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D&D General Did D&D Die with TSR?


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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Typically when I see someone state a split at 3e, I mostly see it as a split between 0e-2e "paragraphs and tables" and 3e-5e "sentences and formulas".

It's the same game just presented, calculated, and referrenced differently. Instead of a feat (chain), you'd get a whoole new class or kit. Instead d20s, you used d100s. etc etc
 

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

Most of those things were present in earlier versions of D&D, just not codified or standardized. They were either optional rules, unspoken assumptions, or present in at least one prior edition of D&D.

Tactical movement on a grid had always been a part of D&D, as an optional rule or style of play. There was even a major 2e sourcebook devoted to it (Player's Option: Combat and Tactics), and the game itself emerged from tactical wargames, so the idea of playing it out as a tactical game with minis dates to the beginning. It was just more of a presumption in 3e instead of an option.

Feats existed in 2e as Non-Weapon Proficiencies. While NWP's were originally introduced into AD&D 1e as a skill system, there were a LOT of NWP's introduced in various 2e supplements that would be thought of as equivalent to a feat now, like ones that allowed fighters to make special fattacks, or would give Wizards or Clerics special abilities when casting. The feat system was part of splitting NWP's into skills that you could improve as you level, and special abilities that you had or didn't have.

Class balance was always a concept in the game, but it wasn't focused on much before 3e. That's why different classes had different XP tables, the idea that more powerful classes would need more XP to level up. It didn't work very well in the first place, and by 2000 was generally seen as incredibly outdated and archaic, hence a new approach was taken.

0 level spells existed in 1e, they were removed in 2e as an attempt to streamline the game, and put back in 3rd edition.

The 1st edition Bard was what we'd now call a Prestige Class, requiring dual-classing through several classes before adopting the Bard class well into the campaign.

You think 3e didn't have DM rulings? Did you really never see DM's have to make a ruling on things at a 3e table? I saw a LOT of really bad DM rulings at 2e tables, usually because some player came up with a torturously bad reading of the description of a spell and was trying to exploit a loophole in the wording of something. 3e tried to think ahead and prevent those unnecessary chances for bad rulings by spelling things out with a consistent system, instead of vague guidelines that turn the game from a contest of wills between DM and player.

There was already unspoken, uncodified concepts of wealth-by level. AD&D had lots of monsters that needed weapons with a specific amount of "plusses" on their weapon to even damage, and if you were high enough level to be able to fight them, the game had an unwritten assumption you'd have weapons of that power. . .but if it isn't spelled out, then the DM might not be giving you enough gear in treasure distribution to fight them effectively, or by the other token, you could be getting insane "Monty Haul" loads of treasure. It ended the nonsense of starting character in a new game at above 1st level, but only getting starting gear, because there was no rule for what a character above 1st level should get (I had this happen a LOT in 2e, where DM's would say you just get basic starting gear, even if your character is 10th or 12th level starting the campaign, because there was no rule otherwise).
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I'm skeptical. I think the major shift happened during late 2e with the introduction of Skills and Power and Combat and Tactics. So many of 3e's developments came from those two books. Early and late 2e are two completely different games.

I suspect a minority of people actually adopted the PO books, so I don’t think they changed a lot of 2e groups’ games. But what they do illustrate how much of what would become 3e was under development at TSR, years before the WotC rescue.
 


6ENow!

The Game Is Over
@Retreater

Yes, I understand your views and I would agree D&D died with TSR.

This "new" D&D is like a PC being reincarnated, though, IMO. It is similar, but things are different. The feel is not the same, it seems more "super-hero"-like by default, more generic (in some ways), and such.

As to those who discuss 5E's popularity and such nowadays, I think that has a lot more to do with the internet being much more prevalent than in the 80's and even the 90's. You have more mainstream exposure and so it isn't seen as much as a "nerd's" game as it was before.

Whether the version is simpler to learn, easier to play, etc. is immaterial in a lot of ways because the Basic D&D was also very easy to learn and play. Many of us older players started as young as 5 y.o. with older siblings showing us the game. Now, young kids are also playing 5E.

There is a lot of stuff I've liked since 3E to 5E, but the game feels different to me, certainly. Most of the meat is still there, but now the dressings are different, and so it has a different "taste". Agreed, not better or worse--just different flavor. :)
 

jgsugden

Legend
It is vastly improved over prior editions.
It is more efficient and better balanced. but some of that balance and efficiency hinders the storytelling as the game has reduced to a strategy and tactics game for many players, while players in the 70s, 80s and 90s often experienced deeper role playing because the strategy game was less engaging. I would not go back to a prior edition by choice, but they were a good breeding ground to encourage the storytelling aspects of role playing.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
But it seems to be that the game forever shifted in 3rd edition.

With respect, the game has always been shifting. There's actually a big shift between 1e and 2e. There was a shift between Basic and 1e. It is just that those shifts were made when the hobby was young, and we were young, and not set in our ways - our very lives were shifting too, after all

I can't even run the games in the style I used to 20 years ago or play characters the same way.

The iPhone was first introduced in 2006. We don't even make phone calls the way we used to 20 years ago! And you figure a hobby game should be static over decades? The only constant is change.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Can't say that I agree. I believe that 5e courted OSR briefly at the beginning of its market life, but then reneged on that once it garnered immense popularity, particularly among more mainstream audiences. It undoubtedly brought a number of prior gamers back, but that doesn't really mean that it consumed the OSR movement. Though 5e appeals to some people who like the older editions of D&D (from which OSR draws inspiration) - mainly those with the understanding of OSR as "rulings not rules" and more streamlined classes/rules - there is a LOT about 5e that still feels antithetical to OSR movement. (Hello, adventure path design.) So I'm not really sure how much of the OSR that 5e actually consumed as the OSR indie scene is still strong and kicking. OSR is arguably stronger now than it was at the time that 5e was released.

I agree with this. In the beginning during NEXT playtests, the OSR was courted with "here's a basic fighter class, and look at us redoing a 5e version of Against the Slave Lords classic module!"

But there hasn't been anything since. Every book and UA brought more complexity, so clearly the champion was just a token nod to OSR fans and they have no desire to have other classes that are streamlined. And as you mention, the adventure design is nothing like OSR; the short 1-2 session adventures that you could cobble together easily don't really exist outside of AL, as they are all larger campaign books. It's also extremely less deadly and gritty than OSR, even with optional rules. OSR also is heavily influenced by mature themes, and 5e is going the opposite (a better business decision IMO, anyway)

I really like 5e, but it has not absorbed the OSR at all.


You know what? Let's go even further here!

D&D DIDN'T "DIE" WITH 3E! D&D WAS ACTUALLY BORN WITH 3E!

Up until 3E, we had this amorphus blob of a thing lying within an amniotic sack that was nothing more than a bunch of disparate rule cells that needed to spend years gestating in order to eventually be born as a fully-formed creature! WotC was the obstetrician that helped give birth to D&D!

There we go! Let's see how that hot take plays to the cheap seats! ;)

It won't go over very well because Basic existed prior to 3e, and it was none of those things. It was easy to learn and streamlined. ;)
 

Voadam

Legend
Skills is a big change. Everything is codified. You are proficient in something or not. Everything is listed with your chance to jump, for example. Or your ability to recognize history. I don't feel like this would've even been a thing when I played TSR-era D&D. The DM would've told the sage what he or she recognized without a check. In this way, it's completely taken out of the DM's hands. Player makes a roll - whether or not they can identify it. They get a bad roll, and the DM can't share the information even if it's important. They get a good roll, and the DM has to give information that is unplanned or insignificant if it's unimportant.
TSR D&D varied. :)

The 2e Player's Handbook had jumping, ancient history, and local history nonweapon proficiencies.

Jumping: The character can attempt exceptional leaps
both vertically and horizontally. If the character has at least a
20-foot running start, he can leap (broad jump) 2d6+his
level in feet. No character can broad jump more than six
times his height, however. With the same start, he can leap
vertically (high jump) 1d3 plus half his level in feet. No character
can high jump more than 11⁄2 times his own height.
From a standing start, a character with this proficiency can
broad jump 1d6 plus half his level in feet and high jump only
3 feet.
The character can also attempt vaults using a pole. A vault
requires at least a 30-foot running start. If a pole is used, it
must be 4 to 10 feet longer than the character’s height. The
vault spans a distance equal to 11⁄2 times the length of the
pole. The character can clear heights equal to the height of
the pole. He can also choose to land on his feet if the vault
carries him over an obstacle no higher than 1⁄2 the height of his
pole. Thus, using a 12-foot pole, the character could either
vault through a window 12 feet off the ground (tumbling into
the room beyond), land on his feet in an opening 6 feet off
the ground, or vault across a moat 18 feet wide. In all cases,
the pole is dropped at the end of the vault.

Ancient History: The character has learned the legends,
lore, and history of some ancient time and place. The knowledge
must be specific, just as a historian would specialize
today in the English Middle Ages, the Italian Renaissance, or
the Roman Republic before Caesar. (The DM either can have
ancient periods in mind for his game or can allow the players
to name and designate them.) Thus, a player character could
know details about the Age of Thorac Dragonking or the Time
of the Sea-Raiders or whatever else was available.
The knowledge acquired gives the character familiarity
with the principal legends, historical events, characters, locations,
battles, breakthroughs (scientific, cultural, and magical),
unsolved mysteries, crafts, and oddities of the time. The character
must roll a proficiency check to identify places or things
he encounters from that age. For example, Rath knows quite
a bit about the Coming of the Trolls, a particularly dark period
of dwarven history. Moving through some deep caverns, he
and his companions stumble across an ancient portal, sealed
for untold ages. Studying the handiwork, he realizes (rolls a
successful proficiency check) that it bears several seals similar
to those he has seen on “banned” portals from the time of
Angnar, doorways to the legendary realm of Trolhel.

Local History: The character is a storehouse of facts about
the history of a region the size of a large county or a small
province. The character knows when the ruined tower on the
hill was built and who built it (and what happened to him),
what great heroes and villains fought and fell at the old battlefield,
what great treasure is supposed to be kept in a local
temple, how the mayor of the next town miraculously grew
hair on his balding pate, and more.
The DM will provide information about local sites and
events as the character needs to know them. Furthermore,
the character can try to retell these events as entertaining
stories. Once the subject is chosen, he can either make a
proficiency check and, if successful, add that tale to his repertoire,
or actually tell the story to other characters. If the character
succeeds in entertaining them, the player need not
make a proficiency roll for the character, since he has succeeded.
The character can tell these stories to entertain others,
granting him a +2 bonus to his Charisma for the
encounter. But telling stories to hostile beings is probably not
going to do any good.
 


teitan

Hero
Can't say that I agree. I believe that 5e courted OSR briefly at the beginning of its market life, but then reneged on that once it garnered immense popularity, particularly among more mainstream audiences. It undoubtedly brought a number of prior gamers back, but that doesn't really mean that it consumed the OSR movement. Though 5e appeals to some people who like the older editions of D&D (from which OSR draws inspiration) - mainly those with the understanding of OSR as "rulings not rules" and more streamlined classes/rules - there is a LOT about 5e that still feels antithetical to OSR movement. (Hello, adventure path design.) So I'm not really sure how much of the OSR that 5e actually consumed as the OSR indie scene is still strong and kicking. OSR is arguably stronger now than it was at the time that 5e was released.

While I agree to an extent, I don't really need more adventures, I also don't think adventures really define the D&D or OSR experience. Pinpointing adventure path design ignores T1-4 & DGQ as a complete story, especially in the compilations that collected module series together. They were proto-Adventure Paths.

I think moreso than 3 or 4e, that OSR style play is simpler and easier in 5e. Feats are an optional rule, easy to ignore, for example. There are optional rules in the DMG to change how healing works so that it is more old school and tactical combat is streamlined while also able to be robust or eliminated altogether in favor of theater of the mind.

There aren't a lot of rules supplements, they've barely changed since 5e first came out so I am not sure how they reneged on courting the OSR.
 

Aldarc

Legend
While I agree to an extent, I don't really need more adventures, I also don't think adventures really define the D&D or OSR experience. Pinpointing adventure path design ignores T1-4 & DGQ as a complete story, especially in the compilations that collected module series together. They were proto-Adventure Paths.

I think moreso than 3 or 4e, that OSR style play is simpler and easier in 5e. Feats are an optional rule, easy to ignore, for example. There are optional rules in the DMG to change how healing works so that it is more old school and tactical combat is streamlined while also able to be robust or eliminated altogether in favor of theater of the mind.

There aren't a lot of rules supplements, they've barely changed since 5e first came out so I am not sure how they reneged on courting the OSR.
In contrast, I would say that adventure/encounter design is a key aspect of what distinguishes OSR from 5e, which is pretty clear from reading the Principia Apocrypha.

Combat in 5e tends to be more sport than war. Regardless of the dials and knobs available, the standard 5e game is not widely regarded as particularly deadly. The game attempts to create more balanced combat encounters. Adventure designs in 5e are fairly linear while OSR highly resists (and was formed in response to) "GM as author": this is one reason why OSR is obsessed with randomized tables and non-linear dungeons. If encounters, rooms, and loot are randomized or non-linear, then the GM is less able to impose a story on the PCs. While feats are optional, they are also a default part of organized play. 5e also gives preference for character skill > player skill, and OSR people would probably say that 5e encourages players to look on their character sheet for the answer. This is why I said that if one's understanding of OSR merely amounts to simplified classes or "rulings not rules," then those people may have been consumed by 5e, but not the actual OSR movement itself.
 

teitan

Hero
In contrast, I would say that adventure/encounter design is a key aspect of what distinguishes OSR from 5e, which is pretty clear from reading the Principia Apocrypha.

Combat in 5e tends to be more sport than war. Regardless of the dials and knobs available, the standard 5e game is not widely regarded as particularly deadly. The game attempts to create more balanced combat encounters. Adventure designs in 5e are fairly linear while OSR highly resists (and was formed in response to) "GM as author": this is one reason why OSR is obsessed with randomized tables and non-linear dungeons. If encounters, rooms, and loot are randomized or non-linear, then the GM is less able to impose a story on the PCs. While feats are optional, they are also a default part of organized play. 5e also gives preference for character skill > player skill, and OSR people would probably say that 5e encourages players to look on their character sheet for the answer. This is why I said that if one's understanding of OSR merely amounts to simplified classes or "rulings not rules," then those people may have been consumed by 5e, but not the actual OSR movement itself.

I can agree with all that but again point out that there are rules dials in the DMG to bring 5e in line with OSR style play. The emphasis on DM as author, as you call it, is a matter of style and is really just how the game has always been played anyway. WOTC has doubled down on “seasons” like video games and TV shows in the form of the adventures but that doesn’t affect the rules themself or their usability for OSR play. Much like similar criticism of 4e I think some criticisms like these fall flat. Play styles fall to the group especially in a game that does indeed have the options to support those styles of play right out of the box without buying any special supplements. It’s all right there.
 



Campbell

Legend
I can only speak for myself.

From my perspective Fifth Edition is not a very good dungeon crawler. Combat is not decisive enough. Spellcasters are too flexible. Monsters do not have compelling weaknesses or many long lasting negative effects. It lacks crucial features like exploration turns, morale, and reaction rolls. It's implementation of magic items runs counter to treasure oriented dungeon crawls.

Of modern versions here's how I would rank them for dungeon crawling:

  1. Pathfinder 2
  2. Third Edition / Pathfinder
  3. Fifth Edition
  4. Fourth Edition
  5. 13th Age
Of course none of these hold a candle to Old School Essentials, Beyond the Wall, DCC, Into The Odd, The Nightmares Underneath, or Freebooters on the Frontier.
 

teitan

Hero
I can only speak for myself.

From my perspective Fifth Edition is not a very good dungeon crawler. Combat is not decisive enough. Spellcasters are too flexible. Monsters do not have compelling weaknesses or many long lasting negative effects. It lacks crucial features like exploration turns, morale, and reaction rolls. It's implementation of magic items runs counter to treasure oriented dungeon crawls.

Of modern versions here's how I would rank them for dungeon crawling:

  1. Pathfinder 2
  2. Third Edition / Pathfinder
  3. Fifth Edition
  4. Fourth Edition
  5. 13th Age
Of course none of these hold a candle to Old School Essentials, Beyond the Wall, DCC, Into The Odd, The Nightmares Underneath, or Freebooters on the Frontier.

Ya know my own rankings would be more like this, not to cause a debate but because comparing lists is fun

1. OD&D with Supplements/AD&D1e (purely nostalgia)
2. 5E (with the right dials it lets me play any of the other types of D&D)
3. 3e, as in 3.0, because it was the last time we had "pure" D&D, to my experience, until 5E came out.
4. 4e because it was a damn fine game, well thought out in it's final form. It was like the TV show Angel, started out a bit rough but with a few tweaks to the cast it became a great game but just like ANgel it was cancelled once they figured out exactly what to do with the series. The core products and lore were great! The early adventures not so much, predictable, messy and meh.
5. 3.5/Pathfinder because I got burnt out on 3.5 not long before 4e was announced.
6. 2e because it was a mess.
 

Enrico Poli1

Adventurer
Anti-inclusive content
One could say D&D died with Gygax being fired.
One could say D&D died with TSR, and the d20 system.
One could say D&D died with 4e.

My experience of D&D is one of roleplaying high fantasy tales. I was served well by most of the rulesets: BECMI, AD&D2, D&D3.5, 5e. Just now, D&D is - or could be - better than ever. So, it is alive!

However, all this leftist talk about inclusivity could kill the core experience. So, it is inclusivity that is currently menacing the hobby (just like Star Wars franchise was killed by woke culture).

Please some moderator label this post as non-inclusive! It would be and honor!
 

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