What Do You Think is the Essence of D&D? (2E)

I figured I'd start a series of threads for each edition of from 2nd through 4th asking this question:

What do you like about [edition noted in thread title]? What rules/design choices/general feeling define the positive aspects of the [edition noted in thread title]? What did [edition noted in thread title] do better than any other edition?

Having threads on this would, I believe, help the designers focus on exactly what people enjoy about each edition and thus create rules/modules to better reach more peoples' hopes and expectations for D&D Next. Seperating each edition into its own thread reduces both clutter and the chance of an edition war breaking out  .

Now I haven't actually played 2E - I just wanted to make a thread for people to answer the stated question.
After the core rulebook, further publications gave players options for their characters which did not invalidate their earlier choices.  There were not splatbooks full of new classes that were better than any previously published.  The new material for the most part simply gave players ways to better model a character concept, and the options could be added to characters without having to completely recreate them.

For me 2e's greatest strength is its ability to include or discard options without disrupting the game. You could run player's option characters next to core only characters and the game worked.


I also like the high level of context provided for the rules. The 2e books are really good reads and it's mostly because they spend a lot of time explaining why a rule is the way it is. The other nice thing about all this context is it gives the reader a strong foundation for changing the rules. There's security in doing so because the reasoning behind what's written is clear.

For me, 2E brings the roll checks like To-Hit and Saving Throws that encapsulate the essence of RPG, which is to earn rewards that influence the game.  (The parallel goal of competitive games is to win.)  Specifically, the roll checks encapsulate levels in which you get better at making rolls as you gain level.   There are other mechanism that handle rewards like spells and powers, but roll checks constitute the core combat mechanics.   2E has a lot of flaws though that should be fixed like the separation of relflex saves from AC, or the fact AC is handled like a force field.   A lot of Monte Cook's work focus on this issue.  
AD&D was mostly a rules lite story-driven RPG. This happens to be my favorite kind of RPG. I also like tinkering with character options like in 3rd edition and boardgame RPGs like in 4th edition, but at the end of the day, AD&D is what I like.

Key features:
- Simple rules with a lot of DM adjudication
- Lots of improvisation
- No incentive to min-maxing (little to no options)
- Focus on in-game character development
- No magic item mall

The bad:
- Cross-level class inbalance
- Poorly written rules that leave a lot of room for interpretation. You can have DM adjudication without the need to decipher the rules.
One of the noticeable differences between playing 2E and later editions is the reliance of ingenuity over powers.   For example, in 2E you carry a around a supply of healing potions while in 4E you rely on divine and martial healings.   In 2E you destroy a bridge with with oil and a torch while in later editions you blow it up with any of a number of powers.   Ingenuity has a niche in RPG, for example plots and game plays can be altered by the shortage or sudden loss of supplies.   Ingenuity contributes to the sense of accomplishments and team work while powers only define roles.  Lastly, Ingenuity is why you play paper and pencil RPG instead of video game RPG.  I like ingenuity.  
One of the noticeable differences between playing 2E and later editions is the reliance of ingenuity over powers.   For example, in 2E you carry a around a supply of healing potions while in 4E you rely on divine and martial healings.   In 2E you destroy a bridge with with oil and a torch while in later editions you blow it up with any of a number of powers.   Ingenuity has a niche in RPG, for example plots and game plays can be altered by the shortage or sudden loss of supplies.   Ingenuity contributes to the sense of accomplishments and team work while powers only define roles.  Lastly, Ingenuity is why you play paper and pencil RPG instead of video game RPG.  I like ingenuity.  

+1

what he said! 

Disclaimer: Wizards of the Coast is not responsible for the consequences of any failed saving throw, including but not limited to petrification, poison, death magic, dragon breath, spells, or vorpal sword-related decapitations.

No 1st edition thread?  No basic thread?



1st Edition:  Do it yourself adventures, typically in a dungeon but not necessarily.  Strong emphasis on player improvisation to solve problems.  Story as an emergent phenomenom (the story is what happened to the players - usually in a sandbox, not something the DM planned).   


2nd Edition:  Heavy emphasis on official settings, decrease in homebrewed settings.  Although improvisation remained important, the addition of tools such as non-weapon proficiencies started the trend toward 'you need the [skill/power/etc.] to do that.  Story and plot focus changed from being mostly focused on the players ('what we did') to focused on the world ('what the NPCs did and how we stopped them').

I could squeeze in OD&D as well - but most of what I liked about OD&D isn't really relevant to this.   Mostly it had to do more with the newness and the expermental feeling of not really knowing what is possible and what is not.  An emphasis more on 'what would I do here' with very little attention paid to the rules because the rules were spotty at best (and because that is the only edition I was ever just a player in - at least for the first couple of years).


And I never played Basic (or its iterations) enough to really address it.   
     

Carl
Like: Non-weapon proficiencies. Lots and lots and LOTS of option books that could be used or not and neither would break the game or require anyone else to use something similar. Multiclassing so you could have a multiclassed character at Level 1.

Dislike: Nothing, really. Though other editions have improvements (no THAC0, adding feats, etc.), I still think 2e is fine as it is.

In memory of wrecan and his Unearthed Wrecana.

My favorite part of AD&D was the weight assigned to ability scores. Because you were expected to roll 3d6 in order, the system didn't assume you were going to have any high stats. You could play a fighter with Strength 10, and it didn't feel like a massive penalty.

At the same time, the ability check roll - to succeed, roll d20 and get under your ability score - meant that the actual difference between a 7 and a 14, for purposes of most non-combat-related things, was effectively twice as great as it would be in later editions. You would feel that your character was stronger, because you would be twice as likely to succeed at checks.

The metagame is not the game.
I was never a great fan of the ADnD mecanics, but i did notice a change over the editions since i siated playing during ADnD 2nd edition.

When playing 2nd edition it felt like your character was part of a living world becouse you diden't have that many means of improvong your character when it came to stats and options, there seemed to be more of a focus on your posision in the world then a focus on the character itselve.

and in my experiance this went down as editions advanced.
To the point where some games i have seen became almost epesodic.
Playing one episode (adventure) then updating characters and starting the next adventure very focused on the characters and not their posision in the world.

My brother who has been our Dm trough ADnD to 4th inlucing essentials and pathfinger described what he saw in some groups as the folowing.
In 2nd edition you played a person in a world, in 4th play a sheet of stats trough intresting adventures that just happen to be in a world.
The focus on Fluff and Material is what really made AD&D 2E capture the Essence of D&D. You can read AD&D material and to this day (no matter what edition you are playing), it is still interesting and relevant.


Another highlight of 2E was the non-weapon proficiencies. Frankly I'm surprised that they took a jab at a 3.5 skill list in the playtest without at least trying the old school way.

I sincerely hope as a Module, you will be able to select your own Skill List, I for one will be using the AD&D proficiencies list.

  • Second Edition likes

  • 95% of Thac0 was not that bad, it was an easy to learn system that got done what needed to be done.  That said, fighter progression was always too fast (by 7-10th level, they could hit just about anything with little trouble) and 3e's attack bonus worked just the same, so take it or leave it.

  • Kits.  Kits are a great way to make your character interesting and 'different' mechanically (instead of just flavor) without unbalancing the game - for the most part.  Bladesingers are still ridiculous.

  • Lack of kits.  If you didn't have a kit, and another party member did, you didn't feel like you were missing much.

  • Weapon Proficiencies:  weapon proficiencies and their assiciated groups let a character be good at using a weapon, without letting them feel like they know how to fight competently with EVERY weapon.

  • Non Weapon Proficiencies:  A great way of letting a player know what their character is good at.  There was a strange thought process that popped up in the '90's, that went something like this (and I feel it a lot in later editions - see the Use Rope skill) If a PC doesn't have the 'Firebuilding' proficiency, he can't start a campfire in the wooods.  That wasn't really the case.  Anyone can figure out how to start a campfire.  But if it's been raining for a week, the ground and all deadwood is sodden, and there are no tools - THEN the DM should be calling for a 'firebuilding' proficiency check

  • Ability checks:  A simple and elegant way of determining if you succeed.  And it avoids the current issue of percentages in ability checks.  Roll under your score.  Did you succeed?  Good, you passed.  There were a couple of different ways of making things more complicated for the PC if the DM thought it was necessary (all official in various rulebooks and versions):  roll under your ability score on a d20, or 3d6, or 5d6!  Some nonweapon proficiencies had this little caveat - make your proficiency check (an ability check, usually) at HALF. 

  • Classes balanced by experience points, not by level.  I love this personally.  10,000 xp nets you a 4th level fighter, 3rd level mage, 3rd level ranger, 3rd level paladin, 5th level thief, 4th level cleric. (I'm paraphrasing, don't have my books in front of me, but you get the idea).  The more powerful classes leveled slower, others quicker.

  • Ability score requirements for class and race

  • level limits (don't ask, I still love them - my players hate them, but I've always found them an impeccable part of the game).


There are others, but that's what comes to mind right now.

  
    

www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?317...

This, is what defines AD&D (2e and previous) from WotC-era D&D 

Kinda relates to CharlesBrown's post about ingenuity 
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Nothing for 1e?  Well, 1e and 2e were both AD&D, so I'll combine them:

What do you like about AD&D?

It's the edition I started with, so nostalgia is the main thing.  I also liked Gygax's rather pompous college-level writing style, it made it seem like a "thinking man's game."  I guess that's still nostalgia, though I liked it /at the time/ (I was a real nerdy kid, I guess).  

What rules/design choices/general feeling define the 
positive aspects of AD&D?
Hit points were one of the things that have always been a good (if controversial or confusing) aspect of D&D.  AD&D (1e DMG) had some detailed discussions of hit points that elucidated the design decision to have such a simple mechanic do something as important as determine if your character lived or died.  Those insights are still relevant today.  AD&D also shot for balance and used many balancing mechanisms (differing level advancement, varying relative power across levels, weighted magic item charts, weapons & armor & HD, spell interruptions, etc, etc, etc...) which were openly discussed in the DMG.  It didn't deliver balance at all well, but it educated you on its importance.  It was a game you could work with to make your own campaign successful, even if it was a "bad game by the RAW."

What did AD&D do better than any other edition?

1e: sell.  It was a fad in the early 80s, 'nuff said.  
2e: Settings.  More and more richly developed settings than any other ed.  I virtually never use published settings, myself, but a lot of folks love 'em, and it's a very meaningful accomplishment.

 

 

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I agree with a lot of what has been said here (and disagree with some of it). To narrow in on some of my own thoughts:

First off, the settings were excellent. I bought as many of the settings as I could, and would have bought the rest of them had I been able to afford/gotten around to it. I love how they were almost entirely fluff (with new monsters and a few spells and magic items tossed in, of course) rather than being about new character build options.

Tied into that, the essence of there being a D&D universe mattered a lot to me. A lot of people ignored it, but from my perspective the fact that all of the campaign settings existed in the same greater multiverse, and had explicity support for how they interacted was brilliant. If you didn't like it, you could ignore it. But if you did, you got to feel like D&D was a place, not just a game.

In general, the emphasis on fluff was great.

Impeccable class identity is a big deal to me. See, D&D has always been a class-based game. You are a fighter, or a mage, or a cleric, etc. That is the biggest part of your character's identity. You aren't a character build with splash of this and that to create your personal vision of some sort of character you want to role-play. Don't get me wrong, I love well-developed characters, I'm an actor/role-playing style player. But I also like the fact that:

Some character concepts are not appropriate for D&D! That was abundantly clear in 2e. If you wanted to play a neutral good vampire struggling to control the beast within, you didn't mess around with the rules and plead with your DM--you went out and bought Vampire: The Masquerade and enjoyed it! And when you played D&D--you enjoyed playing D&D! I absolutely despise the loss of the idea that D&D is it's own thing, rather than a Generic Universal Role-Playing System. (Pun and reference fully intended).

Emphasis on iconic races and classes, special dispensation for exceptions. I liked the fact that when you created a party you expected that it would be composed entirely of the PHB classes and races (or the variants for the campaign setting, such as with Dragonlance). You really got the feel for the game that way. I loved the demi-human multi-classing (not level limits though *shudders*), it gave each race an identity and made it different to be a non-human. While I can't say I'd like to return to straight up forbidden classes, there is something that captures D&D essence about saying that certain races tend to be certain classes and not others. Then there were exceptions, such as Dark Sun, and Planescape, and you felt that they were just Christmas presents of awesome, in a way that was only possible because they varied from the norm. Eliminate a norm, and you eliminate the sense of special indulgence.

Kits were pretty good in that they weren't more powerful and maintained your class identity. Frankly, I usually found them less appealing than sticking with the standard version of the class--and that very feature is what made them great.

Another comment on the world/setting aspect. I loved how the world felt like it was alive and you were inhabitants within it, rather than that the game was about your characters and the world existed simply to serve their needs. If you wanted to know how such and such happened over at so and so, you had a book that you could look it up in. If you were in a temperate forest and you wanted to give your players wilderness encounters, you had a table for that, and it didn't care what level your players were. It attempted to emulate the experience of living in the world.

Rules-wise, I disliked the clunkiness, however, the parts that felt essentially D&D to me were the parts that encouraged the ingenuity that has been spoken of.




To me, the essense of 2E was the fluff and story. You could make practically any kind of character and be an important character in the story with meaningful influence.

kinda...

The clunkiness and wonkiness of the mechanics...

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Splatooks.
Splatbooks were the essence of 2E.
AD&D leading into 2E was about the setting and the story. The world books are timeless. You could draw inspiration for thousands of adventures and not run out of material.
Fluff, feeling, the essence of the game and the settings. Also catering to multiple gaming styles. 2nd ed material is still enoyabe to read 20+ years later. Most 3rd ed material has not aged as well (to many mechanics).

 Fear is the Mind Killer

 

Fluff, feeling, the essence of the game and the settings.

2E Complete [something]'s Handbooks are a testament to the mutability of fluff, in that the 2E mechanics can be ignored while the fluff itself ports forward into new editions rather easily.

Yup I have been rereading those books recently. The fighter one in particular is quite impressive but I like the Druid one as well (do not annoy the local druid).

 Fear is the Mind Killer

 

My games are almost entirely storyless sandboxes the way Carl described 1e, regardless of system. I just find it's a fun way to play.
I figured I'd start a series of threads for each edition of from 2nd through 4th asking this question:

What do you like about [edition noted in thread title]? What rules/design choices/general feeling define the positive aspects of the [edition noted in thread title]? What did [edition noted in thread title] do better than any other edition?

I like the classes in 2e they somehow define the classes more tahn in othr edtions ro maybe better as awhole the druid is btter defined in 1e forisntance.  Grouping classestogther was a good dsign choice so was bumping race level limits and kits and specialty preists were pertty cool but it was the worlds created for 2e that made it am emorable ed of DND.

I certainly agree with much of what has been said so far; from the proficiencies, to the incredible game worlds & fluff, and the classes & races. I would also personally add that the art & style also is more akin to my vision of D&D. The 1e art was okay, and pretty good in the later years, but the 3.5/4e over-the-top stuff (like weapons the size of Volkswagens) actually hindered my own immersion into the game.

Just roll some dice.

 

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