Happy Birthday, 2nd Edition AD&D

According to my copy of the AD&D PHB (the “no, it’s not third edition” edition dated May 1995), Dave “Zeb” Cook wrote the Forward to 2nd Edition AD&D back in January 1989 meaning that it’s around twenty years since this much loved edition began to roll off the presses.

It’s tempting to draw comparisons between 3e and 4e today. This is the edition of the game that folks either loved or hated. It divided existing fans between those who didn’t like the new release of the game, and those who loved the clearer, less rambling and more consistent presentation. Oh how history repeats itself, eh?

2nd Edition AD&D is also the edition of the game that saw Dungeons & Dragons reach a much larger audience, where the game “grew up” and expanded to a massive degree. This was the era when funky and sometimes contradictory rules went hand-in-hand with the best and most imaginative campaign settings ever designed for a role-playing game. 2nd Edition gave us Spelljammer, Dark Sun, Birthright and Planescape. Fans still yearn for these settings to be updated, revisited and revised 20 years on.

It could be argued that all of this innovation meant that AD&D’s bubble burst too soon, with TSR’s financial woes compounding matters to cause a collapse that almost meant the end of Dungeons & Dragons. I’m thankful for Wizards of the Coast’s timely Raise Dead spell that brought us a whole new Edition of the game, and a whole new enthusiasm with simpler, more streamlined mechanics. AD&D’s legacy continued, building on 2nd Edition’s gamestyle for a new generation of gamers. With 4e’s release and a revised emphasis on “old school” play at it’s core, maybe it’s time to crack open those 2nd Edition manuals again and see what a 20 year old game system can offer your game table, today.

Happy Birthday AD&D 2e, and here’s to another 20 years of D&D!

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8 Comments on “Happy Birthday, 2nd Edition AD&D”

  1. “with simpler, more streamlined mechanics”

    Streamlined maybe(which has also drawbacks), but simpler…I never get why people say that – for me it`s just not true. I would say, that 3e is about 2 or 3 times more complex and difficult than 2nd. And I would say that 3e raised the bar for new people to get into the hobby…

    And by the way – 2nd is (for me) the same as 1st, and the same as OD&D+Supplements – but I can already her the grognards crying out;-)

    “Happy Birthday AD&D 2e, and here’s to another 20 years of D&D!”

    Well said. I also hope for the best.

  2. 2nd Edition AD&D is also the edition of the game that saw Dungeons & Dragons reach a much larger audience

    By the time 2e was released in 1989, D&D‘s earlier faddish popularity had already waned, so it’s highly unlikely that the game’s audience was larger at this time than it had been previously.

  3. @Mr Castle 2e AD&D was certainly more streamlined than 1st edition, and 4e is more streamlined than 3e. That was my point.

    @James Under 2e AD&D, the game was marketed to a much wider scale with the books appearing in “real” bookstores as well as obscure hobby shops. Dungeon & Dragon magazines (remember those? Yes, I’m still bitter) were on magazine racks and the D&D brand gained a much wider recognition than ever before. I’d suggest that the number of players rose during 2e AD&D’s time than at any other time in it’s history. I’d love to see some figures to back up my gut reaction, of course :D

  4. I’d suggest that the number of players rose during 2e AD&D’s time than at any other time in it’s history. I’d love to see some figures to back up my gut reaction, of course

    I’m not sure hard figures exist, unfortunately, particularly for a lot of the early stuff. I recall Frank Mentzer saying on Dragonsfoot that the BECMI boxed sets were the most successful D&D products of all time, with the Basic Set selling over 1 million copies. It’s certainly true that TSR mass marketed D&D much more forcefully during 2e’s reign than they had previously. I’m just not certain that it was so successful as to have resulted in better overall sales than during 1e’s time.

    1. According to one report I read on the subject of TSR’s closing, the same year they filed for bankruptcy was the same year that TSR made its highest sales ever. It just so happened that they invested even more than that with product lines that utterly flopped.

      It takes some seriously bad management to pull something like that off.

  5. Stop it
    *fingers in ears*
    I can’t hear you!
    Nah nah nah nah nah nah nah

    I refuse to believe 2e is that old. It feels like only yesterday that we bought our copy from Beatties. It would have been bought from Virgin but as it was such a small store you were lucky if they ever got more than one copy of any roleplay book to sell.

    /me starts counting the grey hairs yet again and tries to find the tweezers.

    Bobs last blog post..UK Bloggers and Readers Meet-Up

  6. I don’t see how 4e is going back to the original way of playing, really. It’s more like it has computer-game-ized things.

    I would tend to agree that AD&D became more widespread, not less. Faddish doesn’t necessarily mean more popular, just more reported on by journalists who don’t understand.

    faustusnotess last blog post..Is there a 4e Orc?

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