Sunday, April 7, 2024

#AtoZChallenge2024: Sunday Special, AD&D 2nd Edition

I know that in the A to Z Challenge we skip posting on Sundays, but since we have enough Sundays here I am going to use them to talk about the various editions of D&D that otherwise would not get talked about.

Up this Sunday?  AD&D 2nd Edition.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition


Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition

AD&D 2nd Edition was released starting in the spring of 1989, 12-10 years after AD&D 1st Edition. The game was met with great anticipation by many, myself included, and by trepidation by others.

Trepidation since was going to be the first major edition of Dungeons & Dragons with Gary Gygax's name on it. Now to be fair, the Mentzer BECMI also did not feature Gary's name on the cover, but his fingerprints if not his tacit and implicit blessings were all over it.

This edition did not have that and there were some that felt it could not live up.

I was not necessarily a Gygax loyalist. Sure I knew he had been ousted from TSR, the publisher of D&D and the company he helped create, but D&D by this time had had a lot of names on it.  D&D, in my mind then, was bigger that Gary Gygax alone.  

So when AD&D 2nd came out I was in. I got my books as soon as they were released and I went head first into this new game. For reasons that seem silly now, I always felt I was behind the curve when it came to AD&D 1st Ed. That there were people who had gotten in early and "knew" more than me. This was not going to be the case for 2nd Ed! 

In truth, I enjoyed the game for a very long time, but it was also the game that would nearly turn me away from D&D.

I bought AD&D 2nd Edition and I put up, and eventually loaned out, all my older D&D rule books. That was a HUGE mistake. First off, save for minor details, AD&D 1st Ed and AD&D 2nd Ed were still very compatible. I could move characters, monsters, and adventures between the two with relative ease. In some cases the changes were also improvements in my mind. The Bards were better; the initiative used a d10 and not a d6, which made a lot more sense, and the monsters were far more detailed.  In fact, I spent a whole series of posts on the monster books.

Though it was not without it's own problems. The "splat" books (called that because the * often used as a wild card is also called a 'splat') began to get out of control, and each one introduced new levels of power creep. For example, I loved the new Bard class and HATED "The Complete Bards Handbook." 

There was also a level of enforced morality in the game. Spells like Bestow Curse were now gone, Assassins and barbarians as classes were gone, and demons and devils were also gone. Now honestly I didn't mind all of that, I could, and did, add my own material.

The Campaign Settings

The REAL selling point for AD&D 2nd Edition for many of us were the Campaign Settings.  I talked about the Forgotten Realms yesterday and I'll talk about Ravenloft later. Mystara had a few brief moments, and there were others. And that was part of the problem. Ravenloft people like me didn't buy Forgotten Realms books. Forgotten Realms fans didn't buy Birthright or Red Steel or Mystara. People who bought Planescape never bought Spelljammer. There were too many settings and too many books in each one and no one was buying them all. Or at least not enough to matter.

So when TSR finally went bankrupt and was deep, deep in debt, it was not a surprise really.

My History with AD&D 2nd Ed.

When AD&D 2nd Edition was released, I was living in the dorms at my university as an undergrad. When the next edition was released in 2000, I had been married for five years, had been living in a new house for three of those and my oldest son was nearly one year old.  Talk about changes. 

AD&D 2nd Ed books, revised and original

Also, at that time, I went from "AD&D 2nd Ed is the game for me" to "I will play ANYTHING but AD&D."  A few factors went into that. First was the power creep I mentioned above. The worst books for this were the Skills and Powers books, an attempt by TSR to patch all the leaky holes the AD&D system (now 25 years old) was showing.  Also, AD&D didn't support the type of game I wanted to play anymore.

Then, there was the issue with how TSR was treating the D&D players online.

In the early days of the Internet, there was a rush to share ideas, particularly D&D ideas. Netbooks became very popular. TSR responded by trying to sue anyone that talked about D&D online. So much so they became known as "They Sue Regularily."  Hard to imagine in today's post-OGL and Creative Commons world. People also forget how bad it was and how Wizards of the Coast, the next publisher of D&D, essentially gave away their rules for free to use.

Today. My stance on AD&D has softened a lot, and I am back to loving it again. 

Will I ever play AD&D 2nd again? I don't know, I'd love to, to be honest.

Tomorrow, we are back to the regular schedule, and I have G for Gary Gygax.

The A to Z of Dungeons & Dragons: Celebrating 50 years of D&D.

1 comment:

doccarnby said...

I absolutely love the variety of settings 2e brought, even if I can recognise how they led to TSR's downfall. In the 3e days, the WotC forums had links to fansites for the various unsupported classic settings and every one of them was fascinating in one way or another. I have a soft spot for Birthright, even though I suspect it might have been a total commercial failure. It rarely gets more than a mention, it doesn't even have a product history on Drivethru.