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Thursday, January 1, 2015

The End of a Personal D&D era.


I have pretty pristine copies of AD&D second edition considering  their age and amount of use. The day I bought them I made cardboard book sleeves for them and to this day they rest in those sleeves. Sure the  PHB has a few bent corners and a bit of  yellow here and there, and perhaps the  Monster manual was dropped a few times, but all in all I have seen worse on store shelves.
I treated them better than I treated my  poor old Basic rules cyclopedia, and the hardcovers have held up better than the red or blue boxes, my  First edition book mostly all lost to vulgarities of time, moving, and used bookstores
.
Those second edition books are my Favorite game books.
AD&D second edition might be my favorite game, though I'm not  altogether sure about that, I know it's on my short list.

So it's strange to see them go back in the attic and into the plastic bin labeled "game stuff"

Before any one reads this and thinks it's a plea to bring back second edition, it's not. As much as I enjoy the game and think of it as a pretty complete tool set for fantasy games I also recognize that there are allot of good games that have been published since 1989, time to move along.

So last night via roll 20 we haltingly began our conversion  from  AD&D 2nd to  Dungeon World, for my long standing fantasy campaign. As a Gm it is not a hard transition, it was complicated by the fact I was a bit over tired and  triggering  moves based off what the players were giving me is a slightly different mind set. I may have missed some good opportunities. (when the assassin burst thought the  window and landed on Willhelm, I should have used a "deal damage Move" but I pooched it.)

But Why change at all? AD&D 2nd ed is a great game , stick with that!

Sadly I have to admit my feeling towards older version of D&D have been conflicting over the past year or so. I very much wanted to relaunch my campaign using just Compendium basic, nothing more.
Then as players started finding online resources the game drifted into AD&D second edition which was fine by me, because I know the system well and have allot of experience running it. It  still had that old school throw back feel to it. *

However the internal conflict started almost immediately as players started culling kits and such from  20 some years worth of 2nd edition flotsam an jetsam swirling around the internet. While as the DM I put the kibosh on some of the things I thought were out of whack for my setting it brought to light why these kinds of games get out of hand. Telling a player, "That's a cool idea but that Firbolg Ranger Priest of War does not fit in the setting." Is a quick way to sap out all the enthusiasm they had while they were spending three hours digging through at least 4 PDF"s they  found "somewhere" to create the big fella, or get one more bonus form some obscure racial kit.

5th ed Basic , with it's streamlined rules and  basic options, put a nail the coffin, then Dungeon World came along with it's also stream line character options and  rules. Dungeon World said, "Hey look you can be cool at level 1," and slammed the  coffin lid shut.

I am not saying THE NEW is better -it isn't- much of the time.
I am saying that using a low page count basic rules PDF for 5th Ed, and having just as good a game with it made the process of 2nd ed seem in many ways overwrought.

It reminded me of what me me move away from second edition, then third edition / Pathfinder and, more than likely 5th edition in a year or three.**

BLOAT.
Successful RPG's are like  Gluttonous, gaping mawed, gibbering stomachs. All they do is grope blindly forward  devouring new splat books until the real goal of the game is obscured in layers of unctuous fat and toad skin.
You talk'n to me?

Companies want to print more player material so they can make a bit more money off the  game. Who can blame them for that? Besides, It's cool stuff, heck I buy it. I have a load of 2nd ed class and race option books. Book of humanoids, Book of Dwarfs, Book of the necromancer, book of this, book of that This can be option overload and soon players especially now that the internet has made splat books so much easier to find , can make characters that are very much beyond the  Wizard, Fighter, Priest, Thief  frame work that game was originally structured to support.

I have a Theory, and I know some of you will disagree, regardless here it goes:

If you take AD&D second edition (for example) and hold up the  DMG the PHB and the monster manual, you have in your hands the best version of that edition ever made.

The  same holds true for 3rd edition, Basic D&D, BX, or what ever other flavor you might love most of all. Everything tacked on after that original designers concept, feeds the bloat and dilutes the  games original vision. Some addition material might be AWESOME but very rarely necessary.

In my  view,  games that were originally designed to get out of the way and let you  play, were eventually strangled by their own bloat.

Do house ruling or DIY additions have the same diluting effect? Perhaps. They are different in that House rules and custom content are your own, brought about by the GM and the Players. DIY  game materials fall into the realm of "Awesome stuff" more often than random splat books. I find things players and DM's do for themselves are intrinsically more interesting than a fighter that was hopped up on a point buy system from the "Charter Options" book.
Is it less damaging than any other system bloat? I'm not really talking about damaged games, just games that start to grind down under the weight of their own options. By that logic I would have to say yes, if you house rule a game into a totally new game - you might as well run a different game.


So it ends, my love affair with AD&D second ed is put back on hold for a while. Forever? I don't know. The books are back up in the attic and will look just as pretty the next time I pull them down.


As always: Thank you for reading.
Questions and comments can be shuttled from the attic into the basement bellow.
Mark.




(*IF I ever do a throw back game again it's going to be D&D Compendium Basic, OSRIC, or Star Frontiers.)

(**I Ommited  basic D&D  because I don't feel it ever happened with that rules set as much. First edition AD&D and 4th edition Because I have never run them as a DM)