Hail fellow fantasy-buffs and gamers!
One of the elements that marked my youth was this excellent game called Dungeons & Dragons, a fantasy game in which all you did was to imagine a situation in a distant world and acted accordingly as a mighty warrior or powerful sorcerer. First published in 1974, I never got to see that first edition and its revisions. What I got to play, though, was from the AD&D rules on. This article will focus on some random thoughts on how each edition of the books was perceived by me through time and how it influenced me in my life. In the end I will come to the following conclusion: I love 3.5, and always will, since I think this was the easiest set of rules and, at the same time, the most complete ones, that permitted a plethora of characters that oftentimes broke molds of what a true “fighter”, “wizard”, rouge” or “cleric” was.
Also known as 2.5, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was the first Pen-and-Paper Roleplaying Game that I played. I barely had read The Hobbit and the ever classic The Lord of the Ring when I was attracted to that game; a few of my classmates played it with certain regularity. Although they never invited me to play (I was not precisely popular), I managed to get a few copies of the book and started my own group. The game was glorious.
Creating characters was precisely what I needed back them. It was the point my imagination flew the highest. Still, although I was having a glorious time, by the gods, this game was way too difficult and too restrictive. I can safely assure that most gamers had the house rule that all races could access their classes until level 20, since the book had strange restrictions. For example, dwarves could create clerics, but they could not go beyond level 16 (I think, I don’t quite remember anymore), which really left me and my friends wondering about that. So we decided not to follow those limits.
By the way, combat could be a pain too. THACO was the code name, a short way to say “to hit armor class zero”. It needed some strange calculations, not particularly hard, but needlessly complicated. Most people I introduced to AD&D failed to understand that part and often had to trust me when entering into combat or making a character.
The game was hard to get used to, but quite fun. And it was the first D&D I played.
Maybe one of my greatest moments in my life and one of the great lessons, I followed the development as closely as possible to this one. Every Dragon magazine was a must buy to see how it would develop. My first impression: this is sooooo going to fail. Why change the rules that are already good? Granted, I thought eliminating THACO would be a great idea, even eliminating those strange racial-class limits. But why change it and not just do an errata?
Was I really that ignorant? Up to now it is my favorite edition, especially the 3.5 version, in which they corrected some mistakes and made a really good Ranger. On Donnars red beard, if AD&D had infinite possibilities, then Third Edition had even double so. The characters were incredibly varied. It is true that character creation could take almost half a good gaming night, but once you finished, you had statistics for the most unique characters to be found on any D&D game… or just the same as always if you preferred to go all “powerhouse” on your elven wizard.
Whatever the case the new edition had included so many new exciting game mechanics: Prestige Classes, innumerable feats, varied skill points (in AD&D there were in reality no good skills apart of the fighting mechanics) and, not the least, easy multiclassing. It was really hard to repeat a character with so many possibilities, and sometimes we had the feeling that adventure would never end.
I really learned there that new was not bad. Just different. And to be honest, I still prefer 3rd over the weird AD&D. Not that the latter was bad. It is just a little more restrictive than I had imagined the first time I heard about the game. But then change came.
With such a marvel done with the 3rd Edition, what could go wrong on the next one? To be honest, everything. I loved the idea of the inclusion of new character classes like the Thiefling and that lizard thingy, which I personally love as an option. The classes were not bad either. I mean, who would not love to get a Warlock to burn their enemies into cinder? But then came the feats and abilities… *facepalm*
Definitely a big mistake. Now all abilities were set in a copy and cut -able format so you could always remember your abilities (good idea!) but were limited to your own class. Multiclassing got cryptic. But then came the biggest two mistakes that I got to hate so much. The first one was the skills. From now on you chose your set of skills and they leveled with you. That’s it. No variation of skill points, no specialization, just everything the same. Boring and not a good way to create an excellent bard.
The second big mistake was the two weapon fighting. Only a Ranger could do that now. And this only by getting a special power. Are they kidding me? How hard can two weapon fighting be? No, honestly. As a weapon historian myself I just can shake my head in disbelief. Just to start with, the shield is not only for protection, it is also a second weapon. I have also seen so many people use two weapons with devastating effectiveness. Why in the name of Hella’s rotten half was it now possible only for the Ranger to use two weapons? It was almost as if it was his special ability. This was so ridiculous to me, since I loved fighters too, but also liked the idea of wielding a sword and a dagger. It was so easy in 3rd Edition, and it even had some penalties to balance it out in the game.
This was maybe the thing that finally made me forget about 4th Edition. I tried to play it, but the characters were so average and almost the same that I really lost interest after a few sessions. It was the only time I wrote Dragon magazine, to ask if there was no other way to use two-weapon fighting. Their answer: no.
This version of D&D felt more like an online game (MMORPG). Now, don’t get me wrong, I love MMOs, but if I wanted to play one with my friends, I would have just gone into World of Warcraft and that’s it. This feeling of freedom was gone, even with the new options, and the game was not as infinite as before. In all honesty, I think this was the worst version yet.
Now, I have to accept I have not touched a 4th Edition book in over two years. Also, I have never checked if there was a 5th Edition in the making. But to be honest, I already found my perfect game with so many memories. The AD&D version was the first one to introduce me into real games and fantasy, but the 3rd Edition really managed to get me hooked up and turn me into this huge nerd that enjoys this hobby so much. I am really disappointed when it goes to how gaming has been treated the last years, especially roleplaying. Although, granted, the mechanics are easier and it is quicker to start a game, I feel that we have lost the excitement of choice. And that’s why I will always have 3rd Edition in my heart, no matter what may happen in the future of roleplaying.
May they smile upon your way!