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How many editions of Dungeons & Dragons are there?

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As many as there are groups playing it. Every group has house rules and things the players and DM skip over. –  Marcus Downing Aug 20 '10 at 10:58
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up vote 21 down vote accepted

As a generic answer for the non-hardcore fan, I think most people would define the following:

  • OD&D (aka D&D 0e) including the original Brown Box and White Box versions from 1974.
  • Classic (BECMI) D&D (including everything from BD&D in 1977 through the Rules Cyclopedia of 1991 and the Classic D&D Game starter set)
  • AD&D 1st Edition (core books released 1977-1979)
  • AD&D 2nd Edition (released 1989)
  • D&D 3rd Edition (2000)
  • D&D 3.5 Edition (revision of 3rd edition, released 2003)
  • D&D 4th Edition (2008, including D&D Essentials, as D&D 4th edition has been erratad to the point that Essentials is at now)

Certainly you could split it further (the various Mentzer/Moldvay differences, etc.) , but those are the major divides most gamers would likely note.

Of course, no edition of D&D survives contact with a gaming group intact; if there are 40,000 D&D sessions this weekend, there will be just about as many “versions” being played.

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Isn't D&D Next (or is it officially 53 yet?) in beta test? Also, 3.5 was more of a bug-fix of 3e than a truly new version. –  Pulsehead Jul 23 '13 at 13:44
    
As far as I know, Next hasn't received an official 'edition' designation. Although I'm in the camp that it'll be 5e. –  Giganticus Jul 23 '13 at 23:42
    
@Pulsehead From most groups I know, 3.0 is treated separately from 3.5 due to the number of breaking changes. (They are both "d20" systems, of course.) –  Allen Gould Jul 24 '13 at 16:13
    
Most groups I know don’t distinguish between 3.0 and 3.5 unless explicitly talking about one of the differences. I’d say Skills & Powers 2e was more of a separate edition than 3.0 to 3.5. But I’d leave both S&P and 3.5 off this list. –  Robert Fisher Jul 25 '13 at 15:13
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Being a bit nitpicky... and using a "The rules are different enough that they characters have different capabilities and/or limits on advancement" meaning for edition, I'd say:

Not D&D but precursors to it:

  • Chainmail
  • Chainmail with Fantasy Supplement
  • Braunstein

D&D

  • Pre-6th Printing D&D (5x8's)
  • 6th printing and later D&D (5x8's) - subtle changes due to renaming of Tolkein derived stuff
  • either flavor of the 5x8's with the supplements I - VI - mechanically different from base box alone.
  • Holmes Basic
  • AD&D 1E
    Note that the 1978 printing is missing some elements in the 1981 printing; each printing seems to have included some errata changes. This was caught during a discussion of the lack of clerics for elves and dwarves - they're in the 1981, but not the 1978 printing of the PHB.
  • Moldvay Basic & Cook Expert
  • Revised AD&D 1E (new covers and minor errata)
  • AD&D 1E + Unearthed Arcana (UA makes MAJOR rules alterations to what's in the core)
  • Mentzer Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, Immortal.
  • AD&D 2E
  • Revised AD&D 2E
  • Allston D&D Cyclopedia and Denning Basic (the big black box)
  • Gazeteer D&D (Mentzer, or Denning & Allston with the GAZ line or HWR line alterations)
  • AD&D 2E + Player's Option series
  • D&D 3.0 (d20)
  • D&D 3.5 (d20)
  • D&D 4.0
  • D&D 4 Essentials (4.1 from what I gather)
  • D&D Next (currently in playtest)

Post-D&D:

  • Pathfinder (several of the 3.X dev team jumped ship to work on it)

Putting these into families:

  • Early: either little book flavor without supplements, with chainmail. VERY different feel.
  • BX/BECMI/BXCMI: Moldvay/Cook, Mentzer, Denning/Allston, Gazetteer.
  • AD&D
    • 0E: little book with at least Supplements 1 & 2, or Holmes Basic
    • 1E: AD&D 1E and Revised 1E,
    • 1.5E: AD&D 1E+UA
    • 2E: AD&D 2E and Revised 2E
    • 2.5E, PO'd 2E: AD&D 2E with the player's option books.
  • D20 line
    • D20 D&D: D&D 3.0, D&D 3.5
    • Continued under a new name: Pathfinder
  • 4E: D&D 4E, D&D 4E Essentials.
  • D&D Next

And that's without retroclones, pseudoclones, and knockoffs.

Note that, to me, a game edition can be any of the following:

  1. The core rules were revised and reworded
  2. the characters are distinctive enough that one can readily tell which edition was in use.
  3. the mechanics are different enough that the character won't play the same.

Thus, the gaps between:

  • Moldvay/Cook, Mentzer, and Alston/Denning, (reason 1)
  • AD&D 1 and 1.5 (Reason 2 and 3)
  • AD&D 2 and 2.5 (Reason 2 & 3)
  • original box, and original box plus supplements 1 & 2 (Reason 2 and 3)
  • Pathfinder and 3.X (Reason 2. Just look at the class skills and skill levels.)
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Chainmail Fantasy Supplement in 1971
Original Dungeons & Dragons published in 1974
Supplement I Greyhawk published in 1975
added rules made Dungeons & Dragon into a form we recognize today.
Basic Dungeons & Dragons by Holmes in 1977
Advanced Dungeons & Dragon in 1977-1979
Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons by Moldavy/Cook in 1981
Basic/Expert/Companion/Master/Immortal Dungeons & Dragons by Mentzer in 1983.
Unearthed Arcana for AD&D Some say that this made AD&D 1.5
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition in 1989
Rules Cyclopedia for Dungeons & Dragons in 1991
A one book compilation of Mentzer BECM D&D, some consider this the definitive version of the original Dungeons & Dragons line.
Skills & Powers for AD&D 2nd edition. Some say that this made a AD&D 2.5
Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 in 2000
Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 in 2003
Dungeons & Dragons 4.0 in 2008

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The Greyhawk supplement was a game-changer, yes -- but not a separate 'edition'. Likewise the RC is a compilation of Mentzer BECM, with a couple of minor changes. –  ExTSR Aug 20 '10 at 3:27
    
@ExTSR it was such a game changer that adventures written for use with it often can't be played without it... that's pretty much a rules edition gap even if it wasn't published as a separate edition. And many people, when you say 0E (Zero-Ee) think immediately of little book with supplements 1 and 2... as they are the direct precursor to AD&D 1E. –  aramis May 30 '11 at 6:39
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The Acaeum details the various editions and printings. It's well worth an extended browse just for the nostalgia of the cover scans. I'm going to say nine editions: OD&D, Holmes, Moldvay, Metzner, AD&D, 2e, 3e, 3.5e, and 4e.

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