3 versus 4 versus 5

What is it about a fifth edition? 3rd (or 3.5) edition of Dungeons and Dragons is considered by many to be the best, last word in D&D… at least those who aren’t tempted by the dark side of Pathfinder. The edition that was released after 3.5, that which shall not be named, is generally considered almost blasphemous, a horrible turn away from tradition into some gruesome parody of D&D. However, the newest, 5th Edition (or D&D Next) has the potential to be the greatest version ever, at least it could be if Wizards of the Coast pulls its head out, and stops publishing 50 bucks a book for modules, and starts feeding us all the various campaign settings that they allude to in 5E. Sorry… personal rant.

Shadowrun, too, had a very similar experience, at least in my mind. 3rd Edition is the penultimate edition, where they took everything that was in place since the very first edition, and finally cleared up all the confusion, vagueness, and broken rules. Well, mostly. They actually went backwards in the spellcasting department, but that’s easy enough to house rule. Then came 4th. They took everything I’d learned and played for twenty years and threw it all out the window. They made my entire collection of every 1st, 2nd, and 3rd edition book obsolete. I became a raging lunatic, espousing the downfall of 4th to anyone and everyone who would bother to listen to my nerdy rant without rolling eyeballs at me.

So of course, here comes 5th Edition Shadowrun. In many ways very similar to 4th but at the same time completely different, completely playable, fantastic system design, and options never before seen in the Sixth World (the campaign setting for Shadowrun). Yes, it’s true that they took one of the crunchiest systems ever devised and added even more complexity, but at the same time it plays faster somehow.

So what is it about the number 4? I think Gurps is on their 4th Edition, unless it’s changed recently (I don’t keep up with Gurps as I don’t like it at all), but they’re probably already working on or released a 5th edition. The curse of the 4 either has already befallen them, or it will soon.

So if you’re a game design company with a successful game on the market, and you’re thinking about releasing a new version that will be the fourth edition, stop now, have a seat, relax, smoke a joint, and fuhgettaboutit.

Seriously. Don’t do it.

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