March 30, 2014
The Edition Wars
Later this year, Exalted will see a third edition. Likewise, with the launch of D&D Next, we will see the fifth official edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Shadowrun is currently on its fifth edition, which came out late last year, Big Eyes, Small Mouth is on its third edition, G.U.R.P.S. has had four editions, and there have been more versions of the Star Wars role-playing game (both official and otherwise) than I can count. Every few years, it seems, popular games like to try and start back at square one with a whole new edition. Every time this happens, it opens the floodgates for the edition wars.
Edition wars are what happens when the fanbase for a game strongly disagrees on which is better, a previous edition or the current one. It happens every simple time, though there have been some much more bitter than others (I am looking at you Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition). For the most part, this comes down to personal tastes and nothing else. Perhaps there was a mechanic to a previous edition that same players liked and some hated which was removed for a newer edition (like “ThacO” from older versions of D&D). Other times it is a new rule that players are split on (like “technomancers” in Shadowrun). Sometimes it simply comes down to money, and players do not want to see their collection of hundreds of dollars worth of books become meaningless as a new edition as a game comes out.
The problem with edition wars is that they only serve to split a fan-base. I have seen gaming groups fractured by disagreements on which version of a game should be played, and honestly that is just sad. A huge part of what makes gaming so great is the camaraderie, the friendships that are born from rolling dice and telling stories. Watching conflict arise simply out of which edition of a game is superior is something I find needlessly tragic.
Note, I am not opposed to there being new editions of a game. Rather, I often find them encouraging. When a game undergoes a new edition, it often comes out the better for it. This also shows that the game still has a lot of life still in it, with an active fan-base and creative minds behind it. While there have certainly been blunders in the past, more often than not I have found a new edition equates to a positive change within the game.
This does not mean that previous edition should just be tossed aside, however. I have found that a lot can be gained from going back and looking at older versions of a game. You gain an understanding of where the game came from, how it evolved, and a deeper insight to the workings of that campaign world.
Do not be resolute in your refusal to play in editions of a game you dislike. Give them a try. It was in doing so, agreeing to play in a game of Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition, my least liked game of all time, that I was introduced to one of my current game groups. Games are as fun as you and your troupe make them, no matter the edition. Of course everyone is going to have favorites, and that is fine. Just do not let your personal preferences get in the way of what makes gaming great for everyone.
As always, thanks for reading and I wish you all good gaming.
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