Over at Blog of Holding, Paul has just posted “The Cycle of Repudiation and Reclamation, and the 2nd Coming of 2nd Edition“: It puts forth his theory that a lost generation of 2nd Edition gamers, who have hitherto been silent, will emerge in the near future:
I predict that, within two years, some blogger will come along and express, with the persuasiveness of a Philotomy Juramont or James Mal, what was so special about the story-based, Elmister-infested, roleplaying-over-rollplaying Silver and Bronze Ages of D&D. We’ll learn why Spelljammer was actually awesome. THAC0 will stop being a punchline. People like Zeb Cook and Douglas Niles will finally get some praise for carrying the D&D banner for a while.
I started gaming in the summer of 1989: A brief period of BECMI followed by an almost immediate leap into 2nd Edition. So I’d be pretty much the definitional poster child for this “lost” generation.
But I think the reason no movement or “voice” has coalesced around this generation is that it’s never actually been been lost and it’s never really gone away.
For example, the OSR has been primarily driven by revisiting/rediscovering:
(1) Out of print systems
(3) Different ways of organizing your players and your campaign
With that in mind, let’s consider what these elements are during the 2nd Edition era:
- Narrative-oriented / scene-based adventures.
- Encyclopedic presentation of campaign settings.
- Splat books.
- Campaigns defined by a consistent group of 4-8 players who all attend each session.
And what you quickly realize is that the distinctive elements of the 2nd Edition era are still the distinctive elements of the bulk of the RPG industry. I mean, I basically just described Paizo’s entire focus and product line. There’s nothing to rediscover here: People never stopped publishing this stuff. People never stopped playing like this.
(I mean, yes, the late-3E/4E Delve Style adventures can be seen as beginning to depart from the classic narrative forms set by Call of Cthulhu and the original Dragonlance modules. But Paizo’s adventure paths are still being published every single month. And most other RPGs haven’t followed the path of 4E.)
So when you’re talking about something being “lost” from the 2nd Edition era, all you’re really talking about are the actual rules for 2nd Edition. And maybe a specific campaign setting that’s been allowed to malinger out of print.
And that simply isn’t enough material for a movement to really gain traction on. Particularly because 2nd Edition doesn’t actually have a lot of mechanical distinction from 1st Edition. Once you’ve said “let me count the ways I liked 2E” a couple of times, you’re basically asking a movement to coalesce around the glories of a proficiency system and three-hole punched monster manuals.
And to be perfectly clear here: I’m not trying to diss 2nd Edition. I actually think some of the best D&D products ever published were published during 2nd Edition.
What I’m saying, to sum up, is that the conceptual stuff from the era never went away: Which means there’s nothing “new” to rediscover and add to your games. And there’s no vacuum in the market waiting to be filled (because lots of people are still publishing products like that). So the only thing a “2ER” could be built around is a nostalgia for very specific products. And that’s why it hasn’t happened. And why it isn’t likely to happen.