Let’s Talk About D&D Edition Wars Part One.

I promise I will not intentionally raise anyone’s dander with these articles. Truth is, all editions of the game have their loveable strong points.


This is right up there with Star Wars vs Star Trek in terms of internet forum “debates.”

Let’s face it, debating on the interweb is like running on a treadmill backwards. No matter how far you think you’re getting, you’re still not going anywhere. You’re better off whizzing on an electric fence.

But seriously, debating politics would be more effective. We’re still here talking about D&D editions, but I’m having fun today. Have you seen BECMI? It’s what I grew up running. It’s a good basic edition of D&D, possibly the simplest definition of any RPG anywhere. It’s a solid game.

‘Twas a sad day when they took the “A” out of AD&D.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was arguably one of the best editions of the game ever created. It built upon the basic game and had all kinds of awesomeness going for it. It also had more professionally written modules than pretty much any other game I’ve ever seen. (*Professionally as in by the folks at T$R.) It also had a really nice combat system, a few class options that never came back, and some of the best RPG sourcebooks ever written. When most people talk about Old School Roleplaying, this is what they mean. Good times.

2nd Ed AD&D might be my other favorite edition of the game. The initiative system in this game is probably my favorite way of doing initiative that has never been duplicated except maybe in Castles & Crusades by Troll Lord Games. This edition removed some of the classes from the previous edition, but introduced Kits. Kits were fun.

Later 2nd Ed gave us some of the greatest RPG sourcebooks ever written. Encyclopedia Magic and the spell compendiums for priests and mages were amazing! I keep mind easily

*Side Note: If you keep your eyes open, sometimes you can score C&C Player’s Handbook for free.

Then 3rd Edition and the OGL happened.

I own more books for 3rd Ed and 3.5 than the rest of my collection combined. I love 3.5. It also had the best computer program. The world of third party source material would see a golden age. Very good times indeed.

I think some of the best campaigns and campaign worlds hatched from 3rd Ed. I just received my copy of Iron Kingdoms RPG recently. IIRC, that started in 3rd Ed, skipped an edition, and picked up steam again in 5th. (See what I did there? Steam? LOL!)

3rd was also where Eberron started. I remember submitting my pitch to WotC. The anticipation on announcement day was so thick and I was on pins and needles the whole time. Alas, I did not make the grade. My campaign world may never see the light of day. Who knows?

3rd is also where D20 Modern and a few dozen other spinoff d20 based games came from. The most notable is probably Pathfinder. Personally, I think PF came about because 3rd Ed fans didn’t want to let the edition go. Although it might be a D&D spinoff, it’s still an outstanding RPG.

Mutants & Masterminds is another d20 based game that arose from those days. It has also evolved considerably from its humble roots into one of the most famous superhero RPGs of all time. It really shows how much mileage was possible from the OGL.

My favorite d20 based games were conversions of other classics. Boot Hill, Deadlands, 7th Seas, Traveler, and even World of Darkness joined the d20 revolution. One could probably look on Spycraft somewhere in that mix, too. I was sort of Top Secret S.I. only modernized. We also got a d20 Star Wars, which was amazing to run. (I miss that game so freakin much.)

Dungeon Crawl Classics started out as third party modules for 3rd Ed. It grew into its own rulebooks and campaign world. Even though it has more of that OSR vibe going for it now, it was an old school riff off of 3rd Ed back then.

We’ll talk more about Third, Fourth and Fifth editions later. Have a happy and safe weekend! See you soon.

Author: Jeff Craigmile

I'm a tabletop role-playing game writer and designer from Des Moines, Iowa always looking for more work. I'm the father of four boys and human to three cats.

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