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!