AD&D 2e, Dungeons & Dragons, Learn the Game

Learning to Play Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition: Welcome to the Game! (PH pgs 1 – 17)

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Second Edition (AD&D 2e) was a massive, rules-heavy game by the time that it ceased publication at the turn of the millennium. It had a glut of source books, setting guides, alternative rules, and rule expansions that made learning it an intimidating task even for the most motivated players. To help cut down on the intimidation factor I’m going to be learning using the core books: the Player’s Handbook, the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and the Monstrous Manual.

The Player’s Handbook I will be using was published in May, 1996. This edition of the book was “. . . a lot bigger: 25% more pages in the [Player’s Handbook] . . .” (Winter). I’m told that the majority of the changes in this edition of the book were cosmetic, but there are some rules changes, clarifications, and corrections to the text. If you have an older version of the Player’s Handbook that you’re learning along with don’t fret because the changes are not supposed to be as dramatic as those found between the Dungeons and Dragons Third Edition (D&D 3e) Player’s Handbook and the Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 Revision (D&D 3.5e) Player’s Handbook. Newer versions of the Player’s Handbook should be even closer to the version I own so you should be okay.

The Dungeon Master’s Guide that I will be learning from is the November 1993 publication. This edition of the Dungeon Master’s Guide will not be as pretty as the 1996 version but it should be fairly useful for my purposes. As with the Player’s Handbook, if you have a newer or older version of the text you should be okay with the learning process as there are not supposed to be the massive changes that happened with the D&D 3e Dungeon Master’s Guide and the D&D 3.5e Dungeon Master’s Guide.

The Monstrous Manual I’m using was published in 1993. It’s the omnibus version of the Monstrous Manual that was published with AD&D 2e that combined all the various loose-leaf monster pages that TSR published into one centralized location. If you have a newer version of the book then you will see some revisions to the text but it should largely be the same.

Now let’s get on to today’s exploration of the Player’s Handbook which begins with the official welcoming to the game and goes to the start of Chapter 1: Player Character Ability Scores. Most of this is the sort of things you usually read in the early pages of a role-playing game. What the game is, an example of play, and a curious note on pronouns.

A Note About Pronouns

AD&D 2e had a note about its usage of pronouns that the authors felt important enough to put into writing: “. . . The male pronoun (he, him, his) is used exclusively throughout the AD&D game rules. We hope this won’t be construed by anyone to be an attempt to exclude females from the game or imply their exclusion. Centuries of use have neutered the male pronoun. In written material it is clear, concise, and familiar. Nothing else is . . .” (Cook, 9)

I have a hard time with the argument that using the male pronoun was a “neutered” pronoun in 1989 and an even harder time accepting that argument by 1996 when my edition of the AD&D 2e Player’s Handbook was published. By 1990 the eleventh edition of the Harbrace College Handbook, one of the preeminent sources for writing correctly in the English language at the time, was already actively encouraging authors to avoid the use of pronouns that exclude either gender or that stereotype male and female roles with the usage of the gendered pronouns; instead they encouraged the use of the gender-neutral pronouns “they, them, and their” (Hodges).

Yet even if we were to grant the authors the concession that the male pronoun were a “neutered” term their defense of its usage shows that they were aware that using it caused some of their gamers to feel excluded from the gaming experience. At a time when TSR Inc was facing rising challengers in the role-playing game scene (a topic better discussed at another time) they would have been better served by moving to the gender-neutral pronouns that encouraged all gamers to join instead of needlessly clinging on to the male pronoun which some found exclusionary.

Unless quoting directly from the source material I will not be following their lead in pronoun usage.

The Basics of Play

When it comes to role-playing games like AD&D 2e there is a simple concept that needs to be reinforced no matter how many editions the game goes through or which role-playing game you’re actually playing today: there is no winner. Unlike more traditional games where you have definitive winners and losers in a role-playing game the goal is to have fun and socialize, not to “win.” While it’s true that the adventure you’re playing on that evening might have a beginning and an end the goal isn’t to get through it and amass the most points so that you can claim victory. Role-playing games aren’t about that at all. We’re a journey matters type of game as opposed to a destination matters type of game.

Required Materials to Play

  • You need a copy of the Player’s Handbook
  • A sheet of paper, folded in half, for your character sheet
  • A pencil
  • A full set of polyhedral dice
  • A few sheets of graph paper
  • Miniature figures.

Now please excuse me if I sound a little bit silly here but I really like the idea of using a character sheet that is a sheet of paper I’ve folded in half. For years I’ve always used a full sheet of paper, front only, as my character sheet. I’ll post a copy of the one I make on the blog later because it just sounds fun.

Works Cited

Cook, David “Zeb,” et al. Player’s Handbook for the AD&D Game. USA: TSR Inc, 1996. pg 9 PRINT

Hodges, John C., et al. Harbrace College Handbook Eleventh Edition. USA: Harcourt Brace Javanovich, 1990. pg. 68 – 69. PRINT

Winter, Steve. Forward. Player’s Handbook for the AD&D Game, by Winter, TSR Inc., 1996, pg. 3. PRINT


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