Friday, June 3, 2011

Why I Like(ed) It: 2nd Edition AD&D

I've been thinking real hard lately and reading a lot of flame wars (or more accurately called napalm shoved so far down your throat that your asshole burns wars) on forums and shit. I've decided that if I wasn't already, I am officially an Edition War Nonparticipant. Edition wars are stupid. Each edition of DnD is different, which is why different people adhere to different editions and abstain from and levy napalm at other editions. Each one has merits that made and make it popular. As long no one comes into your basement and throws your books into an oven, leave the issue alone and play what you enjoy for the reasons you enjoy it. 

The thing I read most recently was a forum thread on the Wizards of the Coasts forums where some chucklehead was acting like Fourthcore was ruining 4th Edition for everyone. He was complaining about everything from save or die effects to the overpowered nature of a boss monster in Revenge of the Iron Lich that you were not meant to fight directly that was only there to be an obstacle to avoid. That is the way Fourthcore is, insane difficulty coupled with getting real fucking lucky instead of having your PC splattered by a caving in roof. The guy would just not accept that Fourthcore is Fourthcore and some people like it. It was stupid and dumb and unfair and counterintuitive to the 4th Edition design standards, so it is dumb and everyone should stop playing in that style. He kept stating that Fourtcore represents fake difficulty, not actual difficulty, which is fair. There are save or die effects in Fourthcore, there are traps that will kill if you don't avoid them. So what? That is Fourthcore. If you like the random chaos and hardcore difficulty of that style, play it, if not, play regular 4th Edition.

Anyway, to continue. This thread really inspired me to talk about what I like about the various editions I have played. I enjoy this game and have had fun with every edition. I remember having fun when I played 2nd Edition, despite my comments to the contrary. A lot of fun, I only decided I hated it when 3.5 came out and it seemed like a better system to me. There is no need to burn the bridge on past editions when one I like better comes out, it is ok to still like stuff about 2nd Edition, even though I liked 3.5 more.

So what, thinking back, did I actually like about 2nd Edition?

First and foremost, there was a shit ton of material out for it. I mean, I didn't have spending money to spend and I had no idea what a torrent or modem was back then when we first got into it, but there was a lot of material out there and I had access to a good chunk of it. There was an option for pretty much everything you could conceive of between all the race and class books and all the kits and whatnot. I mean you didn't have sweet things like skill points or feats to customize your character, just non-weapon proficiencies and kits, but the kits were enough at the time. Unfortunately, I cannot recall a single instance of anyone in my group actually using a non-weapon proficiency outside of something like Blind Fighting or Bowyer/Fletcher. I guess it is no surprise though, we were strictly kill it and take its shit back then. And we enjoyed it.

I guess I also liked not worrying about the narrative so much as well. It was just fun to put the guys in a room with some monsters and watch them slaughter everything, though these were not exactly complex battles being fought on my college ruled note paper. This might be more of a feature of our group than of 2nd Edition though, so I'm not sure it is legitimate. Whatever.

I remember never once wondering if a kit or class or race was balanced against the others, that obsession is something I developed later. I miss that, it was fun just creating cool stuff and letting my guys play it. It was hard enough balancing encounters in the first place though, so it made for some added difficulty guessing what monsters would be appropriate for a fight. Without the fetishizing of balance, it was just easier to put what was in my head to paper though, and I miss that.

Thinking back, one thing I really liked was that there was this table in the DMG that tabulated the difficulty of a monster based on its AC and spell abilities and powers and calculated how many experience points it was worth. This table made my life so much easier when I started creating monsters and putting the guys up against creatures with levels. I don't think I've seen such a clear cut method for assigning experience point value to monsters since then.

Character creation was a breeze, even more simple than creating a character in Pathfinder or 4th Edition. Roll your stats, roll your hit points, pick a few proficiencies, write it all down as you go, done. Very quick and simple, so much so that you could roll a character immediately after character death and not tie up the game for two hours or so.

I guess you can attribute most of what I liked about 2nd Edition to nostalgia and not really caring about the rules and such, but hey, I was in junior high at the time and we all had fun, so who cares. 

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