What’s The Best Version Of Dungeons & Dragons?

What’s The Best Version Of Dungeons & Dragons?

Earlier this year I finally ventured into the world of Dungeons & Dragons, something I’d wanted to do for many years but never gotten the opportunity to. And while I’m still getting my head around roleplaying a character while keeping all of the necessary systems and rules in my head at once, it’s been fun!

But something I’ve noticed, particularly amongst the more veteran players in my group, is the references to D&D systems and mechanics of years past. So for this week’s Big Question, I put it to you all: what’s the best version of D&D?

For the purposes of this question, let’s keep things strictly to D&D and none of the offshoots, like Pathfinder. I’m not talking homebrew campaigns either or anything like that – just the strict baseline D&D editions: first edition, 5th edition, 3.5, that sort of thing.

Being only really familiar with 5th edition in person, and a bit of advanced D&D through the forks that made their way into games like Baldur’s Gate, I asked some more experienced nerds around me what their preferences were. Gizmodo’s Rae, who has played for years, nominated 4th edition as her favourite due to the ruleset.

I don’t think many people would prefer the original D&D, if only because there were only three classes (magic user, fighter, cleric) and there wasn’t a lot of difference between the characters when it came to combat.

What’s your favourite edition of D&D?


      • And 4th Ed. was an abomination.

        5th Ed. is a bit too simplistic for me, but if you get a good DM then that can go a long way to making whatever system you are using tolerable.

        • I just use Castles & Crusades for my generic fantasy RPG system du jour. I find it a nice blend of 3ed modern refinements and old school 1e/2e simplicity. Also it’s super easy to convert 1e/2e/3(.5)e modules which is great for ideas etc.

  • 3.5 is by far the most fleshed out and therefor best for groups that tend to either be serious players or tend to play unexpected group archetypes.

    5e is simplified in the best ways, making it easy for new comers and “social” groups (like mine) to have a bit of fun. The upcoming “guide to everything” will hopefully flesh out some of the less treaded water in 5e rules, like whether skinning our druid while he is wildshaped causes his fur to revert to skin or if the party now has an unlimited source of furs.

    • LOL, I’d rule it that the Druid takes 1d3 temporary CON damage each time he’s skinned to represent the shock. If his CON gets to 0 then he dies of massive system shock.

      • The problem is that 5e druid health pool is seperate from wildshape. As per class feat, damage to the creature only effects the Druid it it exceeds the natural damage threshold.

        • Does that only affect HP damage or does it count for status effects as well, e.g. poisoning, mind-affecting spells? Sounds pretty powerful!

          • Its op as hell, apparently 3.5 Druids weren’t strong enough (lol yeah right), so it is now a time pool based ability with separate health pools.

          • 3.5 druids didn’t start to come into their own until 5th level, where they could wildshape and summon elementals. Later on, when they could wildshape INTO elementals, they kicked ass.

            Sadly, a lot of people got bored before then, and whined at their GM until they were allowed to change, so missed out.

            Even the well established, well fleshed out versions still had their loopholes. The 2e description for FeatherFall, for example, gave the target “the mass of a feather” for the duration. Lots of fun to be had there.

          • No way, 3.5 had free subordinate that when combined with wild shape and buffs made you pretty close to untouchable. Druids are the reason why animal handling and companions are so dirt tier in 5e.

            They are the only class that could have 5 dump stats and get away with a score of 16 Wis.

            5e druids are op tanks if skilled towards wild shape (not to mention that depending on dm ruling for equipment they can get gear benefits post shape), druids can pretty much replace any class in the group. Theyare essentially the new bard song bard.

  • Played a lot of 2nd edition back in the day and find that 3.5 fixed a lot issues (THAC0 – what we’re they thinking) and made some great extensions.
    Agree that 5th is a bit light for my tastes (never touched 4th)

  • I started many moons and many worlds ago, playing AD&D (2nd Ed).

    Switched to 3e (and subsequently 3.5e) when it came out, as it was a far more flexible, accessible system.

    Played maybe 3 hours of 4e, and it still comes up in therapy sessions. It was Wizards attempt to cash in on WOW players, and tried to turn D&D into a board/card game. It was balls. Far too simple, far too regimented, and got badly in the way of character customisation and roleplaying.

    I’ve played a couple of campaigns of 5e, and it is better than 4e, reverses a lot of the appalling changes they made, and reintroduces imagination to the game.

    I still prefer 3.5e, (but I wish they hadn’t nerfed Haste). A roleplaying system should give you the framework for conflict resolution and the ability to create the character you want to play, without getting in the way. 2e did this well. 3.5e does it better.

    This is my opinion. Other opinions are available.

  • I think we can all agree the correct answer is “any of them that isn’t 4th Edition”.

    5e is promising and improving all the time but it’s kind of abstract and lacking in detail in a lot of places. Felt like they published half the game. 3rd Edition was good for its time, and 3.5 fixed most of the glaring issues. Much easier to learn and play than AD&D.

    AD&D was my jam though. I just really liked how that system worked. However I haven’t played it in a long, long time – 3rd Edition basically shoved it aside forever – and I bet if I went back now it’d drive me nuts.

    So 3.5 I guess?

  • I think the answer may change based on where you are in your life. I started with the D&D Cyclopedia (love that book) and went quickly into 2nd Edition. I had grand adventures and fond memories of that era.

    I was excited for 3rd / 3.5 and played they hell out of that. I was in my 20s then and was maturing as a player and gm and loved the flexibility (still do). More grand adventures and some epic moments due to the new level of customization.

    But now, despite the fond memories of 2nd and 3.5, 5th is where I am at. Now almost 40, and the GM, I appreciate the more streamlined game style while maintaining some nice options for roleplay. Our weekly group are more casual, we don’t have time for full on rules and tinkering 3.5 (and Pathfinder) need. We all have jobs, responsibilities and our weekly 4 hour session is special and we don’t want to lose it to long fights which 3.5 can create. Combat is quick, fun and we get back to everything else.


    Age 13-20: D&D 2nd Edition
    Age 21-35: 3.5 (+ PF)
    Old man me: 5th Ed

  • Moldvay D&D is my favorite. I think it largely gets at what D&D is all about: creative problem solving. Fighting doesn’t earn you XP. Gold does. The dangers of the world and fragility of our characters creates a very hostile environment where it’s not enough to be good. You also must be lucky. This game fosters a devil-may-care attitude to your characters (plural since we’re all usually playing multiple characters). It promotes story as an emergent property of the game instead of something pre-baked. The story of Joreee (yes three e’s), the halfling burglar who has survived 3 sorties becomes a legend amongst your band. “That halfling’s a lucky one. Stick near them!” your crew jokes to the new recruits by the firelight.

    Knowing the game is about dungeon delving and getting treasure relieves SO MUCH PRESSURE from the DM and players for coming up with some crazy epic storyline that has to be amazing. It’s just a different way to play. It’s like eating the best ham and cheese sandwich you’ve ever had.

    Later editions, especially 3rd and onward change scope from dungeon delving miscreants into keep-running petty lords and focuses on the poor farmhand into knight in shining armor, slay the necromancer power fantasy of 80s fantasy literature. Also lost in later editions are the group roles: cartographer and shotcaller for example.

    Nothing wrong with those editions. I think 5e is a great way to get into the hobby. For the record I started in late 2e and every edition through 5e. Moldvay was the latest I’ve played.

  • I personally think 5th Edition has the potential to be better than 3rd/3.5 Edition based on the core framework on how it’s made. Don’t know how to explain it without writing up a whole essay, but the foundations 5th Edition is built on seems sturdier than 3rd, since they’ve learnt a lot from past bad experience.

  • I grew up on 3.0/3.5, played 4th and didn’t care for it. Now, I’m running a Rules Cyclopedia game over on Roll20. I will say this:

    Older versions of D&D (basically anything pre-3rd edition) are trying to do something very different. In older versions, you’re not playing a teenage Clark Kent who will soon become an OP superhero like with later editions. You’re playing an everyday person striving to become Batman. Big change on the paradigm.

    Personally, if you pointed a gun at my head and made me choose one as my favorite, I would say 3.5 edition. However it has its flaws (higher level combat is slow and way too OP, Save or Die is far too prevalent, and generally the system starts to break down at higher levels).

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