Friday, March 5, 2010

My Life With D&D, Part II

Around the time I got to high school we started to hear murmurings about a second edition of AD&D. Gary Gygax had written about his ideas for such in various issues of Dragon, which have been analyzed recently by the Greyhawk Grognard, among others. No matter that D&D itself was no longer my primary RPG, I was excited by it. I had no knowledge, at the time, of the turmoil at TSR that would oust Gygax and send the revision spinning in an entirely different direction

When AD&D2e landed in 1989, it was therefore markedly different than what I expected - and I noticed immediately the lack of Gary's name on it. I found it underwhelming; as I later came to think, AD&D2e solved none of D&D's basic issues, while at the same time bowing in a very craven way (it seemed to me) to the fundamentalist crazies who saw D&D as a diabolic tool aimed at corrupting our innocent youth. It took probably a couple of years for this opinion to fully form, but eventually I hated AD&D2e passionately.

Eventually Al Gore invented a series of tubes called internets, and in the days of Usenet and there were flamewars over the issue of incredible virulence... far more hateful than the early days of RPGNet when that place used to resemble the wild west. I was not the most strident foe of AD&D in those days, but I definitely fell on the anti-AD&D side, although I always maintained a fondness for AD&D1e.

Around 1991 or so I abandoned even the pretense of wanting to play AD&D, even 1st edition, and even had I known at the time anyone who'd stuck with the older iteration of the game. I fell in with a group playing Rolemaster, and there I stayed for many years. Rolemaster, it seemed to me, was just like AD&D but lacked many of its flaws. No more arbitrary restrictions on weapons and armor for various classes - the reasons why magic-users didn't want to stroll around in full plate were built into the system. And everything was skill-based - a development that RuneQuest had sold me on. None of this halfassed non-weapon proficiency business that the AD&D kids were doing. And none of what we now commonly call Vancian magic; we had a real spell point system instead.

After a couple of years of that group sticking with Rolemaster, I started to drift again into the supposed "story-oriented" games, starting of course, with titles like Vampire: The Masquerade, which I had trouble getting into, because in play it didn't really seem any more story-oriented than Rolemaster; less so, the way we played.

But another new edition of AD&D was on the horizon - one that dropped the A - and which would change things far more radically than the second edition had.

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