Most systems, as far as I know, stay mostly the same between editions. Yet Dungeons and Dragons has had major changes between almost every edition, with the skill systems, combat abilities/feats, multi-classing and monster stat blocks changing a lot, and features like THAC0, CR, and paragon paths being added and removed.

Do many systems do this, and I just don't know about them? If it's just Dungeons and Dragons, why?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not enough "good" subjective to be the real answer, but it's different games by different people using the same brand and some sacred cows for marketing reasons. I feel like 4e would bw a lot more appreciated if they didn't sell it as "D&D". \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel May 18 '13 at 19:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's really a bit of a mixed bag to be honest. Some systems change a lot and others remain closer to the original theme. In essence (A)D&D has never had that strong a theme to anchor it in a given set of rules - no core setting to keep it tied down. \$\endgroup\$ – Gaxx May 18 '13 at 19:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related - the big differences between editions. \$\endgroup\$ – Dakeyras May 18 '13 at 20:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not totally sure this is a real question that fits this site. Where's the "practical, answerable question based on an actual problem that you face"? Seems like just an invitation to discussion that needs to get focused. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil May 18 '13 at 23:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you look at the credits, there have been two publishers, and as many different design teams as there have been editions. What's surprising is that it hasn't changed more. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 19 '13 at 1:37

I think your premise is false: most systems change a lot between editions. To name a few:

  • White Wolf's old and new World of Darkness settings are very different. Their flagship, Vampire, had drastic changes.

  • Paranoia has had many large changes between editions.

  • The new FATE Core changes many things from previous versions of FATE.

To invert your question, why would a new edition be released if there aren't major changes?

It's probably true that the 4th edition of D&D had more drastic changes from earlier editions than is typical, but it's a matter of degree, not D&D somehow being special.

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