Nine years ago I received a very special birthday present, the importance of which still persists to this day. I was given a Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition starter set, which I still have most of. I still remember my first character. He was a premade in the set, Niles the halfling thief. He trained with Dagger Daneer in the town of Haven. It was with this starter set that I had my first adventures, found a vent for my overactive imagination and made some close friends that I retain until this day. As you might imagine I am nostalgic for 2nd edition, I remember it fondly to this day. So, without further ado, the top 5 things to miss about 2nd edition:
1. Pointless Spells: I spent most of my 2nd edition days as divine casters, meaning I had a full selection of completely useless spells at the start of every morning. I didn’t often cast Goodberry or Mordenkainen’s Protection from Avians but I felt good having them. The utility spells of 4th edition are just too few and too narrow to allow the sort of unexpected problem solving you get with a good Stone to Mud spell.
2. Winging It: As I remember it 2nd edition had more rules than the editions that followed it, yet managed so much less. There wasn’t much of an overall system for resolving non-combat conflicts, although there was often a rule somewhere in the books to deal with it. More often than not the DM would just make up a solution on the fly rather than interrupt the game to look up how to deal with it properly, which often had some spectacular results. Looking back I’m sure it put a lot of pressure on the DM, but I didn’t care. I wasn’t DMing and I was having fun with it.
3. Unbalance: At times it felt like 2nd edition had thrown up it’s hands and given up on attempting to manage power. Players weren’t balanced against each other, they weren’t well balanced against the monsters that would have to fight and some abilities just didn’t seem managed at all. This was certainly frustrating at times, particularly for low level wizards or when you think you’re up against something you probably can’t beat. I didn’t like it back then but I remember it fondly now. It was actually realistic that way, sometimes a player would run wild across the weak but sometimes he would have to run away. A person who could turn into any animal really did have an awesome power which was not restricted by some rather strange and arbitrary rules. It certainly had negatives but a part of me likes the way that the universe was not constructed to be just challenging enough for however strong I happen to be.
4. Encyclopedia Magica: It has been years since I have held any of the Encyclopedia Magica books but I still remember them fondly. They were loaded up with magical items and artifacts, many of them from premade adventurers and settings books, now plucked from their original context. There items ranged from world destroying to completely useless but all of them had story and personality attached to them. It was a major blow going to 3rd edition in that regard, the magic items all felt so common and sterile. I feel like 4th is a step in the right direction but I still intend on getting my hands on the Encyclopedia Magica set and plundering it for some of the old magic.
Expy the red dragon says:
I had fun pwning 2nd edition paladins. I’d turn my back on them when they charged. I refused to fight. They were so afraid of attacking me and losing all their paladin powers! They’d end up letting their guard down and I would burn them to a holy crisp. Delicious.
5. Class Flavor: When I think of class flavor the first thing that springs to mind is a 2nd edition paladin and the laundry list of minor infractions that would get him in hot water with his god. While I personally enjoyed the the expansion of paladins to more gods and alignments, I wish more effort had been made to preserve that feel of the oath bound warrior. I recall that my 2nd edition druid got to pick nature appropriate languages when he leveled up. Being able to speak dryad and badger wasn’t a huge power advantage, it was just meant to suggest a flavor to the character. To a large extent I feel like we have lost that from D&D. The system no longer infuses that spirit into the characters, if the player wants it there he or she needs to shoulder that burden personally.
Thanks for joining me on this stroll through the museum of memories, I hope you wore the complimentary rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia. When I dreamed up this article I had no idea what half of the five things would be, five just seemed like a good number. I ended up surprising myself because I had to cut things out to keep at five, I’m not sure what the means for modern roleplaying. Don’t get too cocky though 2nd edition players, I’m sure I have a list just as long of things I hated. In fact, I’m sure some items would appear on both lists.
I want to hear about your lists. Do you love or hate 2nd edition? Also, where did you get your start playing tabletop games? Do you still pine for your first game system?