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The Edition Wars Inside My Brain

Nerd Wars always feel a little like kids arguing about whose hand makes a better laser gun…


Did you hear the big gaming news last week? Paizo announced they’re working on a second edition [1] for Pathfinder. Cue the Sturm und Drang of the conflicting excitement and irritation that the announcement of a new edition always elicits. Have they released another wave of the endless Edition Wars upon us?

I am avowedly polygamerous. My passion for superhero RPGs is almost legendary, you can pry my science fiction games from my cold, dead hands, and don’t even think of trying to stop my monster hunting inclinations in modern paranormal games. While not every indie game hits my interests, I’m always excited to see what developers are coming up with. Thing is, though, when it comes down to it, D&D still provides a solid backbone for my gaming life. I never seek it out at conventions, but it and its variations are still a staple of my regular group. Currently, one of the less experienced GMs is running a 5e game, and we have several other 5e and Pathfinder games on seasonal hiatus.

For the new or the sheltered, what are the Edition Wars? Essentially, it’s the conflict that happens between the people who are excited for a new version of a game and the discontent of those that are perfectly happy sticking with what they already play. The extremes of both sides often get vitriolic and adamant that their preferred edition is the only correct choice.

Before I go any further, let’s talk a little bit about the history of the editions of D&D, as these are momentous events in the history of the game:

To tally up, there were 12 years between 1e and 2e, 11 years between 2e and 3e, 8 between 3e and 4e (with an intermediary road bump with 3.5), and 6 years between 4e and 5e. Paizo waiting ten years to announce they’re working on a second edition isn’t really that extraordinary. Even if I can remember when Pathfinder was shiny and new, it has been a mainstay for a decade now.

Anyone that gets all pretentious about which edition is best gets an eye roll from me. Play what you want and what makes your group happy, but don’t be a dick about what makes someone else happy. 

I have my thoughts and preferences on the various editions, but I’ll mostly play whatever the people I want to game with want to play. Mostly. Anyone that gets all pretentious about which edition is best gets an eye roll from me. Play what you want and what makes your group happy, but don’t be a dick about what makes someone else happy. You won’t find me participating in any battles about which edition is king other than to tell people to chill out and stop telling people they’re having bad-wrong-fun.

That said, I do experience type of Edition War, but this one happens solo, inside MY BRAIN.

I’ve been gaming with a regular crew for close to 15 years now and in that time, we have started, finished and abandoned multiple games of at least four different versions of D&D (Pathfinder included). There’s only so much room for rules in this head of mine and I imagine it’s the same for most of us. It’s not that unusual for us to suddenly pause as we confuse the specifics of various rules between editions. Does flanking matter in this edition? How long does that spell last in this version? How many dice do I get to add to my sneak attack?

What do we do about the limited rental space for rules in our brains while playing multiple different variations of D&D? (Or any game system, really.)

The confusion does get a little annoying, but in some ways, it’s a problem with an abundance or riches. We have a vital, thriving hobby with a version for almost everyone. I’m honestly looking forward to seeing what Paizo comes up with in their next edition of Pathfinder, even if I know it’s going to add a whole new set of rules to the jumble already in my brain.

6 Comments (Open | Close)

6 Comments To "The Edition Wars Inside My Brain"

#1 Comment By Karl On March 12, 2018 @ 5:28 am

You forgot to include the skills and powers supplements in the late 90s

#2 Comment By Angela Murray On March 12, 2018 @ 10:03 am

To be completely honest, I didn’t want to get into this in the article, but I came to HATE 2nd edition, so I avoided D&D for pretty much all of the 90’s. I mostly played Champions, WoD, or Shadowrun, and even then my gaming group dried up around 1995. So, I didn’t so much forget as I wasn’t really cognizant of them enough to include them.

My understanding is that the skills and powers supplements were highly influential on 3.0, but aren’t quite considered a revision.

#3 Comment By Karl On March 14, 2018 @ 6:50 am

I’m not sure why you came to hate 2nd edition, but I can understand it. In the late ‘90s it was at the same point that Pathfinder is now. A plethora of options, that can lead to analysis paralysis, power creep, huge money spend, etc.

The S&P wasn’t a true revision, it was to 2nd what 3.5 was to third, which is why I said you’d missed it. As for being an influence on 3rd edition, it was truly a min-mixers (excuse me, optimizers) dream.

#4 Comment By Guillaume On March 12, 2018 @ 9:58 am

Thanks, great read, I hope a lot of people will chill down thanks to this 🙂
Our group has been playing PF for 10 years… and 3.5 before that. War was mainly avoided thanks/because of the money we had put in it.
Really curious about what will happen within our group with this new PF edition, wether it is staying PF1, switching to 5E or to PF2 🙂

#5 Comment By Angela Murray On March 12, 2018 @ 10:05 am

I’m still getting over the fact that Pathfinder has been around for ten years. The older I get, the more compressed time seems to be. ’77 to ’89 was several lifetimes for kid to teen me, but 2008 to 2018? That’s a blink of the eye.

Good luck to your group when the time comes!

#6 Comment By John ws marvin On March 12, 2018 @ 10:06 pm

If Pathfinder is D&D (and it is), then so is 13th Age. Choice is wonderful!