Monday, November 19, 2012

Blowing the Dust off of Second Edition AD&D

In the days before Perception was a skill

So my two sessions so far of the creeping AD&D 1st edition game have been fun, but the lengthy period of time between games is a real killer for the sort of plotline/sandbox thing I originally set out to do. By session two trying to keep track of who had what plot, who was interested in which potential quest or point of exploration and so forth was a muddy pit of confusion, as too many older gamers with poor memories equals disaster when it comes to consistency (I kid! Mostly it was my own lack of focus thanks to too much going on between games to even think about game scenarios or plots). So the game was retooled on the spot to focus on a core plot instead and migrated everyone in classic fashion through what I call AD&D's archetypal Roadtrip from Hell event (aka wilderness journey), involving boat rides, an owlbear and a large array of goblins using a giant stag beetle as a heavy assault beast. It ended with the discovery of a lost temple entrance, and enough suspicion pointing toward its doors as the solution to their problems.

Playing with 1st edition is a reminder to me of many, many things. Not least of these is that its reminding me that I used a lot of houserules, borrowed liberally when in doubt from B/X D&D, and that I don't think I ever applied the surprise, initiative and general combat rules as written in the DMG, relying instead on the outline of combat in Basic D&D and jumping to the DMG for the charts (and eventually using the Armor Class Wheel published in Dragon magazine).

It has also reminded me of just how quaint and amusing (and infuriating when running the game) the obscure wargame inches & rulers measurement system is. There are a huge number of little annoying bits like this that riddle the system (ascertaining encumbrance last session was another momentary headache). It's easy to see why Classic Original D&D tends to get the most love in the OSR community; it really is a simpler, more intuitive approach to the same basic game, and B/X D&D clearly owed much to the Holmes remastering from which they later were adapted (as best I can tell; keep in mind I got into the hobby October 1980, and I was nine years old, so some of the publication history of the game is something I learned about later on).

In any case, one thing has become clear: every moment with 1E that has been annoying me, or led to rules confusion or clarification, or otherwise caused a head-scratching moment is also an element which would be crystal-clear to me if I was running 2nd edition. 2E is, for me, the edition which I know best, the one where I still remember which page to flip through for whatever specific rule it is I need to's the edition that sits smack dab in my "comfort zone" of old games.

I plan to let everyone know next session (which won't at this rate be until December 8th) that I'll be bringing my 2nd edition books along, as it took about two games of AD&D 1E to remind me of why I stopped running it around 1985 (switching to T&T, Runequest and Palladium) and didn't come back until the game had been formally revised; and even then only because my college group  begged me to consider AD&D 2nd edition after I'd subjected them to several months of Dragonquest and Runequest. Hah!

That first game I ran of AD&D 2nd edition, using the heinously bad idea that was the Monstrous Compendium folio along with the new DMG and PHB was glorious. It involved an old farmstead that was abandoned, giant rats, some angry kobolds, a friendly and obnoxious pixie named Percy and an amassing horde of orcs and hobgoblins that the players realized was a threat to the local town. It cascaded rapidly into one of the coolest campaigns I'd ever run in AD&D.

Meat snacks!
While many players of 1st edition were decrying AD&D 2E for its changes, I was part of a crowd that had been lost to 1st edition, who associated that specific edition with the unpleasant Middle School years, and so 2nd edition was the opposite for was like the game had cleaned up, matured a bit, and at last was trying to make sense of itself. It was the edition which I could embrace.

But I've complained about this before! I have lots of fond memories of AD&D 1st edition....but I just can't go back, it turns out. Hopefully my mess of players will understand. It's either that, or I find a copy of B/X D&D and try running AD&D 1E the way I actually did back in the day, as a hybrid mess of the two.

In any case, those 2nd edition reprint listings that popped up on Amazon are a good sign to me that WotC knows people like me are out there, those who were part of the crowd which embraced 2nd edition AD&D, and that we are all more than happy to shell a bit out on some shiny new copies of our favorite edition. I certainly hope that's how it works out...

Hopefully with a different cover!

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