Saturday, February 15, 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop] Day Fifteen

What was the first edition of D&D you didn't enjoy? Why?

The first edition of D&D I didn't enjoy was also the first edition I ever actually played. Yeah, I've had a complicated relationship with D&D, what can I say?

Even though my introduction to D&D came via the Mentzer Basic/Expert sets, I never actually played them. This was in part because I realized that every other gamer I knew at my school played AD&D, which I perceived at the time as a wholly separate game (thanks in no small part to TSR's own marketing efforts, I might add). So I went with the crowd and bought my own AD&D hardbacks, the better to increase the odds of finding a group to play with. (The irony, naturally, was that I had to start my own group anyway.)

So this was very soon after second edition AD&D had come out, and the arc of my adolescent gaming mapped nicely to the evolution (or perhaps de-evolution) of that edition. Second edition in its initial form and through the first couple years of its development was a perfectly fine game as old school D&D systems go. Indeed, I've just switched my Gray Box Forgotten Realms campaign from 1e-based over to pure 2e rules.

But by the time the Player's Option books came out, and the core books were re-released (a time some have dubbed AD&D 2.5), I was sick to death of the Frankenstein's monster that the game had become. The system seemed creaky and outdated, made worse by the huge pile of supplements I owned that boasted dozens of new classes, kits, spells, and optional rules. I recall the disgust I felt towards the system when I realized that I had, among my many supplements, no fewer than three different Shaman classes, each of which seemed to have been developed in isolation from the other, and none of which seemed particularly well balanced or playtested.

What I didn't realize at the time was that TSR (or T$R as many Internet wags dubbed it back then), that mighty monolith of the gaming industry, was on the verge of collapse. I still remember when my Dragon magazines suddenly stopped arriving in the mail with no notice. It was odd.

And I welcomed the news that Wizards of the Coast had bought the company out, that they were planning a new edition. The reality of how that played out is the topic for another post, but looking back, I realize now that 2e marked my high-water mark for buying supplements for a game. Ever since, I've tended to favor a minimal approach to splatbooks and supplements, and I think this can be traced back to choking on the glut of such material that I experienced during the latter days of 2e.
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