Editions of Dungeons & Dragons

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Several different editions of the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) fantasy role-playing game have been produced since 1974. The current publisher of D&D, Wizards of the Coast, produces new materials only for the most current edition of the game. Many D&D fans, however, continue to play older versions of the game and some third-party companies continue to publish materials compatible with these older editions.

After the original edition of D&D was introduced in 1974, the game was split into two branches in 1977: the rules-light system of Dungeons & Dragons and the more complex, rules-heavy system of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D). The standard game was eventually expanded into a series of five box sets by the mid-1980s before being compiled and slightly revised in 1991 as the D&D Rules Cyclopedia. Meanwhile, the 2nd edition of AD&D was published in 1989. In 2000, the 3rd edition, called simply Dungeons & Dragons, debuted. The 4th edition was published in 2008. The core rulebooks for the newest edition, the 5th edition, were released in 2014.


Dungeons & Dragons Version History
noting key rule publications
1974 Dungeons & Dragons (original white box set with three booklets)
  • Men & Magic
  • Monsters & Treasure
  • The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures
1977 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st Edition)
  • Monster Manual
Dungeons & Dragons (2nd version)
  • Basic Set (blue box) (levels 1–3)
  • Players Handbook
  • Dungeon Masters Guide
    (Core rulebooks complete)
1981 Dungeons & Dragons (3rd version)
  • Basic Set (magenta box)
  • Expert Set (light blue box) (levels 4–14)
1983 Dungeons & Dragons (4th version)
  • Basic Set (red box)
  • Expert Set (blue box)
  • Companion Set (teal box, levels 15–25)
  • Master Set (black box, levels 26–36)
  • Unearthed Arcana (a "fourth core rulebook")
  • Immortals Set (gold box, levels 36+)
1989 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition
  • Player's Handbook
  • Dungeon Master's Guide
  • Monstrous Compendium
1991 Dungeons & Dragons (5th version)
  • Monstrous Manual
    (Replaces Monstrous Compendium)
1995 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition revised
  • Player's Handbook
  • Dungeon Master Guide
  • Player's Options
  • DM Options
2000 Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition (Core rulebooks)
  • Player's Handbook
  • Dungeon Master's Guide
  • Monster Manual
2003 Dungeons & Dragons revised 3rd edition (v3.5)

Revised editions of the core rulebooks (compatible with 3rd Ed. via errata)

2008 Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (Core rulebooks)
  • Player's Handbook
  • Dungeon Master's Guide
  • Monster Manual
  • Player's Handbook 2
  • Dungeon Master's Guide 2
  • Monster Manual 2
  • Player's Handbook 3
  • Monster Manual 3
Dungeons & Dragons Essentials
  • Starter Set (levels 1–2)
  • Rules Compendium
  • Dungeon Master's Kit
  • Monster Vault
  • Heroes of the Fallen Lands
  • Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms
2014 Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition
  • Starter Set (levels 1–5)
  • Basic Rules (PDF only; limited player options)
  • Core rulebooks:
    • Player's Handbook
    • Dungeon Master's Guide
    • Monster Manual

Version history[edit]

Original Dungeons & Dragons[edit]

The 1974 Dungeons & Dragons box set.

The original D&D was published as a box set in 1974 and featured only a handful of the elements for which the game is known today: just three character classes (fighting-man, magic-user, and cleric); four races (human, dwarf, elf, and hobbit); only a few monsters; only three alignments (lawful, neutral, and chaotic). The rules assumed that players owned and played the miniatures wargame Chainmail and used its measurement and combat systems.[citation needed] An optional combat system was included within the rules that later developed into the sole combat system of later versions of the game. In addition, the rules presumed ownership of Outdoor Survival, a board game by then-unaffiliated company Avalon Hill for outdoor exploration and adventure. D&D was a radically new gaming concept at the time, but the rules provided no overview of the game so it was difficult, without prior knowledge of tabletop wargaming, to see how it was all supposed to work. The release of the Greyhawk supplement removed the game's dependency on the Chainmail rules,[1] and made it much easier for new, non-wargaming players to grasp the concepts of play. It also inadvertently aided the growth of competing game publishers, since just about anyone who grasped the concepts behind the game could write smoother and easier to use rules systems and sell them to the growing D&D fanbase (Tunnels & Trolls being the first such).[2]

Supplements such as Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry and Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes, published over the next two years, greatly expanded the rules, character classes, monsters and spells. For example, the original Greyhawk supplement introduced the thief class, and weapon damage varying by weapon (as opposed to character class). In addition, many additions and options were published in the magazines The Strategic Review and its successor, The Dragon.[3]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons[edit]

First edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook.
"Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" redirects here. For the "Community" episode, see Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (Community).

An updated version of D&D was released as Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D). This was published as a set of three rulebooks, compiled by Gary Gygax, between 1977 and 1979, with additional supplemental volumes coming out over the next ten years. The AD&D rules were better organized than the original D&D, and incorporated many additions and revisions of the original rules from supplements and magazine articles. The term "advanced" does not imply a higher level of skill required to play, nor exactly a higher level of or better gameplay; only the rules themselves are a new and more robust game. The three core rulebooks are the Monster Manual (1977), the Player's Handbook (1978), and the Dungeon Master's Guide (1979); later supplements included Deities & Demigods (1980), Fiend Folio (another book of monsters produced semi-autonomously in the UK - 1981), Monster Manual II, Oriental Adventures and Unearthed Arcana (1985), the latter of which mostly compiled material previously published in Dragon magazine,[4] and others.

Differences from Dungeons & Dragons[edit]

  • The game rules were reorganized across three hardcover rulebooks (the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual) rather than one boxed set of three booklets (Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure, and The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures), and a series of supplements.
  • Supplemental rules cut included hit locations.
  • The Chainmail-based combat system was completely abandoned.
  • Character classes from original D&D supplemental material (assassin, druid, monk, paladin, and thief) were added in the core rules.[5] Classes (bard, illusionist and ranger) that had only appeared in magazine publication were also added, and fighting-men were renamed "Fighters".
  • Alignment was reworked into a two-axis system:, "ethics" (lawful, neutral, or chaotic) and "morals" (good, neutral, or evil), so there were now nine alignments: lawful good, neutral good, chaotic good, lawful neutral, true neutral, chaotic neutral, lawful evil, neutral evil, and chaotic evil.

Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set and revisions[edit]

First Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set

While AD&D was still in the works, TSR was approached by an outside writer and D&D enthusiast, John Eric Holmes, who offered to re-edit and rewrite the original rules into an introductory version of D&D.[6] Although TSR was focused on AD&D at the time, the project was seen as a profitable enterprise and a way to direct new players to anticipate the release of the AD&D game. It was published in July 1977 as the Basic Set, collecting together and organized the rules from the original D&D boxed set and Greyhawk supplement into a single booklet, which covered only character levels 1 through 3, and included dice and a beginner's module. The booklet featured a blue cover with artwork by David C. Sutherland III. The "blue booklet" explained the game's concepts and method of play in terms that made it accessible to new players not familiar with tabletop miniatures wargaming. Unusual features of this version include an alignment system of five alignments as opposed to the three or nine alignments of the other versions. This Basic Set was very popular and allowed many to discover and experience the D&D game for the first time. Although the Basic Set was not fully compatible with AD&D, as some rules were simplified to make the game easier for new players to learn, players were expected to continue play beyond third level by moving on to the AD&D version.[7]

Once AD&D had been released, the Basic Set saw a major revision in 1981 by Tom Moldvay, which was immediately followed by the release of an Expert Set written by David Cook, to accompany the Basic Set, extending it to levels 4 through 14, for players who preferred the simplified introductory ruleset. With this revision, the Basic rules became their own game, distinct both from original D&D and AD&D. The revised Basic rules can be distinguished from the original ones by cover colors: the Basic booklet had a red cover, and the Expert booklet a blue one.[8]

Between 1983 and 1985 this system was revised and expanded by Frank Mentzer as a series of five boxed sets, including the Basic Rules (red cover), Expert Rules (blue), Companion Rules (green, supporting levels 15 through 25), Master Rules (black, supporting levels 26 through 36), and Immortals Rules (gold, supporting Immortals – characters who had transcended levels).

This version was compiled and slightly revised by Aaron Allston in 1991 as the Rules Cyclopedia, a hardback book which included all the sets except Immortals Rules which was discontinued and replaced with Wrath of the Immortals box set. While the Rules Cyclopedia included all information required to begin the game, there were also several printings of an introductory boxed set, named The New Easy-to-Master Dungeons & Dragons Game in early printings, The Classic Dungeons & Dragons Game in later ones, and commonly called "the black box" to contrast with the earlier red covered Basic Sets.[9]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition[edit]

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd edition Player's Handbook

In 1987, a small team of designers began work on the second edition of the AD&D game, which would take two years to complete.[10] In 1989, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition was published, featuring new rules and characters.[11] By the end of its first decade, AD&D had expanded to several rulebooks, including three Monster Manuals, and two books governing character skills in wilderness and underground settings. Initially, the 2nd edition would consolidate the game, with three essential books to govern Dungeon Masters and players alike. Periodically, TSR published optional rulebooks for character classes and races to enhance game play.

The combat system was changed. The minimum number required to hit a target used a mathematical formula in which the defender's armor class (AC) was subtracted from the attacker's THAC0 ("To Hit Armor Class '0'") instead of the 1st edition's attack matrix tables. Distances were based on in-game units (feet) rather than miniatures-board ones (inches). Demi-human races were given higher level maximums to increase their long-term playability, though they were still restricted in terms of character class flexibility. Critical hits were offered as optional rules.

The release of AD&D 2nd Edition corresponded with important policy changes at TSR. An effort was made to remove aspects of the game which had attracted negative publicity,[citation needed] most notably the removal of all mention of demons and devils, although equivalent monsters were later added, now renamed tanar'ri and baatezu, respectively. Moving away from the moral ambiguity of the 1st edition AD&D, the TSR staff eliminated character classes and races like the assassin and the half-orc, and stressed heroic roleplaying and player teamwork.[citation needed] The target age of the game was also lowered, with most 2nd edition products being aimed primarily at teenagers.[citation needed]

The game was again published as three core rulebooks which incorporated the expansions and revisions which had been published in various supplements over the previous decade. However, the Monster Manual was replaced by the Monstrous Compendium, a loose-leaf binder in which every monster was given a full page of information, the justification being that packs of new monsters (often setting specific) could be purchased and added to the binder without the expense or inconvenience of a separate book.[citation needed] However, this idea was eventually dropped and the Compendium was replaced by the hardcover Monstrous Manual in 1993.

It was intended that the loose-leaf binder would allow the book to be updated, in the manner of Avalon Hill's Advanced Squad Leader.[citation needed] Originally this was considered for all the core rulebooks, but was eventually adopted only for the Monstrous Manual. This form of presentation was abandoned because of susceptibility to wear and tear, and difficulties in keeping alphabetic order when many pages had been printed with more than one monster.[citation needed] Aside from the formatting, a substantial change was made to the contents of the Monstrous Compendium by greatly increasing the power of dragons. This was done to counter the impression of relative weakness of the game's titular monster.

Gygax had already planned a second edition for the game, which would also have been an update of the rules, incorporating the material from Unearthed Arcana, Oriental Adventures, and numerous new innovations from Dragon magazine in the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide and would have consolidated the Monster Manual, Monster Manual II and Fiend Folio into one volume.[12]

In 1995, the core rulebooks were slightly revised and a series of Player's Option manuals were released as "optional core rulebooks". Although still referred to by TSR (and later Wizards of the Coast) as the 2nd edition, this revision is seen by some fans as a distinct edition of the game and is sometimes referred to as AD&D 2.5.[citation needed]

In 1997, TSR considered filing for bankruptcy but was purchased by former competitor Wizards of the Coast.[10]

Differences from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons[edit]

  • Half-orcs were removed from the Player's Handbook (rules for half-orcs were included in a later supplement)
  • Character classes were organized into four groups: warrior (fighter, paladin, ranger), wizard (mage, specialist wizard), priest (cleric, druid), and rogue (thief, bard).
  • Assassins and monks were removed from the game as character classes.
  • "Magic-users" were renamed "mages".
  • Illusionists were made into a subtype of the wizard class, along with new classes specializing in the other seven schools of magic (which were first introduced in Dragonlance Adventures).
  • Bards were made a normal character class, rather than the multiple-classed character that they were in the 1st edition, although they still possess elements of fighters, thieves, and mages.
  • Rangers were retooled from a heavily armored, commando-style survivalist and "giant-class" monster hunter to a much more nature oriented, lightly armored, two-weapon-wielding, druid-influenced nature warrior.
  • Proficiencies were officially supported in the Player's Handbook and many supplements, rather than being an optional add-on.
  • Attack matrices were replaced with a mathematical formula involving a character stat called THAC0, and the table printed only once in the Dungeon Master's Guide was reprinted in the 2nd edition Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide.
  • References to "segments" (individual units of time representing one phase of initiative, or six seconds of game-time [simulated time]) were removed from the game; instead, actions were given an "Initiative Modifier". "Melee rounds" were unchanged, representing one minute of game-time, with a "turn" representing ten rounds (ten minutes). An optional alternative where one "melee round" represents 12 to 15 seconds of "game-time" was presented in the Player's Option: Combat & Tactics book, first of the so-called "2.5" edition.
  • Other changes are made to combat including the function of weapon speed, initiative, and surprise rules.
  • Priest and druid spells were organized into themed "spheres" that are similar to the wizard spell schools that had been introduced in Dragonlance Adventures, with access to spheres being determined by the priest's class and deity.
  • Descriptions of artifacts (unique magic items) were removed from the Dungeon Master's Guide.
  • Many utilities, including tables for random generation of dungeons, were removed from the Dungeon Master's Guide.
  • Exchange rates for the low-valued coins were doubled; it now takes only 100 copper pieces or 10 silver pieces to make one gold piece; coin weights changed from 10 per pound to 50 per pound.
  • The hardcover Monster Manual was initially replaced by the looseleaf binder-format Monstrous Compendium; but this was eventually replaced by the hardcover Monstrous Manual.
  • Fiendish and angelic creatures (demons, devils, daemons, devas, solars, etc.) were removed from the game, as were spells that allowed such creatures to be summoned or controlled. These creatures were later renamed and modified in the Monstrous Compendium supplement on the Outer Planes.
  • Psionics were no longer included in the Player's Handbook, though they later appeared in their own supplement.
  • Maximum level was standardized at 20 rather than varying by class.
  • Magic resistance was changed so that a mage above 11th level would not impose a 5% penalty per mage level above 11th on an unwilling subject the mage was casting a spell on.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition Player's Options[edit]

In 1995, TSR re-released the core rulebooks for 2nd Edition featuring new covers, art, and page layouts.[13] These releases were followed shortly by a series of volumes labelled Player's Option, allowing for alternate rules systems and character options, as well as a Dungeon Master's Option for high-level campaigns. These releases are sometimes referred to as "Edition 2.5" by fans,[13] though their adoption was not widespread.

Differences from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition[edit]

  • Humans were prohibited from switching classes (dual classing) more than 4 times, and may not mix classes within the four major class groups
  • Character points allow players to create their own subrace via purchasing abilities of other races, for demihumans.
  • Character points allow players to pick and choose parts of classes to make their own class in a similar fashion to Non-weapon Proficiencies.
  • Ability scores were broken down into further subabilities.
  • Monsters were available for PC races such as gnoll, orc, and githzerai
  • Under the optional Combat & Tactics system, melee rounds were 15 seconds long rather than 1 minute, and attacks of opportunity were possible.

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition[edit]

Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition Player's Handbook

A major revision of the AD&D rules was released in 2000. As the Basic game had been discontinued some years earlier, and the more straightforward title was more marketable, the word "advanced" was dropped and the new edition was named just Dungeons & Dragons, but still officially referred to as the 3rd edition (or 3E for short). It was the basis of a broader role-playing system designed around 20-sided dice, called the d20 System. The 3rd edition removed previous editions' restrictions on class and race combinations that were supposed to track the preferences of the race, and on the level advancement of non-human characters. Level advancement for all characters was greatly eased, allowing players to reasonably expect to reach high level in about one year of weekly play. Skills and the new system of feats were introduced into the core rules to encourage players to further customize their characters.

Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, and Skip Williams all contributed to the 3rd edition Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual, and then each designer wrote one of the books based on those contributions.[14]

The d20 system used a more unified mechanic than earlier editions, resolving nearly all actions with a d20 die roll plus appropriate modifiers. The combat system was greatly expanded, adopting into the core system most of the optional movement and combat system of the 2nd edition Players Option: Combat and Tactics book. Third edition combat uses a grid system, encouraging highly tactical gameplay and facilitating the use of miniatures. The new sorcerer class was introduced, and in later books such as the Complete Arcane further spellcasting classes such as warmage were added. The thief was renamed rogue, a term that the 2nd edition used to classify both the thief and bard classes. Third edition also presented the concept of prestige classes, which characters can only enter at higher character levels, and only if they meet certain character-design prerequisites or fulfill certain in-game goals. Later products included additional and supplementary rules subsystems such as "epic-level" options for characters above twentieth level, as well as a heavily revised treatment of psionics.

The d20 System was presented under the Open Game License, which made it an open source system for which authors could write new games and game supplements without the need to develop a unique rules system and, more importantly, without the need for direct approval from Wizards of the Coast. This made it easier to market D&D-compatible content under a broadly recognizable commercial license. Many other companies have produced content for the d20 system, such as White Wolf Publishing (under the Sword and Sorcery Studios label), Alderac Entertainment Group, Malhavoc Press, and Privateer Press.[citation needed]

Differences from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition[edit]

  • The game system converted to the d20 System, which standardized task resolution to a roll of a 20-sided die ("d20"), adding or subtracting relevant modifiers, and then comparing the result to a "Difficulty Class" (DC) in order to determine the outcome.
  • THAC0 was replaced by a bonus to attack rolls. Armor Class (AC) operated as the Difficulty Class for attack rolls, and therefore increased (rather than decreased, as in the 2nd edition) as defensive capabilities increased.
  • Ability scores follow a single table and give standardized bonuses. Ability scores were no longer capped at 25.
  • Saving throws were reduced from five categories (based on forms of attack) to three (based on type of defense): fortitude (constitution-based), reflex (dexterity-based), and will (wisdom-based), and also go up instead of down.
  • "Non-weapon proficiencies" were replaced by skills, and become a fundamental part of the game rather than an optional one, with class abilities such as thieving skills being translated directly into skills. All characters were given a pool of points to spend on a wide range of specific skills to further define a character.
  • Special abilities known as feats allow greater customization of characters. Fighters were no longer differentiated simply by weapons, roleplay and equipment selection, but rather by the number of feats they possess relative to other characters.
  • Magic item creation was simplified, requiring a prerequisite feat, spells, and monetary and experience costs, replacing the obscure rules of earlier editions.
  • Barbarians, monks, and half-orcs returned to the Player's Handbook as basic character types, and the sorcerer class was introduced.
  • Class groups were removed. "Mage" was renamed to "wizard", with "specialist wizards" being simply wizards that specialize in one school of magic, and "thief" was renamed to "rogue." The bard class was no longer considered a type of rogue.
  • "Priests of a specific mythos", also known as specialist priest classes, were eliminated (except druid), though some make their return in the form of prestige classes or through other options such as feats.
  • The sorcerer class was added to the game as an arcane caster that uses magic naturally, instead of through study.
  • Multi-classing and dual-classing as per previous editions was removed. In the new multi-classing system, multi-classing functioned similar to dual-classing had previously, except that a character could gain a level of any character class upon gaining a level instead of only gaining levels in the second class, and with experience needed to reach the next level calculated on the sum of the level of all classes instead of the latest class. Multi-classing was made available to all races, although easier for humans and half-elves, and characters with multiple classes of differing levels were penalized.
  • Prestige classes were added, representing special training or membership in an organization outside the generic scope of core classes. Entry into prestige classes requires characters to meet certain prerequisites. Assassins make their return here, as well as blackguards (fallen paladins) and several others.
  • Any combination of race and class was now permitted, with the exception of some prestige classes. (In the 2nd edition, characters of some fantasy races/species were not allowed to belong to some character classes.)
  • Priest spell spheres were removed from the game; each spellcasting class now has its own specific spell list (although wizard and sorcerer share a list). Instead, clerics gain domains that allow them to use bonus spells and abilities based on their deity's area of influence, as well as the ability to swap out prepared spells for curative spells.
  • Initiative was changed to a cyclic system where the order of resolving actions was determined once per encounter and then repeated, and actions were resolved on the player's turn. In previous editions the order was redetermined each round and many actions do not resolve on the player's turn but at the end of the round.
  • Diagonal movement and range were simplified. Each square of diagonal distance was equivalent to 1.5 squares of orthogonal distance, rounded down.
  • The system for multiple attacks was changed so that, when making multiple attacks in the same round, later attacks were generally less accurate than earlier attacks.

Dungeons & Dragons v3.5[edit]

Release 3.5 of the three core rulebooks

In July 2003, a revised version of the 3rd edition D&D rules (termed v3.5) was released that incorporated numerous small rule changes, as well as expanding the Dungeon Master's Guide and Monster Manual. This revision was intentionally a small one focusing on addressing common complaints about certain aspects of gameplay, hence the "half edition" version number. The basic rules were fundamentally the same, and many monsters and items were compatible (or even unchanged) between those editions.

Differences from Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition[edit]

  • Barbarians receive more and improved class features, especially regarding barbarian rage.
  • Bards receive more skill points and bardic music abilities.
  • Druids can cast summon nature's ally spells spontaneously in place of any prepared spells, just like clerical spontaneous casting of cure/inflict wounds spells. Their abilities were also reworked and animal companions were improved, but restricted to one, having become a class feature, making animal companions akin to familiars in this regard.
  • Monks had a major rework of their class features, some balancing unbalanced aspects, others improving old abilities.
  • Paladins can summon their mounts, instead of finding them; they can also smite more often.
  • Rangers receive more skill points and new class abilities, though fewer hit points, and were able to choose between being dual wielding melee specialists (which all rangers were forced into in the 3rd edition), or archery specialists.
  • New spells were added, and numerous changes were made to existing spells, while some spells were removed from the updated Player's Handbook.[15]
  • Spontaneous arcane spellcasters can change a few of their spell choices in later levels.
  • New feats were added and numerous changes were made to existing feats.
  • Several skills were renamed or merged with other skills.
  • Monsters gained feats and skills the same way as PCs, usually resulting in more skill points and feats for every monster.
  • The chapter on combat in the Player's Handbook was modified to increase focus on grid-based movement and combat.
  • Damage Reduction no longer required a weapon to have a minimum magical bonus to overcome; for example, DR 10/+2 becomes DR 10/magic. Additional requirements to overcome some Damage Reduction included the substance the weapon was made of (cold iron, silver etc.) or alignment (good or evil).

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition[edit]

Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition Player's Handbook

On August 15, 2007, Wizards of the Coast announced the development of D&D 4th edition. In December 2007, the book Wizards Presents: Races and Classes, the first preview of the 4th Edition, was released. This was followed by a second book in January 2008 named Wizards Presents: Worlds and Monsters. The Player's Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master's Guide were released in June 2008.

Slashdot reported anger from some players and retailers due to the financial investment in v3.5 and the relatively brief period of time that it had been in publication.[16] Although many players chose to continue playing older editions, or other games such as Pathfinder,[17] the initial print run of the 4th edition sold out during preorders, and Wizards of the Coast announced a second print run prior to the game's official release.[18]

Unlike previous editions with just three core rulebooks, 4th edition core rules include multiple volumes of the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual that were released yearly, with each new book becoming a part of the core. They include core classes, races, monsters, powers, feats, paragon paths and epic destinies not present in the first Player's Handbook and Monster Manual.[19]

Differences from Dungeons & Dragons v3.5[edit]

  • The alignment system was reduced from nine alignments to five (lawful good, good, unaligned, evil and chaotic evil); eliminating lawful neutral, lawful evil, chaotic good, and chaotic neutral, and replacing true neutral with unaligned.
  • Revision of saving throws and defense values. Fortitude, Reflex and Will were now static defense values which the attacker rolls against in the same way physical attacks roll against Armor Class. "Saving throw" now refers to rolls made at the end of one's turn in order to end certain ongoing detrimental effects; saving throw rolls generally have no bonus and a DC of 10.
  • Changes in spells and other per-encounter resourcing, giving all classes a similar number of at-will, per-encounter and per-day powers. Powers have a wide range of effects including inflicting status effects, creating zones, and forced movement, making combat very tactical for all classes but essentially requiring use of miniatures. Powers were typically used with particular types of equipment; for example, powers for the fighter class receive bonuses for certain types of weapons, while rogue powers usually require rogue weapons such as daggers and crossbows, and more magical classes can use implements (such as wands) with their powers to add their enhancement bonuses in the same way weapons do for weapon powers.
  • In the first Player's Handbook, the warlock and warlord were included, while the barbarian, bard, druid, sorcerer and monk were not present. Of those classes, the first four were published in Player's Handbook 2, while the monk class appeared in Player's Handbook 3.
  • Characters at 11th level choose a "paragon path", a specialty often (but not always) based on their class, which defines some of their new powers through 20th level. At level 21, an "epic destiny" was chosen in a similar manner. In many respects, the paragon path and the epic destiny replaced the prestige class system of the 3rd edition.
  • Core rules extended to level 30 rather than level 20, bringing "epic level" play back into the core rules (level 21+ play had last been explicitly written into core rules in the black-covered "Master" rule set of classic D&D).
  • The multi-classing system was revised. Rather than splitting levels between multiple classes, characters properly belonged to only one class but may choose feats to gain abilities from other classes. Hybrid characters combine selected features from two classes. Eleventh level characters with sufficient multi-class feats can use "paragon multi-classing" to gain additional powers from another class in lieu of picking a "paragon path".
  • Standardized level-based bonus was increased. Attack rolls, skill checks and defense values all gained a bonus equal to one-half level, rounded down, rather than increasing at different rates depending on class or skill point investment. This bonus also applied to ability-score checks (such as strength checks).
  • Revision of the healing system. Each character has a number of daily "healing surges" based on their class and Constitution score. Spending a healing surge usually heals a character for slightly under one-quarter of a character's maximum hit points. Generally, characters can only spend a healing surge during combat by using a special once-per-encounter "second wind" action; however, certain powers allow additional surges to be spent (by the character using it or another character), and characters can spend any number of their healing surges while taking a five-minute "short rest" outside of combat. Finally, players recover full hit points after a (once daily) six hour "extended rest".
  • Elimination of skill points. Each skill was either trained (providing a fixed bonus on skill checks, and sometimes allowing more exotic uses for the skills) or untrained, but in either case all characters also receive a bonus to all skill rolls based on level.
  • Many non-combat spells (such as Knock, Raise Dead, Tenser's Floating Disc, and Water Breathing) were replaced by rituals, which were not class-specific but require a feat (given to certain classes for free) and a skill check to perform. All rituals have a financial cost in the form of material components, such as herbs and alchemical reagents. Item creation feats were also replaced by rituals.
  • Elves were split into three races (excluding half-elves) rather than numerous subraces. Eladrin (not to be confused with the quite different monster of the same name in previous editions) were more civilized and magical, while regular elves were agile forest dwellers rather than city builders, and the evil subterranean drow were largely unchanged in flavor. All three elven races were considered fey.[20] Gnomes were also considered fey.
  • The Dungeon Master's Guide officially supports leveling monsters down and up to allow for easier encounter design and flexibility. Many monsters have their mechanics redesigned to help differentiate them from others. Some monsters were designed to work well in group fights whereas others can be used as a solo monster versus the players' party.[21][22]
  • Distances previously measured in feet were now measured in five-foot squares; a diagonally adjacent square is considered to be one square away, so effect areas were generally square rather than circular or cone-shaped. The five-foot step, usually taken to avoid attacks of opportunity, was replaced with a type of movement called shifting. Normally a character can shift one square as a move action, but some powers can allow shifting a greater distance or as part of another action.

Dungeons & Dragons Essentials[edit]

This product line debuted in September 2010 and consists of ten products. Essentials uses the D&D 4th edition rule set and provides simple player character options intended for first-time players.[23][24] Many of the new player character options emulate features from previous editions of the D&D game, such as schools of magic for the wizard class.[25]

The Essentials line contains revisions to the ruleset compiled over the prior two years, in the form of the Rules Compendium, which condenses rules and errata into one volume while also updating the rules with newly introduced rules changes.[26][27] The player books Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms contain rules for creating characters as well as new builds for each class described in the books.[28] Other Essentials releases included a Dungeon Master's Kit and Monster Vault, each also containing accessories.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition[edit]

Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition Player's Handbook

In January 2012, Wizards of the Coast announced that the fifth major edition of the game, at the time referred to as D&D Next, was under development.[17] In direct contrast to the previous editions of the game, D&D Next was developed partly via a public open playtest.[29] An early build of the new edition debuted at the 2012 Dungeons & Dragons Experience event to about 500 fans.[30] Public playtesting began on May 24, 2012,[31] with the final playtest packet released on September 20, 2013.[32]

The fifth edition's Basic Rules, a free PDF containing complete rules for play and a subset of the player and DM content from the core rulebooks, was released on July 3, 2014.[33] The Starter Set was released on July 15; this boxed set features a set of pregenerated characters, a set of instructions for basic play, and the adventure module Lost Mine of Phandelver.[34] The Player's Handbook was released on August 19.[35] The fifth edition Monster Manual was released on September 30. The Dungeon Master's Guide was released on December 9.[36]

Differences from Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition[edit]

  • The two-axis alignment system introduced in earlier editions returns, increasing the total alignments to 9 with the introduction of a 10th alignment, "unaligned," used for monsters and animals that act on instinct rather than morality and values.
  • Actions are now more dependent on checks made with the six core abilities with skills taking a more supportive role.
  • Saving throws are reworked to be situational checks based on the six core abilities instead of generic d20 rolls.
  • The "Advantage/Disadvantage" mechanic was introduced, streamlining conditional and situational modifiers to a simpler mechanic: rolling two d20s for a situation and taking the higher of the two for "advantage" and the lower of the two for "disadvantage" and cancelling each other out when both apply.
  • Skills, weapons, items, saving throws and other things that a character is trained in (proficient) now all use a single proficiency bonus that increases as level increases.
  • Multiple defense values have been removed, returning to a single defense value of Armor Class and using more traditional saving throws.
  • Action Points have been removed entirely. The first "Unearthed Arcana" article reintroduced Action Points in their Eberron format (along with many other Eberron campaign standards).
  • The Death Saving Throw system has been changed; 3 successes or a single roll of 20 results in a stabilization and 3 failures results in death.
  • The power system of the 4th edition has been removed, replacing them with more traditional class features that are gained as characters level.
  • Each spell-casting class uses a unique system to cast their spells, with wizards and clerics returning to a slightly modified version of the spell preparation system of previous editions.
  • Characters are allowed a single action and movement in their turn with the ability to break up their movement with their action.
  • Healing Surges are replaced by Hit Dice, requiring a character to roll a hit die during a short rest instead of healing a flat rate of hit points.
  • The time of a short rest is increased from 5 minutes to a full hour of light activity.
  • "Bloodied" is no longer a condition.
  • Multiclassing is reminiscent of the 3rd edition. When a character levels, they can choose to instead add new levels of a different class and gain some of the features of that class.
  • Most major races (and subraces) and classes are now included in the main Player's Handbook volume instead of being spread throughout multiple volumes.
  • Feats are now optional features that can be taken instead of core ability score increases and are reworked to be occasional major upgrades instead of frequent minor upgrades.
  • Character and monster average hit point values are lower resulting in combat situations that are resolved more quickly.

Dungeons & Dragons variants[edit]

Due to the nature of the Open Game License that the 3rd edition was published under, other companies were able to use the d20 System rules to create their own variants of Dungeons & Dragons, providing that they did not use anything Wizards of the Coast considered trade dress.[citation needed]

"Retro-clones" are variants created to simulate previous editions, part of a movement known as the Old School Revival.[citation needed] A prominent example is Castles & Crusades (C&C), published in 2004 by Troll Lord Games.[37]

The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game was first published in 2009 by Paizo Publishing. It is intended to be backward-compatible with D&D version 3.5 while adjusting some rules balance, and has been nicknamed "v 3.75" by some fans.[38][39] Pathfinder has been one of the best-selling role playing games in the industry.[17]

13th Age is a game designed by Jonathan Tweet, a lead designer of the 3rd Edition, and Rob Heinsoo, a lead designer of the 4th Edition, and published by Pelgrane Press in 2013.[40]

International editions[edit]

The D&D franchise has been translated and published in many languages around the world.

A particular challenge has been the word dungeon, which in standard English means a single prison cell or oubliette originally located under a keep. Some languages, like Spanish, Italian, Finnish, and Portuguese, didn't translate the title of the game and kept it as it is in English: Dungeons & Dragons. In Spanish-speaking countries, the 1983 animated series was translated in Hispanic America as Calabozos y Dragones and in Spain as Dragones y Mazmorras (calabozo and mazmorra have in all Spanish-speaking countries the same meaning: a dungeon). In Brazil, the same animated series was translated as Caverna do Dragão (Dragon's Cave). This still brings great confusion amongst Spanish-speaking and Brazilian gamers about the name of the game, since all Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese translations of the game kept the original English title. In gaming jargon, however, a dungeon is not a single holding cell but rather a network of underground passages or subterranea to be explored, such as a cave, ruins or catacombs. Some translations conveyed this meaning well, e.g. Chinese 龙与地下城 (Dragons and Underground Castles, or Dragons and Underground Cities). Some translations used a false friend of "dungeon", even if it changed the meaning of the title, such as the French Donjons et dragons (Keeps and Dragons). In Hebrew, the game was published as מבוכים ודרקונים (Labyrinths and Dragons). Additionally, some translations adopted the English word "dungeon" as a game term, leaving it untranslated in the text as well.


  1. ^ Pulsipher, Lewis (February–March 1981). "An Introduction to Dungeons & Dragons". White Dwarf (23) (London, England: Games Workshop). pp. 8–9.  "Chainmail was needed to conduct combat...." "Greyhawk introduced a new combat system...."
  2. ^ Pulsipher, Lewis (August–September 1977). "Open Box: Tunnels and Trolls". White Dwarf (2) (London, England: Games Workshop). ISSN 0265-8712. 
  3. ^ Appelcline, Shannon. "Players Handbook (1e)". dndclassics.com. Retrieved August 10, 2015. 
  4. ^ Gygax, Gary (March 1985). "Demi-Humans Get a Lift". Dragon (TSR) (95): 8–10. 
  5. ^ Turnbull, Don (December 1978 – January 1979). "Open Box: Player's Handbook". White Dwarf (Games Workshop) (10): 17. 
  6. ^ Holmes 1981.
  7. ^ Holmes, J. Eric (1977). Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set. p. 6. "...experience levels that high are not discussed in this book and the reader is referred to the more complete rules in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 
  8. ^ "D&D Clones!". White Dwarf (Games Workshop) (24): 29. April–May 1981. 
  9. ^ Appelcline, Shannon. "D&D Rules Cyclopedia". Retrieved June 26, 2015. 
  10. ^ a b "The History of TSR". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on October 8, 2010. Retrieved August 20, 2005. 
  11. ^ "Dungeons & Dragons FAQ". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on October 3, 2008. Retrieved October 3, 2008. 
  12. ^ Gygax, Gary. "From the Sorcerer's Scroll: The Future of the Game". Dragon Magazine, #103, November, 1985, p.8.
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  15. ^ "D&D v3.5 Accessory Update Booklet". wizards.com. Retrieved February 10, 2013. 
  16. ^ Zonk (August 22, 2007). "Gen Con 2007 In A Nutshell". Slashdot.org. Retrieved August 23, 2007. 
  17. ^ a b c Harnish, MJ (January 9, 2012). "5th Edition D&D Is in Development — Should We Care?". Wired.com. Conde Nast. Archived from the original on March 3, 2014. Retrieved October 1, 2013. 
  18. ^ "D&D 4E Back to Press". ICv2.com. May 30, 2008. Retrieved February 10, 2013. 
  19. ^ Dave Noonan, Mike Mearls, and James Wyatt (October 5, 2007). Episode 16: Monsters, Monsters, Monsters! (podcast). Wizards of the Coast. Event occurs at 1:57. quote="So, one of the things that I thought a lot about when I was first putting together the outline for this book... this is not the core Monster Manual.... So, there are some monsters that I very intentionally left out of this book so that when they appear in Monster Manual II, that will help communicate, "Hey, look, this is a core Monster Manual." You don't have frost giants if you don't have Monster Manual N". 
  20. ^ Cordell, Bruce R. (September 5, 2007). "Elves:Design & Development". wizards.com. Dragon Magazine. Retrieved 2013-02-10. 
  21. ^ "The Wizards Community | Community". Forums.gleemax.com. Retrieved September 29, 2013. 
  22. ^ Dave Noonan & Mike Mearls (October 5, 2007). "Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Official Home Page - Article (Monsters, Monsters, Monsters)". Wizards.com. Retrieved September 29, 2013. 
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  25. ^ Complete Mike Mearls D&D 4th Edition Essentials Interview. "| The Escapist". Escapistmagazine.com. Retrieved September 29, 2013. 
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  32. ^ "Final Playtest Packet". Wizards.com. September 20, 2012. Archived from the original on July 20, 2014. 
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]