Sunday, January 4, 2009

My Thoughts on Dungeons and Dragons 2E

I've not played Dungeons and Dragons 2E in ages - really, not since I played 1E. If I had to guess (and I do), I'd say that I last played 1E / 2E before I moved away from my fellow players back in 1995. Wow, at least 14 years ago. Time flies. I did not play again until 3E came out in 2000, so I went about 5 years without playing. I also stopped playing while in Law School (for the most part) so I did not play from about 2002 to 2005. I'm glad to say that I've played since 2005 now steadily, once or twice a week, and I am quite enjoying it.

But now back to 2E.

I must confess, while I continued to get Dragon and Dungeon magazine (delivered to my parent's address, so I did not even read them) for my off years, 1995 - 2000, I did not buy any books or really even pay attention to the game at all. So my experience is with the early 2E supplements, from 1989 to about 1994. And I found much to like with them.

First, they had the "kits" - variations on classes to make things more interesting. I really liked those and there was a lot of good material to use, though I haven't looked at it in a while.

But really, hands down, what I liked most about 2E is something that they got rid of for 3E and onwards - and that is speciality priests. Clerics were made much more interesting by that. The way it worked was that they put cleric spells into "spheres" - like for instance, there was a "healing sphere" for healing spells, a "weather sphere" for weather like spells (or something like it), and so on. And then they could adjust the power of a cleric by giving the cleric to those spheres. It was further subdivided by minor or major access, which put a level limit (I think it was level 3) for "minor access" spheres. This allowed great customization between different dieties and, more importantly, it gave much more room to adjust other attributes and powers for a cleric. For instance, you could make a cleric of a war god have access to only a handful of spheres, combat oriented, and then to make up for the relatively fewer spell choices, give that cleric a better hit die, better combat abilities, or other powers.

They took this and combined this with the kits to come up with a whole lot of different variations on the cleric based on the diety. I took that idea and ran with it and made up my own pantheon of about 30 dieties and then customized the spheres and other powers within it. That was all part of my home-brew campaign world, a world I updated to 3E. I also updated the clerics for it. But since they no longer had spheres, there was really no easy way to do that. 3E has domains, which is a minor sort of variation for clerics - you pick two domains and get an extra domain spell from each (you pick which to prepare) and an extra minor power as well for each. That is certainly nice, but it isn't as flexible as what 2E allowed.

My next idea to implement more variation was to set up prestige cleric classes for each diety that could be taken that would give that variation. Unfortunatley, that is a whole lot of work - more than just messing with sphere choices and adding a few powers, and so I have yet to finish that little project. As it is, I just finished one of them. Maybe one of these days I'll get back to it. It is all up on a wiki page right now.

Getting back to 2E in general, I did like playing it. It simplified some things, made a few other things in the game just feel like they made more sense. Alot in 1E just didn't make a lot of sense - it was sort of ad hoc, given the way the system evolved. Not that I didn't enjoy it, but it wasn't quite as robust as 2E. It had strange things, like how psionics worked, and so forth. 2E made psions their own class with their own powers, which was much better than 1E's system. I made a rather enjoyable 2E psion, who was really a merchant with some extra powers on the side (the way I envisioned him).

So there was much to like about 2E for me. I really enjoyed playing it for about five years, until I was out of gaming for a while when I moved. I probably will never go back to 1E or 2E, but I will certainly take the experiences I had with both and use them when I play now, like with the speciality clerics I mentioned above.

I know that there were complaints about too many useless supplements that were put out, causing all sorts of problems. I can't speak to that personally, since I did not get those supplements or play with them. I can certainly imagine the problems of a system that has been out too long and has had rules-creep. And in the end, you play with what you want and don't really use the rest. That is part of why I don't feel quite as bad about 3.5E basically dying now. I know the system is complete and I never need to buy another "official" supplement to keep up with it. Hell, I'll probably never get through all of the books I do have, but I do have them if I need them. (Shelf space is also an issue...)

So I've played 1E, 2E, 3E, 3.5E, and 4E. I had fun with all of them except 4E, though it was interesting to try, as I mentioned in an earlier post. And I have fond memories of 2E - there were some great ideas there. Some of its elements are worth another look.

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