you happen to have lying around. And although it's demonstrable that in some ways it failed in the market I find it incredibly more appealing in terms of creativity, inspiration, etc., as well as my sense of ethics as compared to the much more strict 3e/4e style of supplement marketing. It's a part of why the OSR has been successful on its own terms: D&D is a messy game.

    In the core books there are all these rules marked as optional too, which weren't present in 1e. It was obviously something that was really exciting to the team at TSR, a recognition of something present in their game. I think it's strange that so much pain has been spent in later editions trying to rebrand campaign settings (especially FR) as less monolithic, giving permission for players to mess them up without knowing every little detail ever published, because the fact that there were so many books and moving pieces came directly out of this era of crazy bits-and-pieces use-what-you-like game design, and that rebranding took place within a culture of increasingly strict expectations of completeness, as 3 and 4 made big attempts at creating unified mechanical structures as well as unified marketing structures.

    The thieves handbook is so good in every way, also.
  • Oh man, the arms and equipment guide. Oh man.
  • edited October 2013
    Oh man, the arms and equipment guide. Oh man.
    That's the one book I actually consulted frequently during our weird freeform play, though just for prices and damage.

  • edited October 2013
    (Double post)
  • edited October 2013
    Nothing. There was nothing good about AD&D2. The small bits that seems good are (badly) copied from older better games (the non weapons proficiencies were a badly implemented unbalanced boring attempt to copy the skill systems that most of the others rpgs had for more than ten years at that time. The "Binder" idea was stolen from Harn and Harnmaster, that did it much better.)

    AD&D2 came out when AD&D was by far the king of the market, even more than now. It come out when the rpg world was bristling with very good new games and innovations (just to make an example, Ars Magica was there already, so you could have published directly D&D 3.0 at that time without it being a particular innovation). TSR had the resources to make it a decent game, at least.

    Instead, they did choose to publish a never playtested (the authors on staff at tsr at the time confirm this, there was no playtesting program for ANY product, if the author wanted to playtest anything it was on his time and his own dime) mismatched patchwork of badly copied rules. It would have been old and derivative in 1979. In 1987 it was ridiculous, a total rip-off.

    But it was the king of the market, and so it did stifle innovations, knowledge of new techniques (AD&D groups were really ten years behind, even 1978-style skill-based systems were "strange and useless innovations" to them) and did drive away (or at least back to AD&D1) a lot of people.

    Worse, having probably the worst system on the market, it strongly pushed the "rules are only suggestions, the DM can change rules , ignore them, fudge dice rolls, in service of his railroaded "story", and if he is a "good GM" the game will works" meme, that plagued the scene for years giving us scores of very bad games build on the assumption that "rules doesn't count" and gave "story" a very bad name for a lot of people (to this day, when you talk of a "storygame" or "narrativism" to a AD&D2-raised player, they thinks you are talking about railroading).

    It was not a rpg, it was a rip-off to steal some money from "these rpg players suckers".
  • edited October 2013
    The thieves handbook is so good in every way, also.
    That book always made me want to run an all-thieves campaign, something I still want to do in some system to this day.

  • edited October 2013

    It was not a rpg, it was a rip-off to steal some money from "these rpg players suckers".
    Looks like somebody woke up on the wrong side of the ranseur this morning.
  • Just to show an example of the railroaded crap peddled by TSR for AD&D2, I am posting some bits from a published module. i did already post it in Ron Edwards's new forum, but parts of it are very relevant here too.

    ------------------------
    A textual example, from "FA1 - Halls of the High Kings" an adventure module written by Ed Greenwood and published in 1990

    Ed Greenwood is not a small figure in AD&D2: he is the creator and principal writer of the Forgotten Realms, the default setting He was published almost in every issue of Dragon Magazine for a decade, so he was put practically as an "example" of a good GM, a good world creator, a good module author, a good articles writer, in AD&D2 terms.

    This is the start of the adventure:

    ------------------------
    This adventure can begin in any port city on the Sword Coast of the Realms(Waterdeep or Baldur’s Gate are obvious choices). It is suggested the adventure begin when the PCs are restless, low on funds, or need to relocate quickly to avoid enemies, the authorities, or a heavy tax.
    The PCs are approached by a short, fat, richly dressed merchant. “Your pardon, sirs,” he says in a quiet, determined voice. “Could your services be had for hire? I am Panthras, of Panthras Procuring, and I’d like to do business with you.”
    Panthras has shrewd eyes set in a weather-beaten face. He is a street-smart, retired caravan master.
    Panthras: AC 2 (bracers of defense); MV 12; F 10; hp 79; THAC0 11; #AT 3/2; Dmg by weapon; S 16 ( + 1 on dmg.), D 14, C 16, I 15, W 17, Ch 14; ML 15; AL NG.
    Panthras is armed with a long sword (1d8 dmg.), five throwing daggers (1d4 dmg each), and several magical defenses (see below), any or all of which he will use if the PCs are foolish enough to tangle with him. He is not interested in battling the PCs, however, but in hiring them. He will ask to meet the PCs somewhere private of their choosing— or, if they’ve no place to offer, in a back room of The Blunt Axe tavern.
    Panthras will initially offer the PCs 30 gp and four potions of healing each to perform “a guard mission” for him. He will reveal more and, if necessary, offer up to 3,000 gp as he bargains.
    Panthras needs a band of adventurers who command some magic and as much experience as possible to see a shipboard cargo of his safe to its destination. The cargo consists of sixty tarred and sealed wooden crates, each containing twenty new long swords of the finest make. The swords must reach the Cantrev of Aithe in Callidyrr, a kingdom on the Moonshae Isles. (If the PCs ask, Aithe lies on the western coast of the island of Alaron, northwest of Doncastle, where a cape —Moonfall Ridge-juts out into the sea west of Dernall Forest.)
    The PCs’ mission, if they accept, will be to deliver the swords safely to the local lord, Haembar “Hawkenhound” Cauldyth. Panthras also produces a contract for the PCs to sign. It specifies how many swords the PCs are being hired to “...see safely into the hands of Lord Cauldyth of Aithe, or his successor in the lordship of Cantrev Aithe, to the best of their honor and abilities.”
    [...]
    Panthras will turn away from the PCs for a moment, saying, “"There is more. Read this, please".” He produces a portable hole and draws from it a sealed parchment, slipping the hole back into the breast pocket from whence he drew it. Before proffering the parchment, he hesitantly adds, “I must warn you: once you’ve unsealed this document, I cannot allow you to withdraw from the mission and live; this is a matter of state security. Consider your actions carefully, then. Upon my honor, the document contains no alteration in your agreed task.”
    The parchment is sealed with a wolfs head: the Lone Wolf of the Kendrick family. If the PCs open it, they will read: To those who accept the bond of Panthras and with it the swordguard mission to Aithe: My thanks and my debt. Dark days have come to the Moonshae Isles again, and we are in need of the strong and the valiant. Be it known that I personally shall award four thousand pieces of gold, above and beyond your pay, to each adventurer in your band who comes to Caer Callidyrr and asks for it, assuming the blades arrive safely in the hands of the Lord of Aithe. I will offer more, at that time, to those among you who will give us substantial aid against the foes that beset us in the Moonshaes—dark men skulking behind witless pawns who may try to seize that which you guard.
    Bring this letter to me in Caer Callidyrr, and accept the thanks, welcome, and hospitality of:
    Iristan Kendrick
    High King of the Ffolk


    [OK, it's one of the worst "stranger talk to you in a tavern" start of an adventure ever, but it seems a normal offer up to this moment... read on: ]

    If any PCs attack Panthras during the encounter, or if they try to renounce their part in the agreement to his face after the document has been unsealed, the merchant’s most powerful defense will act.
    The mage Flamsterd, who has been eavesdropping invisibly on the negotiations, concealed against magical detection by his own personal magics, will cast a forget spell on the PCs. If hostilities erupt and he deems it necessary, a time stop will be cast first, after which he will remove the High King’s letter and move all PC weapons, magic items, scrolls, potions, and the like into a pile in the center of the gathering.
    In brief, Flamsterd is a powerful archmage (Wizard, 21st Level) who carries whatever magic items and spells a DM wishes to give him. He is a gentle man, firm but polite, with a kindly manner, but he has learned that the best response to those who attack him or thwart his will is a quick and heavy-handed magical attack. (He can ask the corpses questions later and apologize to the remains if he’s made a mistake.)

    [the adventure is for character of at least 6th level, and right at the beginning if they don't want to go they are beaten by a 21th level archmage]

    -------------------

    (I'll continue in the next post, this is too long)
  • (continued from the previous post)

    [look at the level of the details for the mage. A Mary Sue? Probably the DM character, Ed was (in)famous for the "DM characters" he wrote in his modules, like the Mage Elminster]

    Flamsterd is an eminent sage, his major field of expertise being the history, lore, and works of written magic. His minor interests include the history of human settlement and deeds in north-western Faerun, and of the Ffolk of the Moonshaes in particular.
    Flamsterd’s eyes flash and his voice grows stern when he deems it necessary, and although he seems quick to anger, he has iron self-control. He will often act more angry than he really is in order to cow opponents or lure them into revealing their true attitudes or foolish battle strategies.He is armed with a dagger +2, longtooth and also with six darts of paralyzation. These +1 darts cause their victim to save vs. paralyzation or be paralyzed for 1 turn. They do not automatically return to the thrower, but neither do they lose their magic if they miss a target.
    Flamsterd appears as a slim, distinguished-looking, long-bearded man of average height. His long, predominantly white beard, which still has some strands of black left, is often tucked into his belt or drawn up and flung over one shoulder to keep it out of the dirt. He customarily wears plain gray robes and (only when traveling outside his home) a red cloak. These continuously curl and flap around him, seemingly of their own volition, due to the cloak’s power to emit a sudden gust of wind once every second round, at Flamsterd’s will. This handy piece of magic serves to extinguish or dramatically heighten campfires where he appears, deflect arrows or other missiles, and so on.
    Flamsterd is famous and well-thought of around the Isles, by Llewyrr, dwarves, halflings and Ffolk alike. His appearances are news, and his kindnesses (such as magically rescuing livestock or people, mending broken fences or roofs that leak, repairing bridges and clearing spring ice to prevent floods) are legendary. A teleport ring, which he is never without, allows him to appear and depart suddenly and silently. Like his colleagues Khelben Arunsun and Elminster, Flamsterd is a friend to the Harpers and shares their aims of protecting the land, the weak and needy who dwell in it, and upholding honesty, fair dealing, and peace.
    Flamsterd may appear from time to time during this adventure as desired. Long-term campaign play in the Moon-shaes will require a DM to detail Flamsterd’s spells, possessions, abode, and activities more extensively.
    Flamsterd: AC -2 (plain robes plus a cloak of protection +5, a ring of protection +3, and his Dex bonus); MV 12; W 21; hp 49; THAC0 14; #AT 1; Dmg by spell or weapon; S 14, D 18, C 15, I 18, W 17, Ch 16; ML 15; AL NG).
    If the PCs accept the mission, Panthras will produce his portable hole and make the payment agreed upon-on the spot. He will tell the PCs to report to the caravel Mermaid Sword at the docks three mornings hence (or whatever time the DM desires in order to allow the PCs to fully rest, heal and regain spells and gear or to have another, short adventure). After bidding the PCs good day, he leaves. If any PC rushes after him or tries to follow him “on the sly,” they will find that he has vanished. (In reality, Flamsterd has cast invisibility on the merchant and they both teleport away.

    If the PCs refuse the bargain and elect to go their own way, they will see Panthras seeking out adventurers wherever they go in the days that follow. If they get down on their luck, he will reappear and try them again, even finding his way into dungeons they’ve gotten lost in or prisons they’ve been incarcerated in (offering, of course, to free them if they accept his job offer).
    Flamsterd will accompany Panthras as an invisible protector at all times. Oddly enough, PC attacks on Panthras will not diminish his enthusiasm to try to hire them.


    ----------------------------------

    (I'll continue in the next post... what the hell happened to story-games posting limits? This place is becoming another twitter...)
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