Why are you using THAT edition?

I’ve written previously that I’m running an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game for my son and some of his friends. And since then, a number of people have asked me why I’m not using the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Their arguments generally revolve around a) the books are in print and available, and b) the support.

I’ve also said before that I’m not interested in getting into edition wars. They’re pointless and stupid. If someone likes a particular edition of a game more than another, then their choice is the right one for them. No one should argue that their choice is wrong. And they shouldn’t argue that anyone else’s choice is wrong, either.

There is this strange belief that roleplaying games are like technology—that a newer version is automatically going to be better than a previous version, because there are “advancements” in game design.

Now I’m not going to argue that there haven’t been advancements. A lot of people have spent a lot of time thinking and talking about roleplaying games, and now there are all kinds of games, in practically every genre, using a whole host of game mechanics that didn’t exist at the dawn of this hobby. The “advancements” allow a greater range of players to find a game that works best for them, focusing on the things that matter to them, and giving them a chance to find that sweet spot where their group can maximize their fun.

But none of that means that the older games aren’t as good as the new ones. That they should automatically be replaced by the games that come later.

For example, when the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons came out, it was a game that played very differently from AD&D. It had many different rules, and those rules changes caused players to interact with the game in a different manner. It was still recognizably D&D, but was also a different game. Was it better than AD&D? Was it an abomination (as some people literally call it)? Neither. It was just another game of D&D.

When 4th Edition was released, it made even greater changes to the rules. The developers took feedback from player surveys and incorporated that information into the design of the game. Again, it was recognizably D&D—despite what some very vocal internet people howled loudly—but it played differently. And yet, all the tropes of D&D were still there in recognizable form, with some new ones were added.

And now 5th Edition is out and it’s tried to recapture the feeling of older versions of D&D while still retaining many mechanics of 3rd Edition. Some people feel that it is the best edition ever, while others feel that it is bland and plays poorly.

But that’s okay. Because if you prefer a different edition than the current one, you’re covered. The rules for every older edition of D&D are available for purchase in electronic form, and now Wizards of the Coast is making them available as print-on-demand.

Even better, the OSR (Old School Renaissance) movement has created clones of many of these older versions of D&D that allow people to publish settings, adventures, and rules supplements.

So, bringing it back around to the main arguments against me using AD&D as the edition that I’m running for the kids:

  • The books are available both in print and electronically
  • There is a great deal of support still being made

Personally, there are things about Advanced Dungeons & Dragons that I simply like better than the current edition. I like all the various subsystems—it gives players a chance to use all those funky dice. I like simple and quick character generation—it makes character death less of a big deal. I like the great danger at early levels—it provides a specific play experience and adds a level of tension that I think is fun. I like the great power at higher levels—it provides a changing play experience and lets the players feel like heroes. And I like the fact that I know the game so well that if I do run into a problem, I can fix it on the spot with a moment’s consideration.

These are the reasons I picked this edition of the game for this campaign. It’s not a perfect game, but it is the perfect game for me. And if the person running the game isn’t enthusiastic about the rules being used, the campaign will suffer. I’m more than enthusiastic, and I can’t wait until our next session.

What is your favorite edition of D&D? I want to hear about what you love about it (not what you don’t like about other editions). This is not the place to crap on other games, but to share your enthusiasm for the granddaddy of all roleplaying games, regardless of the edition you prefer. Share your thoughts in the comments.

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