At CONjuration 2019, I played a bard in a short AD&D Second Edition game. Nine players. All characters were pregenerated and around 6th level. The meat-and-potatoes adventure had us hunting down a Dark Knight who had kidnapped a noble.

We fought some Jackelweres, a band of gnolls, some ettercaps (off stage because time was short), before confronting the Dark Knight who had just slain unicorn in a foul ritual to create a nightmare, and rescuing the noble.

Only myself and the DM had played AD&D Second Edition. One player had never played D&D before, so we took extra care to make this a great first time. And as the session progressed, I recalled all things I liked about the system.

Here are the top ten in no particular order.


The perfect class for newbies. You’re a human fighter. You get weapon specialization. Don’t worry about the rules or the advanced stuff, just play the game and learn.


Once you get beyond the basic, you’ll soon learn versatility of the Half-Elf. Wanna be a fighter/mage/thief? Go for it, but remember to split your experience points between all three classes.

The Rogue: Thief

Want a character class that gains levels and skills fast? Be a thief. One player commented how intellectual the thief percentage skill system seemed in comparison to other parts of the rules… and later systems. And I agree.


I’ll admit, I didn’t like elves in the game, but I like them more now than their relatively bland counterparts in the later editions of D&D. That +1 to hit with bows and long swords is also nice.


You have a choice between group initiative (Roll 1d6 for the group) or individual initiative (roll 1d10 + Speed Factor); the DM decides. Lowest goes first.

The Longbow Rate of Fire

Because twice per round is more historically correct as opposed to the crossbow rate of fire of one per round.

References to Real World History and Literature

In the Player’s Handbook you’ll find references to Odysseus, Hercules, Sir Lancelot, Sparticus, and Richard the Lionheart. It shows the designers tried to ground the game with real-world inspirations, as opposed to later editions… which well… I’d rather not talk about it here.

Ability Score Requirements

Sorry, not everybody is cut out to be a ranger, paladin, or specialty wizard (illusionist). You can’t always get what you want, so need to learn to play with what you got.

Non-Weapon Proficiencies

You have a number of slots depending on your class. Choose your proficiences. Roll under the abilitie score plus or minus the check modifier. No muss, no fuss.


I got to play a half-bard again. What a fun class. Almost as versatile as a fighter/mage/thief but without the experience point penatlies. And even at first level a bard has a 5% chance to know something about everything.

What about Thac0?

While that Thac0 did encourage players to practice the addition and subtraction of postive and negative integers (like negative AC), along with a certain amount of abstract thinking, I don’t miss it.

It was fun to revisit for a one-shot convention game, but I wouldn’t use it in a campaign if I was the DM.

Long live BAB and ascending AC.

I know: that’s old school blasphemy, right?