Overdue post on the “Edition Wars”

Greywulf, a blogger I read now and again, has done a post adding to the pile of people who wish we’d just let the “Edition Wars” die.

Not that I can blame him. The Edition Wars are stupid. And I realize I have never much commented on them, so I might as well now.

For those of you not in the know, the so-called “Edition Wars” refer to an ongoing argument between fans of Dungeons & Dragons wherein adherents of one edition of the game expound their chosen way of playing above all others. You didn’t see too much of this from 1e to 2e, nor from 2e to 3e (as 3e made believers of almost everyone, and even got me back into the game with 3.5e), but I’m sure it did happen, as 1e’s various incarnations have their diehards.

But what really tore the “wars” open was 4e: People who, as of 2008, had supported the game for the prior ten years, realized their game would no longer be supported, and lashed out. A legitimate concern? Well, in a way, yes, and you saw a similar backlash when White Wolf Publishing announced the Time of Judgement and the New World of Darkness (Though, to be fair to WW, apparently, NWoD and OWoD are somewhat compatible with one another, and it’s mostly fluff that changed, not crunch, but more on this kind of thing later).

However, outrage really doesn’t make much sense to me here: During those ten years, Wizards of the Coast produced a number of phenomenal books for both 3e and 3.5e, as did many third parties, availing themselves of the OGL. Nobody owns every book that got made during this time- and if you do, I honestly worry about you a little!- So that means there’s bound to be something new to discover, even now.

But even given that, 3.5e is still being supported in the supposed “3.75e” in Paizo Publishing’s Pathfinder… And frankly, if you had been following Paizo during that time, you’d have known it was pretty much a done deal that they were not going to support 4e. Not out of any malice, either, but simply because Wizards of the Coast didn’t make it feasible for Paizo to continue supporting them. They had to make a choice, and they did: They would run their own product line, which appears to be thriving.

Which brings me to my point: Fans of 3.5e not only have enough books to run a game, but their game is still being supported, and by a highly competent publisher, no less. I see no reason for the rage.

Well… Okay. I see one reason. But I don’t agree with it.

See, when 4e was announced, a lot of people- Myself included, I will admit- thought it was going to bomb utterly. This was due in no small part to Wizards putting a very pompous, arrogant face on their new edition, on top of lying about developing it at all. (As an aside, when they revealed themselves at Origins that year, they were booed off the stage…) This lead to some already bad blood, but then we saw what they were planning, and, from the previews, none of it looked like it was going to work: Streamlined combat? Every class, from the Wizard and Cleric right down to the Fighter, has powers now? And what the heck is a Warlord? A lot of people even made the connection to World of Warcraft. Suffice to say, none of what we were seeing looked very good.

So, where’s the rage? 4e was expected to fail… And it didn’t. Oh lord, it didn’t. I wouldn’t have picked it up if it wasn’t for someone basing a new group on it, and when I took a good, hard look at it… I saw that it worked. Further, the World of Warcraft parallels actually made the game easier to digest for new players. Believe me, I was just as shocked as anyone else!

So, that’s my theory: All those 3.5e and Pathfinder adherents who were expecting 4e to fail are now, to use the internet parlance, “butthurt” that WotC’s horse not only didn’t break down, but is actually keeping paces with Paizo’s. Much as it should be: Both are competent product lines, with solid design teams.

Not to say that having an issue with how one company or the other does business is wrong: People who have read my blog before know, as much as I love Wizards, I hate them almost an equal amount. For every good product, a piss poor one. For every smart decision, an idiotic one. I don’t expect them to do everything according to my whims. For their part, I hope they don’t expect me to shut up. Because I won’t.

Paizo I have fewer complaints with, mainly because I don’t buy their crunch, I buy their fluff: Maps, item cards, that sort of thing. System-neutral products that, quite frankly, are awesome, and I’d recommend them over any others. I don’t buy the other books because they’re not useful to me yet.

But what I’m saying is… The “Edition Wars” are really quite silly. There are two great games out there, and both are being supported quite well. Whichever one you enjoy, as long as you’re having fun, it shouldn’t matter. As I’ve said before, I knew a group that was running a modified version of Heroes Unlimited, and if they find that fun? More power to them, I say.

That’s what this hobby is about, after all: Having fun.


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