Tuesday, May 1, 2012

5th Edition? Really?

While reading some discussions about which D&D game was the bestselling it occurred to me that the edition numbers are really misleading. In fact there have been at least 25 editions of D&D in the English language alone.

"Basic" D&D has gone through 19 iterations, while AD&D has had 6 iterations (1st edition, 2nd edition, a "2.5" edition - the black covers, a 3rd edition, a 3.5 edition and the misnamed 4th edition - the correct name being "D&D but we really want to be WoW".)

D&D was conceived by some incredibly creative guys: Gygax and Arneson. And this genre defining idea was mismanaged by a series of incompetent doofuses for decades until Wizards of the Coast got a hold of it (to be clear I am talking about the doofus execs who managed TSR, not the hardworking designers). The game was given to a brilliant team of game designers, but I think these designers looked down their noses at the original 3 booklet set. They couldn't see past it's crude presentation and terrible organization to the core of the game which had a unique and brilliant heart.

I can't blame these designers, while I've always enjoyed the original it took the release of Swords & Wizardry for me to truly -grok- the brilliance, elegance, and genius of the original white box set.
What we got in 3rd edition was an overly complicated permutation of 1st edition D&D with a hybrid of Runequest (quite understandable since the chief designer was a long time fan of Runequest). Still, it was a vast improvement over 2nd edition, and to a generation hungry for the game of their youth it was a hit.

Apparently the bestselling D&D set was the Basic D&D Black Box.
Yeah, I'm shocked too. As a geek and collector, this is one of the sets I've had zero interest in acquiring. Perhaps it was a quirk of history with the generation after the D&D cartoon era being influenced by their older brothers?

If "D&D Next" is really 26th edition return to the Original - then you can bet I'll be buying a copy and getting all my friends to play.

If it is another ill conceived piece of marketing dung in the vein of 4th you can bet I won't waste my time.

BTW. I don't think I've ever even seen this version anywhere, ever.


  1. Personally I enjoy every edition of D&D for different things. I own them all (including the LBBs and that black box) and can pull them down anytime I like.

    Though where dis you get your information on the black Basic set as the best seller?

  2. I think

    OD&D = 1st Edition
    AD&D = 2nd Edition
    3rd Edition = 3rd Edition
    4th Edition = 4th Edition

    So B/X D&D, to my mind, is a "sub-edition" of the 1st (original) edition of the rules, not a new edition. Lamentations of the Flame Princess would also count as a subedition of the 1st edition rules.

    But I do realise I am the only person who thinks like this.

  3. I actually have a copy of that last edition you posted, in pdf. It dates from around 1994, and seems to be a kind of revision of the Mentzer red box.

  4. The black box is more or less the Mentzer red box with added stuff; it may go a bit higher in terms of levels, but my memories on that are hazy.

    The last image is, I think, the same ruleset, only with different art and some minor differences in box contents; I don't remember the black box having miniatures, for example, but it did have an odd hybrid of a GM screen and a second rulebook.

  5. Hmm, I might be incorrect. the Elmore cover Red Box set looks to be the best seller.
    Apparently it is very difficult to get accurate sales numbers.

  6. A friend gave me that latter edition a few years ago. Like Kelvin says, itt's a sort of reprint of that black box you mention. Its shelved between an anniversary edition and AD&D First Quest. All of them have floor plans and gimmicks. I'm always surprised how many people rave about Dragon Quest - which must have been very late on. The problem with defining editions is that so many D&D box sets right up to present day are meant as gateway games (B/X vs AD&D debates aside)

  7. Edit: I mean "Dragon Strike". Swapped some notes about less famous sets in a forum - trying to copy links but this iPad has just gone mental.

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  9. That black box was there I got my start, and that red dragon? That's always been D&D to me!