As I've probably mentioned far too many times, I entered the hobby with the 1978 edition of Dungeons & Dragons edited by Dr. J. Eric Holmes. It was through it that I first encountered D&D and it has forever colored my sense of what the game is and should be.
As I've also probably mentioned far too many times, my next D&D purchase -- my first actually, since the Holmes boxed set was actually a gift for my father that I appropriated when he showed no interest in it -- was the Monster Manual. Now, the Monster Manual is in fact an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons book and, while the precise meaning of "advanced" in this context did make me wonder at the time, it had zero impact on my ability to use it with Holmes. Indeed, it works better with Holmes than with AD&D proper, since it shares Holmes's fivefold alignment system and armor class system (which it also shares with OD&D) rather than their equivalents in AD&D.
My next purchase was the AD&D Players Handbook and it was the first D&D book that made me scratch my head. I had no problem with the addition of four more alignments; I rarely have problems with additions to the game. The same went for all the new classes, races, and spells. I actually welcomed the broadening of the game they brought, much in the same way that the Monster Manual gave me a greater variety of beasties to throw up against the PCs.
But there were also things that confused me. Why, for example, had most of the Hit Dice changed? Why did a magic missile only do 1d4+1 damage rather than 1d6+1? Why did clerics now get a spell at 1st level rather than having to wait till 2nd level to do so? Why was an unarmored opponent now AC 10 rather than AC9? There were lots of little confusions like this and it took me a long time to acclimate myself to them (some I never did learn).
Then, in 1981 came the Tom Moldvay-edited Basic Rulebook, which many of my friends, who'd never bought either Holmes or the PHB, picked up and used. Once more, I was confused. All the Hit Dice went back to the way they were in Holmes, as did Armor Class. Magic missile did the "right" amount of damage again and clerics once more needed to gain a level before acquiring spells. But alignment changed for the third time. Only three alignments? What's up with that? And demihumans now had their own classes with different XP requirements. How odd, I thought.
My friends and I weren't quite sure how to handle all these contradictions, so we muddled through, picking those things we liked the best or that made the most sense from our perspective. The result was a weird amalgam of Holmes, AD&D, and Moldvay, which grew ever more like AD&D-flavored Moldvay as the years dragged on.
This process repeated itself every time some new official D&D rulebook or boxed set was released: confusion followed acquiescent syncretism. It was frustrating, all these little niggling differences between Holmes and Gygax and Moldvay, but at least all the games were sufficiently similar to one another that it was possible to kludge it all together in a vaguely satisfactory fashion. Moreover, the basic terms and, more importantly, their meanings were consistent across the games, even if the minutiae differed. Everyone understood that the Fighter had the highest Hit Dice, whatever those Hit Dice were, just as everyone knew the Cleric was a "healing class," regardless of when he gained that ability. (Alignment, to be fair, never achieved any kind of equilibrium and remained a regular source of confusion).
From what I have gathered, most gaming groups behaved much as mine did. I know this firsthand from having occasionally played pick-up games at hobby shops and libraries and having visited schoolmates' home groups. Each one engaged in their own kind of acquiescent syncretism, often making choices different than the ones my group made. But -- and this is the crucial thing -- they still spoke the same gaming "language," so I could understand their choices, even if they weren't ones I would have made. This "language" was remarkably consistent, being steeped in D&D's rules. Thus, we could, regardless of whether our home games were based primarily on Holmes or Moldvay or Gygax, profitably talk about, say, a fireball spell and all know that it did xD6 damage, with x being the level of the caster. Likewise, when someone talked about AC 2, we knew they meant someone wearing plate mail and carrying a shield. In the midst of immense variety of campaign-specific rules kludges, there remained a remarkable consistency.
D&D III forever shattered that by changing the terms and meanings of many elements of the game, a process it inherited from the latter days of 2e and that D&D IV has taken to even more extreme levels. Whereas it really is possible for a player of LBB-only OD&D and a Realms-loving 2e'er to talk about game mechanics in an unequivocal fashion, the same is vastly harder once you throw players of the WotC editions into the mix. And that's why I hate change: it makes conversation between gamers harder.
Every change in terminology and meaning in an effort to make the game "better" is also inevitably cutting the game loose from the traditions and community into which it was born and out of which it grew. What is so amazing about the old school blogs and forums is that, even though we all play a mish-mash of early editions, retro-clones, and simulacra, we nevertheless share a common vocabulary. We speak the same language even if there are lots of regional "accents." This is why I dislike ascending AC, for example. Whatever its mechanical benefits may or may not be, it's a divergence from tradition that makes it harder to communicate with my fellow players of D&D without a "translator." A degree of immediacy is lost.
That's also why, for all my musings about changing this or that foundational element of D&D, I never actually do so. I care too much about keeping my game within the existing tradition and thus intelligible to outsiders without having to explain all its rules intricacies beforehand. I can simply say "fireball" or "cleric" or "orc" and everyone knows what I mean, more or less. There's no confusion about basic terms and thus anyone, regardless of when he entered the hobby or what house rules he uses in his home game, will know what I mean when I use these terms.
I realize not every gamer values this as much as I do and that's fine. I'm not suggesting it's the best approach in any absolute sense, but it's the one that suits me best and, from what I've seen these last few years, I'm not alone in feeling this way. I hate change, because it separates the present from the past and all but guarantees a similar separation from the future. Back in the day, I loved the fact that I, a know-nothing neophyte gamer, could talk to the old wargamers who still played White Box OD&D and they understood me even though I played a kit-bashed amalgam of later editions. And nowadays I love being able to talk to new gamers who discovered D&D through Labyrinth Lord or Swords & Wizardry.
This is only possible because we're all using the same language, a language some of us have preserved despite lots of pressure to adopt the latest slang or jargon and thereby reduce our preferred tongue to a dead one, to be studied and admired under glass rather than kept alive and passed on to the next generation. So, I plan on speaking the auld tongue. It's familiar and pleasant to the ear and, as many linguists will tell you, nothing can compare to approaching a work in its original language.