Pros and Cons of 2nd edition D&D

A few months ago, my Thursday night gaming group switched from 4th edition D&D to 2nd edition. I was a little concerned at first, as a lot of issues have been fixed since 2nd edition and I thought it might feel like a step backwards, but actually I’ve been quite enjoying it. With that in mind, I thought I’d present a few pros and cons of the edition, mostly in relation to 4th ed, but also in a general sense.

Pros:
1) Fights are quick.
This was a definite issue with 4th edition D&D once the PCs passed a certain level and complexity. The simplified characters of 2nd edition make for a much speedier combat round.
2) Not all classes are perfectly balanced.
On the face of it, this might sound like a bad thing; certainly within the context of 4th ed’s heavily tactical gameplay, balance was important. However, it always bugged me that all classes had to perform equally well in all situations. I do quite enjoy the 2nd edition approach that different characters have their moments; thieves get a lot of playtime out of combat, but aren’t great in a fight; wizards get some great spells at high level, but they only get to pull them out once in a while; fighters may not be that exciting, but they are consistent.
3) No ability score inflation.
As discussed a few posts ago, ability scores don’t matter quite so much in 2nd edition anyway, but one of the things that bugged me in 4th edition was that two ability scores would massively outstrip the others over time. It always seemed ridiculous that a character could be supernaturally charismatic and wise, but no smarter than the average peasant… or be stronger and faster than humanly possible, but all that training has done nothing for their general health and consitution.

Cons:
1) Too many systems.
You want to roll high for saving throws and attacks, but low for proficiency and ability checks… and of course, you may not even be rolling a d20 if you’re a thief and you’re using percentile dice. Then there’s initiative, which uses a d10 (though I think they missed the perfect opportunity to give the poor d12 a purpose in life). No consistency at all.
2) THAC0
Of all the crazy systems in 2nd edition, THAC0 absolutely takes the cake. You roll the d20 and add any modifiers, then you substract that from your THAC0 to get the AC you’ll hit. I’m not aware of any other system in any RPG that requires two completely separate calculations to resolve one die roll. Of course, you can subtract all your regular modifiers from your THAC0 on your character sheet, so that there’s only one calculation, but as soon as you pick up any temporary modifiers from spells or circumstances, ou’re back to two calculations every time.
3) Armour is king.
I’m not a big fan of characters that wear armour in RPGs. I don’t like it because the characters that wear armour are generally dependent on it to fill their roll in the party, which means they have to wear it everywhere. Down the pub? Platemail on. Visiting royalty? I’ll just buff it up a bit. Sleeping? I once saw a video on Youtube that showed it’s not really *that* uncomfortable. It just bugs me. I prefer what many other systems do, which is either make armour a nice to have, rather than a requirement, or allow a some sort of choice between being fast and hard to hit or slow and armoured up.

So, overall it’s probably a tie between 2nd edition and 4th edition for which I prefer – both have their merits, but neither is perfect. I will be excited to see if 5th edition manages to combine to strengths of both into some sort of super system… I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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