[video] D&D Retrospective: Episode Three: 2nd Edition AD&D

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[video] D&D Retrospective: Episode Three: 2nd Edition AD&D

Post by Big Mac » Tue Nov 22, 2016 12:32 pm

I found a YouTube video, called Dungeons & Dragons Retrospective: Episode One 0 Edition earlier. That video mentioned a 1st Edition AD&D version, which I've also watched. I went looking for more and found a third part called: Dungeons & Dragons Retrospective Episode Three: 2nd Edition AD&D:
DravenSwiftbow on YouTube wrote:Image
Dungeons & Dragons Retrospective Episode Three: 2nd Edition AD&D
DravenSwiftbow

Published on 30 Aug 2015

Part Three of my D&D Retrospective sees the release of 2nd Edition and the death of the company that began it all

Check out Part One 0 Edition: http://youtu.be/-R2OY7T0PSw

Part Two: 1st Edition AD&D : http://youtu.be/p0fnvRfvdxA

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I've not had time to watch this video yet, but I liked the first two, so I'm looking forward to coming back to this later. If it is anything like the 1e version, I'm expecting this to cover the core 2e products, give a general idea of how the 2e line worked and briefly cover any politics that led to 2e being discontinued. I'll be interested to see if I've guessed right. :)
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Re: [video] D&D Retrospective: Episode Three: 2nd Edition AD

Post by Tim Baker » Tue Nov 22, 2016 6:18 pm

I don't know that it's fair that when people talk about AD&D, they're talking about 1st Edition 95% of the time, as stated in the video. While I'm sure that's anecdotal, and I don't have any hard facts to back me up, I feel like there are a fair amount of folks out there who think 2nd Edition when they think AD&D.

What do you think? Do you automatically assume someone's talking about 1st Edition when you hear "AD&D?"

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Re: [video] D&D Retrospective: Episode Three: 2nd Edition AD

Post by Big Mac » Wed Nov 23, 2016 7:52 am

Tim Baker wrote:What do you think? Do you automatically assume someone's talking about 1st Edition when you hear "AD&D?"
No I don't. I think of 2e stuff as AD&D too, but that's probably because I started during the 2nd Edition Era.

I suspect that a lot of this would be people's personal bias. For example, I moved from 2e to 3e and see 1e, 2e and 3e Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance and Greyhawk material as a natural continuation (a pretty wobbly continuation in the case of Greyhawk, but a continuation nonetheless).

However, I do know that not everyone feels that way. When editions change the "feel" of the rules change. And in the case of some people that "feel" is what drew them to D&D.

A change in rules is a natural stopping point, for someone buying into D&D. It's a good time to draw a line and decide to stop buying anything new. But it's also a good time to stop learning new rules, so that you can become an expert in the edition you like.

And, while both 1st Edition and 2nd Edition were both AD&D, the former was Gary Gygax's version of AD&D, while the second wasn't. So while I would rather relearn 2e than learn 1e, I can see why someone who bought into Gary's vision might play the "that's not my game anymore" card, for multiple reasons.

I wouldn't say it was 95% though.

There are communities that focus on "anything before 2e" so I guess that if you asked there you would get a higher percentage of people who think that 2e is not "AD&D". And I'm guessing that if you asked in a community focused on 2e, you would get a higher percentage who do think that 2e is AD&D.
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Re: [video] D&D Retrospective: Episode Three: 2nd Edition AD

Post by Tim Baker » Wed Nov 23, 2016 6:13 pm

Good points. That totally makes sense to me.

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Re: [video] D&D Retrospective: Episode Three: 2nd Edition AD

Post by Big Mac » Wed Nov 23, 2016 8:59 pm

Tim Baker wrote:Good points. That totally makes sense to me.
I still need to find the time to watch this. I'm really looking forward to it (even if I don't think I'll agree with the stats on AD&D that you mentioned). It's great to hear the opinions of other fans.
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Re: [video] D&D Retrospective: Episode Three: 2nd Edition AD

Post by Big Mac » Sat Nov 26, 2016 7:27 pm

Big Mac wrote:I still need to find the time to watch this.
I finally found the time to watch this.

It certainly was an interesting take on 2nd Edition, but not one I share.

DravenSwiftbow skimmed past the campaign settings (that I feel are the best part of 2nd Edition) and focused on things like optional rules being optional (and therefore allowing people to play differently. He really thought that was a negative aspect of 2nd Edition (as did quite a few of the people writing in the comments).

Weird TSR politics aside, one thing that I thought that 2e did well was giving a lot of designers the ability to push out a range of playstyles. 1st Edition gave us Oriental Adventures, but 2nd Edition gave us a lot more choice.

I didn't like THAC0 (sorry THAC0 fans) but I did like the fact that the designers took the DMs tables and attempted to give the mechanic behind them over to the players.

I did get a bit disillusioned with 2nd Edition about half way through the run (mostly because I couldn't afford to keep up with the PHBR series of books, but I think that the product line was going in a good direction. I do think that TSR had enough money that if the managers had not gambled away funds on weird stuff, they would have gotten past the slow years.

Now I've moved on beyond 2nd Edition, I'm looking back at it and trying to buy the cool stuff that I missed. And I'd actually like to learn more about the tail end of 2e (the bit that people sometimes call 2.5) to see if there is anything there that I would like.
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Re: [video] D&D Retrospective: Episode Three: 2nd Edition AD

Post by Havard » Sat Nov 26, 2016 8:18 pm

Overall I liked the video, but there are a number of problems with it.

First of all I think it was unfortunate that he was using the reprint version of the Players Handbook to present the rules for the players. While the illustrations and layout is very nice in this version, it is very different from the visual experience than what players who started out with this edition would have experienced.

Did I say, I had problems with the video? Here they are:

1) Wow, what a weird way to explain THAC0. Yes, THAC0 was confusing to some gamers. But at the same time many saw it as a significant improvement over what was normal before that: rolling the dice, consulting a chart and then comparing it to the defender's AC. In my group we used THAC0 with few problems. The DM would never reveal to us the AC we needed to hit though. We just rolled the dice and did the maths.

2) Optional Rules: I can see the guy's point that moving from one gaming group to another could create some confusion, but overall I agree with you Big Mac, that having optional rules is a good thing, not a bad thing.

3) The video perpetuates the myth that multiple settings was a big problem. This is a myth.

4) The video makes it sound as if 2nd edition was a failure and specifically that it failed to attract new players. 2nd Edition lasted from 1989-2000. I would say that during its run it was a huge success. Yes, TSR suffered some stiff competition from White Wolf, Magic the Gathering and other things and they also made some really poor business decisions, especially during the mid 1990s, but I would strongly disagree that 2nd Edition itself was the biggest problem here.

5) Monks, Assassins, Half-Orcs, Demons and Devils were removed/renamed from the 2nd Edition. Not all of this was about politics.

6) TSR staff did not care about gaming. Perhaps this is true about the CO, but I highly doubt that could be extended to the staff even towards the end.


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Re: [video] D&D Retrospective: Episode Three: 2nd Edition AD

Post by Tim Baker » Sun Nov 27, 2016 6:15 am

Havard wrote:3) The video perpetuates the myth that multiple settings was a big problem. This is a myth.
I don't think I've ever heard anyone challenge the assumption that multiple settings ended up hurting TSR. I'm interested to hear your take.

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Re: [video] D&D Retrospective: Episode Three: 2nd Edition AD

Post by Havard » Mon Nov 28, 2016 7:51 pm

Tim Baker wrote:
Havard wrote:3) The video perpetuates the myth that multiple settings was a big problem. This is a myth.
I don't think I've ever heard anyone challenge the assumption that multiple settings ended up hurting TSR. I'm interested to hear your take.
I think this mostly comes from Ryan Dancey who was the business head of the roleplaying department at Wizards of the Coast from 1998 to 2002. One of the things Ryan Dancey revealed was that TSR generally lacked good information about which of their products sold well and which sold poorly. So even at this point, much of what Rancey revealed about TSR sales was based on speculation on his part.

Overall, Setting core material (boxed sets or core books) sold well, but subsequent support for these product lines (outside of the FR) did not sell all that well. Each new product line/setting also generated additional revenue for TSR because they could lisence out these brands to computer game companies etc. Novel lines for most settings were another source of income.

Overall, it is hard to say how these setting product lines affected TSR's financial situation. I would say there were probably upsides and downsides to them.

More importantly though, these investments, good or bad were overshadowed by other horrible business decisions TSR made at the time, including Spellfire, Dragon Dice, Interractive CDs, probably everything from TSR West and Buck Rogers.

Also, increasingly tough competition from White Wolf, MtG, PC Games and other hobbies added to the decline of TSR.

AD&D existed for a long time with a multitude of settings and quite successfully so. If the settings were bad for TSR, there were other things that were a lot worse for them.

My 2 cp anyway. :)

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Re: [video] D&D Retrospective: Episode Three: 2nd Edition AD

Post by Tim Baker » Tue Nov 29, 2016 3:33 am

Havard wrote:AD&D existed for a long time with a multitude of settings and quite successfully so. If the settings were bad for TSR, there were other things that were a lot worse for them.

My 2 cp anyway. :)
Makes sense. Thanks for the additional insight.

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Re: [video] D&D Retrospective: Episode Three: 2nd Edition AD

Post by Sturm » Tue Nov 29, 2016 10:10 am

I think the settings were the strong point of TSR and not focusing on them has been IMO one of the cause of the company decline.
And obviously also a clear deficiency in expenses control.
I think Dancey was very wrong and that ultimately Wizards lost almost all they built with 3ed because they focused too much on rules rather than settings, and so when they moved to 4ed a lot of their customers choose to stay on 3ed (Pathfinder, which also focused on a strong setting).
That because DMs and Players who follow a setting are very fidelized customers, while DMs and players who cares more about rules and mechanics much less so.
Certainly for both companies would have been better to try to keep both customer groups, instead of cutting one off by ceasing settings support and finally alienating the other too by ceasing 3ed support.
Also because continuing a basic support for all settings and (almost) all rulesets would have involved minimal costs.
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Re: [video] D&D Retrospective: Episode Three: 2nd Edition AD

Post by Big Mac » Tue Nov 29, 2016 1:27 pm

Tim Baker wrote:
Havard wrote:3) The video perpetuates the myth that multiple settings was a big problem. This is a myth.
I don't think I've ever heard anyone challenge the assumption that multiple settings ended up hurting TSR. I'm interested to hear your take.
Firstly, Tim, go to the [video] Secrets of TSR topic, watch the awesome video made by ex-2nd Edition designers and come to your own conclusions.

We have specific evidence there that "Al-Qadim was more sucessful than Dark Sun" (despite the gold ink on products that made them more expensive to produce). It did not "suceed where Dark Sun failed". Both made a profit and Al-Qadim made more money per unit than Dark Sun.

So even if we start off with the assumption that "too many settings killed TSR" we know that any fingerpointing done against either Dark Sun or Al-Qadim is nonsense.

Now if you watch another part of the video you find out that Dragonlance Saga lost money...

...but you also find out that it was a big success.

Those two things seem to be in conflict, but if you watch the video you find out that the Saga designers made something that sold really well, but the printing company witheld essential information from them. What these designers didn't realise is that their cool products were selling at a loss. So they were not a failure either (from a fan point-of-view - and the finger has been pointed at Saga) but they were a commercial failure.

The Saga designers pulled the plug as soon as they realised that their product was leeching money.

Why someone would not want the Saga designers to realise their business model was flawed earlier on, I'm not sure. But I think that sort of stuff is what killed TSR.

If the Saga designers had been given access to the same level of information that Jeff Grubb had when he designed Al-Qadim, I think they Saga team would have had time to go back to the drawing board, and change things so that they would not be made at a loss.

And if you listen to Jeff Grubb's Al-Qadim plan, where he designed Al-Qadim in a way where TSR can deliberately cut the product line short before it starts to loose money...without the fans feeling they have been sold an incomplete products, you can see that the D&D designers didn't just have the skill to make cool stuff...they had the skill to make economical cool stuff.

I did give up D&D towards the end of 2nd Edition and I believe that it might be possible that the tail end campaign settings (like Jakandor, Council of Wyrms, Savage Coast, Night Below and Tale of the Comet) might have had smaller fanbases than the lead campaign settings. I know that we don't have bespoke forums for all of these settings yet (that's something that frustrates me as a fan who wants to see fans of all settings supported - no matter how small the fandom is) so I would take that as possible evidence that the later 2e products might have been more of a failure.

But I have no doubt that the 2nd Edition Era was a massive success for campaign settings.

As a 3rd Edition player I attribute the success of the 3rd Edition Forgotten Realms line directly on the work done for FR under 2e.

And we know that it was a toss up between Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk getting the big support during the 3rd Edition Era, so that means that Greyhawk was also a big success. (Living Greyhawk certainly was a big success. That built on the work of 2e Greyhawk.)

MWP also had good success with their 3e Dragonlance products, built on the back of 2e work, as did Sword & Sorcery Studio with their Ravenloft line.

All of these product lines worked well for 3e specifically because they had a pre-made fanbase.
Havard wrote:I think this mostly comes from Ryan Dancey who was the business head of the roleplaying department at Wizards of the Coast from 1998 to 2002. One of the things Ryan Dancey revealed was that TSR generally lacked good information about which of their products sold well and which sold poorly. So even at this point, much of what Rancey revealed about TSR sales was based on speculation on his part.
I try not to do WotC bashing (or TSR bashing) but I think that the one big problem I've seen from the owners of D&D is negative marketing hype.

The 3rd Edition launch was accompanied by the "too many settings killed TSR" mantra.

The 4th Edition launch was accompanied by the "3e was too complicated" mantra.

The 5th Edition launch was accompanied by the "4e was not like D&D" mantra.

All versions of D&D (even the ones I've not mentioned here) all have their own fanbases. And they all have their pros and cons. And I really wish these people would stop doing this negative hype and stick to the "standing on the shoulders of giants" approach and just say that they are "trying something new based on feedback over the last X years".
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Re: [video] D&D Retrospective: Episode Three: 2nd Edition AD

Post by Big Mac » Tue Nov 29, 2016 11:55 pm

Havard wrote:First of all I think it was unfortunate that he was using the reprint version of the Players Handbook to present the rules for the players. While the illustrations and layout is very nice in this version, it is very different from the visual experience than what players who started out with this edition would have experienced.
I didn't think of that, but you are right.

I still think it would be nice to show the reprint, but it would be good to show the original print style, so that young whippersnappers knew what us old codgers used to see when we opened our D&D books. ;)

(I think that the differences between the reprint and the original book shows the change in technology, which is why I think it would be good to show the two side by side.)
Havard wrote:1) Wow, what a weird way to explain THAC0. Yes, THAC0 was confusing to some gamers. But at the same time many saw it as a significant improvement over what was normal before that: rolling the dice, consulting a chart and then comparing it to the defender's AC. In my group we used THAC0 with few problems. The DM would never reveal to us the AC we needed to hit though. We just rolled the dice and did the maths.
I had major problems understanding how to use THAC0. I didn't want to switch to 3rd Edition, but the switch away from THAC0 was one of the things that made me think that learning a new system would be worth the time (it's a shame that the so-called d20 System didn't stick to it's guns though - there are weird rules for grappling and turning undead that are every bit as complicated as THAC0 was).

I think that the move from tables to THAC0 to the d20 System was a fairly logical progression. THAC0 is obviously a mathematical model of what the tables were, while the d20 System is flipped upside down (to address the complaints about THAC0).
Havard wrote:2) Optional Rules: I can see the guy's point that moving from one gaming group to another could create some confusion, but overall I agree with you Big Mac, that having optional rules is a good thing, not a bad thing.
I remember big criticism about Skills and Feats in 3rd Edition being "too complicated". If they had kept those upgrades to Non-Weapon Proficiencies and Weapon Proficiencies "optional" (but made them into opt-out rules) they could have still had 3e go in the same direction, but could have also given people the same amount of freedom they had during 2e.

<snip - "Too many settings" comment replied to earlier>
Havard wrote:4) The video makes it sound as if 2nd edition was a failure and specifically that it failed to attract new players. 2nd Edition lasted from 1989-2000. I would say that during its run it was a huge success. Yes, TSR suffered some stiff competition from White Wolf, Magic the Gathering and other things and they also made some really poor business decisions, especially during the mid 1990s, but I would strongly disagree that 2nd Edition itself was the biggest problem here.
I always got the impression that 2e was more successful than 1e.

The production values were higher.

Are there more core 2e products than 1e products? I think there are.

Are there more 2e campaign settings than 1e campaign settings. Yep.

Are there more 2e novels than 1e novels. Yep.
Havard wrote:5) Monks, Assassins, Half-Orcs, Demons and Devils were removed/renamed from the 2nd Edition. Not all of this was about politics.

I'm not too bothered about things being renames in D&D, but the fact that they have removed things has always bugged me. One of the barriers towards moving your game (or campaign setting) from one set of D&D rules to another set of D&D rules is the need to convert things.

There are some races and classes that exist in all rules, and I'd expect D&D to expand over time, but when they drop things (like half-orcs) and you have a half-orc character, that leaves players in the lurch.

If somebody did play a monk, assassin or a half-orc maybe they did feel disappointed by 2e. I didn't play D&D before 2e, so that wasn't an issue for me.
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Re: [video] D&D Retrospective: Episode Three: 2nd Edition AD

Post by Tim Baker » Wed Nov 30, 2016 5:10 pm

Thanks for the detailed and well thought-out reply, Big Mac. You make excellent points. I'll have to check that video out when I'm not at work.

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