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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

If All Editions are Just Shadows of the "True" Edition, Which is the "True" Edition and What Makes it the "True" Edition?

This is a hypothetical, but an interesting one (at least in my state of moderate intoxication.) It riffs off what little I can remember of the Amber series which I read about 25 years ago.

For all intents and purposes, all editions of D&D and it's clones are more or less compatible (not counting 4e in this discussion.) While the Original Boxed Set is what everything else builds upon, it's the SRD and the OGL from 3x that allowed for the clones and the surge of the OSR and added interest in the older editions. Castles & Crusades, heavily built upon the 3x core with old school sensibilities can be argued to be the Rosetta Stone of the editions.

So, is the "true" edition the one that started it all, the one that enabled the clones, the one that is a central translator or something else all together?

Yes, this is the product of many beers. There is no right answer. There is no wrong answer. There is just... beer ;)

18 comments:

  1. None are true editions, yet all are true editions.

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  2. The only true edition is the one you are playing right now.

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  3. Replies
    1. Amen, bro! Eastside Overton representing!

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  4. I'm not sure there's a single true edition. OD&D seems like an obvious choice — it established what D&D was, after all — but even that was a compromise between the Blackmoor and Greyhawk campaigns. It just seems silly to say neither of those are "true" D&D

    Consider also how many changes occurred during those early years. As far as I know, D&D peaked in popularity around 1983. Most fans by that point were probably more familiar with the game's post-Greyhawk state (like variable hit dice instead of accruing them at different rates). Where OD&D set things up, Holmes, 1e, B/X and BECMI refined it to what most people think of as D&D

    And what about the differences between the Basic and Advanced lines?

    "True" D&D might well have never seen print, and perhaps would be too vague and fuzzy for that to be a real possibility. Moreso than any existing edition, it'd be a loose set of guidelines that required house ruling to be played at all, which sounds pretty D&D to me :D

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  5. The true edition exists as a platonic ideal, fully realized in a conceptual space where it is pristine, perfect, and unattainable by mankind who could never touch perfection. It is the Alpha and the Omega.

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  6. With apologies to Alexis, this question is very Tao of D&D.

    The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
    The Edition that can be written in a rulebook is not the True Edition.

    The true edition of D&D is what happens when you get into a game with your group, and you're just playing things out without bothering to refer to rulebooks or anything. You're just playing in the groove or zone or whatever you want to call it.

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  7. I was just thinking (and writing) about Zelazny's Amber Chronicles the day before yesterday. To answer your question, the "True" Edition is D&D itself... everything flows from there.

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  8. The true edition is individual to each person -- it's whatever cobbled-together combination of remembered rules and awesome house-rules is actually settled in your head and used at your gaming table.

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  9. I think the true D&D is in your head. It it your imagination, and it is different for each person. Published rules are only a vehicle to let it out, to express it. But more importantly, they inspire it and shape it. You may not have had the concept before reading it. And when you and your group all read the same rules, your imaginations are shaped and converge into a harmonious whole - an ephemeral shared reality that only exists between you, like the bloom of a flower. It is pure imagination.

    What makes the true D&D different from the true GURPS (for example) is the nature of the convergence. Both are pure, ineffable imagination, but they are shaped and expressed differently. Each coaxes in a deferential direction.

    Ultimately language (and hence game rules) is a mechanism for downloading thoughts from one person to another. The rulebook allows you to download the authors imagination into your own head. When everyone at the table is running the same program, collaboration becomes possible and a game happens. The author's thought merges with your own to create something unique in each player, but similar enough to be compatible. Like DNA. This unique subjective mental state is the true D&D for each person.

    Yet ultimately the is, or was, a single root from which it all sprang: the fantasies in Gary's own mind. The software you downloaded. It was expressed imperfectly and incompletely. The printed rules are only a sketchy description of it... much is not printed, it is assumed: shared cultural heritage. So ultimately the true D&D was in Gary's mind. It could never be known by anyone but him. And now it no longer exists on this plane. All we have is an echo still reverberating. Like a seed, it plants itself in a mind and germinates. Like DNA it combines the uniqueness of two people to create a new thing. Like a software protocol it creates a compatible communications network.

    Gary understood this. It's why he wrote in 1974, "why should we do your imagining for you?"

    I used to think I didn't need printed rules, that I could design my own game just as well. And I could. But what I didn't understand was the need to get into a common mind space. That is the real value of a printed game. In the Fudge rpg, you rely on pure imagination and in that sense it is the purest rpg because it doesn't influence you. But it also doesn't get you all on the same page. You need fluff for that, you need to be inspired. I think that's why people felt fudge was incomplete. D&D has clunky rules at times, but it is superb at establishing a common mindset, and pretty good at being compatible with the cultural memes. True D&D is not the rules: it is the weird, absurd, wacky, oddly familiar implied world.

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  10. I think the true D&D is in your head. It it your imagination, and it is different for each person. Published rules are only a vehicle to let it out, to express it. But more importantly, they inspire it and shape it. You may not have had the concept before reading it. And when you and your group all read the same rules, your imaginations are shaped and converge into a harmonious whole - an ephemeral shared reality that only exists between you, like the bloom of a flower. It is pure imagination.

    What makes the true D&D different from the true GURPS (for example) is the nature of the convergence. Both are pure, ineffable imagination, but they are shaped and expressed differently. Each coaxes in a deferential direction.

    Ultimately language (and hence game rules) is a mechanism for downloading thoughts from one person to another. The rulebook allows you to download the authors imagination into your own head. When everyone at the table is running the same program, collaboration becomes possible and a game happens. The author's thought merges with your own to create something unique in each player, but similar enough to be compatible. Like DNA. This unique subjective mental state is the true D&D for each person.

    Yet ultimately the is, or was, a single root from which it all sprang: the fantasies in Gary's own mind. The software you downloaded. It was expressed imperfectly and incompletely. The printed rules are only a sketchy description of it... much is not printed, it is assumed: shared cultural heritage. So ultimately the true D&D was in Gary's mind. It could never be known by anyone but him. And now it no longer exists on this plane. All we have is an echo still reverberating. Like a seed, it plants itself in a mind and germinates. Like DNA it combines the uniqueness of two people to create a new thing. Like a software protocol it creates a compatible communications network.

    Gary understood this. It's why he wrote in 1974, "why should we do your imagining for you?"

    I used to think I didn't need printed rules, that I could design my own game just as well. And I could. But what I didn't understand was the need to get into a common mind space. That is the real value of a printed game. In the Fudge rpg, you rely on pure imagination and in that sense it is the purest rpg because it doesn't influence you. But it also doesn't get you all on the same page. You need fluff for that, you need to be inspired. I think that's why people felt fudge was incomplete. D&D has clunky rules at times, but it is superb at establishing a common mindset, and pretty good at being compatible with the cultural memes. True D&D is not the rules: it is the weird, absurd, wacky, oddly familiar implied world.

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  11. "OD&D is the one true game. All the other editions are just pale imitations of the real thing." - diaglo

    Someone had to say it. :D

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  12. Some great answers here and I agree with most of them.

    I was going to say that the "true" edition is the one that you played when you first really played. It wasn't in any book and it was the most fun you ever had. The rest of your life has been spent chasing it and maybe, if you're lucky you've found it on a night or two here and there. Not to say you've not had a fantastic time playing AD&D or 3E or 4E or 5E or C&C or S&W or LL or whatever, but those games are only as good as their ability to set up a session in your true edition. That's why people prefer one edition or one clone over another, because that particular ruleset comes closest to their true edition. This is also why I think you can never have too many clones. Because each person puts their stamp on the game. If I had to say one edition is closest, it would be Adventures in The East Mark.

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  13. Straw man, anyone?

    Having proposed the idea of a 'true' D&D, we immediately discard it's possibility. Producing, simultaneously, a love-in on the process.

    There is no true D&D. But . . . I beg to ask . . . how about a better D&D than what you're running now?

    No? No takers?



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