With the physical re-releases of the three core Second Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons releases on May 21st (Player’s Handbook,Dungeon Master’s Guide and the Monstrous Manual), I thought it would be fun to talk about what other Second Edition releases we’d like to see. Of course, it’s not very likely we’ll see a wide reprint of AD&D 2e books, supplements and products, but that’s where DNDClassics.com comes in. This website, which is a team effort between Wizards of the Coast and the staff of the DriveThru family of websites, offers electronic versions of classic D&D releases, from the origins of the system up through Fourth Edition. Currently though, there are forty-eight releases for Second Edition on the site, which may not sound like a lot, but it’s actually more than they have for any other variant of the game, which is no doubt surprising to fans of other editions. Sure they have some great products, like the Draconomicon, the “Challenge” series of solo adventures and a lot of the brown covered Handbooks for specific classes, but there’s still a lot of products I think we’d all like to see on there from Second Edition. As such, in honour of the return of Second Edition AD&D to brick and mortar shelves everywhere, I thought it would be fun to do a list of ten releases from the edition I’d love to see make their way into a digital incarnation. Let’s take a look at them now, shall we?
10. Night of the Vampire
With the upcoming re-release of Capcom’s two Dungeons & Dragons arcade games under the name Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara, it would be great to see Wizards take advantage of this and reprint a ton of items from the Mystara setting. Currently, though, the only Mystara based item up on DNDclassics.com is The Monstrous Compendium for the setting. So I’d like to kick off this countdown with a Mystara piece for Second Edition AD&D that everyone can enjoy –Night of the Vampire.
Night of the Vampire was an introductory adventure of characters Levels 1-3. It was also a nice box set collection that came with some fun handouts made of parchment, a map of the manor in which the adventure took place as a poster, and a CD to add some creepy music and audio effects to the game. It was also compatible with First Quest, which meant that people completely new to D&D, or roleplaying in general, could play through this adventure and get sucked into the hobby we all love. I’d love to see this go up as a bundle on DNDclassics.com, because it’s a great gateway into 2e. It would also test the waters as to whether adds-on like the soundtrack of the game would sell on the site. Night of the Vampire isn’t the only D&D adventure to have a CD soundtrack, but it is arguably the most memorable. A good DM can retool the adventure for Ravenloft, Forgotten Realms or other campaign settings for the system. It’s incredibly versatile, and while easy if played by veteran 2e AD&D players, it’s still a great way for Wizards and DNDclassics.com to capitalize on the upcoming surge of interest into Mystara the Capcom re-releases are sure to bring.
9. Spelljammer Monstrous Compendium MC7
I still can’t believe there isn’t a single Spelljammer release on DNDclassics.com. Sure, it’s one of those settings people either love or hate, but it would be nice to have something for the setting available to fans who don’t want to shill out crazy prices for physical copies. I think the best Spelljammer piece to first put on DNDclassics.com would be with its first Monstrous Compendium. By taking a look at the wide range of creatures available to the setting, DMs would know if there was anything there to inspire them. At worst, they’d find a few monsters or antagonists to use in their game, and at best, it would have them hankering for the core campaign setting books.
There are so many cool monsters in this book. The Furnace Golem. The Beholder-Kin. The Rastipede (which would eventually become a playable PC race, and it was AWESOME). The Infinity Vine. The GIANT SPACE HAMSTER! Come on! Wooly Rupert and crew are enough to make the curious pick this up. What veteran AD&D 2e gamer hasn’t at least heard of the most infamous race of creatures TSR ever put out? Who wouldn’t like to at least flip through all the different versions? I know, as teens, we all laughed at the concept of a tyrannohamsterus rex – until we had to fight one. Let’s bask in the sheer weirdness of Spelljammer once again, and let’s start with this release.
8. Dragonlance: Flint’s Axe
Man, I know I’m repeating myself, but here’s another campaign setting I can’t believe is lacking any and all representation on DNDClassics.com. At one point Dragonlance WAS D&D for so many gamers, especially in the 90s. All the Weis and Hickman novels were crazy popular when I was in middle school, even amongst people who didn’t roleplay. I decided not to go for Dragonlance Classics, as they are merely updates of adventures that were originally First Edition AD&D. Instead I decided to go for Flint’s Axe, which is a somewhat obscure adventure. Why? Well there are a lot of reasons. First, it directly involves references to the Dragonlance novels, which makes it more accessible to casual gamers or newcomers who only know of the setting from said books. The second is that it is a low level adventure, which will let players and DMs alike dabble in the setting and see if they want to invest in more Dragonlance products. The third is that the adventure contains pre-generated characters, so again, accessibility to people new to Second Edition. The fourth reason is that the adventure basically has a mini sourcebook on Krynn dwarves included in it, which is always a bonus. The fifth, and final, reason is that the adventure is a lot of fun and has a great storyline that will keep gamers interested in more than just dice rolling and hack and slash. This is just an all-around great introduction to Dragonlance and an adventure I’d sorely love to see on DNDClassics.com.
7. Ravenloft: Ship of Horror
Okay, Ravenloft is my favorite setting in Second Edition. I love the characters, domain, mood, theme and so on. Unfortunately, the offerings currently on DNDclassics.com for Ravenloft are terrible. We have one of the worst adventures ever written for the setting and the three sub-par Children of the Night books. As a person that owns literally everything for Ravenloft from Second Edition through Sword and Sorcery’s 3.0/3.5 version, this makes me sad. So let’s change that by getting some high quality Ravenloft releases up there. First up – Ship of Horror. This is one of the very first published adventures for Ravenloft and it’s one of my favorites. It’s a higher level affair, for PCs between Levels 8-10, but there is so much to love about this thing, from the amazing cover art down to the uniqueness of the encounters awaiting you within.
Ship of Horror gives you all the unique themes of Ravenloft. Your characters have to deal with Fear and Horror checks. There are Powers checks when you do evil acts or cast certain spells. You have to stop the machinations of a Darklord, and it is also designed to introduce players and DMs to Ravenloft. This means the characters can enter and leave the Dark Domain from just this adventure. It’s a good gauge to see if players will want more. However, if you already have a Ravenloft campaign going, the adventure makes provisions for that too. What I love most about the adventure is the atmosphere. For a good part of the adventure, PCs are on a cursed ship, and it’s something you just don’t see very often. The staging of a large scale battle on a ship is something that both the PCs and DM will find incredibly memorable, and it will also force everyone to use different tactics unless they want the boat to sink. Sorry Pyromancers, but your fireballs and burning hands are probably not welcome here. Meredoth is also a memorable opponent, although he is designed to die here, which is unusual for a Darklord. Still, the new creatures, locations, spells and battles players will encounter in Ship of Horror make it well worth experiencing, and as such, I’d love to see it on DNDclassics.com
6. Al-Qadim: The Complete Sha’ir’s Handbook
Yet another campaign setting without representation, eh? I love that DNDclassics.com is putting up all of “The Complete XXX Handbooks” up, slowly but surely, but so far, they’re sticking to the ones without campaign settings. Al-Qadim wasn’t the most popular campaign setting, but I do feel it deserves a little love, and I really enjoyed the Sha’ir handbook. More importantly, this particular sourcebook is essentially all about Wizards, and thus makes an excellent supplement for anyone playing a magic user in 2e. There’s a ton of world background, information about Gens and how the Sha’ir are basically Second Edition Warlocks. There are also some amazing Wizard kits in the second chapter of the book, ranging from the fearsome Ghul Lord to the Roguelike Jackal. Other fun kits include the Astrologer and the Clockwork Mage. Hey, it was steampunk before people really paid attention to the genre!
With a ton of new spells, information on sorcerous societies and so much more, anyone who enjoys playing a Mage in 2e would get a kick out of this book and find great new concepts for role-playing. The book is versatile enough that you could easily use it with other campaign settings, and it’s unique enough (especially with that desert yellow cover) to make curious players pick it up and start their journey in the Al-Qadim universe.
5. Die Vecna Die!
I love Vecna and I love Greyhawk. I also included Venca Lives! in this countdown, but it went live on the site the day I started writing this. I love that adventure and heartily recommend it to any Greyhawk fan. It’s probably a good thing it went live, though, as now there’s only ONE Vecna themed adventure in this countdown, but holy crap WHAT an adventure. Die Vecna, Die is more of a campaign than a mere adventure, and it’s arguably the most ambitious thing ever put out for Second Edition AD&D. Die Vecna, Die is no mere adventure, but a massive undertaking for high level characters, seeing them go through not one, but THREE different campaign settings. The DM will need to be familiar with Greyhawk, Ravenloft and Planescape as the PCs have to deal with damage to multiple planes done by Iuz the Evil and Vecna. Players will encounter some of the most iconic and evil characters in all of Dungeons & Dragons, and have to witness firsthand the end of the Second Edition Universe, and the beginning of Third Edition. That’s right – this is the adventure that really sets up the changing from 2e to 3e, ala what The Time of Troubles did to shift things from 1e to 2e. It’s one of those adventures every diehard D&D fan should read, even if they don’t play it, simply because of the magnitude of what is going on in between the covers of this 180 page event. It’s a damn shame how overlooked and underrated Die Vecna, Die is, as it’s easily the best long campaign like adventure ever put out for Second Edition. It’s a massive undertaking akin to, say Horror on the Orient Express for Call of Cthulhu, but much like that seminal work, Die Vecna, Die is worth it, especially if you are a fan of any or all of the campaign settings that you will work your way through here.
4. Tome of Magic
This kind of goes without saying, doesn’t it? It’s the Tome of Magic! It’s 150 pages of spells. That’s right; just spells and magic items. For those who don’t want to be held down by the limited selection of magical offerings in the Player’s Handbook, here is all you need. Does your Necromancer need something at 8th level other than Clone? Well now you have Abi-Dalzim’s Horrid Wilting and Homunculus Shield! Do you have a low level Abjurer who would like something other than (ick) Protection From Cantrips? Try Chaos Shield, Nahal’s Nonsensical Nullifier and Protection from Paralysis! There’s something for every Second Edition Mage, Priest and Druid in this book! There are some truly fun magical items to be had in this book as well. Tenser’s Portmanteau of Frugality is hilariously weird. The portable canoe is amazingly useful. The Staff of the Elements is simply awesome. Quite simply, The Tome of Magic is one of those big books from Second Edition I’m shocked hasn’t appeared on DNDclassics.com due to how popular it was back in the day and how useful it is. There’s not much to say other than it’s a plethora of magical spells and items that your players will get a lot of use from.
3. Planescape Campaign Setting
Look, it’s all well and good to have adventures and supplements for AD&D Second Edition, but without the core campaign settings, DMs will either have to fill in the blanks, adjust adventures to a more generic setting or homebrew world, or they’ll just have to track down physical copies of the boxed sets, which can be both hard and expensive. Planescape is a perfect example of this. Currently DNDclassics.com has three adventures and three supplements for Planescape, but none of the core boxed sets that make them, well, truly useable. So obviously, this is the biggest wrong that must be righted. People will throw money at Planescape. This is well documented, so why not make the current six offerings on DNDclassics.com useable to those that don’t have the core campaign setting? Let’s be honest, if you already own the campaign setting, you probably own the current digital releases in physical form, and thus you’re less likely to double dip and re-purchase them. Having the Planescape Campaign Setting would allow newcomers to truly see just why Planescape has the crazy zealous cult following it does, both in the tabletop and video game worlds. Hell, the site could make a lot of money from selling the contents a la carte or as a bundle, because the boxed set contained a Player’s Guide, a DM Guide, a Monstrous Supplement, various maps, a DM Screen and more! These are all things any Planescape player or DM will want/need, so why not make it available to them? Let’s give David Cook his due and make the most celebrated world from Second Edition available to the public! Hell, I know I’d buy it, and so would many people, if only because they know the setting from the Torment video game. If Wizards wants to print money, then this is probably the best way to do it using Second Edition.
2. The Complete Guide to Necromancers
I’ve often heard this book referred to as “the single greatest supplement in Second Edition,” both by players and those of us who have worked in the design/writing/editing side of tabletop gaming. You know what? I largely agree with it. Considering DNDclassics.com already has several of the “Blue Book” series up on the site (like the awesome Castle Guide and Monster Mythology books), it’s only a matter of time before The Complete Guide to Necromancers goes up on the site. For my tastes, it can’t be too soon, as the contents of this book are invaluable. EVERY DM, regardless of edition, should read this thing. Not just because it’s a perfect guide on how to design, run and play a Necromancer antagonist, but because it’s such an in-depth look at the school of magic and the mindset of those that would harness the powers of the negative plane for various uses, be they benevolent or malevolent.
Some may wonder why this is a DM book instead of a brown covered PC oriented “Handbook.” The truth of it is that Necromancers make far better NPCs than PCs 99.99 percent of the time. Most people are amazingly bad at playing a Necromancer PC, much like the average Malkavian player just screams and shrieks or does insipid stuff instead of ACTUALLY PLAYING A MENTAL ILLNESS. Steve Kurtz has written what is easily the best look at D&D antagonists ever with this book, and it’s definitely something you need to read to truly comprehend how good The Complete Guide To Necromancers is. Do you want some incredibly cool Wizard Kits to make the Necromancer stand out? You got them. All sorts of crazy new spells to make PCs squirm or relish obtaining for their own Wizard? They’re in here. A look at why different races choose to study Necromancy? Bingo. All sorts of amazing ways to modify, enhance or flesh out Necromancers? Well, yes that’s in here too. In short, The Complete Guide to Necromancers is something every Second Edition AD&D Dungeon Master should have in their collection. Let’s make it digitally available already!
1. Ravenloft: Realm of Terror
That’s right baby. The original Ravenloft campaign setting takes the number one spot on my countdown. Why? I love Ravenloft, and the original boxed set is what made me embrace Dungeons & Dragons. The art, the writing, the characters, the setting – all of it made me rethink my thoughts on D&D, which just wasn’t as interesting as other RPGs I had played up to that point. Before Sixth Grade, I had found that D&D just didn’t do it for me. I preferred Call of Cthulhu, Chill, TSR’s Marvel Super Heroes game and Shadowrun to D&D, which wasn’t as flexible character creation wise, and most of the adventures just seems like standard fantasy hack and slash tropes. Well, Ravenloft opened my eyes and then some.
So why Realm of Terror? Well, I feel it is far more accessible than Domains of Dread, which was the hardcover re-launch of the campaign setting post the Grand Conjunction. Domains of Dread requires you to know what happened in the Dark Domain before the Grand Conjunction, and if you try to use it with older adventures, players and DMs alike will be greeted with conflicting information. Realm of Terror is simply easier for gamers of all levels to appreciate, more accessible by far and, well, it features better art in my opinion. The same can be said with the Ravenloft Campaign Setting which came between Realm of Terror and Domains of Dread, but was another boxed set. Plus the second boxed set contains a deck of tarokka cards, and I’m not sure how easy that would be to include electronically, but more importantly, I don’t think it’s something too many people would actually print off and use. So all in all, I feel Realm of Terror is the best of the three in terms of what DNDclassics.com needs NOW, regardless of whether it’s the best of the three overall.
Realm of Terror gave you everything you needed to delve into the Ravenloft campaign setting. You had a 144 page softcover book which gave you in-depth information about the Dark Domain, all of its locations and various Darklords, and it was simply a wonderfully fresh take on 2e D&D. It also contains four maps and twenty four cardstock sheets for DM and player enjoyment. Words cannot express how much I would love to see this thing be made electronically. Not only for my own personal enjoyment, but because of how many people would get to see the origins of the campaign setting and fall in love with it themselves. From there, they can pick and choose between all the adventures and supplements, the later editions of Ravenloft that would spread throughout 2e and into 3.0/3.5 and discover incredible fan communities like the Fraternity of Shadows. More than anything, Realm of Terror is what I want to see on DNDclassics.com, and hopefully, once it finally does show up there, you’ll understand why.
So there we go. My top ten Second Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons releases that I want to see be made available on DNDclassics.com for all to enjoy, purchase and download. Will any of them ever show up there? I’m sure they will. Will they all? Well, only time will tell. Feel free to leave me comments about what Second Edition releases YOU want to see be made available on the site. I know Wizards and DriveThruRPG’s staff are both reading and paying attention, so the more we talk about specific releases, the more likely we are to see them be made available. Thanks for reading!