A new Edition is always a good Thing, isn’t it?

Everyone is talking about the new edition of D&D right now. But as usual not everyone is happy about a new edition. But isn’t a new edition a good thing? It shows that there’s still interest in the game and the company behind it is driving things actively forward. Often clunky rules are fixed and things are streamlined, in other cases new options for players and GMs are made available.  But alas it’s not always all sunshine and flowers.

More often than not, new editions come with a slew of problems. In some cases the old material becomes obsolete and you have to make the hard decision whether to stick to the old edition and stick with a system which is not supported anymore or you can embrace the new one, which usually means buying a lot of books again, just to get the updated versions of material you already have.

And the longer you wait, the more severe the problems become. In most cases old editions go out-of-print as soon as the new edition is announced. Some books quickly become pretty rare and people are paying ridiculous prices on eBay to get their hands on a copy. And if even the PDF version are removed from stores you either need to make the switch or grudingly pay vast sums just to get that one book you still needed.

Since I enjoyed the Shadowrun 3rd edition game a friend run for me recently, I decided to get a couple of 3rd Edition books for myself. But alas that’s easier said than done. I was able to track down used copy of the core rules (I decided to go with the German version this time, since that is what my friend uses), but most of the supplements are either extremely expensive or not to find anywhere. It’s even worse with the Shadowrun 20th Anniversary Edition, which is supposed by many to be the best version of Shadowrun available. I already own a PDF copy, but I also would love to have a print copy as well. Alas I had no luck tracking one down. For some people this is no big deal, especially when they picked up everything they wanted when the older edition was still widely available.

This is just an example what issues you could face if you decide to play an older edition of a game. So I can understand the concern of people who love D&D 4th Edition, or who prefer other games who were made obsolete by new editions. Of course it’s unreasonable to ask publishers to keep old editions in print indefinitely. In most cases at least being able to purchase old games as digital editions is a great help. So, what’s your stance on this subject? Please share your thoughts below!

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

6 thoughts on “A new Edition is always a good Thing, isn’t it?”

  1. Is it really unreasonable if there’s enough of a market? Even WotC reevaluated their thoughts on this and made the old editions avaiable again – PDF and even in print. And why not? As long as there are people willing to buy it. Do you think you will be buying shadowrun 5e instead of 3e – or will you try to get what you want? So, from a publishers perspective – if you prefer the old stuff, why don’t buy it from the source? I believe that, at least in PDF, they could make money from things they allready paid for eons ago. Doesn’t sound so bad.

  2. I like new editions because it means more choices. For example, in D&D. I love 4th edition. I own almost all the books and tons of gameplay material. I have enough content to last me a lifetime. Even if I played 4E once a week for the next 30 years, I could not get through all the content. Now that 5E is out, I can still play 4E. But I now have the option to play 5E if I want. This is a win win. Old editions never really die. Now, if you’re having a hard time finding hardcopies, you just need to find a good online digital printshop. I use The Book Patch. They will print a 8.5×11 160 page PDF in “perfect bound” softcover for about $8 with color cover and B&W interior pages. Their quality is great. I have many of my PDFs printed there. Often it’s cheaper than paying ebay prices and you effectively get a new copy. It takes a bit of skill to line up the covers and spine art but the nice part is that you can design your own covers from scratch if you prefer.

  3. …or sometimes the old editions get easier to pick up. I also started a 3rd Shadowrun game two months ago. My local gaming store had a large selection at half price. A second store had a good selection at book price.

    And, if you are not picky, older editions often have the pdfs online at “certain websites”…though to me, this is stealing…but they do exist.

  4. I’ve never known a new edition to be a good thing. It’s a move I’ve seen kill gamelines, frequently.
    Caused by raw cynical greed, each version is always worse than the one before it. RPGs don’t evolve, they degenerate.

  5. With the possible exceptions of D&D and Shadowrun, most games I know are greatly improved by new editions. Barring the newest one, I don’t know of anyone who thinks that Call of Cthulhu 1st edition is better then 2nd through 6th. Same with GURPS 4th. The difference is that they iterated slowly, making small changes, rather then throwing everything away.

    Now, I do think 3rd edition was greatly improved by throwing 2nd edition away, but still, it is hard to go wrong with small iterations.

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