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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
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

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
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."
 

darjr

I crit!
Also feats stood in for a few things that were cumbersome in 2e but some of the ideas were there. The same with skills. 3e compared to its contemporaries is a very different game it also makes D&Ds heritage clearer. Also didn’t the 3.0 PHB lack a grid for the combat examples?
 

Stormonu

Legend
There's always someone to say that D&D died with X edition.

Considering that 3E came out with a conversion guide on the day of release, I wouldn't say D&D died there. It was a revolution moreso than an evolution, but it was mostly a beneficial codification and reorganization of the rules.

As to your list:

Here are some of the biggest differences that I was hung up on when first learning 3rd edition:
1) tactical movement on a grid [I used this back to the day when I first got into D&D back in about '80]
2) attacks of opportunity (for nearly everything) [Again, used as far back as AD&D at least, just named]
3) feats [Now those were new]
4) class "balance" [in older editions, different XP to level was the balancing point. 3E had trouble overall with balance, especially past 6th level or so - fighters drool and wizards are cool & codzilla and all that]
5) Challenge Rating [old editions used HD/XP to sorta try and sort things out by difficulty, this was new though]
6) 0-level spells, cantrips, and ever-present spells [0-level/cantrips go as far back as Unearthed Arcana in 1E]
7) prestige classes
8) the d20 DC system for skills (that took away all DM rulings, as everything was codified) [this was an evolution of non-weapon proficiencies, which go all the way back to late 1E (Dungeoneer's Survival Guide); it was simply changed to roll high instead of roll low and became required instead of optional]
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
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

<snip>

Anyone else realizing this?
It's definitely a generational shift, but it's not like all of those 9 things were brand spanking new with 3e.
1) Tactical movement on a grid was already part of the game considering it came from miniatures, had scales associated with miniatures, facing rules based on both square and hex grids, and grid combat in Player's Option: Combat and Tactics.
2) AoOs existed for the special case of fleeing a melee since at least 1e, PO: C&T expanded on them with threatened spaces and other triggers for AoO
3) feats = weapon proficiencies for the most part, and both OA and the Celts book introduced some things like martial arts maneuvers and Salmon Leaps that could be bought as special moves
4) class balance was just balance around a different metric as evidenced by different XPs for each class to advance (though it didn't work very well)
5) CR was a refinement of monster levels
6) cantrips were introduced in UA, though the implementation was a bit different
7) the 1e bard was essentially a prestige class
8) Yeah - this was a pretty significant change. Made them use, essentially, the same mechanic as hitting something in combat. It does make the game easier to learn, but WAY too much is made about it not allowing DM rulings. Player who were savvy with the rules were already lawyering the heck out of things if a DM let them. 3e just put more info out there in the players' hands by default.
9) Some elements of character wealth was already assumed by the system - wealth by level just made it visible and gave DMs a way to pace it (or deviate from the expected pacing if they so chose).

Basically, most of that stuff was a further development of ideas already percolating around TSR before they stopped being able to pay the printer. I'd even argue that none of those elements were the most far-reaching changes in how the game ends up being played - though 9 touches on it. Changes in magic items and their ease of creation/purchase blow all of those changes out of the water when it comes to the game being significantly different.
 

monsmord

Explorer
I've been with it almost since the beginning, less 4e (and probably only because our group had invested too much and too recently into the earlier editions). If our play style changed, it was due to growing up (well, that's up for debate), and exposure to other games (Amber, classic Marvel, ICE, WoD 1e, etc.) As new D&D editions came out, the min-maxers kept min-maxing, strategists kept strategizing, those looking for exotica found it, etc. The rules have been almost irrelevant, except as a basis to argue over interpretation. D&D mechanics weren't an issue - rolling high, rolling low, hexes, squares, whatever, was all the same to us. Nor was the art more than mildly inspirational. And, like most tables, we had house rules and settings going. No, we just got older, family-ified, some of us wiser, we interacted with new gamers with their own styles, all that. At the core, it's always been D&D for us - the flavor remained, just the crunch differed.
 

cbwjm

Hero
We still played 3e like it was 2e, it had some great improvements to the old game streamlining everything into the d20+modifier vs AC/DC. I thought feats were great because they split previous proficiencies into a new option rather than relying on your proficiency slots to pick up as in 2e. I think all 3e really did was streamline everything, there were still things I preferred from 2e, but overall, 3e just seemed like a continuation of the evolution of DnD.
 

D&D changed. That's what happens when time passes. It changed under TSR, too. And you'll notice plenty of people claiming that "real D&D" is AD&D 1e, or BECMI, or whatever. It's exactly the same as how the version of [Your Favorite Superhero] from when you were 13 will forever been the "real" version to you.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
With apologies to Billy Joel...

What's the matter with the dice I'm rolling?​
Can't you tell that you always want to roll high?​
Maybe I should fight some old school monsters?​
We all attack in order to stay alive​
Where have you been gamin' dude lately, sonny?​
You can't be this nerdy till you spend a lot of money​
Everybody's talkin' 'bout the new game​
Funny, but it's still D&D to me​
 

Voadam

Hero
Here are some of the biggest differences that I was hung up on when first learning 3rd edition:
Most of these were here in one form or another before.
1) tactical movement on a grid
You always had distance moved in a round and 1e had tactical things like which side your shield was on versus your attacker's attack and attacking from behind as considerations.
2) attacks of opportunity (for nearly everything)
Retreating without a strategic withdrawal and 1e casting in melee come to mind.
Oriental Adventures with Martial Arts and Proficiencies and then nonweapon proficiencies in Dungeoneer's Survival Guide and then 2e.
4) class "balance"
The xp charts, stat requirements, and comparative strength at low level versus high levels were (poor IMO) attempts at this in old D&D.
5) Challenge Rating
Monster Level charts in 1e.
6) 0-level spells, cantrips, and ever-present spells
Unearthed Arcana 0 level cantrips.
7) prestige classes
Bards and Knights of Krynn.
8) the d20 DC system for skills (that took away all DM rulings, as everything was codified).
Nonweapon proficiencies that were a d20 roll under instead of up system. Thief Skills. Detecting secret doors. Bending Bars and lifting gates.
9) character wealth by level baked into the system
Guidelines for how much magic NPCs at various levels should get were in the DMG.
 

Parmandur

Legend
I started with 3.x in college, with friends who had played 2E since Middle School. Going back to 2E to try it out latter was not problematic, it made a lot of sense actually.
 

Warpiglet-7

Explorer
With apologies to Billy Joel...

What's the matter with the dice I'm rolling?​
Can't you tell that you always want to roll high?​
Maybe I should fight some old school monsters?​
We all attack in order to stay alive​
Where have you been gamin' dude lately, sonny?​
You can't be this nerdy till you spend a lot of money​
Everybody's talkin' 'bout the new game​
Funny, but it's still D&D to me​
Of all the absurd things I was JUST thinking of this song in reference to D&D!
 

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