Return to Second Edition

[Archived from]

Recently, my gaming group have started a 2nd Edition AD&D campaign – and it’s been interesting. Travel back with me to D&D, 90’s style…

My group currently has 3 players and a DM, but another player is about to (re)join us. We were previously playing a long-term 3.5 campaign, from 1st-20th level. We hope to move onto Pathfinder when the 2nd edition game finishes. One of the players in the previous campaign (I was the DM) volunteered to DM this campaign, to give me a break (thanks, Louise!)


The characters are as follows:

A Human Cleric of Waukeen (me)
A Dwarf Fighter/Cleric of Moradin (Gerry)
A Elf Thief/Wizard (Matt)

We should hopefully be getting an Elf Ranger joining us soon.

I had forgotten just how useless low-level Wizards were in 2nd Edition – luckily I persuaded Matt to play a multi-class wizard, so he still has his Thief skills to fall back on (once he uses up his one spell). The whole multi-classing took some getting used to for players used to the d20 model. To be honest, I am playing a human only for story reasons: Humans are very weak compared with other classes, unless you play a long-term campaign with level limits. Still, I should be one level higher than the others throughout the campaign, which is some compensation.

Clerics are a mixed bag: having to memorise Cure spells is a pain, as it really reduces the flexibility of the Cleric, but I love the god-specific spell lists (I had largely forgotten these until recently). It is irritating that I can’t use certain spells, but it adds to the Role-Playing aspect of the whole thing.


The first thing we did was run a small combat, to get us used to the combat system. It feels a lot less tactical than 3/3.5, but that is perhaps inevitable given 1 minute combat rounds. It was a bit weird that technically this combat outlasted pretty much every combat we ran in the previous campaign, as it lasted about 5 rounds (5 minutes). That would be 50 rounds in 3.5! Actually, I’ve always found one minute rounds allow the abstract elements of D&D (Armour Class, Hit Points etc.) to make more sense.

It took some time to get used to announcing what you are doing at the beginning of the combat round, and then rolling initiative (we are using the individual initiative rules). That required some house-ruling (what happens if the situation changes etc.). But by last session (our fourth or fifth), it was beginning to become second nature. We also misplayed the backstab rules, treating them as more like the later Sneak Attack. We are now playing the correct rules.

Other Rules

Talking of rules, they are not that well organised in comparison with 3.5. Some rules are quite obscure and downright badly written. For example, are all bows assumed to have Str bonuses for those with less than 18 Str? Or only specially made ones? Since they cost the same, I can’t see why you wouldn’t buy and enhanced bow. Indeed, the whole bow specialism section seems odd. But that’s probably with 10 years experience of running a system designed with checks and balances (3/3.5). AD&D was always much more “simulationist” (potion mixing table etc), or as much as a game with magic could be…

One of the advantages of d20 is that there is one over-arching system. There are lots of different sub-systems in 2nd Edition (combat, non-weapon proficiencies, thief skills etc), which is good and bad – it allows systems to be created for specific tasks, but can be confusing. I find the non-weapon proficiencies to be better than skills in d20: you are proficient in the skill to start with, and they don’t overwhelm other systems like some skills do in d20 (diplomacy for example is badly broken in d20).


I am enjoying our journey back to the 90’s. I don’t think I would play it all the time, but it has rekindled my interest in the game (I played it to exhaustion back in the 90’s, and openly embraced d20). Unlike d20, it really is basically the same game as original D&D, with some additions – the real jump in evolution would come with d20. Of course, d20 was itself based on Gamma World, 4th edition (released in 1992, only a couple of years after 2nd Edition).





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *