Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Edition Musings

When Wizards of the Coast released their new edition of the world's first published roleplaying game to great fanfare in the summer of 2000, what did the company call it -- that is, besides Dungeons & Dragons? Well, a variety of names were used, but the most common one was "Third Edition" (or 3e for short). Take a look at the WotC website now and poke around the D&D section -- don't worry, no one will hold it against you -- and see how the company refers to the current edition of the game. It's "Fourth Edition" or some variation thereof. But that begs the question: Fourth Edition of what?

I'm sure most of you can see where this is going, since it's a point I've made before. Once upon a time, there was Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and, while the latter was clearly derivative of the former, the two were treated (by their publisher if by no one else) as if they were two separate games. As time went on, though, mere Dungeons & Dragons became a kind of also-ran game, standing in the immense shadow of its descendant, AD&D. So great was the influence of AD&D that, when Wizards of the Coast had the opportunity to revise the game, they not only acknowledged that their edition was, in fact, dependent on it (by calling it "Third Edition"), but also dropped the "Advanced" part of its name, thereby making it the only D&D.

Depending on how one chooses to count, AD&D, whose first volume didn't appear until 1977 (and that wasn't a complete, playable-on-its-own game until late 1979), was either the second or third edition of Dungeons & Dragons. And it was never called anything other than AD&D until its second edition arrived in 1989. Even then, I don't recall ever using the phrases "1e" or "First Edition" until the advent of Third Edition, though I'm getting old and my memory is increasingly unreliable about events more than two decades ago. Yet, for a lot of people, including WotC, which is reprinting its first three volumes in April, AD&D -- and Gygaxian first edition AD&D -- is D&D without much qualification or any exceptions.

I don't necessarily object to this identification and I can name many reasons why it's the case, but it's interesting to observe nonetheless.


  1. In the 2e era it was "second edition AD&D" and "first edition AD&D". "Third edition" when it was first announced was called by those in the comic book shop as "third edition AD&D", and it wasn't until a couple months after release that people stopped calling it "third edition AD&D" and started calling it "third edition D&D".

    At least in my corner of the globe.

  2. And it gets even more "interesting" when you start talking about the breakdown of "D&D" editions; White Box, Holmes, etc. etc..

    When all the chickens are counted, just what "edition" are we at these days?

  3. 2nd edition was clearly labelled as such. Yes, it was also called AD&D, but thus the edition wars fired their loudest shot. :)

  4. Is this why WotC is simply calling the upcoming version "NEXT" ?

  5. The precedent for using the term "edition" to describe the various forms of Dungeons & Dragons that were derived from AD&D happened first with 2nd edition. No one would have referred to AD&D as "first edition" until there was a second. Since the next version of the game was influenced by the legacy of AD&D, it was called "third edition." After that, we have "fourth edition." It is not clear that D&D Next will be entirely derived from the legacy of AD&D, so maybe that's why they're choosing not to refer to it as "fifth edition." Or maybe they don't want to add another edition to the edition wars....

    The Rules Cyclopedia could also be referred to as "fifth edition" unless I'm mistaken. Original, Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, and then Allston (right?).

  6. I don't recall ever using the phrases "1e" or "First Edition" until the advent of Third Edition

    Heh. I'd really thing you lived in a strange place if you used the phrase "1e" back in the day. Terminology like "1e" is a typing shorthand. Nobody in the pre-Internet, pre-texting days would have come up with "1e" because it's a cumbersome thing to say even if it is easy to type as shorthand.

    On the other hand, if you really didn't hear people use "First Edition" after Second Edition came out then I may envy you. Because it was a common thing to get bandied about during arguments. Fights over how much "Second Edition Sucks" vs. "First Edition Is Clunky" were going on amongst all the nerds where I lived almost as soon as the 2e books hit the shelves.

    For my part I was used to it - by that time there had already been plenty of smack about how "Basic/Expert Is A Kid's Game And You Should Be Running Advanced D&D - What's That? No I Don't Want To DM That's Why YOU Should Do It" for a long time.

    Edition Wars are almost as old as the game.

  7. It had always (well since I learned of it) been my understanding that the only real reason AD&D existed as a separate product from D&D was to screw Dave Arneson out of royalties since he and Gary had made an agreement to share them for any 'Dungeon and Dragons' products. AD&D was never supposed to be a 'descendant' of D&D, it was meant to be the 'better' sibling of it.

    When WoTC took over, they dropped the BECMI line and officially made 3E D&D because unlike Gary & TSR, they were less concerned about petty legal battles and more concerned about making money.

    1. I thought WoTC settled with Arneson.

    2. TSR/Gary 'settled' with Arneson, with the settlement being that both Gary and Dave were credited for being co-creators.

      WoTC, just before releasing 3e, paid Dave for all outstanding rights he had to Dungeons and Dragons. Which essentially is what Gary & Co SHOULD have done to start with if they hadn't been willing to pay him royalties, instead of playing 'games' with the names.

    3. A couple of points, if I may:

      1) AD&D was driven by the need to get a format that B. Dalton's Booksellers would take; the boxed set didn't fit on their shelves. Cutting off Dave's royalties was the normal policy under the Blumes, as they treated all their authors the same way.

      2) TSR/Gary didn't 'settle' with Dave; TSR/the Blumes got their heads nailed to the floor by the Federal Court. (Anyone besides me remember when Gary had to sue TSR to get his own name back after the Blumes trademarked "Gary Gygax (tm)"?)

      3) WotC bought out both Dave's and Gary's rights and interests; neither they nor their families had or have anything to say about WotC/Hasbro might care to do with D&D. I think that if you looked way, way, way down in the fine print of the quit claim agreements, you'll find that WotC owns both Dave's and Gary's 'name and likeness for the purposes of product marketing'.

      4) It's all about 'brand identity'; all this stuff about game play is fluff. "Gygax" is a snappier and handier name for marketing purposes, while "Arneson" is too long and not very memorable. WotC is driven by one thing: Return On Investment. Hasbro paid a heap of money for the D&D brand, and the executives at the parent company want to see something back on that so that they can keep their shareholders happy and their stock performances bonuses high. These aren't games, they're SKUs...

      yours, Chirine

    4. 1. AD&D may have had many 'needs' pinned to it, and the one you listed may in fact been part of the equation. However, the primary reason for the split was not 'B Dalton'. And while the Blumes may have heavily influenced things, the refrain from the early 00's wasn't "Oh wow, how sad is it that Dave and Brian don't ever talk anymore", it was "Oh wow, how sad is it that Dave and Gary never talk anymore". Gary was specifically named in the suits, not the Blumes.

      2. TSR and Gary did in fact settle, out of court. Gary eventually filed five lawsuits against Gary & TSR over royalties and credits. The court documents are still sealed and neither party was free to discuss the results other than the co-creator credits up to their death.

      3. Not contested, nor does it contradict anything I've said.

      4. Also not contested.

    5. Great points! If I may add a bit more...

      1) Well, that's what Gary told me. From other comments that he made, there was also a lot of concern about 'cleaning up' OD&D. Gary was also named because of his position as TSR's President in the legal stuff.

      2) And see also:




      for much of the source documentation. I have my own copies as well, from the time when I worked for Dave at Adventure Games.

      3) Not intended to contradict, but to support!

      4) Couldn't agree with you more, actually.

      yours, Chirine

  8. "1st Edition AD&D" was neither first, nor an edition, nor D&D. Discuss. :-D

  9. I don't think of D&D3 as a third edition of AD&D. It's the third distinct set of rules for D&D, much like 4E is the fourth, and (insert name scoring highest with focus groups) will be the fifth.

  10. I actually have a personal view of the editions. First of all I chunk everything before AD&D together, yes it was many variances but it was not meant to be separate. That I call the 0 edition which because of my interest in computer programming makes sense to me. Next is 1st edition AD&D which I have noticed something about it. If the people talking about it played 2nd edition they call it 1st while if they have not played 2nd edition or not played it much at least then they just call it AD&D. 2nd edition AD&D falls right into place as it started the editioning of D&D so there is not much to do with it. Finally I have 3.5 which is what I use to refer to anything from 3rd or 3.5 and sometimes I even stick Pathfinder in with it. 4th edition while a good game it breaks to much from the other games to let me freely call it D&D and if it had been called something besides D&D I could have loved it. I went into depth some of my thoughts on this separation from the old just a day or so ago in a post where I compared 4th edition to Vista, both good systems Now but because of the mess when they came out both have bad images.

  11. I always get in trouble in this regard, as I always use Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, which was the actual title of the game. And it was followed by Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition. The second edition of Dungeons & Drgaons is, to me, the Dungeons & Dragons BCEMI boxed sets, because the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons is the small boxed set (LBB) and supplements.

    It doesn't matter that the direct genetic heritage of the game system for Dungeons & Dragons, 3rd Edition was Advanced Dungeons & Dragons instead of Dungeons & Dragons, it doesn't change the name of the game as published, no matter how much you try to retcon it and write the earlier games out of history.

    But mostly all games following the tropes embodied in the rules,even though most of them don't actually follow the rules as written (and most of the games I've been involved with haven't - individual campaign rules are a part of the creativity that role-playing is supposed to foster), are known as D&D games. Even though they almost all have iconic quirks.

  12. The Dungeon Bastard has weighed in emphatically on this, solving the puzzle:


  13. I often rant about this. LOL. Because I was never a fan of AD&D. I started with Holmes, went on to Moldvay, and then played Mentzer. The "Rules Cyclopedia" was my Holy Grail. When Wizards started calling AD&D "D&D," I was quite miffed. Felt like they had hijacked the name in a way. Yes, I know everyone else played AD&D, but my group was content with little ole' D&D.

  14. The issue with edition labels are so convoluted. First, there have been almost a dozen versions of D&D rules (what, OD&D dont cut it as an edition?). Second, a number of them have had cosmetic changes. For example, 2nd ed AD&D was just a facelift of (1st ed) AD&D, so by that logic, D&D v3.5 should have been 4th ed D&D and Joan Rivers should be "Joan Rivers 739th edition". And yes, I get the whole "Advanced/Not Advanced" label.

    How about we just call the "3e/3.5" book "Wizard's 1st Edition" and "Wizard's Revised 1st Edition" (respectfully), while the "4e" book is "Wizard's 2nd Edition", with the "Wizard's 3rd Edition" on its way. This makes a whole lota sense given that these newer games are all uniquely of their creation (that, and it also divorce those games from the TSR games).

  15. Malcadon, no offense, but I think that's an awfully marginalizing idea.

    1. I imagine it would play very well to people who view the TSR and WotC as drastically different (There's undeniably a greater mechanics change between 2nd and 3rd ed than there was between any other D&D edition prior to that) but it does seem a bit editorializing and playing to that nerd habit of claiming that everything one doesn't like either doesn't exist or doesn't count.

      Undeniably the D&D edition saga is kinda weird and convoluted, but keeping "Advanced" in the names of third and fourth ed for the sake of accuracy wouldn't have been an improvement. I think most people can handle the current edition tradition,e ven if it means that veteran players have to talk abotu things like "Holmes" or BECMI" or "OD&D" rather than just flat numbers.

  16. I think the thing is, there likely wasn't supposed to be a regular dungeons and dragons. Pretty clearly the Holmes boxed set was meant to be a beginner set, followed up by the real product, called AD&D to differentiate it.

    It says as much on page 7 of the book I have. It paints a somewhat different picture as to what AD&D would have been - it mentions a witch class as a sub-class of MU, and that monks are a sub-class of cleric. The alignment system also is almost (but not quite) AD&D's.

    But I guess in a squabble over royalties, they decided to make AD&D more different than originally planned, trying to cut Arneson out, but he successfully objected, ending up with two distinct lines - one AD&D, one D&D.


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