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2nd Edition core publications

Revised 2nd Edition

In 1987, a small team of designers at TSR led by David "Zeb" Cook began work on the second edition of the AD&D game, which would be completed almost two years later.[1] In 1989, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition was published, featuring new rules and character classes.[2]

By the end of its first decade, AD&D had expanded to several rulebooks, including three collections of monsters (Monster Manual, Monster Manual II, Fiend Folio), and two books governing character skills in wilderness and underground settings. Gygax had already planned a second edition for the game, which would also have been an update of the rules, incorporating the material from Unearthed Arcana, Oriental Adventures, and numerous new innovations from Dragon magazine in the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide and would have consolidated the Monster Manual, Monster Manual II and Fiend Folio into one volume.[3] Initially, the 2nd edition was planned to consolidate the game, but more changes were made during development, while still aiming at backwards compatibility with 1st edition.

The release of AD&D 2nd Edition corresponded with important policy changes at TSR. An effort was made to remove aspects of the game which had attracted negative publicity, most notably the removal of all mention of demons Icon External Link.svg and devils Icon External Link.svg, although equivalent fiendish monsters are included, renamed tanar'ri and baatezu, respectively. Moving away from the moral ambiguity of the 1st edition AD&D, the TSR staff eliminated character classes and races like the assassin and the half-orc, and stressed heroic roleplaying and player teamwork. The target age of the game was also lowered, with most 2nd edition products being aimed primarily at teenagers.[4]

The game was again published as three core rulebooks which incorporated the expansions and revisions which had been published in various supplements over the previous decade. However, the Monster Manual was replaced by the Monstrous Compendium, a loose-leaf binder in which every monster is given a full page of information. It was the intention that packs of new monsters (often setting-specific) could be purchased and added to the binder without the expense or inconvenience of a separate book, allowing the book to be updated and customized as needed. This format proved highly susceptible to wear and tear, however, and presented difficulties in keeping alphabetic order when pages had been printed with monsters on each side. Subsequently, the loose leaf formatting was abandoned and the Compendium as a core book was replaced by single-volume hardcover Monstrous Manual in 1993, collecting popular monsters from the Compendium. The edition also greatly increases the power of dragons, in order to counter the impression of relative weakness of the game's titular monster.

Numerous mechanical changes were made to the game. The combat system was modified. The minimum number required to hit a target uses a mathematical formula in which the defender's armor class Icon External Link.svg (AC) is subtracted from the attacker's THAC0 ("To Hit Armor Class '0' ") number, a simplification of 1st edition's attack matrix tables that had appeared as an optional rule in the 1st edition DMG. Distances are based on in-game units (feet) rather than miniatures-board ones (inches). Critical hits are offered as optional rules.

Character creation is modified in many ways. Demi-human races are given higher level maximums to increase their long-term playability, though they are still restricted in terms of character class flexibility. Character classes are organized into four groups: warrior (fighter, paladin, ranger), wizard (mage, specialist wizard), priest (cleric, druid), and rogue (thief, bard). Assassins and monks were removed from the game as character classes, "magic-users" are renamed "mages", illusionists are made into a subtype of the wizard class, along with new classes specializing in the other schools of magic. Proficiencies are officially supported in the Player's Handbook and many supplements, rather than being an optional add-on. Psionics Icon External Link.svg are no longer included in the Player's Handbook, though they later appeared in their own supplement.

Sales of Second Edition's core books were somewhat weaker than First Edition. Combined, the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide sold over 400,000 copies in the first year of release, a solid hit, but their lifetime sales were not close to matching the huge success of First Edition.[5] The reasons why are contested. Michael Witwer, a biographer of Gary Gygax, cited the lack of involvement of Gygax and the changes that attempted to avoid controversy.[6] Ben Riggs writes that TSR insiders worried that the word "Advanced" in the title was scaring off interested newcomers into thinking the product was not for them, and more generally that players of First Edition could simply continue using their old books. Both Witwer and Riggs cite increasing competition from other role-playing games; First Edition was a trailblazer that had carved out an entirely new space, but many more tabletop role-playing games existed by 1989.[5][6]

Player's Option series[edit]

In 1995, TSR re-released the core rulebooks for 2nd Edition with new covers, art, and page layouts.[7] These releases were followed shortly by a series of volumes labelled Player's Option, allowing for alternate rules systems and character options, as well as a Dungeon Master Option for high-level campaigns. They consist of:

Some of the optional rules include the introduction of a point-based system to allow players to pick and choose parts of classes to make their own class, and a more tactical combat system including attacks of opportunity.

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Back to Main PageDnD EncyclopediaTerms
  1. "The History of TSR". Wizards of the Coast. 
  2. "Dungeons & Dragons FAQ". Wizards of the Coast. 
  3. Gygax, Gary. "From the Sorcerer's Scroll: The Future of the Game". Dragon Magazine, #103, November 1985, p.8.
  4. Applecline, Shannon. [ "Player's Handbook, Revised (2e)"]. 
  5. 5.0 5.1  (2022). Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons & Dragons. (St. Martin's Press), p. 96–101.
  6. 6.0 6.1  (2015). Empire of the Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons. (Bloomsbury Publishing)
  7. Appelcline, Shannon. [http:/ / "Player's Option: Combat & Tactics"]. http:/ /