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It's a BLOG Captain, but not as we know it.

Dungeons & Dragons Edition Wars: Why?

I’ve been sitting here reading through various blogs, forums, tweets about why people hate D&D version (X).  Twitter yesterday even had folks espousing their hatred of 5th edition and it hasn’t even come out yet.  I’ve read why folks hate and love every edition of D&D.

I understand that 4e “emphasizes battle over role play” and that seems to be why folks both love and hate it.  My Sunday afternoon gaming group is currently running AD&D and we happen to love playing with those rules.

I will admit to being the type of person of dislikes change for change’s sake.  I don’t upgrade my software if the current version works fine.  I’ve had the same cell-phone for 3 years.  I’ll drive my car until it doesn’t run anymore.  However I doubt that’s the reason for all the love/hate written up on the net.

I played D&D and AD&D in high school and gave it up due to the “Devil’s Game” scare of the mid 80’s.  It was a move designed to make Mom and Dad happy.  It wasn’t much of a sacrifice as I preferred Car Wars and James Bond.  I lost interest in RPGs during my college years.  I missed 3e completely.

My resurgence in interest of RPG came about because my kids were finally old enough to find the hobby on their own.  We’ve played 4e and aside from the interminable time in takes to resolve combat, we didn’t have any problems with it.  I even bought the core books at World D&D day.

My question to you is what is your favorite edition of D&D and why?  If you dislike a version, why?

June 6, 2009 - Posted by | Legacy D&D, News, Reviews and Culture, RPG | , , ,


  1. At this point I heavily prefer 4th edition. The PC choices are interesting and dynamic. And the PCs get to feel like heroes on a regular basis. It’s mechanically less gritty than previous systems, but it has a focus on what makes the game fun to some people, and in most cases, what they pin-pointed as what makes the game fun reflects my own tastes pretty well.

    I don’t have any particular dislike of any of the other editions of D&D. 3e has been great for me for years, but now that I’m playing more 4e, my interest in playing 3e has lessened. I just can’t get excited about, “I go up and swing my sword at it.” when I’ve spent a year saying, “I move around, give the beast a sly flourish, use my minor to pop the item daily making the sword explode, and then I spend my action point…” I know, I’m not being fair in my description of combat in 3e, but by comparison, that’s how I feels to me. That said, I still play in 3 or 4 3e games right now. So it’s a good game and I’ll keep playing it.

    What I really have no interest in is 2e/AD&D. That’s the game I started on. I don’t miss proficiencies, poison saves, or the dreaded THACO at all. The mechanics in 2e were always a bit of a turn off for me, but the stories and worlds were always engaging enough that I played the game for a long…long time. I still have all my 2e books, mind you. But I never pull them out and don’t intend to…unless I need some inspiration from those great stories and settings.

    Comment by Jeff Greiner | June 6, 2009

  2. I’m a fan of Classic D&D (especially as epitomized in the Rules Cyclopedia), 3rd Edition and Fourth Edition. Each one brings a certain style and feel to the table – from Classic D&D’s gung-ho nature to 3e’s player customizability and 4e’s sense of heroism.

    But….. I don’t like AD&D, never have. And gawd knows I’ve tried. I don’t like design-by-monkeys on acid multitude of conflicting rules and the sheer variety of limits and restrictions that surround character generation for no good reason. There’s dual-class, multi-class, kits, level restrictions and more that all conspire against me liking anything about the game before I even start to play.

    Then we hit the skills system which isn’t a skill system. Non-Weapon Proficiencies – and they say 4e is obsessed with combat! In AD&D, it’s it’s not usable in combat it’s called Non-Weapon as if it not being a weapon is it’s defining function. “Climb? What’s that? You’re not a weapon, you wimp.”

    Honestly, I’d tried. I’ve got a full set of AD&D rules books (several editions, in fact) on my shelves and occasionally open them and start to read until my eyes bleed at the whole lack of sense of it all. The initiative rules alone make me want to stab myself with a sharpened d4 – if only I could work out when my frickin’ turn was to be able to do it.

    The Classic D&D Rules Cyclopedia is 10,000 times a better system, imho. Simpler, more complete in a single book and a true thing of beauty to boot.

    Which is a shame, as AD&D is also the era which spawned the greatest and most wonderful settings we’ve ever seen. It’s as if all the imagination went into the settings and they wrote the rules using some screwed up random rules generator. “Oooh. We’ve not used a d12 for a while. Let’s used that!” Oh, please.

    It’s my firm belief that anyone who doesn’t like Fourth Edition D&D should be forced to play AD&D until they’re left in a heap begging to play something that at least has a semblance of internal logic and consistency.

    I can understand why folks like AD&D – honestly, I want to join your club too – but it falls firmly into the “sorry, not for me” pile of rpgs alongside anything by White Wolf and F.A.T.A.L.

    Comment by greywulf | June 6, 2009

  3. Oh Man. I love 2nd. Ed.
    I wish I had a group to play that with right now.
    I never really cared for 3rd. go figure.

    Comment by newbiedm | June 6, 2009

  4. Honestly, I have no hatred for any edition of D&D. I got into RPGs with the basic edition (5 boxsets) and worked my way through AD&D (2e), 3.5, and now 4e. I can’t really say I have a favorite as there are certain aspects of each I found enjoyable. Truthfully, some of the enjoyment may come from fond memories of late night gaming sessions. But the fact remains that I don’t hate any of them and I never understood the need to flame the other editions just because a person does not like them. the whole ‘Edition War’ seems silly and childish to me.

    Comment by GeekBob | June 6, 2009

  5. I prefer rules-light. Right now I wish I could play more Labyrinth Lord, ie. D&D B/X by Moldvay, Cook & Marsh.

    Comment by Alex Schröder | June 6, 2009

  6. When you ask what your favorite edition is, it’s really two questions for me. As a player, 3rd. Hands down. As I’ve said before, 3rd edition loves the player.

    I’m not fond of 4th, but I haven’t played it so I can’t really make much of an informed decision. I don’t like the balancing or the emphasis on minis (I’ve got an RPG rule set that supports miniature play much better, IMHO.) BUT, it isn’t even the minis that bug me, it’s the grid. meh.

    Any how, AS A DM, that’s another question entirely. As a DM, I dislike 3rd. Too fiddly. I’ve tried to start a 1e game, but my first player’s eyes glazed over on the strength modifier and bonus page. I can’t blame him. 1e and 2e I have nostalgia.

    If I was to run something that was D&D in more than genre? After my failed attempt to start with 1e… My first choice would be Moldvay-Cook BX and Cyclopedia. Simple. Modular. Complete.

    Comment by Dr. Checkmate | June 6, 2009

  7. My favorite edition is 3.5e, with an eye toward Pathfinder when it is released. However, my ideal edition would be a kind of self-built 3.75, informed by some things done by Paizo, and also a few things from 4e.

    I started with the red Moldvay Basic box of Classic D&D, and then moved on to AD&D 2e. When 3e came out, I was stunned by how a purpose-designed unified system improved mechanical gameplay. As I’ve written elsewhere, 4e made some changes I like, but it also made changes I didn’t like. I’m still willing to give it a try, but I’m perfectly happy with what I have now.

    You ask the question, “Edition wars: why?” The answers are too numerous to simply give a list and would require analysis to make any kind of coherent sense. We like what we like, and many have a tendency to flame and rant rather than present reasoned ideas, or to dismiss reasoned ideas out of hand. All I know for certain is that edition wars happen and will not go away no matter how they are bemoaned. The best one can do is duck and cover.

    Comment by Andrew Modro | June 6, 2009

  8. @Dr. Checkmate The irony is that 4e doesn’t even need a grid any more. Because movement is calculated in a much simpler manner than 3e’s silly “diagonal counts at 1.5 squares” rule, all you really need to play is a flat-ish surface and a ruler or piece of string. Goodbye to the grid! 😀

    Comment by greywulf | June 6, 2009

  9. Err . . . my favorite version?

    D&D basic set, of course. 😀 Simple, straightforward, roleplaying game. I miss those days, actually. That was what D&D really is — represented by the Basic (and Expert) sets.

    Of AD&D, I liked 2e, especially after I rolemasterized it (added Arms Law). But ask me what my favorite fantasy roleplaying game is, and it’s not D&D. I have problems with D&D several ways to Tuesday. When I play D&D, I expect a few things.

    — An Evocation of the Conan movie, the Beastmaster T.V. show, Hercules the Legendary Journeys, Red Sonja comic books, anything of that nature!! D&D basic could deliver.

    D&D doesn’t do it for me because it’s not as adaptable as I like it to be. To make it work for me, I have to alter it until it’s not D&D anymore.

    Comment by Elton | June 6, 2009

  10. While I’m new to playing, I’m not new to the “culture.” I’ve been following the discussion as well, and it’s helped me learn how to frame why I’ve never felt the desire to play before. When it comes down to it, I’m a high fantasy/adventure type player and not really into swords and sorcery. For this reason, I really love 4e and I’m not really into the 3e game I’m playing mostly to get out of the house.

    That said, I think it would have been better to release 4e in a different manner than they did. It would have been cool to have a smaller book with the rules and templates and then provide resources with example races, classes, monsters, etc. That is how I view the books as it is and I think it would have made a lot of the older edition players happier. Sure, some people would still be unhappy that everyone does cool stuff right away but I think they would have also felt like it didn’t have to be that way either.

    Comment by Sarah Darkmagic | June 6, 2009

  11. Oddly enough… my favorite edition of D&D was another game entirely… “Earthdawn.” 😀

    Seriously, I’ve had or played nearly every edition of D&D: the original books, the boxed sets, both editions of Advanced D&D (plus a “classless” home-brew set of rules based on 2nd edition), 3e and 3.5. I’ve not gotten the 4th ed. books largely because I rarely get to play face to face and just can’t see shelling out the money for a system I’m almost certain not to play.

    My take on every single edition has been that they’ve fixed/improved things that were broken in the previous edition… and simultaneously broke what was working just fine (or at least created brand new problems…)

    I have to say that if I were to buy a new set of books, I’d go with the Pathfinder system. I’ve been following/reading the playtest versions and I’ve liked what they’ve done with the 3.5 rules.

    Comment by Charlie | June 6, 2009

  12. I actually just posted something on this topic! 🙂

    Comment by Stuart | June 6, 2009

  13. As a player I like 3.5, specifically the Book of Nine Swords. I got to play a Swordsage and had a great deal of fun. It also pointed out how unbalanced 3.5 was. My character, with really good stats, was way better than any other, the only one close was the Warmage. It was fun for me, but appeared frustrating for the DM and other players.

    As a DM, I prefer 4th. It is so easy to plan encounters and treasure, even on the fly, and all the players seem to have a great deal of fun and feel like they matter. It does promote thinking only in terms of what the rules let you do…no crazy acrobatics stunts, but one good player will change that. Once one starts doin’ it, they’ll all try.

    Comment by JohnOSpencer | June 6, 2009

  14. I suppose I’m relatively new to D&D. I’ve only played since 3e. Every time my husband starts talking about Thacos I know I probably wouldn’t have played AD&D. It’s been my experience that you can get out of it what you put into it. So far the Very Best Adventure Path we’ve played is Age of Worms. It had the most interesting story that kept changing and expanding. Also it continued to send us to towns and I’ve found that is where most of the role play happens.

    On the other hand I like a lot of the 4e mechanics because they are more straightforward. Our DM started this campaign with a mini side campaign when our characters were children and so everyone knew each other. This was brilliant and has made the role play more natural. He knows we’re big into the role play aspect and that if it just becomes a dungeon crawl we’re likely to quit the campaign so there are opportunities for role play that maybe weren’t built into the adventure path. Those are the best nights when there’s a bit of role play and a great battle. I suppose picking a favorite is difficult because my favorite is always based on my current character and right now I love Chali! As I said I think you get out of it what you put into it.

    Comment by Chali Rilyn'lyl | June 6, 2009

  15. I dig what a lot of previous posters have said – different editions are good for different things. I’ve probably played mostly AD&D 1st ed, and enjoyed it, but I prefer 3rd ed (3.5 really) as a player, since you’ve got all those options going on. To run, I’d prefer D&D Rules Cyclopedia – a produce ahead of its time, IMHO, in its completeness and simplicity. I haven’t got around to playing 4th edition yet, but that’s not because I don’t like it.

    But I’m pretty switched off about D&D in general at the moment. I feel like there’s better systems around for almost everything you could go for. I’m all for the new ‘next-gen’ d20 systems – like Spycraft and True20 – they seem to do what they set out to pretty well.

    And, man, Earthdawn was great. Second that.

    Comment by Millsy | June 6, 2009

  16. I sat out 2nd ed., not because of the ed., but because of other things in my life during that period. But I love ’em all. Currently, I’m DMing 4e and having a blast.

    Comment by Icosahedrophilia | June 6, 2009

  17. Wow! I asked for feedback and I got it. Every edition got some love. There’s a lot of good points made.

    @Jeff – Thac0 can be intimidating
    @Greywulf – Agreed some of the best D&D settings came out for AD&D
    @NewbieDM – Anytime you’re in Iowa look us up we’re running AD&D on Sunday afternoon
    @GeekBob – You and me both. I’ve never understood the need to flame something just because it isn’t my cup of tea.

    Comment by Vulcan Stev | June 6, 2009

  18. @Alex Schröder & Dr.C – Rules Light. My prefered system for running ANYTHING is Savage Worlds
    @Andrew – I’m looking forward to Pathfinder as well. It might be able to give WotC’s 800lb Gorilla some competition.
    @Elton – Hate to sound like a broken record, but you might like Savage Worlds
    @Sarah – The ONLY problem I have with 4e is the interminable amount of time needed to resolve combat. Car Wars dealt with combat faster.

    Comment by Vulcan Stev | June 6, 2009

  19. @Charlie – Pecisely, each system has had its strengths and weaknesses
    @Stuart – Nice article
    @JohnO – You echo a lot of complaints I’ve read about 3.5. It’s out of balance. Having not played I’ll take your word for it.
    @Chali Rilyn’lyl – After having read your blog, I think you’d enjoy AD&D the way we play. We emphasize the RP.
    @Milsy – Agreed, I can’t wait to see Pathfinder turns out to be like.
    @Icosahedrophilia – It’s always sad when Life gets in the way of fun.

    Comment by Vulcan Stev | June 6, 2009

  20. The Rules Cyclopedia is my favorite incarnation (too bad I gave it away to a friend since it wasn’t getting used in my house; I would probably use it now).

    Comment by Ruminator | June 7, 2009

  21. I feel your pain, Ruminator. Did the same thing myself.

    *kick, kick*

    Comment by Dr. Checkmate | June 7, 2009

  22. Well until last week The Rules Cyclopedia was my favorite version to date. Unfortunately my son got a hold of the book and it is now without it’s hard cover until I can find some hotglue sticks. I hate books without their covers… that’s how fickle I can be sometimes.

    I’ve never been a fan of the various 3e editions and whilst I like the idea behind some of the changes and the feel of 4e I just can’t get into it.

    I do have a soft spot for 2e though. Like Greywulf says its one of the most annoying and limiting systems out there but it’s what I grew up on effectively. A bit like your mothers cooking. It might not be the best you’ve ever tasted but you’ll enjoy it whenever you get the chance once you leave home.

    Now if I could work a way to get 2e rules with Rolemaster combat I’d probably be in my kind of teenage heaven.

    Comment by bobzilla76 | June 8, 2009

  23. I got into D&D through 4e, but have since picked up some books from other editions as well.
    Looking at other editions, I can say that all of thm have something good to offer. I definitely agree that 4e’s combat can take a ridiculously long time, but you can easily fix that by using no minis or grids and just taking the “I run over and slash the monster with my sword” approach, where you just roll the dice. This is, in my opinion, the way the game is supposed to be played anyway.

    I think that the power system of 4e did what it tried to do all too well: balance the classes. Now, they all feel a bit too similar.

    But of course, that is the best part of D&D: If you want to change something, be it large or small, the rules are built so you can do that!

    Comment by YvizztX23 | December 22, 2009

  24. AD&D all the way (2E).

    Anything after TSR went under in 1997 is NOT “D&D” at all. 3E and especially 4E are just whoring out the brand name.

    Comment by Niko | August 15, 2010

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