On the 10 (ish) Best Versions Of Dungeons and Dragons

You would think that would be a totally insane topic for a blog post. And yet somehow, the problem is chopping it down to 10!

10.) Adventurer, Conqueror, King: Taking the greatest gaming system of all time (B/X) and reconfiguring it to make sure the math makes sense all the way up to the domain level?

9.) Basic Fantasy: It isn't just the B/X inspired simple gameplay, or the modified sections such as race and class, it's the ridiculously supported online download section.
9.) Ambition & Avarice: This is the third wave OSR, the new wave. Taking modern design and layout sensibilities to a new product based on an old idea, comes a game that is really a fresh look.

8.) Castles & Crusades: D20 D&D simplified? It's greatest strength is that any d20 material requires no conversion. Fast, and the SEIGE system is pretty ingenious.

7.) Labyrinth Lord: The Gold standard in free retro-clones. One minor advantage over B/X is that all the text is in one book. Of course all the XP tables are redone. Labyrinth Lord compatibility is code for "This is compatible with D&D!"
7:) Lamentations of the Flame Princess: A beautiful treatise on the nature of Dungeons & Dragons. A smooth, intuitive ruleset. No hiccups, no bumps. Great for lower power, real world, weird campaigns. Metal artwork. The edition everyone loves to hate.

6.) Dungeon Crawl Classics: The edition of the game Goodman wants to play! Weird dice and weirder random tables makes, much like the game it ties with, for a game focused on "A good time at the table!" rather than rules that conceptually make sense or focus on verisimilitude.
6.) Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: "Random chance plays a huge part in everybody's life." -Gary Gygax

5.) Original Dungeons & Dragons: Well, if this doesn't inspire you to do your own imagining. . .

4.) Pathfinder: This is the present of gaming. Pathfinder players are possibly the largest group of publically playing players of any edition, ever. How's that OGL working out for you now, WotC?

3.) BECMI: The version they won't put into print, because no one will ever need another version of D&D again!

2.) Hackmaster 4e: The first original retroclone does Dungeons & Dragons better than nearly any version ever released. Really! It is the greatest!

1.) Basic/Expert: There is no version that is both a better introduction to role-playing, an effective tool for use while playing, and something that supports your imagination.


  1. I see a lot of love for the OSR games, yet none for 13th Age?

    1. Super not my cup of tea! I have other opinions! They are also not good, but I'm trying not to be negative!

    2. Wrong crowd. We dig grunts in a trench, special snow flakes tend to melt 'round here

    3. Pathfinder is about the closest to Snowflake edition and it made the list.

      -C I agree with much of your list and now I'm keen to look at Hackmaster but the 'joke' repuation it has will be a hurdle for me.

  2. I know I'm alone in this, but I kinda find Pathfinder a bit overrated - GOOD - but overrated. I think FantasyCraft has been unfairly lost in the shuffle. It's a great system for D&D.

  3. Replies
    1. OD&D not at no.1? Inconceivable!

      Actually, I agree with B/X at the top, though OD&D probably deserves a few places better...

    2. Agreed, AD&D1E stands at first in my list as well.

    3. Top 3 ought be OD&D, 1E, and B/X, tied for #1 !

  4. I would add Holmes edition Basic D&D as separate from Moldvay ed. Basic D&D, bump AD&D closer to the top, and take Pathfinder off the list altogether.

    1. Oh, and Swords & Wizardry!

    2. Lol! I'd go W/S&W . Maybe steal the weird from DCC

    3. If I was taking AD&D off the list for being terrible, I'd take Pathfinder off too. Those games are just objectively* terrible. At least Hackmaster exaggerates AD&D's flaws enough to become worth laughing at.
      * Subjectively. (but i'm still right)

    4. Hackmaster is one of the most solid and fun role playing games I've ever played.

      4e is certainly worth checking out. It is superbly designed.

  5. Don't know if I'd order it the same way, but anyway:

    Hurray for Hackmaster 4e! It really gets somewhat underrated most of the time and deserves to be second!

    Hurray for Rules Cyclopedia! It achieves a lot, it deserves a reprint...

  6. B/X also had the best covers of any fantasy rpg ever.

  7. It looks like the author is a REALLY super huge fan of B/X

  8. D&D basic sucks! Sure when I was a little kid I liked it because it was the only system out there but being a veteran gamer and replaying D&D basic I can't see why anyone ever played it in the first place. Your characters have "Ironman" forced stats that pigeon-hole you into a certain class and/or race and even then you might only meet the minimal stat requirements. Its the game where you can easily roll 1 on your starting hit die and end up as a character who will die from stepping on a nail or getting scratched by a cat (in D&D basic 0 HP is DEATH). An old school gamer invited me to a one shot for "Keep of the Borderlands". My wizard character died 4 times and not because he did anything stupid I kept him a safe distance from any melee but the DM rolled high for ranged attacks or "Narrated" his monsters getting past the melee guys and killing my character. I see no fun in this kind of gameplay. I wanna play a HERO not a ZERO!

    1. I am assuming your post was in jest. B/X is a great game.

    2. I do not jest on this subject. D&D basic was a total joke. It was a game of weird dungeons, countless character deaths and abstract rules. Everything was under the control of the DM, character death was far too common and the game typically threw monsters and encounters that were FAR beyond your character level in the modules. The Caves of Chaos for instance you are assumed to play it sneaky and try and turn the monsters against one another in order to win. Try assuming a new role-player can figure this out. You call this "Roleplaying"? Railroading more like it.

    3. So you're bad at basic D&D and you're mad at the game for it? Because this is, without exception, the worst "review" I've ever seen for it. It's not a combat game, if you don't get that then yes you will die. A lot.

    4. I am the type of player that gets attached to my characters when I make them. I like to develop backstory and personalty to my PC's. And to do all that work only to have a character with a pathetic amount of starting hit points (and/or starting stats) and die from a single hit is a total embarrassment not to mention frustrating.

    5. First off, 9/10!

      Secondly, I'm copying the responses from the G+ thread to you, John, for prosperity!

      There are several excellent analyses about why high risk adventuring is so overwhelmingly engaging. It may not be for you, but to not understand the why, places the ignorance squarely at your feet.

      I'm going to be moving forward with the assumption that you are actually interested in the answers, and are not just being bigoted by going "Ha Ha, that thing you like that I am completely ignorant of sucks!"

      1) Having lots of rules about combat, does not mean that the game necessarily encourages you to engage in combat (Thesis: Why D&D has Lots of Rules for Combat)

      2) OD&D is a different kind of game then the way you are playing it. You can try to kill other players in monopoly but there are no rules for it. OD&D does not support you having a backstory, your survival to level 4 IS your backstory.

      3) You gain the most levels in OD&D/Basic etc. by gathering treasure. By a factor of 100 versus fighting. And there is no risk of death. The largest store of treasure is actually in the keep!

      You only invoke the rules when something has gone terribly wrong. You are sneaking by inventing a plan that DOESN'T USE ANY ROLLS. Leave poisoned meat. Dig a pit and stick a mule on the other side. Watch the caves for a week. Talk someone in town into doing dirty work for you. Hire henchmen. Release wild dogs into the kobold warrens. Go adventuring with a company of 30 people.

      Ref: On the Creative Crocodile Conundrum
      On the Problem with the Bugbear Roadblock
      On What to Do About the Bugbear Roadblock

      Note, that if you want to hear people talking about their discovery of the excellence of this playstyle, I can post you to many links detailing both their experience and why it is so engaging for them.

    6. I'm way late to the party -C but that is an amazing post. 100% agree with you. But maybe part of the fault of OP's complaint lies at the feet of the DM. The player should get it, but the DM should get it too.
      I started with BX and went to 1e and even some recent Pathfinder, which made me wonder where the quality role playing went (replaced by accounting).
      I now alternate between BX with my nephews and BECMI with my adult friends and we're all having a blast. Except for thieves...Mentzer said he'd fix it but hasn't yet, so I just use the fanmade BX Companion for thieves now.

  9. I find B/X D&D has just the right amount of crunch and fluff for me. There's enough room that both the players and the DM can be creative about how they handle encounters, but if you read the rules there are also some pretty simple mechanics to help the DM handle these "outside the box" types of situations.
    B/X character creation (if you do it by the book) is fast and simple. Character dies? No biggie. Takes 2 minutes to role up another one. Pay some hirelings to help! This is the biggest oversight that modern RPG players have. They want to one-man Conan the whole adventure at first level! Sorry, grasshopper, you have to learn to crawl before you run with the bugbears.

    Thanks for the list...a good review of games that I had heard about but never played.


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