#RPGaDay 2015: Day One – Edition Wars

I’m already a day behind with #RPGaDay! Not a good start.

Day One’s topic is ‘Forthcoming game you’re most looking forward to’. There are lots of great games coming out soon, but the one I’m most excited about right now is Changeling: the Lost 2nd Edition. With The God Machine Chronicle and Blood and Smoke, Onyx Path have proven that they are providing some really great new mechanics for their lines. Not just rehashing the old settings, either, but altering them so they do something different. Blood and Smoke is subtly but significantly different to Vampire: the Requiem in a way that makes me highly optimistic for Changeling 2nd Edition.

edition warsI suppose one thing that has always bothered me about RPGs is the concept of an edition war. I didn’t get into D&D until 3.5 Edition was well underway, but I definitely felt a lot of defensiveness about 4th Edition that took a long time to break through (now I love 4th Edition and I’m highly suspicious of 5th Edition). I know lots of people felt the same way about the change from 2nd to 3rd Edition. There are still plenty of people who discount the entire new World of Darkness line in favour of the original World of Darkness games, and I imagine there will be some who will always prefer First Edition WoD to Second Edition. However, with pdfs, Kickstarter and the Old School Revival, the edition wars have lost some of its power. OK, people don’t seem to play 2nd or 3rd Edition D&D much any more, but 5th Edition and Pathfinder were introduced specifically to provide an updated ruleset in the tradition of D&D that 4th Ed somewhat left behind. What’s great is that the spirit of those editions can still exist within newer versions while also allowing for new mechanics (5th Edition) or a slow carving out of their own styles and niches (Pathfinder). Onyx Path have gone one better by (appropriately) resurrecting their old lines through Kickstarter, celebrating the success they had, while still moving forward with new mechanics that introduce more storygaming concepts into the system. In fact, they even provide cross-edition synergy by providing translation guides for playing, say, Masquerade in the Requiem rules. It’s a pretty stellar business model.

That said, there is the risk of things slipping through the cracks. 4th Ed D&D is no longer supported, and 5th Edition feels like a step backwards for many people who enjoyed the changes that 4th Ed made. First Edition WoD had very minimal support for some of its lines (Geist, I’m looking at you) and it begs the question of whether the edition was complete enough to warrant moving on…or whether there is enough life left to provide a whole new edition. However, Onyx Path is a good example of edition wars done right: the new generation of game doesn’t invalidate the old one. Vampire: the Requiem has an awful lot going for it, as does Masquerade, that Blood and Smoke doesn’t do. They are not simply re-releasing all the old bloodlines and covenant books with new mechanics, and the Strix Chronicle provides a new facet to vampire antagonists that hasn’t been seen before. It doesn’t stop VII or Belial’s Brood being great bad guys, and it doesn’t remove the advantages of owning the first edition books.

Ultimately, everyone is going to have their favourite edition of D&D or WoD. What I’m glad to see these days is that the attitude is no longer out with the old, in with the new. It makes business sense to keep the old lines alive, and it enriches the hobby as people have a wider range of editions to choose from. The question becomes ‘how do you want to run your game?’, which can only be a good thing, in my opinion.

(Though the one thing I think is a shame is that 3rd Edition has fallen so far out of favour, and as a result some really good things like the Open Gaming Licence and the many, many spinoff settings and books that resulted, are forgotten. D20 Modern, Swashbuckling Adventures and the True20 system deserve to be remembered.)

For a thoughtful explanation of what Wizards of the Coast has been trying with Fifth Edition: this Guardian article

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