Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Hidden in the depths of 2nd Edition...

After going through a bunch of second edition stuff (and even scouring forums and blogs and the like) I've discovered a few things I've never really realized 2nd edition had. Many of these come from the campaign settings, which were, in many ways, the laboratory of the game. Designers could craft crazy nonsense and at least if they were in one campaign setting they weren't "polluting" the entire game line. There's a tension between game designers wanting a stable core game with players wanting lots of crazy options and expansions, and the settings of 2nd Edition are where good ideas were tested out. I suspect we'll see this philosophy a bit in 5e now, such as Adventurer's League only allowing people options in the core books and the most current setting/player's guide. Heck, we did it once during our first Empire of Man game, where we let each player bring one book to the table. Anyway, three things of interest, though #2 and #3 are kinda related.

1) Racial proficiency groups. This might only be in the Domains of Dread book for Ravenloft, but it is such a superb idea. Just like your class gives you a list of proficiencies you get a discount on, your race could do the same thing. Maybe the groups aren't perfect and maybe races don't need more than 0-3 options to make this a thing, but its kinda nice that elven warriors might take astrology or elven wizards may take bowyer/fletcher.

2) Extra classes. Second edition was obviously full of a lot of nonsense, but they did craft a good number of additional classes, mostly restricted to the campaign settings. Monk and Assassin classes? Added in the Scarlett Brotherhood book (And the internet thinks they're decent too!). Berserker and Runecaster are added in Vikings (and again, the internet thinks they're on-par with the other classes, though runecaster is a bit weak and might could be augmented with the Giantcraft runecaster for Forgotten Realms). The later Forgotten Realms also gave use Harpers, Crusaders, Spelldancers, and Shadow Walkers hidden away in splat books. These last four were news to me just this past month, so I had to update the Wikipedia list of alternate D&D classes.

3) Unlimited slow/weaker spellcasting. Linked to extra classes, both the Al-Qadim Sha'ir and the Forgotten Realms Spelldancer (Wizards & Rogues of the Realms) are spellcasters with unlimited casting potential at the cost of speed. They're both odd options where you have a decent chance of getting just about any spell you want as long as you're willing to wait. Not too useful in combat, but you're a pretty grand utility caster. I'm not 100% sure I think this is fair and balanced or would work well in a low(er) magic setting that I'd prefer, but given that this has appeared a few times (and the interned hasn't shat all over the Sha'ir) it might be reasonable. Presumably in-play the characters also end up getting a number of wands or something for a few things to do in combat (though I might opt to multiclass rogue or something). It does sort of green-light some crazy ideas though like making all spells have a longer casting time (in rounds/turns) and just letting wizards/priests cast at will. Likewise, two versions of the runecaster show up (Vikings, Giantcraft) which has lower-powered but essentially unlimited spells as well. Someone felt this nonsense was balanced at least.

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