D&D General Some Thoughts on Historical Edition Changes, and What that Portends for OneD&D

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Zeno: History doesn't always repeat, but it sometimes rhymes.

Achilles: Wait ... wistery? Mistery? BLISTERY! IT'S BLISTERY, ISN'T IT??

Zeno: ........ you make me cry like Prohibition, Achilles.


Anyway, I think that when we are peering into the crystal ball of nonsensical youtube conspiracy theories to determine what One D&D (5.5e, 6e, The One Edition to Rule Them All, etc.), it might be helpful to not look to the future, but instead ..... THE PAST. Specifically, what happened with prior edition changes and the transitions? The reason for this is revealed at the end of the post ... but a quick examination will provide some helpful clues as to the likely One Direction of One D&D (apologies to Harry Styles).

First, the EDITIONS. Note- I am not including the B/X and BECMI lines.
OD&D Original D&D, the 1974 rules (and supplements and other materials) until the released of AD&D. (1974-1979)
1e First Edition. (1979 - 1989)
2e Second Edition. (1989 - 2000)
3e & 3.5e Third Edition. (2000-2008)
4e Fourth Edition (2008-2014)
5e Fifth, or current, Edition (2014-?)

Briefly looking at the transitions between editions, we see the following.

1. OD&D to AD&D (1e).
The very first transition occurred relatively seamlessly. 1e was, essentially, late-period OD&D with all the bells, whistles, and house rules from Gygax included. It was OD&D turned up to 11, with additional material culled from, inter alia, Dragon Magazine. In essence, if you were keeping up with current play in D&D, AD&D was pretty much what you were already playing.

2. 1e to 2e.
Again, 2e was just 1e that had been cleaned up and had certain late-period (UA, OA, DSG, WSG) materials added in the materials (weapon specialization, NWPs).


3. 2e to 3e.
If you were playing late-period 2e, you were probably familiar with the all the various player-facing splat books (including the Player Options, which provided, inter alia, the ability to point-buy and more advanced combat & tactic options). While 3e substantially modernized the creaky-TSR era base, it also built on many of the ideas of late-period 2e.

4. 3e to 4e.
While this was a divisive change, it certainly wasn't unexpected to people who were following late-period 3.5e. After all, the designers that were responsible for such tomes like the Book of Nine Swords were also the same designers who brought you 4e.

5. 4e to 5e.
This might be a little less obvious; but again, a certain retrenchment and refinement in the form of Essentials was seen in 4e prior to the playtesting of 5e.


So what am I saying? Past is prologue; as a general rule, people act shocked with each edition (or ... non-edition change as the case may be for One D&D) but generally there is some amount of carryover between the design elements that began to pop up toward the end of the design's lifecycle and the new edition's (BOBBY BROWN!) design elements.

So for One D&D, you should expect that it will carry forth the design decision from Tasha's forward- and this will be completely unsurprising.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
You specifically left out the B/X and BECMI lines, but they still had an influence in that they made the 0e-1e and 1e-2e transitions much smoother and less jarring; as all three of those editions borrowed from, lent to, and-or overlapped with B/X and BECMI in their design, adventures, etc.

WotC-era transitions haven't had this softening influence.
 

Dausuul

Legend
I think you are rather understating the magnitude of some of these transitions. You are certainly correct that each edition change is foreshadowed by the late releases of the previous edition; but the late releases can't anticipate the biggest, most fundamental changes, because those changes are fundamental and can only be made in the context of a new edition.

None of late 2E's experiments with a la carte PC options could do more than hint at the grand overhaul of absolutely everything that came with 3E. The Book of Nine Swords signaled the movement of 4E toward discrete, "spell-like" martial powers and its tactical focus; but not the changes in approach -- the near-total split between fiction and mechanics, the rigid requirement for minis and battlemat, the standardized class structure, the sweeping revisions to the lore -- that made 4E so divisive. Likewise, Essentials signaled the return to varied class designs, but could not indicate the plan to roll back a lot of 4E's changes and return to a 3E chassis.

Now, 1D&D is not going to be anywhere near as drastic as all that. Pretty much everything we've seen in the playtest so far -- standardized subclass progressions, 1st-level feats, all regular feats getting a built-in +1 stat, floating stat mods -- was either introduced or at least hinted at in the last few years. Even so, the difference is substantial when these changes are integrated into the core rather than bolted on post hoc.
 


Voadam

Legend
1. OD&D to AD&D (1e).
The very first transition occurred relatively seamlessly. 1e was, essentially, late-period OD&D with all the bells, whistles, and house rules from Gygax included. It was OD&D turned up to 11, with additional material culled from, inter alia, Dragon Magazine. In essence, if you were keeping up with current play in D&D, AD&D was pretty much what you were already playing.

2. 1e to 2e.
Again, 2e was just 1e that had been cleaned up and had certain late-period (UA, OA, DSG, WSG) materials added in the materials (weapon specialization, NWPs).
On these two I mostly agree, modest changes as you go from late stage prior edition to new edition. 0e in particular has huge changes as you go from 0D&D boxed set alone to supplements (thieves, percentile strength, increasing highest level spells).
3. 2e to 3e.
If you were playing late-period 2e, you were probably familiar with the all the various player-facing splat books (including the Player Options, which provided, inter alia, the ability to point-buy and more advanced combat & tactic options). While 3e substantially modernized the creaky-TSR era base, it also built on many of the ideas of late-period 2e.

4. 3e to 4e.
While this was a divisive change, it certainly wasn't unexpected to people who were following late-period 3.5e. After all, the designers that were responsible for such tomes like the Book of Nine Swords were also the same designers who brought you 4e.

5. 4e to 5e.
This might be a little less obvious; but again, a certain retrenchment and refinement in the form of Essentials was seen in 4e prior to the playtesting of 5e.
Here I think you can tell more generally that changes are coming based on dissatisfaction with the prior edition, but not what they will be by looking at past editions.

I had the late 2e Dragon Fist which had ascending AC and the higher HD bases of 3e, but the design of classes as balanced each level for combat, everyone advancing the same, the skill system, the three saves were all big innovations and unexpected changes in going from 2e to 3e even though they addressed big known problems of AD&D.

3e to 4e the changes to magic, the default cosmology, the development of PC and monster roles, and the fairly succesful execution of class balance, were all innovations beyond the book of nine swords making martial classes that were mechanically engaging and not bottom of the barrel on the power curve.

Late 4e essentials refinements of better tuning monster math, solo monster mechanics, and essentials class things like the fantastically easier to use defender auras was less of a predictor of 5e than the continuing popularity of d20 based Pathfinder 1e IMO. 5e seems 3e/pathfinder with concentration, slightly better class balance (though not nearly 4e levels of balance) and making monsters mechanically easier (though dropping the 4e developments of monster roles and finely tuned monster math).
 



Jack Daniel

dice-universe.blogspot.com
If we just look at WotC — and I think that's fair, WotC is around and TSR isn't — then every new numbered edition has been accompanied by new saving throw mechanics, new XP tables, a new action economy, and a complete rebuild of the core mechanics from the ground up that makes it totally incompatible with its predecessor. You cannot even attempt to play an AD&D character in 3e/3.5, a 3e/3.5 character in 4e, or a 4e character in 5e. Won't work. You run into immediate, deal-breaking incompatibilities.

I've seen nothing in the "One D&D" playtests to indicate this kind of massive mechanical paradigm-shift. So it's not a new numbered edition in the WotC-established sense; it's just 5.5.

Kind of disappointing if you ask me.
 

Voadam

Legend
new XP tables,
Have they? I haven't paid attention to xp charts since I dropped xp costs for crafting items in 3e and switched to milestone advancement for my games. When running level based modules, particularly adventure paths, it is easy to ignore those charts and often functionally better to do so to match expected adventure challenge measures.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Or will 5e to OneDnD be more comparable to the half editions? 2e to 2.5 (skills and powers et al.), 3.0 to 3.5, 4e to Essentials? B/X to BECMI to RC?
I mean, I'm a major critic of 5e and that's exactly what I've said we should expect, other than the 4e-to-Essentials jump because, as I have to say every friggin' time, Essentials WAS NOT AN EDITION CHANGE. It was not a "revision." It was not, in any way whatsoever, different from just publishing a new splatbook that has new options for existing classes.

There is no "jump" between 4e and Essentials. 4e is Essentials. Essentials is 4e. If SCAG is 5e, then Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms is 4e.
 

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