During the last AD&D 2e Apologetics we covered why rules bloat and Thac0 are the deal-breakers when it comes to promoting AD&D Second Edition. We refuted the accusations that Thac0 and rules bloat are inherently bad, or at least if a gamer dislikes them, they can be easily circumvented for the enjoyment of AD&D 2e (use ascending AC/BAB, and just say "no.")
Then we ended with the question:
Where do you think these arguments against Thac0 and rules bloat originate?
I enjoyed reading your responses on that post. A lot of you were dead-on with your answers: Wizards of the Coast.
Now, I'm not branding WotC as an evil corporation bent on wrecking the hobby. What amazes me, though, is that even today I harbors feelings toward WotC's acquisition of TSR. On the upside, it lead to the OGL, and without the OGL there would probably be no OSR On the downside, AD&D 2e got kicked to the curb and we're all told it was a good thing.
To paraphrase something Ryan Dancey, the creator of the OGL, once said in the early 2000s: The greatest competition to the current edition of D&D is a previous edition D&D. (If anybody can find this quote, I'd be grateful. I believe I remember reading it on EnWorld.)
The original goal of the Open Gaming License was to prevent another financial disaster like TSR happen. Let third party companies vie for niche markets like Planescape or their own homebrew settings. "Rules Bloat" became associated with TSR, and by default AD&D Second Edition. You can read all about Ryan Dancey's visit to TSR during the company's final days at insaneangel.com. (which was copied from the original site). Dancey blames TSR death on "deafness" and inability to listen to its customers.
Just beyond the middle of that letter, Dancey blew 2e out of the water:
"Our customers were telling us that 2e was too restrictive, limited their creativity, and wasn't 'fun to play.' We can fix that. We can update the core rules to enable the expression of that creativity. We can demonstrate a commitment to supporting >your< stories. >Your< worlds. And we can make the game fun again."
And by "we," I'm certain he means WotC. He goes on to talk about cutting back on the number of products they (TSR/WotC) produced because customers wanted it that way. Apparently the jargon in Planescape was too confusing. He keeps saying that he, along with WotC, will somehow "fix" D&D.
AD&D Second Edition was somehow broken. He blamed the rules themselves, as if they were the cause of TSR's bad business practices. Rules bloat didn't sink AD&D 2e; rules bloat sank TSR. There's a difference. We all know the rules in all of those supplements were optional. The core rules themselves were fine, and if you didn't like it, you can alter it.
In July 1998, in Dragon #249, about a year after the acquisition, Peter Adkinson revealed that he had replaced the Thac0 system. Instead, a character would have Attack Values (ATV) and Defense Values (DFV). You just had to use a formula once to find the ATV and DFV for your character (see right). "When a character rolls 1d20 to hit, he or she simply adds (which is more easier and intuitive than subtracts) the d20 roll to the character's ATV. If this total equals or exceeds the DFV of the target, it's a hit."
The whole d20 System was supposed to be more intuitive--that word keep appearing again and again in the WotC marketing of 3e at the time.
So there you have it: Rules Bloat + Thac0 = AD&D 2e bad. 3e would "fix."
Of course, hindsight being 20/20. We all know what followed. If you thought 2e was rules bloated, then 3e was even more so. Just look at the stat-blocks, just look at all of the supplements WotC cranked out for 3e, before turning it around and doing it for 3.5e. I found 3e/3.5e to be more restrictive believe it or not, especially as a DM.
And hence, the Edition Wars burned ever forward as WotC marketed that their current edition of D&D was the best, while many resisted these claims.
I get it though. WotC's acquisition of TSR happened about 15 years. Ancient history, right? Why should I be talking about it?
Well... AD&D Second Edition is back. You can buy the core books on Amazon. WotC has allowed the sale of older edition pdfs on dndclassics.com, including those infamous 2e splatbooks.
WotC is really piling on the good will. D&D Next/5e/whatever you want to call it is supposed to appeal players from all editions of D&D. The question is: can they do it?
This is why I asked in an earlier post, "Do other games have edition wars?"
With all of these earlier edition products released and the announcement of 5e, the Edition Wars have cooled.
At first I thought this was a good thing. Maybe we can all get back to just playing games we enjoy in whatever edition, retroclone, or variant.
For those who've been reading this blog, you know I have my reservations on this.
Believe it or not, I'd rather have people arguing about the qualities of various editions than silence. I just won't participate as much as possible (though sometimes it can be hard, I'll tell you about the "Boiling Water on an Ant Hill" story sometime).
I'll cover "Why the Edition Wars matter: in an upcoming post in the next few days.
1. The Death of TSR, Ryan Dancey's letter formerly posted on atlasofadventure.net (Scroll Down to view)
2. Most Dangerous Column in Gaming, by Ryan Dancey
3. "Simplifying Thac0 and Armor Class," Dragon #249, by Peter Adkison