The Analog Gamer: Edition Wars

The Analog Gamer

First things first, let’s all take a minute to wish happy birthday to the 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. It’s been a year, and Wizards of the Coast has made great progress in the promotion and expansion of 4E.

Now, as you may have noticed, your usual Analog Gamer columnist, Shawn Sines, has graciously allowed me to step in this week and provide you with your weekly tabletop gaming fix. He’s done this because I have an axe to grind, and a point I want to make.

As a fairly avid player of Dungeons & Dragons, I tend to frequent a number of message boards dedicated to the hobby. In the year that 4E has been on the market, I have seen one thing on all these boards that really gets on my nerves: fights and arguments between players over which edition of D&D is the ‘best’ edition.

Here’s a news flash, people: There are multiple editions of D&D that are ‘the best.’ How can there be more than one ‘best’ at anything? Read on and see….

dnd4e_phb_coverYou see, I firmly believe that whatever edition of D&D you play, as long as you are happy with it and having fun, that’s the best edition for you. If you’re a long-time player of 2E, and you don’t enjoy 4E, no one is forcing you to play it. Conversely, if you’re playing 4E and loving it, more power to you! Your decision to play a particular tabletop game, be it D&D, Pathfinder, Traveller, or any other RPG, is yours. Make the one that makes you happy.

Sure, 4E is different from previous editions (although not as much as people like to pretend). That doesn’t mean that people who play it aren’t having fun. They are, just like you’re enjoying your game, whatever edition you may be playing. I’ve enjoyed all the editions of D&D, and I continue to have fun with them up to this very day.

None of this, however, means that you should be criticizing my choice, or anyone else’s choice. Be happy that many people are supporting all types of tabletop role playing, and that your hobby is growing. More players means more games, and more games mean more support from publishers. Everyone wins.

2e_dmgThese ‘Edition Wars’ are no different from playground fights over whether Batman or Superman would win in a fight. They’re just as childish, and just as pointless. If you’re participating in these arguments, you’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Can’t we all agree on this? Is there really any benefit to continuing this infantile behavior? If there is, please, comment and tell me what possible goal you’re trying to achieve with this, as I can’t discern any positive outcome from it. Sure, it may inflate the ego of the people perpetuating it, or perhaps make them feel more ‘authentic’ or ‘old-school,’ but the reality is that these types of arguments smack of elitism on all sides.

In the end, we’re all grown ups (supposedly), and we should be able to allow everyone to enjoy the hobby in the way they see fit. If not, I fear for the future of tabletop as a hobby. After all, the idea of tabletop role playing is that a group of friends will sit down around a table together to have fun adventuring. If you can’t even chat in a civil manner with other D&D players, then you’re missing the point. In short, GROW UP!

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4 Comments on The Analog Gamer: Edition Wars


On June 11, 2009 at 9:23 am

Yep, good points. For the record, though, Superman would win, original Traveller is the best, and D&D 4E is … wait. *Actually reads article and realization dawns* Ye-eah, okay, I see what you’re saying. ;-)


On June 11, 2009 at 10:25 am

The anti-”edition war” backlash often, as above, fails to acknowledge the legitimate conversations taking place about what’s different in 4e, why people are viscerally reacting the way they are about it in such large numbers, and what we can learn about roleplaying design and play from its example. Don’t paint all theory discussions with the same broad brush.

I haven’t seen much edition warring going on where I hang out online (or at my own site, where I’ve been engaging in these discussions); these days it’s morphed into more theoretical discussions about definitions of roleplaying and how specific rules systems support or don’t support various gaming philosophies. These are useful and productive discussions, but it’s easy to see how 4e players would be on the defensive after what they’ve been going through.


Ron Whitaker

On June 11, 2009 at 3:50 pm

You are correct in saying that there are reasons people are reacting, but that doesn’t justify the visceral discussions some people are having. Theoretical discussion is absolutely fine. I’ll happily engage in the theoretical discussion of 4e, and where I’d like to see things be a bit different.

The difference is that I don’t chalk up my edition of choice as being ‘the best,’ or engaging in hyperbole to attempt to make some point. That’s the problem I was referring to, not those who have well-reasoned discussions.


On June 12, 2009 at 11:13 am

Your arguments are correct factually, but they miss one very important point that alters the conclusion. Publishers tend not to re-print earlier editions. Therefore if somebody prefers an earlier edition, it will be harder for him/her to get their hands on a copy, and is the old edition will not have further supplements added published for it. While we certainly all need to be civil about our discussions, and multiple versions of a game is generally a plus, publishers are forcing us to conform to later editions – often unintentionally.