My family and I moved back to the United States about a year ago now. We’ve been in the midst of a long transition back to life here. We stayed from October to June at my parent’s home because first our house was occupied by renters and then because we ripped out the entire kitchen, dining, and living room areas for remodeling. Even after moving in we had no kitchen cabinets and started on the project of finishing all of our unfinished basement. Hopefully we’ll be finished with everything by the end of the year.
I said all that so you would understand my thought process about the AD&D 2nd Edition retro-clone Myth and Magic. For the last year and a half or so I’ve been in RPG limbo. Primarily because I’ve had nowhere to play and no gaming materials to play with. When you move back to from another country with nothing but what you can pack on airline baggage, RPG books are way down the list of priorities. Plus, they’re heavy and end up costing you extra because your luggage goes over the weight limit. All this meant I was starting my non-digital RPG library all over again. This led me to doing quite a bit of internal reflection of what I wanted out of my gaming and what products I should spend my limited funds to buy.
I have been vaguely unhappy with my role-playing experiences for a number of years now. I’ve played D&D 3e, Pathfinder, D&D 4e, and D&D 5e with some regularity since 2000. I’ve enjoyed some games with them but the campaign games have lacked something. When I really took stock and I thought back to what I considered my favorite game and the best times I had playing RPGs, every single one of my best memories are using the AD&D 2nd Edition rules. Every. Single. One.
Given that little data point I downloaded a copy of the 2nd Edition Player’s Handbook and started reading through it. Here’s some conclusions I drew from the read through.
First, too many options are not a good thing. Later editions of Dungeons and Dragons have had far more options for character creation and advancement than 2nd Edition. With all those options it is nearly impossible to foresee or know the repercussions of how they all fit together. What this seems to inevitably create is optimal character builds that end up far outstripping the non-optimal builds. The game then becomes finding and choosing optimal builds rather than… well, playing the game. That might be awesome to some people but I don’t like it. The 2nd Edition game really doesn’t have anyway to go crazy with optimal builds. You could cheat and give yourself all 18’s in ability scores or something but barring that your character advances based almost entirely on your class choice at 1st level. There are some choices along the way but not enough to make one character out-strip the others in ability.
Second, I like DM rulings better than a lot of rules. Granted, I only feel this way with a good DM but I’m at a point in my gaming where I’m either the DM (and I trust my rulings) or I’m playing for a good DM. I don’t have the time or the energy to play with dysfunctional DM’s where I need to protect myself with an abundance of rules for everything. Frankly, rules for everything attract rules lawyers. I’ve heard the opposite argument but it doesn’t hold any water with me. A smaller set of rules that rely on the judgments of the DM just works better for me. It’s easier to remember and easily to hack where needed.
Third, Thac0 is still a rather convoluted way to arrive at the same numbers as ascending armor class. AD&D 2nd Edition has it’s warts. It is a product of a time before unified mechanics hit the RPG world in force. Sometimes you roll a d20 and hope to get a low result. Sometimes you hope to get a high result. Sometimes you roll a percentile die. The system is sometimes a bit wonky. I recognize that. There are some things to fix.
This all leads me to Myth and Magic. It’s a retro clone of AD&D 2nd Edition that keeps all the things I like about the older system but borrows the best stuff from later versions of the game. It’s still simple without rules for every eventuality. However, it adopts stuff that evens out that quirks of the old system. It has ascending armor class. Thief skills have become Non-weapon Proficiencies instead of a sub system. Saving Throws have been reduced to the three from 3rd Edition; Reflex, Fortitude, and Willpower. They are rolled with a d20 and high is good… like everything else.
There are some new things to the system. Talents are one of the better additions. The old system added several books called Player’s Options that had numerous additional subsystems to make the game more mechanically interesting. The problem is that everything felt very tacked on and not part of a unified whole, which, in turn, made things break. Talents are how Myth and Magic takes the best of the Player’s Options and adds them to the game. Player’s can choose Talents every 3 or 4 levels that are class specific and add some really neat abilities to the characters without over burdening the system with too many additional rules.
Myth and Magic has become not only my favorite retro clone, it’s become my favorite d20 system period. It’s had some issues in it’s production which is unfortunate. You can still get it at the link above. The issue is that there doesn’t seem like there’s going to be any more material coming out for the system. That’s not a huge problem since everything ever written for 2nd Edition works with little to no modification. The system gets my endorsement.