D&D General 50 Years of D&D On a Single Chart

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
But....I love pie!!!! :rolleyes:

True. Pie is great as a treat, or as a metaphor.


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M.L. Martin

The transition from 1st to 2nd Edition was handled dramatically differently than WotC's typical "burn the previous editions before an idol of Gygax Mearls Tiamat Asmodeus and let them never be spoken of until years have passed and we need to play up the nostalgia." Magazine support continued for another two years (issue #170, June 1991, I think is the cutoff for the last 1E-specific article in DRAGON), the core books were still in print for another year, and many supplements for the edition remained in print until 1993.

And of course, the overlapping iterations of Basic, the concurrent runs of Basic and AD&D, and the fact that OD&D was (according to Lawrence Schick's intro to Heroic Worlds) kept in print for years after Basic was introduced because of popular demand for the original game, all contribute to further confusion. But then, would it be D&D if it were simple and straightforward? :)


Limit Break Dancing (He/They)
More pie! Because pie is delicious!

I've been playing D&D regularly since 1986...and here's how those years all break down, edition-wise.
  • Basic: Twelve and a half years. Mostly with Mentzer's BECMI boxed sets; I played a couple of the Moldvay's B/X modules (including the best adventure ever written for any edition, X1: The Isle of Dread.) I was forced to switch to the Rules Cyclopedia in the 90s, because TS&R took the Companion Rules out of print and I wanted to run CM1: Test of the Warlords. And I still run the occasional BECM game over Roll20, also with my old friends from middle school.
  • AD&D 2E: Three months. I joined a friend's AD&D campaign one summer in the early 90s, and didn't particularly enjoy it.
  • 3E/3.5E: the edition I've played the most, at 14 years. I started playing in 2000 the same year that 3E was released, then switched to 3.5E the same year it came out as well. When 4E was announced, we ran a few playtests and one-shots but we ended up staying with 3.5E or Pathfinder until 2013.
  • 4E: About six weeks, in total. I ran a few playtests with my gaming group, and when the final version was released I ran a single one-shot adventure.
  • 5E: Eleven years and counting.
  • There's also about ten years of gaps where I didn't play D&D at all. I was either working out of state or out of the country, studying at university, looking for a new group, that sort of thing,
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This will be 40 years for me. <Edit: Oops, can't count - 44 years>

My personal history
Holmes ('79~'82): I got this edition for Christmas, but the rules were mostly beyond my understanding. Didn't help when I lost the rulebook and only had B2 to reference. Also, since dice weren't allowed at school, we entirely narrated our games. Many plots were stolen from TV shows, movies, video games and the like, with D&D terms thrown in here and there.
Moldvay ('82-'84): A friend let me borrow his copy and I read the rules from cover to cover and actually started using them. The next year I bought about 20 modules off a friend and discovered that there was an Advanced version of the game. Sometime in '83 I picked up a flea market copy of the Moldvay books, Basic & Expert.
AD&D ('84-'89): As an 8th grade birthday present, I got myself the revised cover PHB & DMG (but not the MM - the DMG had abbreviated monster stats in it). As I transitioned to high school, I began to play more structured AD&D and over the years picked up more and more books until I had a pretty complete collection of the hardcovers and most of the modules. One significant note: If Dragonlance ('84) hadn't come out and absolutely captured my imagination, I probably would have dropped D&D in this timeframe.
2E ('89-'98): I picked up 2E as soon as it came out, took me about a month to consume the new rules. We were in the middle of a campaign at the time ("Link & Co."), and switched over to the new rules and finished that campaign out around '92 or so. I met my future wife in '93 and started a new group, we played until around '98 by which I had tired of 2E's quirks and was mostly playing Vampire. I still kept up with collecting D&D and had a subscription to Dragon, though. Oddly enough, I got an adventure published in Dungeon in #78, Jan/Feb 2000, just a little bit before 3E came out.
3E (2000-'09): I picked this up as soon as it was released and was playing once all the core books were out, and loved it. I was not enamored with the switch to 3.5, and stuck with 3.0 for about a year before switching.
4E ('08 ): Rubbed me the wrong way. Ran my group through Keep of the Shadowfell, and declared I wasn't going to DM for 4E any more. I played for about another three months with my group (as a player, something I hadn't done in 20-something years) before we dropped it for Pathfinder and several other RPGs I did (and still do) rotate between.
5E ('14): Started with the basic boxed set, and was instantly hooked. Been playing 5E ever since (though I've been slacking off buying "official" products for more and more 3PP since Tasha's)

I can't imagine my life without D&D in it, and for all its warts, I still love playing and running it.
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Its shocking how short the 3x and 4x eras were, compared to the dominance of the Basicx and AD&D eras were, and yet both 3x and 4e editions feel very complete, sometimes alot more then 5e.


Its shocking how short the 3x and 4x eras were, compared to the dominance of the Basicx and AD&D eras were, and yet both 3x and 4e editions feel very complete, sometimes alot more then 5e.
I'm pretty happy with about how long each edition lasted overall - about 8-10 years, with 4E/essentials being the shortest. However, trying to pin an age on Basic is kinda tough - it spans from OD&D, B/X, BECMI, Rules Cyclopedia, and Challenger versions, going from '72 to '94 (22 years?).

Most RPGs I've seen do a new edition only after a year or three - I think Call of Cthulhu is on like 12th (starting in '81), Shadowrun is on its 6th edition (starting in '89), for example. And don't get me started on GW...

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