D&D General Did D&D Die with TSR?

Retreater

Legend
I was going to post this in one of the celebratory threads about the 20th anniversary of 3rd edition, and decided that it was too tangential and thread-cappy to go there. So I am putting it in its own thread so we can discuss (if you feel like it).

I'm not an expert historian about TTRPGs and I've only been in the hobby since the late 1980s, so there's much about the early days I don't know. The original lineage of D&D seems to be OD&D (1974) going through the BECMI line into the mid-90s or so (with some slight revisions, but being mostly backwards compatible and compatible with AD&D). Then AD&D 1e was released in 1977 and was only slightly changed in 2e, which lasted until 2000 (when 3rd edition was released). 3rd edition was such a departure in gameplay that it had no connection or compatibility between any of the previous editions.

Besides a few mentions of IP and repetition of similar fantasy tropes, there was essentially no connection between 3rd edition and any other TSR product. It seemed like the same amount of difference between West End Games' d6 Star Wars and the system created by Fantasy Flight.

Here are some of the biggest differences that I was hung up on when first learning 3rd edition:
1) tactical movement on a grid
2) attacks of opportunity (for nearly everything)
3) feats
4) class "balance"
5) Challenge Rating
6) 0-level spells, cantrips, and ever-present spells
7) prestige classes
8) the d20 DC system for skills (that took away all DM rulings, as everything was codified)
9) character wealth by level baked into the system

The game looked different too. The art style was no longer based in fantasy illustrations, rather than "this is D&D 'dungeon punk' and it can't represent a character from history, fantasy fiction, etc."

I'm not presenting this as a value judgment. I like things about 3.x - the present. But it seems to be that the game forever shifted in 3rd edition. I can't even run the games in the style I used to 20 years ago or play characters the same way. I don't think anyone does in modern D&D.

Anyone else realizing this?
 

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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
A few brief notes-

I'm not an expert historian about TTRPGs and I've only been in the hobby since the late 1980s, so there's much about the early days I don't know. The original lineage of D&D seems to be OD&D (1974) going through the BECMI line into the mid-90s or so (with some slight revisions, but being mostly backwards compatible and compatible with AD&D). Then AD&D 1e was released in 1977 and was only slightly changed in 2e, which lasted until 2000 (when 3rd edition was released). 3rd edition was such a departure in gameplay that it had no connection or compatibility between any of the previous editions.


It's more accurate to say that the "original lineage" is:
OD&D - Holmes Basic - AD&D (1e) - 2e

There was a separate, compatible line:
B/X - BECMI - RC

Terms here-

3e was a break from that. I wouldn't say D&D "died" with 3e, but 3e was substantially different than what came before; in essence, it kept a lot of the "fluff" and "lore" while it re-worked the underlying mechanics.

I would say that 5e is probably closer to TSR-era D&D that any version of D&D has been since 3e came out.

All of this has a Ship of Theseus quality to it; at what point is D&D no longer D&D?
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Here are some of the biggest differences that I was hung up on when first learning 3rd edition:
1) tactical movement on a grid
2) attacks of opportunity (for nearly everything)
3) feats
4) class "balance"
5) Challenge Rating
6) 0-level spells, cantrips, and ever-present spells
7) prestige classes
8) the d20 DC system for skills (that took away all DM rulings, as everything was codified)
9) character wealth by level baked into the system
But I can write a list of similarities twice that length.

Besides a few mentions of IP and repetition of similar fantasy tropes, there was essentially no connection between 3rd edition and any other TSR product. It seemed like the same amount of difference between West End Games' d6 Star Wars and the system created by Fantasy Flight.

I really don't see it like you do. Levels, classes, hit points, AC, alignment, the monsters, spells, settings, and a bunch of other D&D sacred cows, the list goes on and on. The claim that "there was essentially no connection between 3rd edition and any other TSR product" is one that bewilders me.
 


Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Maybe I don't play 3.5 or 5 enough by RAW...
(1) doesn't feel like it changed that much for me, but I could be misremembering
(4) and the cantrips of (6) feel like a plus at the low levels and I don't play often past 10th
I pretty much ignore (5), (7), and (9) and do that like I always have
And there seem to be lots of places where I give players flexibility on (8) when I ask them to pick between rolls or the like.

I think I personally find 3.5 not that different from the spirit of 2e.
We played a game of 1 a few years ago... there were parts that seemed just painful in spite of all the years I happily played it and B/X.

After an unhappy dabble in 4, a meh dabble in 13th age... with 5e, I can definitely see where you sense a drift given how 3.5 to 5 feels to me. The short rest recharge and being much better in combat at low levels is being hard for me to get used to.
 
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werecorpse

Adventurer
So have you played 5e?

edit: sorry a longer response. I ask because 5e has scaled back on a lot of your list of 3e differences.

But in answer. No it didn’t. I started a D&D (mostly 1e) campaign in about 1993 which ran until 2008 and changed over to 3 then 3.5 during the early 2000’s it was similar to the one I ran from the early 80’s in style. Sure the rules were different but the feel of the game was very similar. The bigger change was a game that had to fit in with work vs a game that fitted in with high school and university.

been running a 5e campaign since 2015 it’s pretty similar style as well. Memorising spells, very diverse cast of monsters and planes, magic items that do similar stuff (+x swords, boots of speed, cloak of displacement etc) the background fluff is pretty similar.

They are very noticeably D&D. They have a different feel to when I’ve run multi year fantasy Savage world or Runequest campaigns
 
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dave2008

Legend
I can't even run the games in the style I used to 20 years ago or play characters the same way. I don't think anyone does in modern D&D.
That is not my experience. I've played with the same group of guys (mostly) since highschool in the '80s. We learned on a mixture of AD&D 1e and BECMI. We didn't jump ship until 4e came out and then 5e. Different editions, but we played the game almost exactly the same way in each. Only minor differences to incorporate some new rules here and there. But we go about our adventures pretty much exactly like we did with 1e.
 
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Cadence

Legend
Supporter
It's more accurate to say that the "original lineage" is:
OD&D - Holmes Basic - AD&D (1e) - 2e

There was a separate, compatible line:
B/X - BECMI - RC

There was a point in the very early 80s where between eight and twenty of us would play at a local comic/book/record shop, ranging from middle school age to older folks who had played from the earliest days. Some players using OD&D, some B/X, some AD&D, and I don't know what the DM was using. And it all worked fine together. It feels like a 2e showing up at the table might have broken things. 3e certainly would have!!
 

Oofta

Legend
It felt like the same game to me with simplified math and some more concrete options.

I guess I don't understand the point though. Every edition has felt a little different in mechanical bits and fobs. The stories I tell haven't really changed. The themes are the same. To me it feels like we're playing the same game. Yeah, my dwarf can be a wizard now, but he's still a dwarf.

Then again, did anyone play the older versions by the rules? I remember there being a whole lot of "house rules" aka "there were no rules so you just kind of made it up as we went along."
 

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