Dungeons and Dragons

Versions of Dungeons and Dragons

Original Dungeons and Dragons

1974 Dungeons & Dragons (original white box edition with three booklets) Men & Magic Monsters & Treasure The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures
Wiki The original Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) was published as a boxed set in 1974. There were just three character classes (fighting-man, magic-user, and cleric); four races (human, dwarf, elf, and hobbit); only a few monsters; only three alignments (lawful, neutral, and chaotic).

Supplements such as Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry and Gods, Demi-Gods and Heroes were published over the next two years. These supplements expanded the rules, character classes, monsters and spells. The Greyhawk supplement introduced the thief class, and weapon damage varying by weapon (as opposed to character class). Many changes were adopted into the game and published in the magazines The Strategic Review and its successor, Dragon.

First Edition (1e)

1977 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st Edition)

Monster Manual (December)

Dungeons & Dragons (2nd version)

Basic Set (blue box) (levels 13)

1978 Players Handbook (June)
1979 Dungeon Master Guide (August) Core rulebooks complete
1981 Dungeons & Dragons (3rd version) Basic Set (magenta box)
Expert Set (light blue box) (levels 414)

1983 Core rulebooks reprinted with
new orange-spined covers
Dungeons & Dragons (4th version)

Basic Set (red box)
Expert Set (blue box)
Companion Set (levels 1525)

1984 Master Set (levels 2636)
1985 Unearthed Arcana (a fourth "core" rulebook)
Immortals Set (levels 36+)

The game was split into two parallel versions, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (on the left), and Dungeons and Dragons (on the right).

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

  • The game rules were reorganized across three hardcover rulebooks.
  • Supplemental rules cut included hit locations.
  • The Chainmail-based combat system was completely abandoned.
  • Many details in class abilities were altered and clarified.
  • Character classes (bard, illusionist and ranger) that had only appeared in magazine publication were added to the game.
  • Alignment is broken down into two polarities, "ethics" (lawful, neutral, or chaotic) and "morals" (good, neutral, or evil), so there are now nine alignments: lawful good, neutral good, chaotic good, lawful neutral, true neutral, chaotic neutral, lawful evil, neutral evil, and chaotic evil.
  • Character classes from original D&D supplemental material (assassin, druid, monk, paladin, and thief) are added in the core rules.
  • Fighting-men are renamed "fighters".
  • The relationship between race and class is changed.

  • Pros
  • Quite easy to houserule as few rules are interconnected.
  • Combat is simplified, especially when compared to later editions.
  • Does not require miniatures, grids or maps to play.

  • Unforgiving in combat.
  • Non-combat skills system is not as polished as later editions.
  • Not for people who can't make a ruling on the fly and keep it consistent.
  • Attacking using a matrix based on your level and the monsters level.

    Things that are just different
  • Group initiative - all members of a side act together including PCs.
  • Experience from Gold.
  • Dungeons and Dragons

    This might also be called Basic Dungeons & Dragons, although this might be a bit misleading.

    While AD&D was still in the works, TSR was approached by an outside writer and D&D enthusiast, John Eric Holmes, who offered to re-edit and rewrite the original rules into an introductory version of D&D.[4] Although TSR was focused on AD&D at the time, the project was seen as a profitable enterprise and a way to direct new players to anticipate the release of the AD&D game.

    The largest difference in this version of Dungeons & Dragons is that the elf, dwarf, and hobbit are considered classes, where in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons the players select races and classes independently.

    Another unusual feature of this version include an alignment system of five alignments as opposed to the three or nine alignments of the other versions.

    Though often seen as simpler than AD&D, with the collection of all five boxed sets D&D players had access to rules for everything from interdimensional and interstellar travel to the cost of hiring an animal trainer, including areas such as domain rulership which AD&D did not cover in detail.

    Second Editon (2e)

    1989 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition Player's Handbook
    Dungeon Master's Guide
    Monstrous Compendium Replaces Monster Manual
    1991 Dungeons & Dragons (5th version) Rules Cyclopedia (levels 136)
    1992 Wrath of the Immortals (levels 36+)
    1993 Monstrous Manual Replaces Monstrous Compendium
    1996 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition revised Player's Handbook
    Dungeon Masters Guide
    This edition was produced as a way to consolidate all of the previous rules and supplements into a unified game. This edition mainstreamed out of combat skills, the infamous THAC0 system, and magical "schools" and "spheres" for spells.

  • More polish on non-combat skills.
  • Class kits allow for greater customisation.
  • Easily back compatible 1e and 2e change very little fundamentally so you can take rules and items straight from one to the other with little consequence.

  • combat is still harsh and short very easy to die.

    Things that are just different
  • Less combat centric
  • Lower HP
  • Life as an adventurer is often short
  • XP for gold.
  • Third Edition (3e)

    2000 Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition (three Core rulebooks)

    Player's Handbook Dungeon Master's Guide Monster Manual

    This version of D&D introduces the famous d20 system, in which basically every action can be resolved with the roll of a twenty-sided die. In addition, the system for minis on a grid-system is standardized, with movement and combat now less subjective. Additionally, tons of character customization options were fleshed out, including easier multi-classing, prestige classes, and the feat system.

    3rd edition is largely ignored compared to 3.5, as 3.5 was fixed a lot glaring flaws in the original 3.0 rules. All content published for 3.0 is largely compatible with 3.5 with only minor exceptions.

    Third Edition, Revised (3.5)

    2003 Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition revised (v3.5)

    Revised editions of the core rulebooks (compatible with 3.0 via errata)

    A small update to the D&D world, and largely interchangeable with basic 3e, this edition was meant mostly as housekeeping for D&D. Most classes were slightly reworked for balance and standardization reasons (especially rangers, druids, monks, and barbarians), monsters were changed to allow greater customization, and spell-casting was unified.

  • Highly customizable characters
  • detailed skill system
  • Huge variety of unique classes and races
  • Spells allow for an incredible range of creativity
  • Customizable magic weapons/armor/shields
  • Huge library of "prestige classes": Classes which you can multiclass into after meeting pre-requisites

  • Balance issues between spellcasting and non-spellcasting classes, especially at higher levels
  • "Save or suck" spells; players/monsters frequently die due to a single poor roll
  • "5 round day": Spellcasters quickly expend their highest level spells, and many parties rest after only one or two very brief encounters
  • game balance is very poor at high levels
  • Numerous one-off combat rules which are difficult and slow to use (particularly Grapple, which many groups refuse to use because it slows down the game so much)
  • "Dead Levels": Many classes have many levels at which they only receive a numerical increase to one or more stats
  • Pathfinder (PF)

    Developed as an open-source revision to D&D 3.5, Pathfinder's goals were to flesh out basic classes (encouraging single classing over multi-classing), make leveling more rewarding, increase the number of options players have in any given situation (increasing the numbers of spells, abilities, and feats for all classes), and provide more options to further differentiate characters.

  • Published under the "Open Gaming License", so the rules are available for free on the Pathfinder SRD
  • Built on 3.5's strengths, and attempted to patch many of its weaknesses
  • No more "dead levels"; every class gets something cool at every level
  • Single-class characters are unique and interesting
  • Class "Archetypes" allow customization of classes with alternate class abilities without needing to take a prestige class
  • Improved caster/non-caster Balance: Spellcasters are a bit more survivable at lower levels than in 3.5, but non-casters can keep up at high levels because non-casters have more options available
  • "Save or Suck" spells slightly improved: spells which outright kill something with one roll are limited for very high levels
  • Monsters have flat XP values, similar to 4th edition, which makes writing encounters simple for the DM
  • Backwards-compatible with a lot content from 3.5 with very little conversion
  • The "Pathfinder Beginner Box" is an excellent introduction to both Pathfinder and the Dungeons and Dragons hobby as a whole.

    There are still "Save or Suck" spells

    Other Stuff:
    You gain a hit point/skill rank for leveling in your favored class. This makes single-class characters much more viable, but it also discourages creative multiclassing. This isn't necessarily bad, and is more of a matter of taste.
  • Fourth Edition (4e)

    2008 Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (three Core rulebooks)

    Player's Handbook Monster Manual Dungeon Master's Guide

    2009 Player's Handbook 2 Monster Manual 2 Dungeon Master's Guide 2
    2010 Player's Handbook 3 Monster Manual 3 Dungeons & Dragons Essentials

    Fantasy Roleplaying Game (levels 1-2)
    Rules Compendium Dungeon Master's Kit Monster Vault (levels 1-30)
    Heroes of the Fallen Lands Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms

    A massive revamp of the ruleset, largely inspired by the WoW-age, changed combat almost entirely. Every class was given "powers" rather than having a few specific "spell-casting" classes. The basic list of races was changed, to include Dragonborn and Tieflings, and splitting elves into three distinct races. The healing system is completely overhauled, introducing healing surges. Out of combat skills are de-emphasized, symbolically by removing alignments, and procedurally by simplifying the skill-system.

  • All characters are interesting and have many abilities; Fighters can do more than just Power Attack
  • Very few, if any, "dead levels"
  • Currently supported by Wizards of the Coast
  • Dungeons and Dragons Insider: For a monthly subscription, Wizards provides access to their Character Builder (which includes all up-to-date character options), the Rules Compendium (a searchable rules index), access to both Dungeon Magazine and Dragon Magazine, and the Virtual Tabletop (NOTE: Due to recent events, the virtual tabletop has been abandoned)
  • No more "active defenses". Fortitude/Reflex/Will are static values like armor class. Spellcasters make attack rolls just like everyone else
  • Many ways for DMs to ramp difficulty up or down, easy to make enemies to fit the party
  • Characters are very well balanced; there are few strictly bad choices
  • Writing encounters is very easy for the DM; much of the math from previous editions was vastly simplified
  • "Minions" (monsters with 1 hp) make fights with lots of one-shot enemies fun and simple
  • Very gentle learning curve, and very accessible to new players. The "Red Box" starter set is an excellent introduction to 4th edition and Dungeons and Dragons as a whole.

  • Many groups find it harder to roleplay because the mechanics are so combat-focused
  • Combat is highly tactical, and very difficult to manage without a combat grid and miniatures
  • There are no mechanics for mundane crafting or performance

    Other Stuff:
  • Characters start fairly durable, especially compared to other editions
  • Dragonborn are in the players handbook, allowing players to play dragon-esque characters very easily
  • "Skill Challenges": A series of free-form skill tests working toward a common goal. Opinions on the usefulness/fun of skill challenges vary wildly.
  • "Healing Surges" introduce a new, daily-renewable healing mechanic which removes the need for "heal-bot" clerics. Some find that the healing surge system is too forgiving compared to previous editions, but this is mostly a matter of personal taste.
  • D&D Next (Next, or 5e)

    2012 Dungeons & Dragons Next announcement
    Still under development, and not yet officially named, Next is being developed via public playtesting. The game thus far has de-emphasized the grid system (as 4e made the use of minis almost required), abandoned the skill system in favor of simple stat mods, and changing monster regeneration. There is currently no release date for D&D Next.
    This page is a consolidation of data from several sources.
    This chart from Wikipedia.
    choosing an edition came from Reddit.

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