Sunday, March 31, 2024

#AtoZChallenge2024: Sunday Special, Introduction to Dungeons & Dragons Editions

 I am going to use Sundays of this Challenge to talk about the various Editions of the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) game that have been published over the last 50 years. 

One of the challenges people have when getting into a game like D&D is where do you start? Generally speaking, you are always best starting with the edition that people around you are playing. If they are playing the newest edition (right now, 5th Edition), then great! This will make finding products easier. If it is an older edition, then great! All editions are fun. 

But what are the Editions? Are there 5 then? is a bit more complicated than that. Hopefully, this graph (making its rounds on social media and started on Reddit.) will help. The editions are all only sort-of compatible with each other. I'll explain that throughout the month. 

Timeline of D&D Original D&D AD&D 1st Edition D&D Moldvay Basic D&D Mentzer Basic AD&D 2nd Edition D&D Rules Cyclopedia (Basic) The Classic Dungeons and Dragons Game (Basic) Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Game (Basic) The Dragon's Den (Basic) D&D 3 D&D 3.5 D&D 4 D&D 4 Essentials D&D 5 One D&D (D&D 5.5 or 5R)

So there are, by some counts, 15 different versions of D&D. Some are 100% compatible with each other, some less so. 

For my posts, I am likely to focus on Basic era D&D (1977-1999), Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1977-1988), and D&D 5th edition (2014-2024).  Right now "One D&D" is not out yet. It is due near the end of the year, and by all accounts, it should be 100% backward compatible with D&D 5. We will see. 

Here are a couple of notes for people who don't know (or care) about the differences in these games.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition is the edition made popular by Stranger Things and E.T. the Extra-Terristrial. It was the one popular in media in the 1980s, though there is some evidence that it was D&D Basic (edited by Frank Mentzer, aka "The Red Box") sold better.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is the edition made popular by Critical Role

I hope that this month I can help with some of the confusion and mystery and maybe, just maybe, make so new players out of you all.

The A to Z of Dungeons & Dragons: Celebrating 50 years of D&D.

In addition to doing the April A to Z challenge, I am also doing the Ulitmate Blog Challenge

Ultimate Blog Challenge


I hope to have some good entries in the RPG Blog Carnival, hosted in April by Codex Anathema on Favorite Settings.

RPG Blog Carnival


bmfrosty said...

I'm a late comer to D&D as I started with 5e. I played it for a few years (mostly at a FLGS) and had a good time, but I (over time) became dissatisfied with it and moved on to Dungeon Crawl Classics, and started trying to understand the difference between editions. At this point, I've decided that the math is one of the most important measures, and that (at least at low levels) every D&D game before 3rd edition more or less followed similar mathematical curves. Then 3, 4, and 5 each reset the math again. The end point is that if you have an adventure for an edition for before 3rd edition, you can adjust it to work with any other similar system with minimal changes. The only things to get used to from a later edition is that AC is inverted (and can be converted), the saves are different (and can be converted to d20 roll + modifier with a fixed DC) and ability checks aren't part of the system, but most DMs tend to use a system where you try and roll under your stat.

The other big difference is that with the exceptions of the 2e players options, there was little ability to plan out a character build, and I prefer not being able to do so because being able to do so shifts the attention from the game to the metagame in a lot of contexts.

Diego L. Morales Rivera said...

Hello Timothy,

Didn't realize D&D had such an intricate publication history! I look forward to seeing more of these!

Diego L. Morales Rivera said...

Hello Timothy,

Never knew about D&D's intricate publication history. Sounds like a fun topic!

Bruce Heard said...

The Rules Cyclopedia is part of the BECMI product line.

Gonz said...

This is gonna be an EPIC ride! I'll surely be following all these entries more than ever!

Jayden R. Vincente said...

This is a very cool outline. I started in 2003 with 3.5... I've mostly switched over to Pathfinder when I have time to play, but I've heard good things about 5th Edition.

~Jayden R. Vincente
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