Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Official "Edition War" Weigh In

This is one of those opinion/philosophy pieces, so if you've come to the blog looking for some crunch today, you might be disappointed.

However, ever diligent to try and provide something that passes for entertainment for my readers, I wanted to weigh in on the topic of what the gamer blogosphere likes to call, "The Edition Wars".

Edition wars have been around for a long time.  They're not specific to the gaming hobby, but almost always result when a beloved brand or product goes through changes.  Essentially, it boils down to one person not liking those changes and another person totally loving everything new that has just come out.  Everyone else falls on the continuum in between.

For Dungeons & Dragons®, though, the edition wars really heated up with the release of the 4th edition of the game.  Many things changed in the way the game was played (I'm not going over the details here, see just about every other gaming blog in existence for details on that), and it pissed a lot of people off.  Just as others (probably me included), loved the new rules and have embraced them.  A third group were those somewhere in between.

The arguments about which game is best can get heated, because these issues can be near and dear to our hearts.  I'm okay with that, but I've lived too long to get upset because someone doesn't like the way I choose to play a game.  Conversely, I don't get upset when you tell me that you want to play "X" either. 

In order to avoid all the potential vitriol surrounding the edition wars, I developed a gaming philosophy related to Dungeons & Dragons.  I've been playing the game for some 30 years, and have played every edition (and have acted as a Dungeon Master in all but one edition).  I make no claims to the title of "Expert".  I don't consider myself one.  "Experienced" or "Well Traveled" are probably better. 

So here's my Dungeons & Dragons philosophy:  I role-play like it's 1st edition, built worlds like it's 2nd edition, manage my game table like it's 3rd edition, and I use the rules for the 4th edition.

Simple as that.  Just in case that's not clear, though, here's a more detailed explanation.

1) "Role-play like it's 1st Edition".  Everyone goes on and on about how the 1st edition and/or OD&D were the best for role-playing.  Gygaz & Arneson wrote such an encyclopedic and esoteric set of rules that there were plenty of gaps on how certain things had to be played out.  What are you left with doing?  Well, role-playing, of course.  It was the only real way to fill in the gaps.  So when you play 4th edition.  Role-play like your playing 1st edition.

2) "Build worlds like it's 2nd Edition".  The second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons saw an explosion of different campaign settings and worlds.  Spelljammer, Dark Sun, & Planescape were just a few of the settings that expanded the AD&D universe.  When you're playing 4th edition, think back to those times and create your worlds like they did in the 2nd edition.  Expand your horizons and don't be afraid to break the mold.

3) "Manage your table like it's 3rd Edition."  For this argument, I'm including the 3.5 edition as well.  The 3rd edition of the game saw in increased emphasis on knowing what the battlefield looked like during an encounter.  The use of miniatures was encouraged, and factors such as line of sight, area of effect, and terrain considerations all became pretty important.  4th edition maintains a great deal of that emphasis.  Keep a good battle mat and some inexpensive counters or miniatures at the table and manage like you would in the 3rd edition.

4) "Use the rules for 4th edition".  The rules are tidy, easy to understand and (for the most part) fairly balanced.  While hard core early edition fans will probably out right reject this statement, it's my personal belief this is the tightest set of rules so far.  It makes DMing much easier than previous editions, and I don't waste a lot of my players time with complicated tables or maths.  They're my rules of choice.

Well kids, that's my Edition War weigh in.  Would love to hear your comments, regardless of what edition of Dungeons & Dragons you play. 

Until next time...

Game excellently with one another.


  1. GeekBob5:04 PM

    Nice philosphy. Myself, I'm currently playing both 3.5 (As a DM) and 4e (as a player) and i've no actual issues per se with any edition. I've played with theold five box sets (It was my first RPG actually), moved up to AD&D for a number of years, then 3.5 and now 4e. And honestly, I find no system to be superior over any other one. It all just comes down to preference.

    As for the part of this whole "Edition War" crap (Yes 'crap'. IMO it's a pointless argument), I do not subscribe to the notion that 4e killed the Role Playing aspect of the game. To me, that's just a load of monkey fling. RPing comes from the players. Not from some set of rules governing how they are suppose to act. I constantly hear how the new edition restricts or killed RPing but I've not yet heard 'how' this has apparently happened.

    But enough of my bellyachin'. It's just something that gets under my skin every once in a while and drives me a bit batty ^_^

  2. greywulf5:08 PM


  3. Gordon Ku5:53 PM

    Bravo, sir. I have never gotten the whole "Edition War" hullabaloo. Everyone should play what they want to play, and not be so damned concerned about what other people are doing. If people spent more time playing and less time worrying about whose dad can beat up whom, everyone would be happier in general.

  4. Anonymous6:09 PM

    Great post.

    One of the things that came out of the edition war was a renewed focus on the OD&D crowd--those old schoolers who draw their own maps on green graph paper with a wandering monster list and everything.

    I am not that interested in playing that style, I like the story telling focus of more recent editions and being part of the community of people playing H1-Keep of the Shodowfell or whatever the recent module may be, but I do love looking at the creativity and DYI aspect of those OD&D tables.

    I likely would not have checked them out without the Edition War.

    It has not changed the way that I play, but it has deepened my appreciation for the game.

  5. Lancar8:09 PM

    I support your philosophy as an excellent response to edition war trolls. I used to explain my stance as.. it's the "same damn game" with different rules that make it easier for me to DM. Your post is much more thorough and.. almost poetic. I may steal your prose for personal use. Thanks for your post.

  6. R.M. Walker9:34 PM

    @ Everyone. Thanks guys/gals/other for your comments. Never realized this little post would spark so much discussion. Maybe WotC will offer to buy my philosophy, and I can retire a wealthy gamer with a hidden lair somewhere in the Midwest.

  7. Jason P. (Illusive Dreams)1:34 PM

    Thanks for the shameless plug on twitter. LOL. I have never gotten into this either. I played 2e a LONG time ago. I even started (but never finished) creating my own game based on 2e then eventually fell out of playing. I still have some 2e books and box sets. I started playing Tiny Adventures on facebook about 2 years ago and about a year and a half ago, a buddy introduced me to 4e. I was in a campaign of which started about that time and I made it as far as 15th level before I parted ways with the group. I am still playing, but in some lower level campaigns. I love the game, I have collected all the source books except for the power books and totally looking forward to the release of Dark Sun.

  8. Matthew K, Cloudfire Clan1:50 AM

    I love this philosophy. It's in line with mine--only one thing comes to mind though: purchase materials/ books like they're Magic: the Gathering cards?

    Yes of course you can play the game just fine with only the PHB--I have nothing but high marks for the new system--if only I could have access to the whole system! Imagine buying Halo or something and discovering you can't access all the guns until the next month, and you have to pay for it. Nothing wrong with buying supplements and enhancements. I have a problem with keeping the game from the paying customer...