[AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

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[AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by shesheyan » Fri Jun 07, 2019 1:56 pm

«In 1995, TSR re-released the core rulebooks for 2nd Edition with new covers, art, and page layouts. 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 consisted of:

- Player's Option: Combat & Tactics
- Player's Option: Skills & Powers
- Player's Option: Spells & Magic
- Dungeon Master Option: High-Level Campaigns

Some of the optional rules included 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.»


I did buy these books and read skills & powers. I wanted my group to try these but they did not want to. Did you use these rules in your AD&D campaigns? Do you think these books informed or influenced the creation of D&D3e? If so which parts?

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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by agathokles » Fri Jun 07, 2019 2:37 pm

Several aspects of 3e are indeed inspired by these books. In particular, combat and tactics explores the more tactical combat that was used in 3e, and abilities that remind me of feats are found in the High level campaigns book.

I didn't use this revision extensively, although we had the CD version that came with the AD&D software tools.
Mostly, it was overly complicated, although DMs focusing on homebrewing would have found them useful to build custom classes, races, etc for their settings (but we played mostly Mystara and a bit of Ravenloft, so we didn't get a lot of mileage out of them).

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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by Havard » Fri Jun 07, 2019 5:41 pm

I didn't use them much. Mostly because by the time these books came out, our group were becoming a little tired with D&D and AD&D and shifted towards other games for a while. At this point we had all the Complete Handbooks and tons of other sourcebooks with additional rules, and seeing them streamlined was interesting, but at the same time we didn't really have the patience to sit down and figure how all of these options worked.

I got a renewed appreciation for AD&D 2nd ed many years later, but still havent really looked into these books too much.

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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by night_druid » Fri Jun 07, 2019 6:19 pm

Friend of mine ran a short-lived campaign back in the day using the skills & powers system. It was fine, but I sorta found the system cumbersome. By far the best part of the system was Spells & Magic, mostly for the "new" classes (crusader, monk, shaman) and new spells.
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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by Big Mac » Fri Jun 07, 2019 11:15 pm

AuldDragon includes some of the Player's Option rules in his live-streamed Spelljammer campaign...

...but not all of them.

He could probably tell you what he likes about the rules.
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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by talsine » Fri Jun 07, 2019 11:49 pm

We played with them a lot, but the rules are really easy to break, especially when building custom classes. Clerics are OP cause of the huge pool of points you get, and Fighters can easily get to crazy numbers if you build them right. Still, i am a fan of more options then less, but I'm also a DM who is not afraid to tell someone no, your idea is going to break the game, and the point is for everyone to have fun, not just you.

To this day, i still look over a specific players characters very closely after the -10 AC naked Wood Elf Fighter incident that came out of Spills and Powers

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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by Digitalelf » Sat Jun 08, 2019 8:16 am

I currently use (since I still run 2nd edition) Spells & Magic for the new priest and wizard spells and the wizardly equipment tables therein, and I use Skills & Powers for the expanded weapons, armor, and equipment lists. But I use very little else from them. :|

I would like to mess around with the character point system in Skills & Powers and see how it plays within my games. But I don't know when or even if I'll ever get around to doing it.

I do not however, use anything from Combat & Tactics, or the Dungeon Master's Option: High Level Campaigns.
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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by zontoxira » Thu Jun 13, 2019 11:46 am

We made extensive use of Combat & Tactics (I'd assume thanks to the wargamer in us, back then); critical hits tables, weapons and weapon proficiencies, unarmed combat, tactical options, attacks of opportunity, you name it, except for the 10-second combat round (nowadays the default option) and the alternative initiative system (fast, average, slow speed etc). On the other hand, we disregarded Skills & Powers, possibly due to its character point system (build your own, unique race and class). Spells & Magic and High Level Campaigns seemed like neat ideas, but we didn't use them much, the former being mostly unnecessary (not too many spellcasters in my group), the latter because we usually ran low to mid-level campaigns.
In summary, we'd found most of the books kinda over-complicated, while fully embracing the new combat rules.
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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by AuldDragon » Thu Jun 13, 2019 10:55 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 11:15 pm
AuldDragon includes some of the Player's Option rules in his live-streamed Spelljammer campaign...

...but not all of them.

He could probably tell you what he likes about the rules.
Combat & Tactics has a bevy of good combat stuff, especially with revisions to weapons and armor, and new equipment. It revised the rules for the various combat styles as well, and has some good new rules for unarmed combat. The critical hits are complex, but can make combat far more dangerous. There's also a lot rules for specialized combat situations, which are good. I've never used the miniature rules, the changes to "combat phases," or the 15-second rounds (which I find FAR too short).

Spells & Magic, more than anything else, has new optional specialist classes. You can "use" the book even if no one chooses to play a shadow mage, or a geometer, just as the PHB is used even if no one plays a Diviner. The priest classes in particular are very good, IMO. The priest sphere re-arrangement and the new spells alone are good enough to use, as well, and the alternate magic sources can make for some interesting NPCs, although I would hesitate allowing PCs to choose them. The equipment and Proficiency sections are pretty good, as well. I haven't used the spell critical hits though.

Skills & Powers is by far the weakest, and has caused a "guilt by association" with people disliking that one and assuming the rest are as bad. The sub-abilities and Character Point systems are *far* too easily abused to find a place in my game. The Psionics system, while easier to use than the one in PHBR5 is also very broken. PHBR5 should be used instead, IMO. The revisions to the PHBR kits, and the non-human race section is useful, mostly if one doesn't own the PHBR books. It's also the only non-Dark Sun source for playing Thri-Kreen. Might be worth if you can find it cheap, but otherwise probably not.

High Level Campaigns has a lot of useful information, but the best IMO is the clarification on spells and magic items. I haven't used that much else from it.

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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by talsine » Thu Jun 13, 2019 11:08 pm

AuldDragon wrote:
Thu Jun 13, 2019 10:55 pm

Skills & Powers is by far the weakest, and has caused a "guilt by association" with people disliking that one and assuming the rest are as bad. The sub-abilities and Character Point systems are *far* too easily abused to find a place in my game. The Psionics system, while easier to use than the one in PHBR5 is also very broken. PHBR5 should be used instead, IMO. The revisions to the PHBR kits, and the non-human race section is useful, mostly if one doesn't own the PHBR books. It's also the only non-Dark Sun source for playing Thri-Kreen. Might be worth if you can find it cheap, but otherwise probably not.
I'm sorry, but what is PHBR? I'm not familiar with that and I can't find a place that lists it.

I will agree that Skills and Powers does make for some very powerful options, but if all of the players are using it, it honestly isn't that bad. It also has the only usable Psi system pre-3.5 that I have seen for D&D though that is very obviously a personal opinion.

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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by night_druid » Thu Jun 13, 2019 11:17 pm

Pretty good summary, AuldDragon. Pretty close to my opinion on those books. I'd say Skills & Powers might be handy as a system to build races/classes by the DM, but way too chaotic to let players do it ;)
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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by AuldDragon » Thu Jun 13, 2019 11:34 pm

talsine wrote:
Thu Jun 13, 2019 11:08 pm
I'm sorry, but what is PHBR? I'm not familiar with that and I can't find a place that lists it.

I will agree that Skills and Powers does make for some very powerful options, but if all of the players are using it, it honestly isn't that bad. It also has the only usable Psi system pre-3.5 that I have seen for D&D though that is very obviously a personal opinion.
Player's Handbook Reference series of books, with the red/brown covers: Complete Fighter's Handbook, Complete Book of Elves, etc.

The issue with the Sub-Abilities is that they're VERY min-maxy; a character with moderately high Strength will of course reduce their weight capacity in favor of hit/damage adjustments (while the reverse is best for most everyone else), and the same applies to almost every other stat. Character Points work best when the Dungeon Master is making their own classes/races rather than letting the players chose for themselves, as again, it is very min-maxy. As to the Psionics system, the issue with it is that psionic combat is like Thermonuclear War: The only way to win is to not play. Since you use PSPs to attack, and your damage dealt is against your opponent's PSPs, an attacker with similar numbers of PSPs will almost always run out before someone who simply defends, leaving them defenseless. Your best bet as a psionicist with that system when confronting another psionicist is always to stab them instead.

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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by talsine » Thu Jun 13, 2019 11:53 pm

AuldDragon wrote:
Thu Jun 13, 2019 11:34 pm

Player's Handbook Reference series of books, with the red/brown covers: Complete Fighter's Handbook, Complete Book of Elves, etc.

The issue with the Sub-Abilities is that they're VERY min-maxy; a character with moderately high Strength will of course reduce their weight capacity in favor of hit/damage adjustments (while the reverse is best for most everyone else), and the same applies to almost every other stat. Character Points work best when the Dungeon Master is making their own classes/races rather than letting the players chose for themselves, as again, it is very min-maxy. As to the Psionics system, the issue with it is that psionic combat is like Thermonuclear War: The only way to win is to not play. Since you use PSPs to attack, and your damage dealt is against your opponent's PSPs, an attacker with similar numbers of PSPs will almost always run out before someone who simply defends, leaving them defenseless. Your best bet as a psionicist with that system when confronting another psionicist is always to stab them instead.

Jeff
I never, ever, used the sub attributes. To the point that until you had mentioned them and i went back to confirm they were in the book, i had completely forgotten them, They are 100% min/max garbage and, while i don't mind a bit of optimization in my games, those just break it.

As for the custom classes, as long as the whole group is using it, and they fit everything into a coherent theme, it never broke my table, but I would agree that it is better as a DM tool kit. In fact, Skills and Powers really should have been a DM tool kit book like the High Level campaigns rather than a players book.

Finally, for psionics, if I was a psionisist, knowing the weakness of going into combat with another psi adept, i would choose to stab them as well. Honestly, this is almost always the best option. Even for wizards, if I am dualing another wizard, i am better off trying to stab them than to expend all my spells hoping to break through their spell defenses and counter spells.

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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by AuldDragon » Fri Jun 14, 2019 12:08 am

talsine wrote:
Thu Jun 13, 2019 11:53 pm
As for the custom classes, as long as the whole group is using it, and they fit everything into a coherent theme, it never broke my table, but I would agree that it is better as a DM tool kit. In fact, Skills and Powers really should have been a DM tool kit book like the High Level campaigns rather than a players book.
Right, but that's the issue with labeling it a "Player Option." It is written for a player to use to customize their character. Even if everyone is using it, it still should be that the DM says "Here are the custom options you can take for a custom warrior I allow." But experienced DMs don't need the book to make a custom class.
talsine wrote:
Thu Jun 13, 2019 11:53 pm
Finally, for psionics, if I was a psionisist, knowing the weakness of going into combat with another psi adept, i would choose to stab them as well. Honestly, this is almost always the best option. Even for wizards, if I am dualing another wizard, i am better off trying to stab them than to expend all my spells hoping to break through their spell defenses and counter spells.
But that makes the *entire* mechanic functionally worthless. It is ONLY for combat between two psionic characters; you can't use it against other creatures. And the best choice for both members to engage in is to not use it. In other words, if you are psionic, you should not use your unique ability against the only characters you can use your unique ability against, which also means you can't use most of your other abilities against psionic characters (since you have to engage in psionic combat with them first for the most part).

That's the sign of a bad system, IMO.

Spells are very different, since they are usable against anyone, and there are specific spells that can pierce another wizard's defenses (enemy wizard has shield up, making them invulnerable to magic missile? You can dispel it first, or use a fireball, etc.). As a wizard, your best bet against another wizard is still often going to be magic; there is little that another wizard can cast that would make him completely invulnerable to your magic if they are a similar power level, and those that would often disrupt that enemy wizard's spells, too.

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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by talsine » Fri Jun 14, 2019 12:24 am

AuldDragon wrote:
Fri Jun 14, 2019 12:08 am
talsine wrote:
Thu Jun 13, 2019 11:53 pm
Finally, for psionics, if I was a psionisist, knowing the weakness of going into combat with another psi adept, i would choose to stab them as well. Honestly, this is almost always the best option. Even for wizards, if I am dualing another wizard, i am better off trying to stab them than to expend all my spells hoping to break through their spell defenses and counter spells.
But that makes the *entire* mechanic functionally worthless. It is ONLY for combat between two psionic characters; you can't use it against other creatures. And the best choice for both members to engage in is to not use it. In other words, if you are psionic, you should not use your unique ability against the only characters you can use your unique ability against, which also means you can't use most of your other abilities against psionic characters (since you have to engage in psionic combat with them first for the most part).

That's the sign of a bad system, IMO.

Spells are very different, since they are usable against anyone, and there are specific spells that can pierce another wizard's defenses (enemy wizard has shield up, making them invulnerable to magic missile? You can dispel it first, or use a fireball, etc.). As a wizard, your best bet against another wizard is still often going to be magic; there is little that another wizard can cast that would make him completely invulnerable to your magic if they are a similar power level, and those that would often disrupt that enemy wizard's spells, too.

Jeff
I don't think its a good system, its simply the best one that we ever got. I don't really agree thats are all that different, once you start using spells to counter other spells, it becomes less useful to continue to throw spells and more useful to take out the +3 reloading xbow you made the thief give you for just such an occasion. This is also very tied to my own personal experiences in play, so YMMV.

I would still like a good Psi system, i just don't think we will ever get one. 4E has handled it the best, but thats fundamentally tied to that system, and wouldn't convert very well.

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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by AuldDragon » Fri Jun 14, 2019 1:00 am

talsine wrote:
Fri Jun 14, 2019 12:24 am
I don't think its a good system, its simply the best one that we ever got. I don't really agree thats are all that different, once you start using spells to counter other spells, it becomes less useful to continue to throw spells and more useful to take out the +3 reloading xbow you made the thief give you for just such an occasion. This is also very tied to my own personal experiences in play, so YMMV.

I would still like a good Psi system, i just don't think we will ever get one. 4E has handled it the best, but thats fundamentally tied to that system, and wouldn't convert very well.
Except the system as presented doesn't actually work. Setting aside the subjective discussion of whether the PHBR5 system is good or not, it works. With it, the decision to engage in psionic combat with another psionic creature comes down to the circumstances of the situation. In the Skills & Powers system, there is *no* time in which it is a good idea to use psionic combat, unless there is a massive disparity in power (which negates the discussion anyway). It is an entire mechanic in which neither participant will ever want to or consider using it (as opposed to circumstances in which a defender might want to avoid it, but an attacker can press the issue and force them into it to the attacker's advantage). Defenders always have a massive, almost insurmountable, advantage completely unlike anything else in the 2nd Edition AD&D game.

I can't speak to a comparison between PHBR5 and later psionic systems, but between the Skills & Powers system and PHBR5, there's no contest. The latter does what it is supposed to, and the former fails at one of the most basic elements of what the system claims to do.

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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by FaerieGodfather » Fri Jun 14, 2019 4:17 am

My favorite edition of D&D is not AD&D Second Edition; it's Player's Option, and without those rules 2e drops nearly to the bottom of my estimation.

Sometimes I let players go nuts with their classes (except Priests), and sometimes I just use the rules to reconfigure the class and race selections. Unfortunately, I didn't really grow up until after 3rd Edition came out, so I don't have a lot of practical experience with playing classes that aren't Priests.

I am vehemently against the subabilities rules. I've never used them and I never will. I'm iffy about the CP-based Proficiency system, preferring to stick to old-fashioned slots. I do, however, love the new proficiency rules in Combat & Tactics for weapon mastery and martial arts.
Digitalelf wrote:
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I do not however, use anything from Combat & Tactics, or the Dungeon Master's Option: High Level Campaigns.
HLC Is great fun, though I admit a lot of the fun comes from comparing it to 3rd Edition and seeing which 12th level abilities became 2nd level abilities and which became 22nd level abilities. I'm fairly certain nothing in that book stayed in the 12th-15th level range it was written for.
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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by talsine » Fri Jun 14, 2019 4:45 am

FaerieGodfather wrote:
Fri Jun 14, 2019 4:17 am
Sometimes I let players go nuts with their classes (except Priests), and sometimes I just use the rules to reconfigure the class and race selections. Unfortunately, I didn't really grow up until after 3rd Edition came out, so I don't have a lot of practical experience with playing classes that aren't Priests.

I am vehemently against the subabilities rules. I've never used them and I never will.

HLC Is great fun, though I admit a lot of the fun comes from comparing it to 3rd Edition and seeing which 12th level abilities became 2nd level abilities and which became 22nd level abilities. I'm fairly certain nothing in that book stayed in the 12th-15th level range it was written fo.
I agree with this so much. Priests get way too many points to play with, and way too many options to spend those points on. I don't restrict them completely, but I give those players sheet a much closer look since Priest is what break S&P the most.

Also seems like we are 0/3 for sub-abilities.

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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by genghisdon » Tue Jul 02, 2019 11:06 pm

shesheyan wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 1:56 pm


I did buy these books and read skills & powers. I wanted my group to try these but they did not want to. Did you use these rules in your AD&D campaigns? Do you think these books informed or influenced the creation of D&D3e? If so which parts?


I did too. My players had little choice :) I'd not recommend all changes at once, unless maybe one is starting a new campaign. some changes were not good anyway or where either/or options.

Yes, I use (some) of them any time I play 2e (but I play other editions as well). I have little desire to play 2e without some of it.

Those books are the backbone of 3e. PO:C&T combat is very much 3e, for example. I could detail it much further, but that is a big subject & I'm pressed for time. I call the "options" period 2.75e, and I think that suits it far better (2.5e is the complete book of X splatbook period).

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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by talsine » Tue Jul 02, 2019 11:41 pm

genghisdon wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 11:06 pm
Those books are the backbone of 3e. PO:C&T combat is very much 3e, for example. I could detail it much further, but that is a big subject & I'm pressed for time. I call the "options" period 2.75e, and I think that suits it far better (2.5e is the complete book of X splatbook period).
Maybe I'm just splitting hairs, but the Complete handbooks came out so early in the release that they really feel like a core part of the 2E experiance, especially since you can play with those books and have some characters use them and some not and it's not a huge difference. Unlike the Players Option series, which doesn't work at all unless everyone is using the same options. Players Options is very much proto-3E, just liek the last couple of releases for 3E were very much Proto-4E (Book of 9 Swords, I am looking at you)

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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by AuldDragon » Wed Jul 03, 2019 12:06 am

Quite a bit of the Player's Option material can be used by one or a couple of characters; pretty much the entire Spells & Magic book is that way, and a significant amount of Combat & Tactics works that way. Skills & Powers less so, but even that is usable by less than the whole group (the custom class material, for example, since you can build all of the core classes as-is with the points for someone who wants to play the base class). It's pretty easy to pick and choose what you want to use, just like the Complete books.

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Re: [AD&D 2.1e] Player's Option & DM's Options

Post by genghisdon » Mon Jul 08, 2019 12:36 am

Indeed, much in the PO/DMO line can be added without any more than minor change...it's how I use them in the main.
talsine wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 11:41 pm
Maybe I'm just splitting hairs, but the Complete handbooks came out so early in the release that they really feel like a core part of the 2E experiance, especially since you can play with those books and have some characters use them and some not and it's not a huge difference. Unlike the Players Option series, which doesn't work at all unless everyone is using the same options. Players Options is very much proto-3E, just liek the last couple of releases for 3E were very much Proto-4E (Book of 9 Swords, I am looking at you)
I dunno...as one that lived through the time, playing the whole time, it didn't seem that way to me, although we didn't buy every splat right away, and some never at all (until core rules disks came out).

But the reason I separate them is not that, but instead, to my great surprise, since coming online I discovered TONS of people play ONLY with the PH, DMG & monsters. For me, I'd sooner play 1e than that (no knock on either edition BTW, love them both). You & I are in the minority.

Your observation on the process from 3.5 to 4e is also accurate; I see the same pattern repeating. Some others won't, but they are just ignorant of it, or else wrong.

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