Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Reflections on editions and changes over the years - AD&D Second Edition

When the time came around for 2nd Edition there were some things we thought could be handled in a better way: Level Limits were too low. Unarmed combat was a mess, initiative as written was a mess,and other parts of the combat system were largely ignored because they didn’t work for a lot of people. Also, after playing Traveller & Champions & GURPS, James Bond 007, and other games many of us thought the lack of a skill system was a glaring omission. So our issues were mostly mechanical ones – we wanted a cleaned up 1st edition with some new things bolted on – like a skill system – and that’s pretty much what we got. The classes were revised, spells were cleaned up, and the combat system worked better – all good. 

It was handled in a pretty good fashion at the time with several articles and surveys in Dragon and then finally a preview pullout section of what was coming ...

... it was a pretty decent way to keep the players up to speed on what was coming.

I know some people were incensed at the content changes - no assassins, no half-orcs, no demons and devils, but we didn't really care - we never cared much for evil characters anyway, and the demons and devils weren't all that common of a monster anyway. Later as we added in the brown books and the Tome of Magic it felt like we had more material than we had ever had in the AD&D days and more customization of characters and just "more" in general so we didn't miss that stuff, and a lot of it ended up coming back later in 2nd Edition anyway.

So we spent the 90’s playing 2nd Edition as our main game –  D&D has always been our main game among my friends, and I suspect that will never change – and it kept us very satisfied for years. It did, however, have some hard edges – cleric weapon restrictions, magic‐user gear restrictions, humans couldn’t multiclass while demi‐humans still had racial limits (even if they were higher than before), lots of save or die effects – and those hard edges began to wear on us as time went on to the point that by the mid 90’s other games just felt like they played better and our time spent on the game began to decrease as other games crept into the rotation. Among other things we played a lot of Shadowrun, which has a very different feel in play than 2E. The biggest indicator of this decreased tolerance for 2E’s quirks is that we still played a lot of fantasy but we were doing it with Fantasy Hero, GURPS Fantasy, and RuneQuest and not just 2E because we liked the way those systems handled things compared to the game we had effectively been playing for 15‐20 years at that point. Dark Sun and Spelljammer seemed like square pegs in round holes. We greeted the Player’s Option books with a yawn – I think only one guy bought them and we only tried them once. Heck, Gamma World 4th edition (1992) seemed like a revolution in system mechanics compared to 2E! TSR flaming out in the late 90’s didn’t help as it was starting to feel like the time for our game had come and gone and we were prepared to move on to other things like Deadlands or Underground or the new version of Shadowrun, keeping other games for our fantasy fix.

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