That’s the question that smashed itself into my brain during a recent morning run. It turns out that this is a tricky question to answer. (It would be even harder to answer if I included Pathfinder 1st edition in the mix, but it doesn’t have the word “dungeons” or “dragons” in its name so it is ineligible.)
After much mulling over this devilishly tricky question, I finally came to an answer. So, in reverse order:
5: 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons
4: Basic Dungeons & Dragons
I never really played that much Basic D&D (or its companion sets), although I had the various boxed sets. I played one game—my first ever roleplaying session—and then purchased the 1st edition AD&D Player’s Handbook the next day. Clearly, I was an advanced kind of chap (as I had survived my first adventure) and didn't need to bother with Basic D&D. That said, I have a real sort spot for the red box. (I still have the remains of my original red box.)
However, D&D had some epic modules (Keep on the Borderlands, Horror on the Hill, Skarda's Mirror and Test of the Warlords to name just a few) which were compatible with the 1st and 2nd editions. That alone would propel it into third position but I’m trying to consider only the rules and not everything else that came with each edition.
3: 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons
5th edition is all right, but so much of the game irritates me. For example, advantage/disadvantage is such a blunt/simple rule, and I loathe—with the blazing heat of a thousand fiery suns—at-will spells and powers. The spectacular lack of character options as you level up is also an issue, as is the general nerfing of spells.
The system is so weighted toward the characters that it’s not even funny.
That said, it plays quickly and easily.
2: 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
I have so much love for this game. This was the game of my youth. It got me through some hard times at school. My 1st edition Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide are some of my most treasured possessions. (If I had a nostalgia-o-meter, it would explode every time I picked up my 1st edition DMG, which, despite its “glorious” organisational structure, is still the best roleplaying game book ever published).
That said, it’s fair to say the 1st edition rules aren’t exactly well organised. Half the fun of 1st edition was working out how YOU wanted to play it.
1: It’s a Tie!
I cannot decide which I prefer more: 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons or 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Third edition introduced the d20 mechanic to D&D. It is epic. That said, 2nd edition is a better organised and thought-out version of 1st edition. It’s literally too close to call.
I guess my favourite of these two is whichever one I could lure enough people into playing. (Although, I'd love to run a 2nd edition campaign again sometime.)
What About You?
What’s your favourite edition of Dungeons & Dragons? Leave a comment and let me know.
Creighton is the Publisher of Useful Items at Raging Swan Press. He lives on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity and is not planning to voyage far.