Thursday, June 30, 2011

2nd Edition: The Game You've (Probably) Never Played

  With older editions of D&D, it’s practically assumed that your table has at least a few house rules and optional rules. This practice had been ingrained in traditional role players from the beginning, though I believe the practice has dwindled some with later editions(the WotC d20 editions).
  Yesterday I posted about the rules I use for the majority of the gaming I actually do lately. It got me thinking; have I ever actually played straight core 2nd edition? Had I ever played 2nd edition without any of the optional rules? I thought about it for a fair amount of time yesterday, and I came to the conclusion that I’ve never done it. I’ve also never even heard of it being done. Heck, I wasn’t even sure what the rules would actually be since I’ve been playing with optional rules(or only partial rules) for more than 20 years.
   So I’ve decided to go through the core rule books(The PHB and DMG) section by section, to try to find out what the rules actually are, and damn it, I’m going to figure out if it’s actually as “unplayable” as many 2nd edition detractors have often said.
   I’ve rambled on long enough, onwards!

Chapter 1: Player Character Ability Scores
 The DMG and PHB Have very different tones and purposes for chapter I. In the PHB, while the optional ability score generational methods are mentioned, 3d6 in order is crowned the standard. In the DMG, a slightly different route is taken, stating that GMs should give the players what they want in regards to character(within reason). It then goes through the various methods to and states which classes are likely with which methods.
  Beyond the generating of ability scores, chapter one of the PHB states that each ability has a set of secondary characteristics that, “serve to further define the abilities and limitations that govern the actions of the character during play.”
  • Strength Secondary Characteristics: The ones that are not regarded as optional include the Melee combat adjustments for hit and damage, Open Doors, and Bend Bars/Lift Gates. Additionally. The Weight Allowance and Max Press are part of the optional encumbrance rules, though I guess an argument can be made that Max press, as written just states what a character can lift over his head.  
  • Intelligence Secondary Characteristics: Core characteristics include, The number of languages a character may start off knowing, the maximum spell level a wizard may cast, and the chance a wizard has to learn any spell he finds. The maximum number of spells per level is actually optional.  
  • Dex, Con, Wis, and Cha Secondary Characteristics: All the characteristics for these abilities remain part of the “pure” 2nd edition game.
     The PHB then goes on to discuss what the numbers mean, and ways to come up with player character personality. The DMG on the other hand picks this time to discuss unbalanced characters, problem backgrounds, and players with multiple characters. The short and simple is that it’s up to each DM to determine what constitutes appropriate for the game. It does seem to come down on the side of one character per player though.
     All in all, this is pretty standard, though I know many groups have a tendency to drop most of the secondary characteristics to cut down on paperwork.

   Up Next: Chapter 2: Races. Expect this sometime Saturday as tomorrow is N/PC Friday.


  1. I'll be following this series with interest. I played and ran 2e for years, with a pretty wide range of house rules. I never actually found 2e "unplayable" so much as "unsatisfying." Consequently, most of our house rules revolved around new races and classes that could spice things up a bit.

    As an interesting note, though, I was in the process of tweaking weapon proficiencies at the end of our run in 2e. Specifically, I always thought Blind-Fighting should be a WP rather than a NWP. I just about ended up turning them into what would become feats in 3e.

  2. Yes, definitely looking forward to this! The idea of running 2e without any of the optional rules is...intriguing.

  3. @Marshall: Yes, I think the proficiency system ended up becoming the feat system. Especially when you look at the "heroic feats" that were in the Celt HR book.
    @sirlarkins: It's certainly different than it's usually played, that's for certain.

  4. I definitely thought of doing this back when I ran 2e as I'm pretty minimalist about things (the main reason that Basic is my game of choice). It makes a huge difference iirc. Only the 4 main classes are core. PC's die at 0 hp. No wpn specialization. It really changes the balance and complexity of the game in a good way IMO.

  5. That's certainly what I've been noticing so far. A whole lot of things work differently when you remove the optional rules. :)

  6. This is a great idea, be following this with interest. And, you have already raised some interesting ideas. Might have to try this for the next 2nd ed. game that I do play. (Which I hope is soonish.)