Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Well, What Do Ya' Know?

Yesterday, I got this comment from porphyre77 on my latest clerical post:
Before 3rd edition came with spell domains, AD&D2 had spheres; pretty good to tighten the overprolific clerical list of AD&D (especially post-UA).
Reminding me of something I'd managed to forget (yes, when I was "spending a lot of time going through editions" I completely neglected a review of 2E. My bad).

Thing is, I haven't had all that much experience with 2E, and (so far as I can recall) just about ZERO experience using clerics in 2E. I did run a 2E game for some friends once or twice, but none of them were of the cleric class (paladin, thief, and some sort of elven multi class, if I recall), and the time or two I played I was working the fighter or weak-sauce bard. The clerical "spheres" were something I just kind of glazed over. Much like wizard specializations, I always figured (when I was interested in 2E) that it was something that I'd need when and if it ever came up.

Reading through my 2E PHB (yes, I currently own a copy...I've only bought the thing 3 or 4 times, and this time I am really, really going to keep it for research/archival purposes) *ahem* ...reading through my PHB, I find I really like what I'm seeing. The system is simple, easy to customize, and does quite a nice job of "tightening" the cleric into specific "themes" as one might require for their setting (as well as cutting down the "over prolific" list of 1E, as Porph points out). Very, very nice.

Of course, I also see why I never used it. There's really no guidelines or examples of the sphere system provided (neither in the PHB nor the DMG) least as far as I can find. Folks can correct me if I'm mistaken. Neither does there appear to be any 2E version of Deities & Demigods/Legends & Lore that might have multi-faith pantheons already worked out and ready for play (I'm guessing any DDG concepts were dropped as "too offensive" around the same time as half-orcs, assassins, and demons were cut). Maybe there are spheres in specific 2E setting products (was Greyhawk released for 2nd edition?), or perhaps there are examples in The Complete Cleric handbook (which I don't own). But there's nothing just "out-o-the-box" ready for play in the core books. For old 1st ed dudes like my friends and I, I can see why we simply chose to ignore the spheres and "default" to our usual, all inclusive style. I imagine plenty o others did the same.

As such, it's a little less useful to me (at least, as is). I have some quibbles with the sphere selections (do you really need an "astral" sphere containing two spells? What god is going to give "major access" to such an area? Why not just include them in the "general" category?) and would probably want to devise my own, especially if I was using it for B/X. Then, of course, since there're no example war gods, sky gods, sea gods, etc. I'd have to devise my own for my campaign setting in order to see which spheres were granted. And then by then, I might as well be coming up with my own spell lists for each patron deity of my campaign...which I suggested doing in my last post.


So, okay, kind of neat, but less than helpful. I suppose the sphere thing gives me some ideas for categories. And I like the list of possible weapon permissions based on deity (THERE they have some examples...yay). Not sure about the "granted powers" (didn't much like them in BECMI's Wrath of the Immortals set, either), but maybe they are something to take a second look at (perhaps as a replacement for "turning ability?").

Hmm...why is "cleric" listed AFTER "warrior" and "wizard?" Even 1E had its list in alphabetical order by class (if not subclass). Jeez, 2nd edition...I try to like you, and you keep stomping on yourself.


  1. I think this is what you're looking for as far as 2nd Edition Legends and Lore goes:

  2. For AD&D 2nd edition the out-of-the-box example of a specialty priest was the druid. An interesting idea, but probably not a particularly good example since the druid had a lot of different weird stuff going on with XP totals at high levels with the hierophant stuff. Otherwise in the early days of AD&D 2E you needed to look at either The Complete Priest’s Handbook or the Forgotten Realms Adventures hardback for your specialty priest examples.
    Unfortunately those two sources weren’t very consistent. In the priest’s handbook Aaron Allston detailed a system for selecting spell spheres, religions based behavior restrictions, weapon and armor choices, special abilities, and probably several other things I’m not remembering. He also put forth the argument that 2E clerics were overpowered so his system resulted in specialty priests that mostly had very limited spell selections (and there are numerous examples of specialty priests for generic gods listed in this book). The Forgotten Realms Adventures book doesn’t address how to make the choices, but it does give you specialty priests for most every significant FR deity. They all have a much wider array of spells and special abilities than the examples from the priest’s handbook.

  3. I loved the 2e cleric! I had a great time building gods and their faiths around the spheres. There were some clunky bits, but all-in-all, it really made the different gods and their faiths feel different from one another. 5e's domains are weak sauce in comparison (though I do like how holistic those are, including non-magical skills, weapon and armor proficiencies, and other fun trappings).

  4. The 2e Legends & Lore book gave guidelines for specialty priests for each listed deity after the deity's avatar stat block in the section "Duties of the Priesthood." The specialty priests varied drastically in power and scope. However the standard PHB cleric was always an option.
    Whenever possible I opted for priests of Isis (free priest/wizard multi-class) or Odin (bonus hp and thac0 as Warrior).

  5. When I picked up 2nd edition a year or two after it came out, I thought of it as a tweak to AD&D, not a new version of the game in the sense that subsequent editions have been. I only ever picked up the PH, DMG, and Adventures in the Forgotten Realms book. A couple of the splat books crept into my collection from friends over the years, but I really never used them. Essentially everything in AD&D was still compatible with 2nd, and as you've noted, it was a nice toolkit for making a D&D rule set tailored to one's homebrew setting.

    I'm glad to hear you're taking a look at this again. I'm playing 5e right now, but I'm going back to 2nd at the first opportunity.

  6. The more you read a well-designed game, the more you find to like - even if there are things you disagree with. This is probably why I keep coming back to 2e and B/X, just because of their really solid designs. 1e has some things I like (particularly where tone is concerned), but I prefer to run 2e with a few bits and pieces from 1e added on - and as you point out, 2e is easy to customize. ;)

  7. Cleric is listed there because they were afraid religious terminology would be too controversial, and were planning to call the class “wonder-maker” until the last second.

    I just made that up.

    I know nothing whatsoever about 2e other than the casting out of undesirables, but now I’m curious. The spheres do sound like a great idea.

  8. Man, you need 2e Spells & Magic, and Faiths & Avatars, and Deities & Demigods, and ...

  9. I always assumed the ordering was because Warrior = Strength, Wizard = Intelligence, Priest = Wisdom, Rogue = Dexterity. And then they changed the canonical order of attributes later in development of 2e.