Do New Editions Make You Groan Or Dance?

I am sitting down at my weekend work with my brand new copy of Pathfinder Ultimate Campaign next to me and grinning at the new book smell.  I have put it down as work keeps interrupting my reading and I want to savour the reading of this book.  I am hoping it is full of cool additions and story based boons.  As soon as I put it down my mind drifted to Earthdawn and I wondered if I should buy the Pathfinder adaptation of the game for a look.  This led my mind to thinking about different editions of games.  Once I got there I began to wonder what is the point of new editions to games?  Really what is the point to them and had a bit of a groan about it to myself.  Let me give you a bit of history and my view of new editions of our games.

FASA got me thinking about editions of games

I began roleplaying in the fine old year of 1985.  I started out with a superhero game that has gone under since that time and I also soon got into the red box of basic Dungeon’s & Dragons.  it was not all that long before the number of systems I was playing expanded to MegaTraveller, Mechwarrior, Shadowrun and Earthdawn.  In fact I ran Shadowrun from the moment it was released and it was this game that truly introduced me to the idea of the edition change.  We loved the game and it was to my horror that FASA announced a change from first edition to second.  I had nearly all the books and I was devastated that I would have to start again!  But I did as we really loved the game.  The change from first to second was actually quite big mechanically and it made the game better.  A lot better, easier to use and much more player and GM friendly.

First to second edition was the
best edition change ever!

So my first edition change was a positive experience despite the fact I did not have a huge amount of money at the time.  It irritated me a little that I had to fork out the cash to buy the same books again but in reality for what it bought to the table I was happy.  We decided to give Earthdawn a go (as it was Fantasy Shadowrun!) and found that we liked the richness of setting.  In fact my players liked it so much we weaned off Shadowrun and moved to Earthdawn for our game.  We stayed there happily for the next 6 years until I moved away.  By that time Earthdawn had been officially dropped by FASA but I had every book so it did not really matter.  I started our Play by eMail (PbeM) game and continued merrily on our way for another year.

During that year FASA sold or leased all their licences to Wizkids and Microsoft.  I kind of kept track of it a little but really did not pay too much attention until one day I walked into a Mind Games store in Brisbane, and there sitting on a table was second edition Earthdawn by Living Room Games.  I snatched it up and went home to read it.  I professed my love for it at the time but in reality it was a hollow love.  The changes to the system they made were negligible and really offered very little in the way of new stuff.  And just as they released their companion book Redbrick games started.  They had leased the rights to Earthdawn too and so their were two companies producing material!  One for first edition and the other for the new edition.  It was a ludicrous time to be an Earthdawn fan.

I decided I had to make a choice and I stuck with second edition stuff.  I bought it all.  There was some good stuff and some bad stuff.  I moved the PbeM to 2nd edition and continued on.  But then the releases became very staggered.  Living Room Games had been announcing new material and you would go to their site and it would say that it is near release but it had been like that for months.  Over time they just kind of faded away.  Their website was still there up until last year but the activity on it had just ceased.

Second Edition Earthdawn… 

So I began playing with the idea of the classic edition from RedBrick only to find out they were releasing a third edition.  Third edition again made minor changes to the original system which was again a bit of a disappointment but the books are amongst the most beautiful books I have in my RPG collection.  Especially the hardback versions.  The pages were pretty much black and white but with beautiful graphics.  The third edition sourcebooks were pretty much reprints of books from the original setting but I bought each and every one.  Of course there was some new material, and then they released the Earthdawn Cathay edition which is fantastic.

Of course then FASA came back.  Third edition is a thing of the past (kind of) though FASA sells the pdf’s online along with a Savage Worlds adaptation and a Pathfinder adaptation.  I know I groaned about system change but that is ridiculous!  You can see from that little description that I groan whenever I hear edition change.  It is a similar story with D&D for me and also I had a chance to play Shadowrun recently so I bought the fourth edition books and read them.  They have overcomplicated the system to unrecognisable lengths.  I think back to the simplicity and functionality that they had in 2nd edition and am just glad that I never followed it through to this point.

I look at how D&D brings out a system now and generally before it is even two years old they are talking about the next edition?  Why does it need to progress like this? I just do not understand the point to it.  I signed up to the D&D next playlet but could not even get through the first document before wondering what the point was.  It does look a lot better than 4th edition but I know now that they have lost me for good.  I just cannot stomach the idea of shelling out dollars and being disappointed again.  It is why I like Pathfinder I think but I had a moment of horror when I started to think about all of this.  Would Pathfinder one day announce a Pathfinder 2nd Edition?

How would I react if it became Pathfinder 2.0?

How would I react to such an announcement?  How would the fans react?  I know there are a lot of people out there who play Pathfinder simply because they can use all the 3.5 D&D material that they bought and loved.  I don’t know how I would react to this.  I play Pathfinder because it is a good solid system that is familiar to my players.  It is not my favourite system but I have always tended toward fringe games and the like.  I certainly would follow Pathfinder to another edition, but I think it would be with much groaning if it happened.  Also, if they gave me a system that was less workable than the one I had I would have to reconsider my dedication to it.

My first experience with D&D came in a box just
like this one…

There is good and bad in edition wars.  Shadowrun’s first edition upgrade bought playability and life to the system.  It was slick and new.  I am still stunned by the Earthdawn saga and obviously a bit damaged by the whole D&D conundrum.  Successive versions of Mechwarrior modernised the game and made it better from first through to third! I can understand an edition change if a game needs to be modernised, although if the system is not broken, don’t fix it.  I can also understand from a business perspective how companies the size of Paizo and Wizards of the Coast may need to consider edition changes to generate fresh income (though I could just be imagining that I don’t know business should ask +Cameron Corniuk about that).  I play Classic Traveller because it works and by reactions in the forums and on G+ it is a lot better than the fifth edition just released.  Classic Traveller was made in the 1970’s and still works!  I could see how the system writing could have been updated to be clearer, but the system itself was fine.

Do you have a similar tale of woe with edition changes?  Or maybe you love the idea of getting a shiny new system for the games you play.  You might love the new version of Shadowrun or D&D and feel I am a troll that needs to be put in his place!  Do you dance with joy or groan when you hear about a new edition coming.  I have just given you my personal view.  I am happy for you to love the games you do but I would love to hear what you think about edition wars!  Keep rolling!

1 Comment

  1. I’ve thought about this more than a little bit and have come to the following conclusion: unless the product life has been ridiculously short, I’m game for a new edition. It might not be what I’m looking for, which is fine – I’ve still got the old one. It might be what someone else is looking for, which is awesome – it doesn’t just have to be about me. It might be what I am looking for, which is even better – it good when it is about me.

    To see what the prime example of never creating a new edition brings, look no further than Rifts. That is hardly the first iteration of the Palladium house system, but… yeah. Refusing to revisit the past means that you will be stuck there, stagnating.


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