One of my old players and I recently decided to try getting a regular gaming group going again. It may or may not work as we have done this several times over the past few years. It may last for two games or two months, you can never tell. Life has a funny way of interfering with my games.
Anyway this particular player was in the 2e group I joined over a decade ago so he is an experienced player and has been present in nearly every group I've been a part of over the past decade. As I've mentioned in other posts I've been waxing nostalgic about 2e for the past year or so and since the opportunity has presented itself I asked him if he'd be willing to return to 2e. Happily he was very enthusiastic about the idea and still has all of his old books.
Even though I'm in the middle of reading my new Mutant Epoch RPG book, which I'm planning to run for my daughter when school lets out in a couple of weeks (and maybe the new group, BTW I plan to have a review up for The Mutant Epoch soon.), but I've also been re-reading the 2e core books.
After getting through the core rule books and the creative campaigning book, I've realized a few things
First of all 2e, using just the core books, is incredibly simple. Thac0 is the most complex part. I don't hate it as much as I thought I did, but I still like ascending AC and BAB waaaay more. Back when we made the switch to 3e it seemed, at the time, that 3e corrected and simplified so much about 2e. Experiencing the game now with a decade's worth of playing 3e & 4e, I honestly think that 2e is the more "simple" system. Sure there are issues, as there is with any system, but I made 3 test PCs last night, just for fun, and got each one done in less time that it takes me to make comparable characters using 3e/Pathfinder or 4e. Naturally I'm talking about using pencil and paper only. Throwing out a quick DDi Essentials character isn't the same.
Secondly I realized that 2e has some amazing supplemental material. Maybe even some of the best I've ever seen. Creative Campaigning, the Book of Villains, all of the Complete Books (Wizard, Necromancer, Fighter, Elves, etc), tons of great campaign settings and that's just the tip of the iceberg. I know there were some less than stellar books that came out for 2e, but what my group thinks is crap may be exactly what another group is looking for. Luckily just like 3.x, Pathfinder, and even 4e, you don't have to buy or use everything that is released. If you don't like it, ignore it.
I don't care if you're talking about 1e, 3e/3.5/Pathfinder, or 4e, there is something that was put out for those systems (or the system itself) that other gamers hated. I also think that 4e, and Pathfinder are well on their way to releasing just as much material (gamebooks, novels, fortune cards, battlemats/maps, minis, etc) for use with those editions as there ever was for 2e. As a matter of fact I bet if you combine the material from 3.x and Pathfinder there is at least as much of that out there (probably more if you include 3rd party material) than 2e material. Don't get me wrong I am a devoted Pathfinderite, I thoroughly enjoyed 3e/3.5 and I like Essentials pretty well, but I also have to admit that I don't like everything that has been released. If you release enough supplemental product, you are bound to get some crap.
Also revisiting the system that was such a big part of my life from 15 till I was in my mid-20's has made me realize how much I miss it. The only system I've played as long as 2e was 3e/3.5 (now Pathfinder) and I can honestly say that despite any complaints I may have had with it, we had a whole lot of fun. There were some really great adventures had using 2e and I can't wait to try and recapture some of that fun. It may not happen and it may just be me getting old and nostalgic, but I'm going to give it one heck of a try.
Lastly I've realized that more than almost any other RPG product I want a 2e Rules Compendium or Rules Cyclopedia. A single 400 - 500 page book with all the updated, essential (no pun intended) information needed to play the game. Just like the original RC. I'd pre-order it today.
I personally think that it is crazy for WotC to continually ignore so many potential customers/sales. They are not going to win over all of the gamers who turned their backs on 4e. It actually seems as if they are trying to alienate and maybe even push away those of us that were willing to give 4e and/or Essentials a try.
As someone who trolls the blogs and messageboards regularly, I have seen a lot of people who were 4e supporters now saying they are fed up with WotC and/or the direction the game is going. There are also a great many gamers that decided to stay where they were and simply refused to cross the edition line into 4e territory. Some of us returned to older pre-3e editions or went to completely different systems. I don't care if you are on the pro or anti 4e side of the fence or even if you are in the "can't we all get along" camp like I am, you have to admit that 4e fractured the D&D community. I fear that 5e (if we ever see it) will be met with skepticism, at best, if not outright hostility because of 4e. Unless, of course, WotC does something amazing to pull everyone in.
While many gamers are very firm in their intent to not support 4e, that doesn't mean that everyone is unwilling to support WotC if they do something good. This is why I think that WotC would be wise to release Rules Cyclopedia versions of older editions.
$50 per books, smaller print runs based mostly on pre-orders and then sell them almost exclusively at conventions, gaming shops and online. Release them on a quarterly schedule (OD&D RC in Q1, AD&D in Q2, etc) and when they are gone that's it. I don't know about everyone else, but I'd love to have a 2e RC. Sure there will be some who say "I have the originals" or "I have retro-cloneX" or that will have no interest in them because they like the current edition/other system, but there are a lot of us that would be happy to have updated "official" material for our favorite editions. It's just my opinion, but I think it would be a good idea.
Of course this could all be for naught if the world ends today. So if that happens have a good Rapture.