D&D General Expectations of Play by Edition (and How You Actually Did It)

Retreater

Legend
Are you kidding? I remember people complaining that 2e was "dumbed down" or "too video-gamey" and they blamed the gold box games. I distinctly remember people saying THAC0 was too much like the computer games and that it belonged there.
I remember my DM during the waning days of 2e complaining that the adventures were "being dumbed down" because they gave DM advice in the modules.

Is there anybody making the argument that 5e has any video game elements to it? I don't think I've ever come across that notion anywhere. Not a single comparison. Not to Skyrim, Zelda, Call of Duty, Mario, anything.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

payn

Legend
I remember my DM during the waning days of 2e complaining that the adventures were "being dumbed down" because they gave DM advice in the modules.

Is there anybody making the argument that 5e has any video game elements to it? I don't think I've ever come across that notion anywhere. Not a single comparison. Not to Skyrim, Zelda, Call of Duty, Mario, anything.
I havent either, though, I think it sort of died as a complaint. Folks overused it so its become like godwin now.
 

Plane Sailing

Astral Admin - Mwahahaha!
I would say that one distinction which you didn’t cover in your original post is this

AD&D 1e (and earlier) - expectation is that you start out dungeon bashing and wilderness crawling, but eventually build a castle/temple/tower, gather followers, and game transitions into something where you become a mover and shaker in a campaign. That’s why there are rules about building strongholds and attracting followers.

2e can’t comment

3e “back to the dungeon” - ditched all the world building stuff to concentrate on dungeon bashing In deeper dungeons - more of the same at every level.

4e same but with less consistency between opponents

5e can’t comment.

The fact that the early games had rules right there in the book for building strongholds telegraphed that the game could become more than just endless battles, and I think that was quite broadly embraced from what I remember people writing about at the time.
 

I probably consider my experience with OD&D most relevant because it wasn't colored by other editions (in some respects I played 3e like I did OD&D, sometimes to my regret), but its apparent intention wasn't really anything I thought about until years later.

As others have noted, there's solid evidence that it was written to be a treasure-quest at lower levels with some emphasis on avoiding combat and conflict as much as possible while doing this, and cooking the books as much as possible when it wasn't.

This, however, had only a marginal relationship with how the first two games of it I played ran, how I ran it, and how most other West Coast groups I saw ran it. There was still a great degree of dungeon delving and the like, and it was pretty treasure-centric, but the whole kind of caper-movie-with-swords-and-magic thing just wasn't there; henchmen were only used in minor ways, and the only time people would avoid a fight was if it was felt to be unheroic or otherwise undesirable on grounds besides danger. There was a lot more focus on playing characters in at least a quasi-heroic fashion than was apparently the original intent (which I've noted before they misrepresented in practice by the example characters they tended to used when describing it; you didn't see Conan or John Carter throwinging a lot of henchmen at a problem or running from a fight very often).
 

the Jester

Legend
So most of you are saying that the following have little to do with how you play: most of the corporate promotions, the advice given in the rulebooks, the printed adventure modules and campaign supplements, the articles written on websites and print periodicals, etc.?
And you're saying that your style of playing the game has remained unchanged across the lifespan of the hobby, without regards to which edition you were playing? That the rules system has little to no bearing on if you focus on combats, exploration, social situations? That the deadliness (or not) of the system has no impact on the scope or length of your campaigns?
I will say this: I am still running the same campaign that I have since about 1993, which connects back to my first campaign, which ended in a world-shaking event. So in essence, I have been running the same game since day 1 of my DMing career. That doesn't mean it has been the same pcs, or even all the same players, the whole time; but of my groups today, five of them go back to that original campaign setting.

Has the style of my game evolved with the editions? Well- to some extent. For instance, I definitely adopted 4e encounter design principles during the 4e era, and I loved building advanced-with-6-class-levels, 2-classes, 2-prestige-classes, 4-template, racial substitute levels included bad guys in 3e. But my overall playstyle preferences have remained largely the same despite edition changes (although they've changed over time as I have changed over time).

Anyway, the way I perceive different expected playstyles over the editions is roughly:

od&d- very much in the dungeon; highly lethal; challenges players more than characters. (Haven't played it, can't comment.)

B/X and/or BECMI- promotes evolution of adventuring over time (dungeon to outdoor to leadership roles); highly lethal; challenges players as much as characters. (Seems about right to me.)

1e- more adversarial play; strong enforcement of roles (e.g. alignment, using non proficient weapons, etc); crossover potential (GW, Boot Hill, etc); highly lethal; challenges players as much as characters. (Seems about right to me.)

2e- D&D is about good guys and stories; all settings are part of the multiverse; there's a metaplot imposed from above by TSR and the changes it makes are big enough to shake your campaign, if you choose to use them (e.g. fiends losing teleportation); moderately lethal; challenges characters more than players. (Not how I played it- f the metaplot, this is my game! And I kept monks and assassins, demons and devils, etc from 1e, even before some of that stuff got reintroduced as baatezu and tanar'ri.)

3e- the rules are there to simulate the world; very kit-bashy/toolboxy, with some options that are bad and some that are good, and some combos you have to plan from the very beginning; focus on enabling creativity; fairly complex; encourages system mastery; moderately lethal; challenges characters more than players. (I enjoyed what 3e offered in terms of customization, and had a great time writing custom material for my game- prestige classes, etc- which has transferred forward in one way or another. However, 3e had some serious flaws for my playstyle, including ubiquitous necessary magic items, obligatory tactics at high levels, slooooow play at high levels, etc).

4e- Eurostyle board game influence; big focus on teamwork and tactical play; extremely tight balance; the big thing is the encounter, not the campaign or the adventure; sloooow to play. (I embraced 4e's monster and encounter design philosophies, but tweaked it to support my playstyle rather than adjusting my style to fit 4e, at least as much as possible. There were certain things- you can't play ES@1 (Everyone Starts at First Level) in 4e or 3e, for instance.)

5e- D&D's Greatest Hits. Attempts to mine the best bits from all of D&D's history, although it was far too shy about pulling from 4e, IMHO. Emphasis on enabling multiple playstyles, with lots of nostalgia appeals. Does a very fine job of it. (Seems about right, re-enables ES@1, chef's kiss... It isn't perfect, but it's fast, fun, and easy to tweak.)
 

the Jester

Legend
I would say that one distinction which you didn’t cover in your original post is this

AD&D 1e (and earlier) - expectation is that you start out dungeon bashing and wilderness crawling, but eventually build a castle/temple/tower, gather followers, and game transitions into something where you become a mover and shaker in a campaign. That’s why there are rules about building strongholds and attracting followers.

2e can’t comment

3e “back to the dungeon” - ditched all the world building stuff to concentrate on dungeon bashing In deeper dungeons - more of the same at every level.

4e same but with less consistency between opponents

5e can’t comment.

The fact that the early games had rules right there in the book for building strongholds telegraphed that the game could become more than just endless battles, and I think that was quite broadly embraced from what I remember people writing about at the time.
I feel like you're ignoring Leadership for 3e- but you are definitely right that the game has largely moved away from followers (and both wargaming and domain rules) over time.

That said, there are a number of pcs who have become ennobled in my 5e game.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
So most of you are saying that the following have little to do with how you play: most of the corporate promotions, the advice given in the rulebooks, the printed adventure modules and campaign supplements, the articles written on websites and print periodicals, etc.?
The first time one plays, yes these do have an impact.

After that, the only impact that really matters are the lasting impressions from the first time you played; because that's the light that everything that follows will be filtered through.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Having a hard time distilling my older edition experiences down to a sentence or two, but here goes:

B/X: This was the game I essentially started with at a young age in school. Because of the attitude of other, older games I came away with the impression this was “a kid’s game”, to be abandoned as soon as you could afford the 1E rules. It always confused me why they put out product to such high levels, and I’d like one day to try and run a BECM(I) campaign. This was the game that wasn’t afraid to be goofy or silly - I waver on liking it and cringing at it in alternating moments.

1E: This was the rough stuff, DM vs. the Players. It was the DM’s duty to smack the players down, and the player’s duty to outwit the DM - kinda like Stalig 13 in many ways (Which may explain modules A3 & A4). Rules were, in the end, and absolute mish-mash of a conflicted mess, everything was experimental. I probably despise this edition the most because it made me a very adversarial DM.

2E: The sanitized game. This was the game of good vs. evil. Your characters were supposed to be the good guys, the rules were cleaned up and organized. There was tons of creativity with campaigns, but at the same time magic was smacked down or ignored in favor of the mundane. Rules wise, if I ran a retro game, this would be the ruleset I’d probably end up using, but ignoring the rules advice antiquated mindset.

3E: Rulapolooza. Options, options, options. To the point that you couldn’t do anything unless you had a feat or class ability that covered it. The game got bogged down in rule details. It also fed into the “fighters drool, wizard rules” problem, exasperating it from previous editions; either you had access to magic, or you sucked. Also, monsters were built like characters, and since you could use the rules to “level” them, they could get damn scary. After 10th level though, this game just broke - the Epic level handbook (as well as Deities and Demigods) turned me (further) off from high-level play. It was really the edition that voiced why I hated high-level D&D.

4E. TL;DR didn’t like this edition (even after 3 attempts)
Showcase fights. Big battles strung together by a thin veneer of plot. Everything changed, a string of dead sacred cows left in its wake. Won’t say much more than there is nothing I will miss from this edition.

5E. The Goldilocks edition. Not too hot, not too cold. Not too much one thing or the other. Very malleable and easy to work with prior edition material. It’s greatest strength is that it doesn’t lean too far into any direction, but that’s also its greatest failing.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top