Monday, April 4, 2011

Hatred Of An Edition Fed By A Misconception

I have a long record of disliking 2nd Edition. I have gone on record as saying it is a stupid game and THAC0 and descending AC are an abomination. Those last two are completely true statements, however, they weren't the only reason I disliked the edition. To be honest, I don't remember a lot of reasons why I disliked it. I only really recall disliking it based on the differences between it and 3.0/3.5 Edition. Which is odd. I clung to the game for a few years after 3rd Edition came out before finally switching, I mean I included a lot of elements from 3rd Edition in my game. I removed Demi-Human level limits, allowed Clerics to convert their spells to healing spells on the fly, and a few other 3rd Edition elements that seemed fairly interesting or sensible. 

As time has passed, I have grown to hate 2nd Edition AD&D. Where one might feel nostalgia for their gateway into a hobby that has been so much fun, I have only bitterness and ire. These feelings have intensified as time passed, to the point where I make snarky THAC0 jokes and the suggestion of returning to that bygone era fills me with wrath. 

Back in 2nd Edition AD&D, I was an awful DM. I knew the majority of the rules, and I had lots of materials like the CDs of all the handbooks and rules compendiums and all kinds of stuff. I created all kinds of races and classes and whatnot, for no better reason than because I felt like it. None of it was remotely balanced, I mean why play a fighter when you can play my berserker kit that gave you like a thousand attacks per round and allowed you to use all armors and specialize in any weapons? Had more hit points than a fighter too.

I was a shit DM though. My scenarios were all fights, and it was all stuff I wanted to do, rather than what we as a group wanted to do. I didn't care about the guy's characters or what settings they might like to play in. I just did whatever I wanted and expected them to follow along rolling dice, or get the fuck out. My traps were poorly designed and included as afterthoughts, and my riddles and such were barely such. Thing is, I hated scenarios loaded to the gills with fights. It wasn't fun. This, as I've said before, led to a lot of problems with me being dissatisfied with the game and my group and whatnot. 

So here's the thing. Since 4th Edition came out, there has been something of a resurgence in so called "Old School Gaming." Or maybe it began before that, I don't know, I don't conduct polls. I just look at Google for five seconds and then spout off gibberish. Since the advent of the OGL or GSL or WTFL, there have been a bunch of clones of OD&D, 1st Edtion AD&D, and 2nd Edition AD&D. Games like OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, Dark Dungeons, Swords & Wizardry, and so on. Most of these are available as free pdfs from the places that produce them. I have perused them and read a lot of stuff about older editions of DnD and how you are "supposed" to play/DM them. 

I am beginning to think that the issue isn't that 2nd Edition AD&D is a stupid version of the game. I am starting to think that it is more likely that I was just a twelve year old DM using poorly reconstructed rules from notes and memories and didn't really have the maturity and intelligence to do more than  read the rules. I wonder if there is a way to blame shitty DMing on years of being dosed with Ritalin and Adderall...

I saw the rules back then as the rules. It says in every single DnD rulebook I have ever read that the rules are a guideline, and the DM has the final word and should just come up with whatever he wants if he feels like it. I always read that, but never really processed it properly I guess. In the earlier editions, the rules don't seem to be there to cover every eventuality (something you also see written in a lot of the manuals), they are put there to get you playing the game so you and your players can figure out everything else. The vagueness is a function of the system, not a bug.

I guess what I am saying is that 2nd Edition AD&D probably sucked because I started young, never played as a player, and didn't properly know how to DM it once we got old enough to want to do more than kill faceless orc armies on sheets of college ruled paper. My understanding now is that it was more about improvisation and cunning. You didn't have forty odd skills with which to interact with the environment, you couldn't just roll to Search a cavernous room deep beneath the mountains. If you wanted to search a room, you had to actually say you were going up and fiddling with the weird moose head on the wall to unlock the secret door. You didn't just roll a d20 and "find" the pit trap, you had to light a torch, look around, poke at the floor with your trusty ten foot pole and find it. You didn't need Spring Attack to leap off the cliff edge and slam into the goblin below you, you just did it, and if the roll was good, something cool probably happened. There was no buffer of skills between the player and their environment, you actually had to interact with the dungeon, rather than your character sheet, to get what you wanted out of it. 

Does that mean Pathfinder is stupid? Nah, I love it. I love the expansiveness and the complexity. I wouldn't even begin to know how to make a mechanic like Xein's mutagen in an older edition of the game (although, now I have like six ideas). I think I just understand older editions of the game better now, and that allows me to recognize their merits and flaws and how they can surpass modern versions of the game in some aspects. 

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