Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition: What You Need

One of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to any roleplaying game is “where do I start?”. When you’ve got a 300 pound gorilla like Dungeons & Dragons dominating the field 30+ years after its birth, it’s only natural that it’s going to come up as a lot of people’s “go to” answer…but with somewhere upwards of 8+ editions (depending on who is doing the counting), that’s hardly an answer.

Over the course of a few articles, I’m going to look at every edition of Dungeons & Dragons I’ve played extensively and run down the absolutely MUST HAVEs for each of them. As you’ll see, it’s often not a very easy question to answer. I do hope you’ll chime in with your thoughts!

Now we move on to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition, the first real start of the divisiveness that plagues D&D to this day.

AD&D 2nd Edition

Did any bookshelves in the late 80s NOT contain these books?

AD&D 2nd Edition didn’t ultimately change a lot of fundamental things from Gygax’s 1st edition. It was like slapping on a little Maybelline:

  • Morale went from d% to 2d10 added together
  • Ability Score bonuses changed slightly
  • Surprise was a bit more clearly explained
  • Initiative was a LOT more clearly explained!
  • A race and class or two disappeared (ultimately reappearing later in the product line)

There’s still a bit of silliness here and there, and the Dungeon Master’s Guide seems just a bit too bland and by-the-numbers to really give off any kind of distinct personality, but overall, it’s really not like you need a huge list of books to get the D&D experience with 2nd Edition.

Watch the Monsters…

AD&D 2nd Edition originally launched with a crazy binder-bound series of monster pamphlets…it was a mess. Monstrous Manual combines a gazillion monster entries, powers up dragons big-time, and generally gives you everything you need, so it’s a lot better choice.

AD&D 2nd edition Player's Handbooks

Through the ages!

Want to Play a Different Game? Pick a Supplement

2E is also one of the most expandable versions of D&D, meaning you can buy just one or two books and very nearly achieve a “different” game. We’re not talking about buying tons of books to change a major facet of the game (say, like The Book of Nine Swords does for the fighty classes of 3rd edition), but literally buying a single book and getting a nearly complete overhaul of underlying assumptions of the rules mechanics.

It’s honestly a little crazy, and plenty of it was poorly implemented…but there’s something fun about that! Why do you think people still play RIFTS, after all?

Want a more 3e/4e-style tactical combat rules set layered on (a purported benefit of D&D Next)? Just pick up Player’s Option: Combat & Tactics.

Want point-buy characters with more power and lots of options? Player’s Option: Skills & Power (and/or Spells & Magic).

A much less intense series of options, simply expanding a couple classes and providing for tons of new magic? Tome of Magic.

Psionics? The Complete Psionic’s Handbook.

More “realistic” Medieval stuff? Arms & Equipment and/or the Castle Guide.

A historical gaming setting and rules? Check out the Vikings Campaign Sourcebook, or the one Charlemagne, the Celts, Romans, or whatever else they put out.

Vikings Campaign Sourcebook

Because Vikings rule, donchaknow

The list is endless, but the point is that you can be really focused and just pick up one of these options and go hardcore with it just by buying a single extra book, which Dungeons & Dragons Classics makes even easier. Plus, all of the 1st edition AD&D material (and arguably Basic D&D) happens to be pretty much compatible.

neuronphaser is an editor, eCommerce consultant, web producer, and analyst living in sunny Hollywood, CA. He’s been playing tabletop RPGs of all kinds since 1985.

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2 comments on “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition: What You Need
  1. Dannielle says:

    Hi I have a large collection of AD&D books and games and was wanting to get a value on how much they would be worth but I wouldn’t have a clue where to start. Would you be able to point me in the right direction???

    • neuronphaser says:

      Best place to contact if you’re looking to trade for other games (including board games, card games, and more) is Noble Knight; they are amazing folks. Noble Knight.com

      Another place for trades is the RPGnet forums.

      EBay and Amazon are good if you want to do some research and sell them on your own.

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