Dungeons and Dragons – Gaming Through the Editions

Dungeons and Dragons Monsters- Goblins and Their Goblinoid Cousins
Customizing Your Game D&D 5e Feats and Spell Caster Cantrips


Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition
Book cover, Dungeon Master Guide for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition – Revised, written by David “Zeb” Cook (TSR, Inc., 1995) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hello Nerdarchists out there and those who are wandering by.  Nerdarchist Ted here and today I am just going to go through the editions of Dungeons and Dragons that I have played and my opinions on them.

I have been table top role playing for over 2 decades and I started with Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition.  Some of the people who have been on Nerdarchy have a longer history and started earlier than I did.  I have the red box that Nerdarchist Dave started with.

Honestly it was so long ago that I cannot say for certain what got me into or how I started with role playing games.  If I had to take a guess I would say that friends of mine in my Boy Scout troop introduced me to it and it all snow balled from there.  Like many of you out there I was not guided by an experienced Dungeon Master so playing was all about killing monsters , acquiring treasure, and power.  Basically meaningless to the gaming that I do today.


Not to say anything bad about getting power and treasure,  what player does not want that.  However when there is no story or scope to the world it means nothing.  As I grew older and seriously got into reading novels the flow of a good story became important.


Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition


As I stated, I started here and spent many a year playing this edition. With the many many splat books available it seemed that there was an endless supply of new things to play.

role playing
Book cover, Dungeon Masters Guide by Gary Gygax (TSR, Inc., 1979) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many role players today still feel that this edition holds strong to the ideals of Dungeons and Dragons and they continue to play it despite the numerous edition launched there after.

And when you have dozens to hundreds of books with all the rules why move to the next edition?  You have everything you need right?  You have the balanced classes vs experience total differences.  You get multi-classing rules that allow you to amass power like no other edition to date.  I had a 20th level fighter in a campaign while Nate the Nerdarch had an 18th level cleric/17 level Wizard/17 level Psionicist.  Now how can you compare these two characters?

Leveling up was very simple in second edition Dungeons and Dragons. Most of the time it was a hit die, check thaco, add  weapon proficiencies or non-weapon proficiencies, and you were done.  Unless you were a spell caster then you need to check that as well.  This edition was set up at a time when characters at the gaming table need not be balanced and equal.

Dungeons and Dragons was birthed from Tolkien and his works and which ever book you look at the characters were all helpful even if they were not all on the same scale.  So after years of playing we even had our own campaign world with a rich history with gods and Kingdoms alike.  It was great.  Then the rumor of 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons started to leak through Dragon Magazine.

Pros of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition


  • Loads of books with options and extras
  • All/most Campaign Setting books
  • Lots of class and race choices
  • Simple level system
  • Well established rules with all kinks worked out through decades of play

Cons of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition


  • Any new ideas or campaign settings not published in old rules
  • new races/class require work to convert to old system
  • Simple level up system offers less customization
  • unbalanced character classes
  • over powered multi-class rules allow for serious power gaming

Dungeons and Dragons 3rd/3.5 Edition


I will be honest I was trepidatious when I heard a new edition was coming out.  I did not and still really not fond of change.  I did not want to to have to learn new rules.  I did not want to have to buy new books.  The change to fighting with two weapons and multi-classing really made me frustrated.

But the group said it was making the change and I had to go along with it.  I am glad that I did as I found that it offered so much more than the previous edition.  The in depth character creation allowed for more choices in what people call “character builds” that were not just what skills or weapon does your fighter use.

Pros of Dungeons and Dragons 3rd/3.5 Edition


  • Feats allow for better customization
  • Feats bring back the Human choice as the most popular
  • Stat bumps every 4th level made getting better a doable goal not found previously
  • New classes, races and campaign settings

Cons of Dungeons and Dragons 3rd/3.5 Edition


  • ECL or Equivalent Character Level made some race choices not possible in many campaigns
  • Unbalanced monsters and class features
  • Certain combinations made for devastating effectiveness
  • Contradictory rules in core books

Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition


Book cover, Dungeon Master’s Guide by Wizards RPG Team (Wizards of the Coast, June 2008) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Again with the switch in editions came and I was again hesitant to want to buy a new set of books.  I looked over at my shelf.

We had started gaming regularly at my place by this time and I see the massive stack of unused 2nd edition books the almost equally massive stack of 3rd edition books and I cringed.  I did not want to buy more.


And in fact I did not.  I was unwilling to walk down that financial road at the time 4e came out.  Of the editions it was what I played the least of.  We played for maybe a year to eighteen months before we felt the desire to move on.

While I enjoyed playing the game, I can enjoy any role playing game as it is more about the role playing to me than the combat rule system, there was something about 4th that made it feel to me more like a miniature war game or a video game played at the gaming table than a typical role playing game.


I know many gamers and role players out there really like 4th and many hate it.  I am not here to judge just offer up my opinions.


Pros of Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition


  • At will powers solved the spell casters problems of being able to run out of spells
  • New races added extra appeal
  • Tactical rules allowed for players to control the battlefield and change the scope of the game
  • Simplified multi-class rules

Cons of Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition


  • Class designator of roles made it seem generic and more like an Massive Multiplayer Online Game
  • Tactical rule layout made it more about the combat then the actual role playing
  • Did not feel like dungeons and dragons
Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition


We move into the current rule system.  Not having purchased much in the way of gaming books over the last coupe of years I was almost eager to buy gaming books again as the launch of 5th Edition is announced.  After reading through the core and seeing the best of each edition all mixed together I really applaud the writers of 5e.


I am not going to go through the pros and cons of 5e as it has only been a few months of play so I do not yet feel as if I could do so fairly.  But lets look at what 5th edition stole from each of the previous editions.


5th ed. stole from Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition


  • Magic items – they are not number crunch and have stat limitations
  • Lower stat tiers

5th ed. stole from 3rd ed.


  • Feats are back  – While they are different they still massively change a character
  • Stat bumps are still around

5th ed. stole from 4th ed.


  • Tactical movement still present in abilities and spells – It is just spelled out differently to satisfy the 4e haters.

So there is my take on it.  I hope you like it.  If you agree or disagree feel free to add comments below.  Did I miss something feel free to add that as well.  I am Nerdarchist Ted, “Until next time, Stay Nerdy my friend!”



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Follow Ted Adams:
The nerd is strong in this one. I received my bachelors degree in communication with a specialization in Radio/TV/Film. I have been a table op role player for about 20 years 17 of which with the current group. I have played several itterations of D&D, Mutants and Masterminds 2nd and 3rd editions, Star wars RPG, Shadowrun and World of Darkness. I am an avid fan of books and follow a few authors reading all they write. Favorite author is Jim Butcher I have been an on/off larper for around 15 years even doing a stretch of running my own for a while. I have played a number of Miniature games including Warhammer 40K, Warhammer Fantasy, Heroscape, Mage Knight, Dreamblade and D&D Miniatures. I have practiced with the art of the German long sword with an ARMA group for over 7 years studying the German long sword, sword and buckler, dagger, axe and polearm. By no strecth of the imagination am I an expert but good enough to last longer than the average person if the Zombie apocalypse ever happens. I am an avid fan of board games and dice games with my current favorite being Quarrios.

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