Back in 1989, AD&D 2nd edition hit store shelves. Greywulf mentioned that Zeb Cook's intro was dated January, 1989. So, 2e is nearly old enough to drink.
I'll always remember 2nd edition as a missed opportunity. I have no idea what sort of restrictions or goals the designers worked under. Was backward compatibility deemed the most important element? What did TSR's designers see as the game's goal?
As a 14 year old when the game came out, my reactions were mixed at best. I liked some things (THAC0, expanded spell lists, a more flavorful ranger class, the bard as a class, the color art, the layout, the clearer rules, non-weapon proficiencies, rogue skills) but hated others (no demons or devils, a really annoying binder format for monsters, goofy art, plentiful attack spells for clerics).
The worst sin in my eyes, though, was the tone. The PHB, and many of the books after it, made it clear that there was a right way to play AD&D and a wrong way.
The right way centered on talking in funny voices, spending hours shopping for gear or chatting with J. Random NPC, and generally carrying on like a bunch of spastic Ren Faire rejects. If you liked goofy puns, pop culture references, and joke monsters, this was the game for you.
The bad way involved combat, dungeons, loot, kicking in doors, and kick ass characters. If you like, I don't know, dungeons, and perhaps dragons in those dungeons, get lost. Beat it. This is not your game.
To me, the RPG world had been turned upside down. I loved AD&D. Yet, it was pretty obvious looking at my gaming shelf that things were due for a change. Here was AD&D 2e, babbling on about story and bad puns. Over there was Warhammer FRP. It had an orange mohawked dwarf on on the cover, splitting an orc in half with a battle axe.
Hmmmm. Which game should I play?
Really, it was only the 1e books I already owned, and the quality adventures in Dungeon, that kept me interested in AD&D. By the end of high school, though, I was pretty much out of gaming as my active hobby.
Looking back, in my eyes 2e was a missed opportunity. Cut out the condescending attitude and the love of all things goofy, and the game was a reasonable update of AD&D. The mechanics were easier to use in many places, but the stench of one true wayism and a commitment to the worst aspects of gamer humor undercut the game.
As the line matured, a lot of good stuff emerged like Dark Sun and Planescape, but I can't help but believe that 2e did some deep damage to the D&D hobby, damage that wouldn't be truly repaired until the launch of 3e.
So, happy 20th birthday, AD&D 2nd edition.
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