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

Learning to Play Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition: Player Character Classes (PH pgs 35 – 63)

Dungeons and Dragons Third Edition (D&D 3e) classes share many qualities with the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Second Edition (AD&D 2e) classes that preceded them but there are many noticeable differences. Chief among these differences is the way that classes advance in level. In D&D 3e all classes advance on a single chart which allows all of them to progress at same rate. AD&D 2e does not do this, instead a Fighter advances quicker than a Paladin or Ranger and all three of these classes advance faster than the Wizard. The Cleric, by contrast, advances faster than the fighter and its subclass, the Druid, advances at the same rate as the fighter. Nearly every class has a different advancement rate from the others present in the Player’s Handbook which as a D&D 3e player feels really off-putting.

Another major difference is how each class is presented within the context of the game. D&D 3e used the world of Greyhawk as it’s core setting so the Player’s Handbook is filled with all these little connections to the core world from the deities available to the cleric to the way that fighters interact with the world around them. From what I’ve been told the AD&D 2e game used the Forgotten Realms as its core setting, but the way that information is presented in the AD&D 2e Player’s Handbook doesn’t leave me with the impression that I’m supposed to play in that setting. Time and time again it feels like the Player’s Handbook is creating a setting wholly its own that the players can explore but that isn’t grounded in the larger worlds that existed in the AD&D 2e game.

A few other quick notes:

Paladins: There are stricter confines on the class from both the minimum ability scores required for the class, the race that can play it, and the actions that can be performed by it than are in the D&D 3e version of the game. I love the understand of the paladin that the AD&D 2e game comes to because it feels like a more flexible and playable version of the class than what came out of D&D 3e because the understanding of Law and Goodness are differently defined (see the next part, Chapter 4 Alignment, for further discussion of this).

Also on Paladins: they do not only detect evil but also “evil intent.” (pg 38) This puts a whole new spin on the way that Detect Evil as an ability would work because now if someone who is typically a good character has decided to do an evil act then you could detect an evil aura around them.

Rangers and their companions: This passage is phenomenal:

. . . These followers arrive over the course of several months. Often they are encountered during the ranger’s adventures (allowing you and your DM a chance to role-play the initial meeting). While the followers are automatically loyal and friendly toward the ranger, their future behavior depends on the ranger’s treatment of them. In all cases, the ranger does not gain any special method of communicating with his followers. He must either have some way of speaking to them or they simply mutely accompany him on his journeys. (“Yeah, this bear’s been with me for years. Don’t know why – he just seems to follow me around. I don’t own him and can’t tell him to do anything he don’t want to do,” said the grizzled old woodsman sitting outside the tavern.)

Cook, 42

Why this understanding of the animal companion for the Ranger didn’t continue on in D&D 3e I’ll never understand because this is the best version I’ve ever read. The players don’t so much control them as they just simply have a creature show up and be their friend – so long as they don’t mess with it. I love this!

Works Cited

Cook, David “Zeb,” et al. Player’s Handbook for the AD&D Game. USA: TSR Inc, 1996. pg 38, 42 PRINT

7 thoughts on “Learning to Play Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition: Player Character Classes (PH pgs 35 – 63)”

  1. The 3e+ treatment of animal companions is a pale comparison to AD&D 2e. I had issues, at times, trying to explain to players with Druids, Rangers, and the like that their animal companions weren’t suicidal in combat or automatically obey their commands.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This, a thousand times this! I learned on D&D 3.5e and I can’t even begin to count the number of times that Rangers and Druids tried to play their animal companions like they were set pieces designed to soak up the damage. It wasn’t until I started really playing up the problems Wizards went through when they lost their familiars that it got their attention. Still had a few problems after that, but by treating them in a similar manner it helped slow that style of play considerably.


  2. “From what I’ve been told the AD&D 2e game used the Forgotten Realms as its core setting, but the way that information is presented in the AD&D 2e Player’s Handbook doesn’t leave me with the impression that I’m supposed to play in that setting.”

    I don’t recall ever reading anything that would lead me to believe that was the case. There were multiple settings available at the time that AD&D 2e came out, such as Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, and Mystara. I don’t even recall seeing a list of deities in the core books, so I believe it was more up to the DM to flesh out the world or to pick a setting.


    1. Late to the party on this one!

      I agree with Jeff. There was no implied setting for 2e core books. Greyhawk had been around, but by the time 2e hit, it had fallen out of favor and Forgotten Realms had taken over the prime spot (partly because FR was the new shiny, partly because Greyhawk = Gygax). That said, I don’t think it leaned one way of the other in regards to campaign settings.


  3. The racial restrictions for paladin was the basis of one of my most memorable characters. He was a half orc cleric who really wanted to be a paladin. He couldn’t, of course, because the rules wouldn’t allow it. However he *told* everyone he was a paladin, and he *always* acted like a paladin, all honor and bravery. It was a little easier for him to pull off as a priest of Tempus, but it was all a lie built on a dream. And it was glorious to roleplay.

    Liked by 1 person

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