1989 A Year in Review

I found this to be interesting, and thought that I would share it. As far as I know a list like this has never been published on the Web before, I had to look it all up, namely from Amazon and old issues of Dragon Magazine: when the two did not agree, I always went with Dragon’s release date. I had been mistaken that The Complete Thief’s Handbook was an 89 release as well, but my original source was incorrect; it was actually released in early 1990.
2023 Greyhawk Adventures (Hardcover) August
9243 Module DLE1 In Search of Dragons (soft bound) February
9253 Module WG8 Fate of Istus (soft bound) March
2103 Monstrous Compendium Volume 2 (Loose Leaf) September
9264 REF2 Character Record Sheets (Soft bound) September
1049 Spelljammer: Adventures in Space (Boxset) October
9266 Battlesystem 2nd Edition (soft bound) December
2104 Monstrous Compendium Volume 3 (loose leaf) December
2110 The Complete Fighter’s Handbook (Soft bound) December

 MC3, a monsters appendix for the Forgotten Realms setting, mysteriously isn’t available on PDF, and I think that the Monstrous Compendium actually works best on PDF. It would be nice to get all of them on file, but alas, as far as I know, this product does not exist.

It was a strong year! While many dismiss the 2nd edition as a bastard, I stand by my stance that a second edition was needed, and I think that it was released not just to save the company from financial failure, but to provide an improved product. They had set specific goals for 2e, the biggest being to cut down on the books required to play, and they did that. While prep can require a lot of books, if you are properly prepared for a game, you only need the DMG and PHB at the table, with these two books a DM is prepared for anything! The system was also sanitized for political reasons, however all of that stuff can easily be put back into the game if the table wishes it. Overall, I think that 2e is the stronger ruleset; it cuts down the drama and arguing about what a player can or can’t do, but it is still freeform enough that a DM hasn’t been reduced down to simply an organizer of material.

When Gygax published AD&D, his original goal was to create a universal system that would be played the same regardless of what table you were sitting at, while this never actually happened, it was always something that could be recognized as AD&D and I feel that 2e succeeded at this goal. It is definitely Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: It plays well, it stays true to the original source material but organized it and revised it into a much stronger product which allowed more to be done quicker. The DM still has the freedom to make specific calls, he can alter the core system without breaking the game, and even playtest new ideas without having to worry about what will happen if they just don’t work out.

Once there was enough 2e source material available, TSR successfully convinced people that the game was no longer compatible with 1e by publishing articles in Dragon Magazine specifically for those who either couldn’t afford or just had no desire to move on. This was the last year that 1e was supported, and I would like to say that this was the only time in history that it was ever recommended to combine two different systems. Even today you get better results if you do combine the two. By taking what you love from original AD&D and carrying it over to the second edition, you get a very complete rule system that you can always fall back on.

In the years to come, TSR would write entire books based upon a single chapter in 1e,  or even just a table in one of the books, and while it was expanded, one can ask if it was really necessary.  By the end of 1989, TSR was making money again, and not just making money, but actually earning it! While the quality of the modules suffered, the 2e reference guides during this year, were far superior to anything else out there at the time. Not to understate the work of Gary Gygax, he created something from nothing. He invented a brand new medium which we could use to express ourselves. Gygax, while fun to read, wrote contradictions and personal feelings to his work, and these were removed. I think that Cook was a stronger writer, but then again, it was all based upon the work blazed by its creator.

This industry has always had two faces, the face that wants to give you the resource that allows you to create, and the other face which seeks to convince you that they can create better adventures than you can. If TSR hadn’t changed their business practices, and catered to those incapable of finding their own voices, AD&D would now be gone. A game played by old men until the license went into the public domain, and then, maybe . . . maybe it would be active again. Once the market was created, there were lots of games out there, but none, in my opinion, as well done as AD&D. They were simply clones and copies that never had the pop culture status of the original which had allowed the AD&D system to mature, rather than be thrown away at the end of the 70’s when the videogame markets were taking huge bites out of the entertainment industry.

2e was successful enough to still be a valuable property when TSR shut their doors. I am not sure if that would had happened if it was still under the control of Gygax, he was so convinced that a movie deal would fix everything that he was blinded as to what he should be doing, and history tells us that a movie deal fixes nothing at all! TSR did end up making a fatal mistake along the same lines, but at this point; in 1989 they had laid a new foundation over the old one, and with these books, were able to begin building a stronger empire that would better weather the test of time. For a new generation which includes myself, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition IS D&D, for better or worse.


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