There are actually four basic classes: Cleric, thief, fighter, and mage. All of the others are modifications on these four, and there are a lot of them.

There are gazillions of source books that one can use, many different worlds to play in, lots of rules, regulations, optional add-ons, tables and charts to remove the need for originality and a brain, and an incredible collection of game modules to strip even the dungeon master, the only person in the whole arrangement commonly thought to require a brain, of the need.

AD&D was different things to different people. For intelligent folks who had an IQ above the number of holes in their underwear and folks who had an imagination it was a release into worlds of heroes and magic, of honor and glory. It allowed high school and college folks to excercise their minds without going berserk.

For folks who didn't fall into the above category, AD&D was obviously the leading cause of demon worship and paganism and must be banished at all costs! Ranking second only to music by Ozzy Osbourne in stepping-stones to dancing the tango with Satan, AD&D clearly distorted the minds of our precious and naive youth.

AD&D and other RPGs are also the cause of such diverse and exciting dice as the Zocchihedron, the 30-sided die, the 20-sided die, and some others that are too bizarre and lewd to mention here.

If you extrapolate this a bit and apply the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture, you'll notice that the major milestones clearly show that AD&D was the major cause of El Nino. The heavy use of die rolling adjusted the angular momentum of the Earth causing a slight weather pattern shift.

Campaign settings for AD&D include Forgotten Realms, Planescape, Greyhawk, Dragonlance, Dark Sun, Ravenloft and Spelljammer. Only FR, DL and GH survive intact into Third Edition, but there's nothing to stop you using the old material or making up your own. Imagination is the key to good AD&D. I was once a hack and slash player, but that lost its appeal - making the players really think is so much more fun. Planescape and Forgotten Realms are best for this, IMHO.

AD&D is now currently into it's third edition. TSR was recently purchased by Wizards of the Coast (makers of Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon: The Trading Card Game among others).

AD&D 3rd edition, of which only the Player's Guide is currently out (DM's Guide is expected September 2000, Monster Manual during October 2000), seems to have erased some of the most annoying aspects of the system. It is obvious that Wizards has applied their game theory skills to fix and unify a set of rules that developed after the core rules were written.

Much unification of the system has occured: common sense and logic seems to be the predominant trait now.

Having played D&D when it first hit the shelves, I'm very much looking forward to trying out AD&D3 without all the annoying aspect of puberty getting in the way of a true role playing experience.

I stand corrected, it is no longer Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, just Dungeon & Dragons 3rd Edition.

A pause, please. Bow your head in memory of the word "advanced." Third Edition no longer goes by the name Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.

The original Dungeons & Dragons and first edition AD&D were separate games. Dungeons & Dragons was a series of boxed sets with softback, thin rulebooks. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons began the hardcover-with-tiny-print tradition. AD&D's rules were (and are in D&D Third Edition) rather more complex.

A simple example would be alignment. Dungeons & Dragons characters could only have three alignments: lawful, neutral, and chaotic. With apologies to the anarchists among us, classic Dungeons and Dragons equated order with good and chaos with evil. In AD&D/Third Edition, alignment is on two separate axes: lawful to chaotic and good to evil.

Since the demise of the original boxed sets, Wizards of the Coast decided that continuing to call the game "Advanced" Dungeons & Dragons made no sense and risked scaring off prospective players. So now we have, simply, Dungeons & Dragons. It's all one system; even the new introductory boxed set uses a selection of the same rules.

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons the RPG, published by TSR was for a very long time the Windows of the RPG world, the default standard system that just about everyone (love it or hate it) used

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (AD&D 1st Ed) was origionaly published as simply a collection of the many archaic rules which had by then accumulated for the D&D system. It was released in two hardback books; the slim Player's Handbook (PHB) detailing all you needed to make a character and play the game, and the vast Dungeon Master's Guide (DMG) detailing useful information for creating worlds and adventures. Information included in the DMG included geology, theology, psychology, cartography, astrology, astronomy, metaphysics and what to do if you find yourself on post-holocaust Earth.

2nd Ed AD&D (also called Blue Edition due to the colour of the interior artwork) vastly expanded the PHB while removing some of the more unusual (some might say interesting) classes and options. Gone were the (Eastern Fighting) Monk, the Assasin and the Psionicist. There was also no sign of the popular classes such as the Barbarian that had been added in Unearthed Arcania (1st Ed's answer to Skills & Powers). This was due to 2nd Ed's focus on more 'standard' fantasy settings. Some aspects (eg. psionics) were added in in later expansions, of which there were many. 2nd Ed clarified many aspects of the complex combat system, resulting in the fact that you no longer had to leaf through look up tables everytime you entered combat; though for new players the stat called THAC0 (the 'to hit' stat) may have looked daunting.

2nd Ed's failing was that its core rules were not updated. This allowed competiors to learn from AD&D, find it's faults and then produce streamlined copies, which were in turn built upon until they evolved into an entirely new generation of RPGs, while AD&D merely released rules suplements which managed to add to the confusion ("I know it says that in the PHB, but if you look it up on table X15 in Munchkins of the Underdark and adjust the modifier with Rary's Obscure Reference from GH555 you'll see I do 1d8+7921hp damage with my toe"). The only reasion AD&D 2nd ed managed to last as long as it did was the support for it's campaign settings. With great fantasy worlds such as Dragonlance, Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms as well as such imaginative creations as Spelljammer, Ravenloft, Dark Sun and Planescape the AD&D line had huge drawing power for almost every aspect of the fantasy genre. Despite this sales of the rule books dropped slowly but surely. An attempt was made to boost sales by overhauling the look of the 2nd ed PHB and DMG, but the guys at TSR must have been living in one of their own fantasy worlds along with their giant space hamsters, at a time when just about everyone agreed the rules needed reforming they plastered a re-release of the core rule books with assurances telling us not to worry as they would never dream of bringing out a 3rd Ed.

AD&D remained the 'default' language for gamers for a very long time; if you wanted to tell someone about your Shadowrun PC but your mate knew nothing about the system, you knew he'd understand AD&D stats ("he had, like, strength 18 man!"=Shadowrun Str6). Eventualy players jumped ship, mainly to the more streamlined Storyteller system, a fact that can be observed by conducting the following test: Get a random gamer; ask them if they would like their next character to have Strength 5. Most modern gamers will assume Str5 is good, which it is in Storyteller. Of course if your gamer is a real newbie or an old timer then he might well envision the AD&D definition of someone with hardly the strength to walk.

AD&D (the RPG) has now been officialy discontinued as a brand as the new owners Wizards of the Coast of Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon fame finaly realised that with the demise of the origional D&D there wasn't anything for it to be advanced from. What any long term gamer would recognise as (and probably accidently reffer to as) AD&D 3rd Ed is now just called D&D and is part of the d20 system.

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