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Dungeons & Dragons

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What are the versions of D&D? What is the history?

Dungeons & Dragons (commonly known as D&D) is a fantasy role-playing game (RPG) first designed by Gary Gygax and David Arneson in the early 1970s. It was published by Gygax's company, Tactical Studies Rules (TSR). For more on what D&D (or AD&D) is, see the sources section at the bottom of the page.


Original Dungeons & Dragons (OD&D)

  • 1971 - Chainmail (by Gary Gygax & Jeff Perren)
    Chainmail was not a role-playing game (RPG). However, Chainmail's second and third editions contained supplemental fantasy-setting rules, as well as alternate rules that show similarities to later D&D rules.

  • 1974 - "Dungeons & Dragons"
    The most memorable published result of the Arneson-Gygax hobby crossover appeared at GenCon, 1974, in a thousand-copy print run, as Dungeons & Dragons, 1974, by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. It consisted of three roughly digest-sized brown pamphlets in a deepish brown box with white labels. (People are often confused because a very-nearly identical product, marked with "Original Collector's Edition," was released in 1978 in a white cardboard box, hence the mistaken name "white box D&D" to refer to the 1974 product.) [ view details on OD&D versions ]

    The Sixth printing (OCE: 1977-1979), in a white box showing a wizard and some orcs, was labeled "Original Collector’s Edition" to differentiate it from the D&D Basic Set, which had just been released.

    Many, many rules and play ideas proliferated in TSR's magazine The Dragon,
    renamed from its precursor The Strategic Review.

The RPGA (Role-Playing Games Association) also became active around the late 1970s, and started publishing the magazine Polyhedron.

Basic D&D, Expert D&D

The "Basic Set" was reportedly "Developed chiefly because of disagreements with Gary Gygax over the direction D&D should take; Gygax favored a far more structured and complicated system (AD&D)."

Check out this page for the history and evolution of the covers.

The Expert set was released in 1981 as the obvious sequel to the D&D Basic Set, which left characters hanging at level 3. For characters levels 4 - 14. The Basic and Expert sets are sometimes referred to as "red-box" and "blue-box" D&D.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D), 1st Edition
The AD&D books were first published between 1977 and 1979.

(Note that is was not named "1st Edition" until after the 2nd Edition came out in the late 1980s.)

AD&D had multiple printings; after the 10th printing, the books got new covers. The Players Handbook 2nd cover (10th printing) is shown at right (Hardback 1987; TSR2010)

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition

During the late 1980s, AD&D Second Edition was published, which revised the rules again, consolidating the character classes, and revised the combat system somewhat.

AD&D 2nd Edition changed the name of the Monster Manual to the "Monstrous Manual"...
"The most changes between AD&D 1st and 2nd editions can be found here. Monsters got a face lift and the Monsterous Manual is the result. One monster per page, expanded stats, a color picture from every monster. This is stuff we only dreamed of in 1st edition days. This book was also a big improvement over the early Monsterous Compendium binders."

2nd Edition, RevisedThere was also a revision published for the 2nd Edition (shown at right). In my option, the cover art was better on the 1st one. Note that they are moving towards the "simplification" by no longer labeling the books with the words "2nd Edition"... [more about the Revision to the 2nd Edition]

(By the way, the computer games Baldur's Gate (1 and 2) and IceWind Dale use 2nd edition AD&D rules, while Icewind Dale II uses the Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons rule set.)

3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons
(3rd Edition D&D; "3E D&D")

In 2000, Wizards of the Coast (who had purchased TSR two years earlier) decided to reinvent the franchise, and they released a whole new revision of AD&D.

As part of an effort to simplfy the game, they dropped the word "Advanced," and simply called it "Dungeons & Dragons." (There was no reason to call it "Advanced" anymore, as the "basic" version was dropped.)

This version has informally been referred to by fans and players as a "third" edition of D&D, often abbreviated as "3E D&D."

3E D&D is based on a role-playing system designed around 20-sided dice, called the d20 system. It rationalizes movement and combat (especially ranged combat), removes lots of arbitrary restrictions (now players can use previously forbidden classes, such as a half-orc monk), and incorporates skills and feats to allow players to customize their characters.

The d20 system is what Wizards of the Coast calls an "open source" version of the D&D core rules. The idea is that the "open source" rules allows others to create D&D-compatible content, or entirely different games using the "game engine" (for a licensing fee, or course).

Dungeons & Dragons, Edition 3.5

In July of 2003 errata was incorporated and a new set of core rulebooks was released as system 3.5.
(Just like software, they have to keep putting out new versions so that you will buy something.)



The Forge (Ron Edwards)
D&D Version 3.5 Revision Spotlight

Printings of The Monster Manual (The Acaeum)

View Scans of Book Versions, and proposed collector values

See also:

D&D 2nd Ed / 3rd Ed Store (buy Dungeons & Dragons books)

Muchkin - All the hack & slash, half the roleplaying




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This page created July 23, 2003. Last updated: May 2005 (link check). Author: Lyberty