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D&D General What Have You Liked Most About Each Edition (+)

Inspired by some posts in the Edition Warrior thread, I got interested in what folks have enjoyed most about each edition of D&D they have played.

Please note this is a + thread. Say things you liked about each edition you've played. If you post negative comments, I will respond with ridiculous affirmations and positive reframing. Don't force my hand!!!

I barely started with AD&D, right when 3rd Edition was in the works. I honestly don't remember it enough to compare it to the other editions.

3rd Edition - this was the edition of my halcyon geeky days. I LOVED the sandbox approach. Opening up race/class combos, multiclassing, the OGL, it felt like WotC was handing me a big set of toys and saying "Have fun!"

I was completely bored in high school so these were my days of endless house rules, new races, new classes, new campaigns...

So my favorite thing about 3e was its modularity. I loved tweaking the rules to fit a new campaign setting. I loved all the other campaigns and new rules and rulesets that popped up online. This was also when I was most into ENworld, spending hours (under the name Tsunami), so I think part of the romance was connecting to a wider world of creative geeks.

3.5 - skipped it

4e - I loved how excited this edition made my friends. Breaking all rounds into Standard/Move/Minor was a fantastic concept. I loved the introduction of backgrounds. I thought that giving classes roles (Striker, Defender) was really neat. But my favorite thing was the monsters... I loved those monster powers!

5e - My favorite things about 5e are the little rules it has that allow you to do things beyond the rules. For example, someone with the Soldier Background can give orders to lower ranking soldiers... They don't get a bonus or advantage to Intimidation and Persuasion... They just CAN! I love narrative truth rules like this. I really like how the subclasses open up different modes of play within a single class. It feels like it's possible to multiclass or "dip" into a class without actually multiclassing. Right now in the game I run, the cleric, warlock, and artificer can all heal characters. That's fun!
 

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payn

Adventurer
2E - Settings. I didnt get a lot of experience with second edition. Most of this was teen years just trying to get a game going. The settings always sparked my imagination and I spent more time reading about them than actually playing the game. Dark Sun was a favorite.

3E - Chargen. I know there was a lot of pitfalls designed into 3E mechanically, but I loved the plethora of options to create characters. It allowed for hours of solo entertainment as I read about options and dreamed of representing my characters mechanically as I did with my fiction.

4E - I didnt play this edition much. I liked the idea of bloodied.

5E - This seems to be the goldilocks edition. If 5E came out when 3E did, im not sure id ever have fallen in love with chargen. It's fast and easy to grip for casuals with just enough meat on the bones for vets. The best introductory D&D system in decades. Oh, and bounded accuracy is the best!
 
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aco175

Legend
3e must have been being able to make a PC how you see it. Multiclassing was easy and added to your concept. Monster modifying was more an opportunity in disguise with me being able to spend more time giving monsters PC levels to be able to modify them.

4e was fine overall. I liked that each class had several powers at each level to make them different than others of the same class. Monster modification was easy and fast.
 

Mercurius

Legend
Some of this is in hindsight, but I'll mix it in with memory of how I felt at the time.

1E: My first. My favorite thing, then and now, is the endless amounts of random lore - especially in the DMG (which feels like Gygax's brain folded inside out), but also D&D and other books.

BECMI: Didn't really play it, but loved the Death's Ride cover and the idea of playing immortal characters.

2E: Settings and more settings. It's like the "rose" of AD&D became a bouquet.

3E: System update and overhaul. It felt like D&D catching up to the rest of the RPG world in terms of game design.

4E: Healing surges made a lot of sense and made the game more playable. Powers, power sources, and tiers all were kind of fun, in a "Let's do this a bit differently for a while before getting back to D&D classic."

5E: Hit the right note between classic feel and modern system. Advantage/disadvantage is great.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
OD&D let me play a fantasy character. Even if the majority of time was spent running around dungeons looking for imaginary loot.

2E in many ways wasn't that big of a leap, although I did appreciate the (slightly) more coherent rules. I personally enjoyed Skills & Powers with more options and, of course, my CN barbarian who thought lying was a weakness so he was 100% honest always.

3.X had cleaner math, fun build options even if that did mean you could do kind of by accident build a super cheesy dual axe wielding dwarf that had flaming/holy/acidic/adamantine (from a ring) that could regularly do around 150ish points of damage per round. All I needed was around a bazillion dice and a worksheet.

4E I had a lot of fun playing a tempest cleric. Being able to be support and contribute meaningfully to combat on the same turn? Awesome!

5E Probably the best version of the game so far (for me) for a lot of reasons. Enough rules to give the game structure while still having a lot of freedom. Holds together even at higher levels better than previous editions.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
2e - reading the books. Lots of good lore in 2e.

3/.5e - the absolute maze of options, each purpose built for the concept. Theory crafting was very fun.

4e - So much. I’d ditch 5e in a heartbeat for a cleaned-up update of 4e, and I love 5e. Backgrounds, Themes, designing the game different for each tier, encounter/enemy building, being able to finely tune my character to play exactly how I imagine them, rituals, synergy between characters/incentivized teamwork, the approach to races, probably other stuff I’m forgetting.

5e - Bounded accuracy, adv/disad, subclass design, and how easily customized the system is without breaking it.
 

Esbee

Dungeon Master at large.
BECMI - it's where I cut my teeth on D&D. I love the simplicity and how it allowed 13 year old me easily learn how the game was played. Also memories and nostalgia.

AD&D 1st Edition - my current go-to and favourite edition. I can't quite quantify it, but it seems to have a 'soul' to it that I can't find in other editions. Perhaps it's the gritty, simulation-esque minutiae, or perhaps the right balance of options and restrictions. More than any other edition your character's growth feels 'earned.'

1E's chaotic presentation, with contradictions and 'Gygaxisms' make it a blessing and curse. There are so many ideas and notions, with suggestions to make it your own. I have seen so few people agree on many of the rules, but it also really forces DMs to constantly evaluate and grow their understanding. In retrospect, the countless variations I have tried (and failed at!) when interpreting the rules until finally settling on what works for me has honed my DM skills quite nicely.

AD&D 2nd Edition - my main bread and butter for a very long time before going retro and making 1E my main thing. Even so, there are many wonderful things 2nd Ed offered (and still offers). Probably the most expansive of the editions, with options coming out of the wazoo, so players aren't wanting for supplements. Splatbooks offered interesting takes on character classes, and barring mechanical options specific to 2E, the roleplaying notes and tips can apply to any edition quite readily.

Of all of the 2nd materials, I am a HUGE fan of the Player's Option: Combat and Tactics book and would never run another 2E game without using it. The other Player's Options books had merits too, but definitely require a DM to surgically choose what they want in order to flavour their campaign. (Do not under any circumstance just allow anything and everything from those books... you have been warned!)

3rd Edition - Um... heh... nothing negative... <sweats profusely> er... okay... AH! Someone mentioned the OGL! Yes, I approve most heartily of the OGL which came out of the 3rd Edition era.

4th Edition - Never played.

5th Edition - I have to admit, while at first I was entirely dismissive of 5th Edition, it has indeed grown on me in a number of ways. I plan to run a 5e Campaign concurrent to my 1E game once the world normalizes a bit and we are able to have gatherings again.

5E has a few strengths that I must credit. First, it's easy to learn for new players. Very easy. Second only the BASIC D&D in that regard, the system is noob friendly and that's a solid accomplishment. Also, I admire how flexible the system is, which lends to very easy house ruling and adjustments. The system as written is clear and well laid out enough that anyone can just pick up the book and learn to play as written with only a few growing pains along the way... but also allows more experienced or enterprising players and DMs to dissect it and add their own flavour in some aspects without collapsing the whole thing.

I feel that D&D 5E is kind of a good halfway point between the really granular old-school Advanced editions, and the really pared down BASIC editions.
 

Mentzer Basic & Expert - This is how I learned Dungeons and Dragons. I bought these two boxed sets and the original Forgotten Realms gray boxed set at Toys-R-Us. Without these 3 boxed sets, I probably would have never played rpgs.
AD&D 1st Edition - The vibe of the PHB is great.
AD&D 2nd Edition - The edition that I've played the most. Loved the variety of settings and the Monster Compendiums.
3rd Edition - Streamlining of Saving Throws and ascending AC. OGL opening up lots of rules (even beyond D&D) to people to make things without worrying about a lawsuit.
5th Edition - Easy to play a basic version using the Starter boxed set as your core rules and only adding in elements from other books if you want to do so. Advantage/Disadvantage as an easy modifier to rolls.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
B/X. It was my first. Even though AD&D was out and super popular. They were the only books my older brother would let me touch. Loved the art and writing. Smooth, simple, and quick. The rules are just suggestions and anything not covered by the rules make a save or roll under an ability score. And the Known World. Mystara to you youngens. So wonderful and pulpy and goofy.

AD&D. Played this one the most. Had a hand typed packet of house rules for things like skills, dodge, and parry. My once shiny new books are now ancient, decaying tomes. So many memories.

2E. Skipped the edition rules and kept playing AD&D...but holy hell the settings. These books still hold up and inspire today. Al-Qadim, Dark Sun, Ravenloft, Spelljammer. These settings are what got me started collecting. I wanted to know everything about these places.

3E. Read the rules and liked a few of the changes, like ascending AC, but largely ignored it and kept playing AD&D.

4E. I fell in love with literally everything they did with this edition...except how it actually played at the table. I loved the lore changes, the points-of-light setting, big magic rituals for everyone, residuum, solving linear fighter vs quadratic wizard, roles, power sources, powers, layout, design, monster variety, monster stat blocks, monster roles, MM3 on a business card, the DMGs were amazing...I loved literally everything they did with this edition...except for how it actually played. We played from the start to the finish with this one but could never get a simple combat to be anything less than a multiple hour slog. We tried everything and nothing ever worked. If only they revised the combat rules for speed of play.

5E. The quickest and simplest edition WotC has produced. Tossed everything I hated (and loved) about 4E. I like that D&D is having a cultural moment again. And this is the edition our second generation started with. Me and my brothers grew up on B/X and AD&D and now our kids are playing 5E with us.
 
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dave2008

Legend
1e: The Monster Manual & MM II, Deities and Demigods, and introducing me to RPGS, art work
BECMI: crazy high levels and Immortals!, dragons with some real bite, art work
2e: monster ecology (I didn't play this edition, but I got the Monstrous Compendium binders)
3e: Draconomicon & updated dragon designs (I didn't play this edition either)
4e: bloodied condition, healing surges, skill challenges, monster design & roles, cosmology / lore
5e: bounded accuracy, advantage / disadvantage, epic boons & supernatural gifts, legendary and mythic monsters, art work
 
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dave2008

Legend
4E. I fell in love with literally everything they did with this edition...except how it actually played at the table. I loved the lore changes, the points-of-light setting, big magic rituals for everyone, residuum, solving linear fighter vs quadratic wizard, roles, power sources, powers, layout, design, monster variety, monster stat blocks, monster roles, MM3 on a business card, the DMGs were amazing...I loved literally everything they did with this edition...except for how it actually played. We played from the start to the finish with this one but could never get a simple combat to be anything less than a multiple hour slog. We tried everything and nothing ever worked. If only they revised the combat rules for speed of play.
I find the simplest solution if your combat is long to limit people to 30 seconds to resolve their turn. We started doing this in 4e and still do it now. It seems difficult at first, but our group quickly adjusted and we not only found our combats were faster, but more frantic and fun. Players really didn't have time to get distracted when it wasn't their turn so everyone was more engaged and combat just felt more present and lively.
 
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Zardnaar

Legend
BECMI
Simplicity and ease of play.

2E
Priests, toolboxes, settings

3E
No THAC0, casual level it was fine.

4E
Races and overhauled feats.

5E
Pretty damn good in 2014, 6+ years later it has issues.
 

J-H

Adventurer
2e: Played it only via CRPGs. Settings are a strong point. Magic items were all over the place with lots of lore in BG2.
3.5e: Options for days. So many options. High power level at higher levels.
5e: Multiple classes can fulfill the same role/archetype. Monsters are a breeze to build. Flexibility and variety in magic item-building compared to 3.5.
 

Uta-napishti

Explorer
AD&D - Introduction to the Game, Played the most (ages ago). Rough edges, and Dumbly complex subsystems, but great Fun.
2nd Edition - Bought the beautiful setting books and dreamed, but never had time play much anymore
3E & Friends - my great RPG-less gap is here. I thought those WotC guys were probably gonna screw up D&D, but I didn't care anymore.
4E - that version that folks played on those comedy podcasts that got me back into thinking about D&D (Acquisitions Inc and Total Party Kill)
5E - that version I actually picked up finally when I decided to get back in myself for reals. Huh, thank god they got rid of Thac0. All the rest seems simpler and well thought out too. I like this!
 

Greg K

Adventurer
OD&D: My first introduction to D&D although I never got to play as I was called home for dinner as the DM was explaining the game and told we were moving.
Anyway, a few years ago, I got to play with someone that played with the Pasadena crowd during the 1970s and was running for some students where I taught a few clases. I sat in on a few session and the game seemed rules light and had a freedom that I kind of liked- enough that I might try running a session or two at some point with just the original three books (alternately with either Swords & Wizardry, White Box, Delving Deeper, or Full Metal Plate Mail), but also incorporating some of Gary Gygax's house rules and a few OSR classes.

Holmes Basic:I first played using this edition before quickly moving to AD&D. My favorite things are the following
  • cover
  • the partial sample dungeon in the book.
  • trading points off of certain ability to scores to boost others.

Basic Moldvay/Cook: I skipped this edition as I was playing AD&D at the time and did not like race as class. I am not sure why, but if were to go back and play a version of TSR D&D, I would most likely play this editon and just incorporate the BECMI Gazetteers and few items from AD&D

BEMCI : Skipped this edition, but love the Gazetteers

AD&D 1e:
  • Many of the classic modules- especially T1(Village of Hommlet), I6 (Ravenloft), and L1 (Secret of Bone Hill).
  • The original covers for the PHB and DMG.
  • Longer leveling times (expected to reach name level in about a year and 1-2 levels per additional year of real time).
  • The Barbarian as a tough, non-raging, non-mystical outdoorsman warrior whose weapon choices were handaxe, spear, knife + cultural weapons and recieved tertiary abilities and skills based on their home terrain.
  • racial minimums and maximums
  • Mayfair's Witches
  • Finding out that Gary did not use the unarmed combat tables (pummeiing, overbearing, and ?), weapons vs AC, or psionics
AD&D2e:
  • Al Qadim, Dark Sun (original boxed set), and Ravelnoft settings
  • Priests of Specific Mythoi and clerical spheres
  • Complete Fighter's Handbook, Complete Thief's Handbook, Complete Priest's Handbook, Complete Druid's Handbook
  • Historical Reference Series (HR books)
  • Dungeon Master's Guide Reference series (DMGR books)
  • PO: Combat & Tactics, PO: Spells & Magic
D&D 3e
  • Unified d20 Mechanic
  • 3 saving throws
  • Ascending AC
  • Skill Points
  • Feats
  • Dropping AD&D percentile strength
  • Everyone gets the same abilities modifiers if they have the appropriate ability score
  • Massive Damage Save
  • lots of variants and options in the Dungeon Master's Guide
  • Sorcerer Class
  • Monsters have ability scores
  • Monster AC broken down (natural armor, dex) although modifiers got out hand with all of the types
  • Unearthed Arcana and Fiendish Codex I
  • Various Third Party Suppor (a list, because I like to promote the products I liked)t: Avalanche Press (Noble Knights, Noble Steeds), Bard & Sages (Koboldnomicon, Sharks!, Snakes!, Spiders), Bastion Press (Alchemy & Herbalists, Faeries), Betabunny (Bestiary: Predators), Blue Devil Games (Poisoncraft), Green Ronin ( Psychic's Handbook, Shaman's Handbook, Witch's Handbook, Advanced Bestiary, Armies of the Abyss, Legions of Hell), Monkey God Enterprises (From Stone to Steel), Silverthorne (Book of Templates Revised Deluxe (print version by Goodman Games as Book of Templates)), Skirmisher Press (Citybuilder, Experts 3.5, Insults & Injuries)
4e I only own the PHB2 and Marial Powers Book, but I had read the PHB, DMG, and Monster Manual in the store and had a list of 10-12 things that I liked about this edition. Unfortunately, I can't find a post where I listed those items either here or on RPGNet (maybe it was the WOTC boards). I also don't have my saved list of items I like regarding various editions as my PC laptop with the list crashed and my flashdrive back up is stored away at the moment. Anyway, here is a partial list
  • Fighters get interesting things to and supported by the rules without requiring feats
  • Rangers as a non-spellcasing class
  • Shaman as a class (not necessarily the implementation)
  • Separating out some non-biological aspects of races and making them feats
  • Disease Track
  • Magic Missile requiring a to-hit roll (how it worked prior to AD&D).
  • what people did with the "lazy warlord"

5e
  • Bard: finally, a bard class that I like and comes close to wizards and bards in much of pre-D&D fantasy
  • Battlemaster Fighter
  • Backgrounds
  • Advantage and Disadvantage
  • Bounded accuracy (in theory)
  • Inspiration
  • not having loads of sample skills DCs
  • Various Third Party Support (another list to promote items that I like)
    • 5MWD (Legendary Monsters, Maneuvers & Commander, Variant Rules)
    • Igor Moreno ( (Not So) Legendary Actions
    • Jody Lee Johnson (The Warlord)
    • Kyle Grant (The Scholar)
    • Michael Wolf (Shaman Class)
    • Patrick Mitrega (Shaman Class by pattycakeee)
    • Walrock Homebrew (Faeries; Fortresses, Temples & Strongholds; Traders & Merchants; The Witch)
  • Various free Community support on websites
    • Brandes Stoddard (Exorcism Domain, Spirit Domain, Investigator Roguish Archetype)
    • ENWorld
      • James Driscoll's free conversions of the 2e Complete Fighter's Handbook, Complete Thief's Handbook, and Complete Priest's Handbook
      • Khaalis's free LIght armored Fighter variant
      • bmcdaniels 's free Witch class
      • Minigiant's Brute (Roguish Archetype) and Thug (Fighter Archetype)
      • SkidAce' s Martial Arts Feat (which he should be posting a more recent draft soon)
    • David "Jester" Gibson (Fey Bloodline Sorcerer, Rogue Investigator)
    • Rich Howard (Ultimate Adaptability: Variant Humans for 5e)
 
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Sacrosanct

Legend
B/X: presentation. Super easy to start playing.
1e:. My favorite edition. The artwork and themes of play (rulings over rules, lethality, etc)
2e: cleaned up some of the 1e stuff, like thief progression, bard cass, and schools of magic.
3e: tons of options
4e: granted, my experience is limited to reading books and boardgames using the base mechanics, but very well balanced.
5e: back to rulings over rules while still giving a lot of options. Advantage mechanic.
 

ccs

41st lv DM
Assorted versions of Basic+: Where I {briefly} started out. Recognizing the endless possibilities stretching out ahead of me.....
The art.
The adventures.
And then we rather quickly moved on to 1e where there were better rules for doing some of what we envisioned. And more monsters/treasures.
1e: My favorite edition of them all. I like the whole style of play it presents. All of the hardbacks. The adventures. The art.
2e: That it cleaned up some of the less well implemented things from 1e - thief skills, actually able to play a Bard without having to spend 3 years worth of real time leveling up to that point.
3x/PF: Options options options. Wich is also what I like least about it. It's real easy to go from "options" to "too many options".
4e: The day we quit playing it.
5e: The ease of play & the ease of expanding our player pool.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
I started in 2e, and I agree with many that the books were just fun to read. And there were tons of them! I also liked how easily modular the system was - there were several different system bases (THAC0/attacks, Proficiencies/skill checks, magic, psionics) that allowed easy adaptation and inspiration to and for anything you wanted.

3e seemed like a breath of fresh air when it came out, though the system revealed it's massive weaknesses very quickly. The best thing about 3.X IMO was starting the Open Gaming License and SRD traditions, which opened doors for many small time publishers (such as myself).

4e was super coherent and doubled down on 3.x's "everything works the same way" philosophy. But my favorite things were monster powers listed in the statblocks and the Bloodied condition.

5e is in many ways a callback to earlier edition feel, and that's cool. The best part of of the edition IMO is dhow massive successful it's been - once again, allowing opportunities for us little people.

I never played BECMI, but I adore the Rules Cyclopedia version of D&D and it's what I use most often in my home games. My favorite thing about it is how it has the flexibility of 5e without the same degree of rules limitations. It's true that I modify the living daylights out of the system, but I've done that with every edition/game I've ever played. Those modifications, and their ease of implementation, are another thing I love about the book/edition. Plus, there's an almost 2e level of awesome stuff to read and be inspired by.
 

Gorg

Explorer
B/X: It was my first taste of ttrpg-ing, and boy was I hooked!! As a total goob for swords and sorcery type stuff, this was right up my alley.

Likes: Simplicity! The entire game: spells, monsters, rules and all fit in one well organized pamphlet. AND it worked very well! It was very easy to learn, so getting friends, relatives, etc involved was quick and simple. FUN to play. Served as a good stepping stone to AD&D, if you wanted to get further involved, or wanted more options.

AD&D 1E. I should note here, that we never really played by the "official" rules. We were in high school then, and arbitrary limits or clunky systems rubbed us the wrong way. Race class/level limitations went right out the window first thing. Encumbrance, non-weapon proficiencies, morale, etc went unused. Our version of AD&D looked an awful lot like B/X evolved, lol.

Likes: The Artwork!!! Both the line drawings, the cartoons, and the paintings were appealing to us. I STILL find the picture of the armored knight jumping into the wizard's arms- because rust monster!- to be hilarious. And, no, our table of teenage/20 something dudes did NOT scream like little girls when our DM sprung one of those monstrosities on us... Why would you think that??

The modules! So many fun classics. The tables. No matter what, there's undoubtedly a table for it. The fluff/lore.
MM II Fiend Folio; Unearthed Arcana. I found the cover art on the Monster Manual II to be especially evocative.

So much of our classic gaming is tied up in this edition.

AD&D 2E: Again, we didn't really play this as it's own system- to us, it was just an expansion on 1E.

Likes. Almost 100% backwards compatibility with 1E. When in doubt, we went with the rule that worked better for us.

The core rulebooks were much easier to read.

More everything: More spells, more magic goodies, more campaign settings, even more races and classes. They kept churning out more monsters, too. Speaking of which, I really liked how detailed and lore-ish the monster descriptions were. Splatbooks that added a lot more depth to PC races.

2E also had good, "classic fantasy" art.

Dungeons and Dragons (aka 3rd Ed) This version re-introduced me to the game. And also coincided with my acquisition of my first PC and internet access. The second thing I found on line, was message boards. And I joined every D&D related one I could find! Those were the days!

Likes: What the??!! Were Monte Cook and the guys hanging out watching our games back in the old days?? This looks a fair bit like our old game! Just with a LOT of cool additions.

Goodbye forever to "One Pump Chump" first level Wizards. Cantrips finally started to come into their own, and actually added something besides minor parlor tricks to the game.

Racial class and level restrictions? Buh-bye!!! 3E made our take on it official. AND came with a system for multi-classing that made sense. Rather than restrict demi-humans, to create parity with humans, they gave humans advantages of their own, bringing them UP to the level of the others. (ie the carrot, not the stick)

Sorceror class. An alternate take on the arcane caster. Perfect, fluff and crunch-wise, for adding to monsters- to give them magical firepower of their own!

They took the bard. and actually made it into a real, cohesive class.

The Cleric!!! Wow- someone finally made this class cool, interesting, varied- and FUN to play. Some of my favorite, and most memorable characters from this era were clerics.

Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. And the subsequent regional and other expansions. Now THIS is how you do a campaign setting! They really brought this world to life, in my imagination. Great artwork, too. The 3E era was a golden time for campaign settings in terms of quality, imo.

The D20 system. Took all the weird, disparate systems of the old editions, unified it all, and wrapped it up with a nice little bow.

The Open Game License. Genius idea! Don't have the time, staff or budget to redo a bunch of old campaign settings? Let some other company do it! Same for alternate flavors, adventures, rules expansions etc. There were a lot of talented people putting out a lot of great material explicitly FOR the D&D game, or using the D20 system. Allowed WoTC to focus their energy on a small number of campaigns and core rules.

5E. Took an even bigger step towards our old games- the rules lite feel, and ease of play/introducing new players.

Likes:
Removed a lot of the rules bloat and numbers power creep. This version has more of the feel of B/X with all the best ideas from the intervening years added in.

It's even more of an integrated, unified system than 3E. It all works pretty well together, too- which is important.

Arcane Traditions/ Domains/Archetypes. Really great ideas for advancing characters, while adding in the best parts of feats, prestige classes, etc- without having a bunch of extra systems. I like how domains give you cool things to do with your channel divinity ability. And how Arcane Traditions really do make different wizards different.

The magic system. Cantrips as at will spells? Great! And they scale up with level? That's cool too! Casting spells using higher slots to boost their power? Works for me, too. Spells like Shield now being reactions to counter an attack being made on you. NICE! Even cooler that it dovetails with my Abjurer's protective ward ability. (saved his bacon a time or two!)

Advantage/Disadvantage. Simple and elegant.

THE ART!!! Wow, did some of these guys knock it out of the park!!!

That's so far. I'm just beginning to wade into this edition.
 

Hatmatter

Laws of Mordenkainen, Elminster, & Fistandantilus
Basic: I was 6 or 7 years old and most ideas were simple enough that they could be taught to me.
AD&D 1st edition: The mystery of what the game and the game books unfolded. I love Gygax's writing and the way a mere two pages on planes in the back of the PHB suggested a multiverse of adventure and seemed to contain the myths of the Greek gods, the Norse gods, Marvel comics, Robert E. Howard stories, Tolkien, and just about anything else. The separation of class and race was exciting, even if I couldn't play a halfling paladin, and the DMG's list of magic items and artifacts and relics suggested endless possibility.
AD&D 2nd edition: Non-weapon proficiencies were an excellent addition and started to expand the items on the character sheet to beyond combat. The systematization of spells was helpful. Kits introduced a new way of customizing character builds that embraced even more archetypes from literature and mythology, even if they were usually a little underwhelming. Spelljammer was an awesome way to introduce a cosmic swashbuckling element and it was a new way to connect the worlds. I loved it. The Domains of Dread and Dark Sun were evocative additions that expanded what could be done with the game. I especially liked the hardback Dark Sun book that gave rules for going from 21st to 30th level and included 10th level spells. Loved all that stuff.
D&D 3rd and 3.5: I didn't play it or purchase any of the books...but I think the basic d20 concepts it introduced are landmark improvements to the game.
D&D 4th edition: It gave the fighter as many options as a wizard in combat. I loved the notion of grouping classes by their power source: martial, arcane, psionic, elemental, shadow, primal, and so forth. Also, the inclusion and description of the Shadowfell and Feywild were wonderful additions to the cosmology. They both resonate so much with legend and mythology...it's like the ideas were there simply waiting to be implemented in the D&D cosmology.
D&D 5th edition: It hits the sweet spot for me in every way except I am still waiting for large-scale army rules, over 20th level expansion rules, and a psionicist. Other than that, it is (to me) staggering how elegant and beautiful it is. I love how the classes embrace exception-based design and each stands out as its own approach to the world of adventure. The notion of advantage or disadvantage is a watershed change that makes the game quicker and less intimidating with modifiers for everything. I love how the designers embrace the legacy of the game and bring in elements from the entire fifty-year history of the game. And, not least, the books are absolutely beautifully designed with (I think) the best artwork. When I think "D&D" now, I think of this edition and it is my hope that this is where the game stays...just keep building on this foundation, I say.
 

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