D&D editions .. You must choose, but choose wisely

edited August 2010 in Story Games
My girlfriend and I are getting married (woot!), and we have agreed to divest ourselves of all unncessary possessions. Which for her is one hundred million things, because she is a pack rat. I, however, in classical nerd form, am a collector. Which means I have large numbers of specific kinds of things, like books, records, comics and role-playing games. So I am getting rid of the comics and games.

I found an online seller to give me a couple hundred bucks for about 50-75 gamebooks. There was some nostalgia when I piled them all up (Fading Suns! Mutants Down Under! Unearthed Arcana!), but I don't play them, so I am mostly happy to pass them on to someone else.

Clearly, however, I have to keep one edition of Dungeons & Dragons, for purposes of both play and nostalgia. But which?

My choices:

D&D Basic/Expert (Moldvay/Cook edition)
D&D Basic/Expert (Mentzer edition)
AD&D, original
AD&D, 2nd edition
D&D, 3rd / 3.5 edition
D&D, 4th edition

So many kinds of D&D! Each one with its own charms, flaws, idiosyncracies and styles of artwork.

But I can't have all those books in our little apartment.

There can be only one.

Note: This is NOT an invitation to edition wars. It is intended only to share the love of each. So, while critical reflection for purposes of comparison is okay, no hatin', please.


  • D&D Basic/Expert (Moldvay/Cook) + the Allston Rules Cyclopedia if you have it. In the long run, I think you'll get the most nostalgia and play value out of this combination than any other amongst your choices (although, no doubt there will be those who'd argue strongly for the three core AD&D original books, to which I would add, if you have them, you oughta keep Dieties and Demigods and Fiend Folio, and junk MMII, UA, and OA).
  • B/X! Also, if you end up chucking your original AD&D books, I'll take those off your hands. I am not married yet! :)

    B/X Mentzer is the one I played when I was seven or eight, I think. It might have been the Holmes edition. Clerics started with a 1st level spell, that's all I remember.
  • Posted By: Brian MinterD&D, 3rd / 3.5 edition
    This, because you can supplement it with 1,000000000,2 super-cheap e-books that take up no room at all.
  • edited August 2010
    Oh, I've got almost all the original AD&D books. But I'm only keeping ONE edition. (Plus the Forgotten Realms 3E hardcover and the Planescape 2E boxed set, because those are my favorite setting books ever).

    Clerics get NO spells in Mentzer or Moldvay D&D at 1st level. It blows!
  • Posted By: JDCorleyThis, because you can supplement it with 1,000000000,2 super-cheap e-books that take up no room at all.
    On the other hand, what with d20srd.org existing, there's no reason to keep the actual 3.X books. (I played just fine for a decent chunk of time using only the website and some cribbed note on character creation.)

    I'd go with 4e myself, but that's purely my own preference.
  • Posted By: Brian MinterClearly, however, I have to keep one edition of Dungeons & Dragons, for purposes of both play and nostalgia. But which?
    Would it be a dumb question to ask which editions you actually enjoy playing, and which editions you enjoy reading nostalgically? And for that matter, how likely it is that you'll play D&D again, and which edition the people you play with would be most likely to use?

    If it was me, it'd probably be about playing more than reading (the whole point of getting rid of stuff you don't use is to use the stuff you keep, right?), so I'd keep 3rd/3.5, both for the ruleset and all the cheap books. Also, it's the edition my friends enjoyed the most. YMMV.
  • Posted By: Brian MinterD&D Basic/Expert (Mentzer edition)
    Hey, I have the exact same problem! Mentzer D&D gets my vote, as it was my introduction to roleplaying games.

    Runner up is 3rd Edition, as I remember reading it and feeling like it was written by people who dealt with all the same problems as I did with D&D and AD&D. If asked to run a D&D campaign tomorrow, I think I'd pick to do it with 3rd over any other edition. It remains very playable and highly customizable.
  • Personally I've found better games that do what I was using D&D for and of course there are all the free clones so if I wanted to play I'd get one of those. That leaves nostalgia as the only reason to keep the books which would mean first edition AD&D all the way.
  • Original AD&D with the awesome covers.
  • edited August 2010
    I would say rules cyclopedia and you favorite fluffy sourcebooks through the editions to draw inspiration from. The cyclopedia gives you a nice sexy bed of rules to clober all the fluff with.

    Edit: On a side note if you decide not to go with the rules cyclopedia I would be willing to give it a proper home!
  • edited August 2010
    If you are choosing one, choose the one you have the most affection for. Throw them all in the box and see which one stays in your hand instead.

    If they all go in the box without a fight, that tells you something, too!

    Also: Congratulations!
  • edited August 2010
    I had the same problem a couple years back. I ended up saving the big three from each edition (PHB, DMG, MM) in a box with my favorite supplements from each edition. Essentially it was the minimum needed for someone to pick up and play each of the editions. Something for my kids one day. An entire apple box of supplements went to a used game store and another apple box of Dragon magazines is somewhere in my parent's basement.

    [edit] AD&D and 3rd ed. were my favorite editions.
  • Posted By: Accounting for TasteWould it be a dumb question to ask which editions you actually enjoy playing, and which editions you enjoy reading nostalgically? And for that matter, how likely it is that you'll play D&D again, and which edition the people you play with would be most likely to use?
    Great question! Not dumb.

    My favorites to play ... B/X Mentzer edition and 3rd edition. So I will probably keep one of those two.

    But there are things I love about each big, messy set. I figured that had to be true of other people as well.
  • For sheer nostalgia, the Mentzer Basic and Expert sets are a (close) winner. That's the first RPG I ever owned (my original red books disintegrated, but I still have my original blue book), and there's some serious reverence emnating from shadows of my 13-year-old self when I flip through those books, especially those great Elmore illustrations.
  • Based on my personal experience, get rid of the girl; you'll miss the books more.

    YMMV, of course. ;)
  • For nostalgia: pick the one you love most for nostalgia value (duh, I know) :)

    For playing it: 4E definitely. The only edition of DnD I actually find fun.
  • It's an awful question, but I'd keep 4e for purely practical reasons: everything else is available as a retroclone in PDF, usually for free.

    For nostalgia, B/X Mentzer.
  • Several people pointed out (comments and whispers) that 4E is the only edition that isn't more or less available for free. Good point! But I think it's also my least favorite. Possibly b/c I've played it the least.

    I've looked at some retroclones, and I think the whole OSR thing is really cool. But I don't see any of them as being necesssarily better than B/X D&D. An elf with 4 hit points is an elf with 4 hit points, right?

    Also, if you're piping up, feel free to share what YOU dig about whichever edition. I like that whole "folk history of the nerds" thing.
  • Posted By: Brian MinterNo derailing worries! Although, now that I think of it, I guess I should sell the whole deal, since I've already promised him. I suspect the 1E core books are probably a bigger draw than a lot of the crap I'm selling.

    However, if you want to unload some stuff, the company is Noble Knight Games - Aaron Leeder at nobleknight@nobleknight.com.

    He gave me a cash offer based on my list of titles and what condition they were in, and is sending me FedEx labels for the shipping costs. I could probably get more selling them individually, but man, what a hassle.
    Yeah, definitely. I ended up giving a bunch to my old gaming group and then just sitting on the rest, because selling individually is such a pain.

    Anyway, thanks for entertaining my offer (and for turning me on to Noble Knight)! Good luck finding your One Edition to Rule Them All. :)
  • For play I would keep 4e, as I'm one of those people for whom 4e was the only edition that really clicked for actual play.

    But for reading and inspiration, AD&D2e, especially my Planescape stuff.
  • Keep two.

    First, buy the RULES CYCLOPEDIA. And keep that. That fulfills the "classic, nostalgia" purpose.

    Then, determine from D&D 3.x vs 4.0, which one you will actually play again, which one you will play more of (if "maybe both"), and which one your friends might not have. Keep that one.

    I'm actually sad I let my copy of 3.0 go back in the day, I actually needed it again recently, and didn't feel like splurging on 3.5...

  • By the way, I second that CONGRATULATIONS.

    Also, check out this thread by Max on "Culling", something I'm fond of doing. In fact, I'm about a few days from doing it again!
    Keeping a "culling limit" will help you not to ever get to a packrat/collector state again.


  • AD&D2e because we played it for years, enjoyed it with a few house rules. I also think it had some of the better supplement planecape, Spelljammer, and Al-Qadim.
  • I'm just going to say congratulations, too!

    Oh, well, on the subject of D&D...3.x/Pathfinder is all online/SRD, we don't even use the books anymore. I have no love for 4E, but that has a lot of arguments going for it: it has the most support, the most people currently playing (probably), it's new, you bought it recently etc.

    But you also seem the most fond of the Mentzer books. I'd say keep those, for the nostalgia, historical value, OSR fun, replayability etc. It's really a hard choice however. Why not keep a few books out of each edition?
  • edited August 2010
    Thanks, Andy! (EDIT: And Gregor. And Jason). And thanks for that link. It's true .. I have many many books I will never play again. I've been lugging them, socked in two giant boxes, from apartment to apartment for ten years. No more! Culling is good. (Although I do like when people have those game rooms cram-packed with hundreds of games. But, you know, other people).
    Posted By: asurberAD&D2e because we played it for years, enjoyed it with a few house rules. I also think it had some of the better supplement planecape, Spelljammer, and Al-Qadim.
    Hey, some love for 2E. Nice! The under-appreciated middle child.
  • Posted By: TeataineWhy not keep a few books out of each edition?
    Tempting! But that way madness lies.

    I'm sure I'll play D&D again. But I know I won't play five different editions.
  • Whether or not to keep 3rd Edition depends on how you choose to enjoy that edition. If your 3.x fun involves crazy character builds with races, classes, PrCs, feats, and spells cherry-picked from 40 different books, you're going to need those 40 different books. If you prefer the traditional races and classes of the core books, you could totally get away with just using the SRD...

    Or you could cheat and get yourself a copy of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, which is essentially the 3.5 PHB and DMG plus a number of interesting tweaks and houserules packaged together in a beautiful 5 lb., 576 page beast of a book. It doesn't say "D&D" on it anywhere, so you'd still get to keep one of your other D&D editions too!
  • Yes. True. 3E requires 20+ books to have the most maxed-out crazy character builds and the most weird template-laden monsters. And I am 100% in favor of those things.
  • edited August 2010
    For collection purposes: Moldvay / Cook, especially if they're all boxed. Erol Otus >>> Larry Elmore.

    For play purposes: 4E is getting serious play here, so I'd go with that if I were in your situation. Also, the 4E fluffbooks (the Manual of the Planes, the Plane Secrets books, the Underdark) have utility far beyond the D&D scope; they are written at the exact level of detail I need to use them as inspiration for my own stuff in any fantasy game.
  • Okay, made my decision tonight. It was really no contest.


    I'd be happy playing any edition, more or less. So the 13-year-old nerd who lives in the back of my brain carries the day.
  • Dr. Holmes prevails! Requiescat in pace, btw.
  • 3.0/3.5, I don't really care which.

    This edition did something that I have really come to appreciate. It gave everyone something they could do together (fight) and allowed each to do something other characters couldn't (the variety of skills and skill levels). There was a balance between the group and the individual.
  • 3rd edition was probably the game I got the most play out of, and I think it's the best version of D&D. It's definitely the game that brought me back to RPGs after an absence.

    But, given that my days of playing lots of D&D are behind me, I'll probably get the most play out of a simpler version. And I'll take the Elmore art over the Otus art. The adult nerd in me appreciates the Otus artwork for its cool, retro-ness, but the junior-high nerd in me really loves the illustrations that were in my first D&D game ever.

    This thread wasn't really an informational one. I was just feeling nostalgic for all these old editions of the game. Requiescat in pace, indeed.
  • edited August 2010
    Posted By: framweardDr. Holmes prevails!
    I pretty sure that's Mentzer, not Holmes, but I've been wrong before.
    Posted By: AndyFirst, buy theRULES CYCLOPEDIA. And keep that. That fulfills the "classic, nostalgia" purpose.
    I've got this problem, where I've got both the BECM sets and the Rules Cyclopedia. Out of one I could run a complete game, but perusing the Elmore & Co. art in the other is much more satisfying (maybe moreso than playing, hm . . .).
  • Okay, so when it came time to actually pack it all up, I lost some of my nerve. I kept more than I'd planned on - including the Mentzer edition of D&D and 4th edition (or, at least the three core books). I also kept some assorted other stuff - Planescape 2E, Forgotten Realms 3E, some of Erick Wujcik's Palladium books, etc.

    Here's the stuff I sold:


    Whew. Lots of fond memories! But it feels good to purge.
  • "Transdimensional TMNT"

    You have chosen...wisely.
  • Yeah, that shit didn't make a lick of sense.
  • I actually quite liked TMNT, I was being a bit facetious. Hopefully it finds a good home.
  • No, I liked TMNT (I kept 'Mutants Down Under'), but Transdimensional TMNT was a hot mess of a game. It was sort of about time travel, and aliens, and super-smart cavemen, but I never figured out what kind of game to use it for.

    There was a great NPC in that book, though. He was some kind of mutant fox, and the book statted him out at all different points in some sort of vaguely-defined future war. So, like, the PCs would meet him when he was young and spry, and then maybe later when he was mostly cyborg, and all absent-minded and alien. Or, even better, they'd meet him that way FIRST, and only later put the pieces together.

    Great concept, but, sadly, it would have required serious railroading to make it happen in a game.
  • Two questions:

    1. Which edition of Shadowrun is that, and

    2. have you already sold it?
  • I can tell by the spine that it's the first edition.

    Also, don't feel weird about saving some stuff: I still have all my Planescape stuff, plus a Kingdom of Nithia D&D setting package thingy. I even kept the Blue Planet line, but I might be selling that off sometime soon, maybe.

  • Ah, ok then. I was looking for 2nd edition.
  • Andy's nerd-eye is finely-trained. That was indeed the original Shadowrun book.

    That's a game that I played a good amount of in high school, but I don't think it ever quite made good sense to me at the time. Looking through it again, I experienced a) nostalgia, esp for the full-color character archetype pages, and b) a headachey feeling, for the rules.
  • Although if you've got a hankering for any old RPG books, Noble Knight Games treated me well when buying these, so I've got only good things to say.
  • Awwww, you sold the first edition Talislanta Handbook! Sad face. (Not for myself, I have it; just sad to see someone else decide they don't need or want it.)
  • edited August 2010
    I guarantee there is *something* cool in every one of those books. But there's only so many game-nights in a month, you know?

    EDIT: Also, given how low-resolution that photo is, it's funny that people can pick out specific games and editions from a blurry picture of a spine alone.
  • I think you made a good decision. For me the decision would be 2nd Edition, simply because that's what I started on, and really each edition has its own advantages and disadvantages, but nostalgia is always the most powerful.

    That said, I also hope you're holding on to 4th Edition, because realistically it still gets played and you might as well keep it until the next edition is out.
  • I think what is cool about D&D, at least among gamers I know, is that every edition still gets played, you know? I'm sure there are gaming communities where playing older editions of D&D is not the thing, but I don't think I'd be hard-pressed to get people to play at least a game or two of whatever D&D flavor I was offering.
  • Certainly that's true if you offer a game, but if you're looking to just drop in for a game somewhere there's something about the current edition, particularly with the support WotC is putting in through D&D Encounters.
  • The older editions of D&D (AD&D specifically) has free downloads made available from WotC's site, so you could pick up the AD&D 2nd Ed Core books for cheap and have access to free downloads of the settings and adventures in PDF format which only use up the space of a USB pendrive. The direction that D&D 4th Edition seems to be heading will provide the core rules and classes in a few books (two, I believe) and it's possible to make use of the older free resources of 2nd Edition with 4th as well, though some conversion work might be needed.

    In addition to the nostalgia factor mentioned for AD&D 2nd Edition, the modular nature would allow tweaks or hacks of individual subsystems without trashing the others or throwing them off. Depending on if you are a tweaker or not this could be a good thing.
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