D&D ID: Comments

This is some commentary to go with my illustrated guide to the editions of D&D.


All editions of D&D prior to the year 2000 were published by TSR, Inc. All of these editions are quite compatible.

Classic D&D

I collectively call the various forms of D&D before the year 2000 that were not AD&D: classic D&D. This is after the practice of the Dragonsfoot Classic D&D forum.


O for original. The original game by Gygax & Arneson. I sometimes use a lowercase O since it wasn’t part of the original name. Some people call this “0e”.

Some people use “OD&D” for what I call classic D&D. (O for old?)

Holmes Basic Set

There was a need for an introductory version of D&D. Edited by J. Eric Holmes, the original D&D Basic Set filled that need. Intended as an introduction to either oD&D or AD&D, the Holmes rules are somewhat unique. The rules only cover 1st through 3rd levels.


The revised Basic Set edited by Tom Moldvay & the original Expert Set edited by Dave “Zeb” Cook with Steve Marsh. These formed a replacement for both the Holmes Basic Set & the oD&D box set.

The Basic Set still only covered 1st to 3rd levels. The Expert Set covered 4th to 14th & gave suggestions for handling higher levels. A Companion Set was promised to cover levels up to 36th.

(I believe that the concept of the Companion Set at this point was as a replacement for the oD&D Supplements. It would contain most of the oD&D material that hadn’t made it into the Basic or Expert Sets. This would change before a Companion Set was actually released.)

This Steve Marsh should not be confused with the other Steve Marsh, who works for Steve Jackson Games.

(This was the first roleplaying game I owned. It now is also my favorite edition of D&D.)


The Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, & Immortal Sets edited by Frank Mentzer. These replaced B/X & took PC to 36th level & beyond: to immortality!


The Rules Cyclopedia compiled by Aaron Allston combined nearly all the rules from BECMI as well as some additions from the D&D Gazetteers into a single volume. An introductory book covering 1st through 5th levels was also published to serve in the role of the old Basic Sets.


A for advanced.

AD&D was not a successor to D&D. The two lines were continued in parallel. AD&D was meant to be a more uniform form of the game & suitable for tournament play. D&D was kept as a freer, more malleable form of the game.

It is also rumored that the split occurred because of disagreements between Gygax & Arneson. While the D&D line continued to carry Arneson’s name, only Gygax’s appeared on AD&D.


O for original. (Sometimes I use a lowercase O to emphasize that it wasn’t part of the original name.) Also known retroactively as “first edition” or “1e”. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was written by E. Gary Gygax.

Gary has said that there were many oAD&D rules that he seldom or never used: weapon vs. armor adjustments, psionics, &c. That he mostly included those things at the request of others.


After Gygax & TSR parted ways, Dave “Zeb” Cook was given the task of revising AD&D. (Gygax had planned a 2nd edition, though it would have been different from Cook’s.)


After Wizards of the Coast bought TSR, they began work on a new edition of D&D. Since the new edition would draw inspiration from both the classic D&D & AD&D lines, & because the D&D line had been discontinued making the Advanced unnecessary; they called it just D&D.

Wizards of the Coast also released the basic rules behind 3e under a very liberal license (the OGL) as the d20 System. (Some people get the OGL confused with the d20 System License that involves the use of the d20 System logo.)

It has been observed that 3e is much more incompatible with previous D&D & AD&D editions than those previous editions are with each other. While some may find 3e a superior game, & despite the many traditions it held onto, there is no doubt that 3e is a very different game from AD&D or classic D&D. Some, therefore, are tempted to call it d20 Fantasy.


Created by Monte Cook, Skip Williams, & Jonathan Tweet.

Wizards of the Coast called this 3rd edition, though the books didn't actually carry that moniker. (They did carry the d20 System logo.) This refers to its place as a replacement for AD&D2e. Years before, however, TSR had referred to a later printing of the Holmes Basic Set as D&D 3rd edition!


Just three years after the launch of 3e, Wizards of the Coast released 3.5e. This time, the books actually bore the 3.5 moniker.

Of course, this emulation of software version numbers is flawed. In the software world, the dot in a version is just a separator, not a decimal point. Version 3.5 is not half way between versions 3.0 & 4.0. Version 3.5 should follow version 3.4 just as version 3.10 would follow version 3.9. That's OK, though, since foolish marketing departments for software companies have done exactly the same sort of idiocy.


In the wake of the edition wars, talk of post-2000 editions on Dragonsfoot was verboten. Yet, some of us still would occasionally have a point to make that involved a minor mention of 3e. I don’t rememeber who first used “The Edition That Shall Not Be Named” or who first abbreviated it.

I think those of us who first used the term never meant it to be negative. We usually were mentioning 3e because we didn’t think it was all that bad. TETSNBN was merely tongue-in-cheek way of respecting that Dragonsfoot was not the appropriate place for general discussion of 3e.


4e brought some significant changes. I hesitate to say much about it because I have not played it very much.


Gary has passed on now. I believe we would have this hobby without him, but his influence cannot be understated. Beyond this hobby, his influence can be found in numerous computer & console games even today. His influence on those of us who grew up with his books isn’t so easy to see, but was no less important.

Gary’s last roleplaying game is called Lejendary Adventures.

Some LA products, Gary’s Castle Zagyg project, & other adventure modules & game aids written or edited by Gary are produced by Troll Lord Games.

& here’s the entry on Gary in the Wikipedia.

Gary posted on the Lejendary Adventure fora, on the Dragonsfoot fora, or on the ENWorld fora. On the LA forum he went by his own name, but on the others he was known as Col_Pladoh.