Here’s why 2nd edition is due to make a comeback.
For a long time, Original D&D was largely forgotten. Some people never stopped playing it, of course; that’s a given with any version of D&D. But it wasn’t a part of the public conversation about D&D. It was reclaimed in the 2000s by bloggers like Philotemy Jurament, whose analyses helped a lot of people realize how they had undervalued the OD&D game.
Nowadays on the Internet, the “Old School Renaissance” is a big thing. Most Old Schoolers revere the Original White Box game above all, although the early basic sets by Holmes and Moldvay come in for a lot of love. James Mal of Grognardia calls the White Box/Holmes/Moldvay period the Golden Age of D&D. The post-Gygax TSR period is generally ignored or dismissed: according to James Mal, the mid-to late-80’s is D&D’s Silver Age, and the 90s the Bronze Age. Of course, there are people still playing Second Edition, Dragonlance, Planescape, Spelljammer, and other products of the Silver and Bronze Age, but they don’t have the same control over the public conversation.
Reclamation occurs when someone rediscovers the value of something that’s usually ignored or sneered at. Right now, late-TSR D&D is the most undervalued property on the D&D Monopoly board. Today’s Edition Wars are fought primarily between the OSR, Pathfinder (3e) and 4e fans. The 2e supporter doesn’t have nearly as loud a voice.
I believe their day is coming. I predict that, within two years, some blogger will come along and express, with the persuasiveness of a Philotomy Juramont or James Mal, what was so special about the story-based, Elmister-infested, roleplaying-over-rollplaying Silver and Bronze Ages of D&D. We’ll learn why Spelljammer was actually awesome. THAC0 will stop being a punchline. People like Zeb Cook and Douglas Niles will finally get some praise for carrying the D&D banner for a while.
A hitherto silent piece of the D&D population will have a voice, and people who fondly remember the gaming 80s – and new converts – will flock to the 2e banner. They’ll have a movement.
I’m not the blogger who is going to bring that about. I wasn’t playing D&D during the 2e period, and I can’t even imagine the arguments that will make 2e sound like the Best Edition Ever. But the cycle of repudiation and reclamation is inevitable in literature, political science, high fashion, and in D&D too. I think there’s a mass of 80s and 90s D&D game material that’s waiting to be re-appreciated.
(By the way: I know that there are a lot of people currently playing 2e. I’m proposing that it’s currently undervalued, not that it’s unvalued.)