Bear with me, I’ll tie the two together in a bit. For now, the background of this concept is important – KO
The Rhetorical Gamer has an interesting article about how the original modules and games of the past helped to evoke a sense of shared experience in the hobby. His contention that today’s games are flowing by us into history without helping to connect us to each out as touchstones is an excellent one well worth your time to read.
I did so and forwarded the concept on to my current gaming group. Which led to something fascinating…
I was chatting with Max a bit ago and we were comparing notes on a few rpg games we’ve each played over the years. My list was surprisingly shorter than his, but not for the reasons you’d initially expect. See, I’ve actually played more games than Max, but I tend to lump things together where he doesn’t.
Max claims that each edition of D&D is actually a separate and distinct rpg that, while having inspiration and a shared precursor, isn’t the same as the edition prior and succeeding it. For Max, 2E is one rpg while 4E is another.
What’s even more interesting is that Max only seems to make this distinction with D&D. Call of Cthulhu has also gone through some edition evolution but, aside from the d20 variant, Max doesn’t see a difference in the game until it’s played in a different era (so Victorian CoC is a different rpg from Delta Green, etc.)
But this isn’t the point so let’s just hand-wave this info away and get to the meat of the discussion. – KO
In contrast, I contend that D&D has to be seen as a continuum of all the edition offerings that span the years. For me, D&D spans the range from B/X to Next and contains every intervening edition including the digital versions for ToEE and NWN and to separate the edition spectrum of D&D into distinct games would possibly open the door to a claim that by house-ruling something, you’ve effectively made a new rpg.
Interestingly, Max makes allowances for 3E and 3.5 being close enough to be one rpg and does the same for B/X. In this light, simple house-ruling ins’t sufficient to separate the system into a new game and preserves the continuum but breaks up the spectrum.
However, as we began discussing the differences in each edition, and why he thought the changes represented a distinct rpg or why I thought they essentially amounted to interpretation and variations on a theme (read game) and didn’t, it became apparent that we each had our favorite editions and we weren’t likely to budge from the belief that (at least on the surface) that particular edition was the best way to represent D&D as a concept.
And that’s when it struck me…
The Edition War is the Roswell/JFK Shooting/Moon Landing argument of our hobby.
See, it didn’t matter what I said to Max. Nor did it matter what he said to me.
Our arguments weren’t targeting the root of the reasons for our opinions. And since the reasons for our beliefs aren’t rooted in systems and rules, as a result, neither of us will ever be convinced the other has it right.
That’s not to say we can’t play at the same table or even enjoy each other’s company playing in the other’s favorite edition – that’s not what I’m saying at all.
What I’m saying is that, to Max, aliens crash-landed at Roswell and to me they didn’t (or vice-versa*.) And absolutely no evidence brought to the table will ever prove otherwise.
Just as in an argument on whether we ever landed on the Moon, or who was ultimately behind the JFK shooting, every shred of evidence that edition A is better/does a better job portraying D&D as a concept is met with distrust and discounted as being suspect from the get-go.
You claim we landed on the Moon and I claim we didn’t.*
Everything you bring to the table to prove me wrong is assumed to be false or incorrect, so I don’t believe a single bit of it.
But only because your chosen favorite edition better matches your concept of what you believe D&D is better than mine.
Will the real Quantum Ogre please stand up?
In a way, this is a lot like the Quantum Ogre argument.
Those who want to see the Quantum Ogre will see him in every choice offering while those of us who don’t believe he exists will see him nowhere.
No evidence to either side will ever sway true believers.
Start with the end in mind
It’s not that we’re closed minded, we’re just starting with a different end in mind.
For some, the concept of what a good D&D session entails involves something completely different than that same concept for others.
The cool thing is, I can still play with people who think I’ve missed the boat on what D&D really is, and they can do the same with me.
Because above all the edition wars and conceptual frames of reference on what a D&D game should be, we all have the same ultimate end in mind… we’re at the table to have some fun.
*For the record, I do believe we landed on the Moon, that there’s a chance aliens may have crashed at Roswell, that there are stranger creatures still yet undiscovered by science, and I have no clue who or what was the prime actor/motivation for the JFK assassination.