Dungeon Master Assistance

Where anyone over 18 can share thoughts and ideas on RPGs.

D&D – How many editions are there? (2021)

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is a game where players sit around a table and roll dice. They create characters and go on adventures led by a dungeon master (DM), who controls non-player characters (NPCs), monsters and events in the world.

DnD Editions

How many D&D editions are there?

I have listed here the major editions. For any edition there may be multiple printings and different covers. There are also many variations and supplements. For most editions there were three core books; a Player’s Handbook, a Dungeon Master’s Guide and a Monster Manuel.

D&D 0.0

0.0 – Original Dungeons and Dragons (OD&D) 1974
A small box set of three booklets. The original game had only three classes (Cleric, Fighter, Magic User). Cleric spells up to 5th level, Magic user spells up to 6th level. Every attack except for certain monster abilities did 1d6 damage if it hit.

D&D 0.5

0.5 – Basic Dungeons & Dragons (BD&D) 1977
Playing a Race meant playing a class. For example a Dwarf used only the Dwarf Class. The first Basic Set was available as a 48-page stand-alone rulebook, or as part of a boxed set, which was packaged in a larger box that included a set of polyhedral dice and supplemental materials.

D&D 1.0

1.0 – Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) 1978
The most popular version of older edition D&D. Bonuses for characteristics roughly go up to +4 and are capped at 18 except for exceptional strength. Characters select a race and a class. Non-human race can multi class which involves splitting experience between multiple classes. Non-humans were generally limited to a max level (often low).

D&D 2.0

2.0 – Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition (AD&D 2 or 2nd Ed) 1989
Still basically AD&D 1st Edition but the rules have been reorganized and rewritten for clarity. Introduced THAC0 (To Hit Armor Class 0). Some content like half-orc, demons, and assassins were removed or changed due to media pressure. Character customization was expanded by using non-weapon proficiencies as a skill system and by allowing characters to take kits that confer various benefits. Combat has been redesigned.

D&D 3.0

3.0 – Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition (D&D 3 or 3E) 2000
The first edition created by Wizards of the Coast, 3rd Edition took the idea of Skill and Powers and developed a cleaner system for customizing characters by designing the classes so a level of one class can stack on top of another class. A single level chart was introduced and at each level a character could take a new class or add another level of a class they already had.
In addition feats were added to allow characters to further customize their abilities. A true skill system was introduced and integrated into the game. The underlying d20 system worked by rolling equal to or higher than a target number and adding various bonus.

D&D 3.5

3.5 – Dungeons & Dragons v.3.5 (Revised 3rd Edition or D&D 3.5) 2003
This edition featured only small changes to the core game (and was mostly-but-not-entirely compatible with books written for 3rd Edition), but had its own extensive line of supplements which magnified the role of feats, prestige classes, and multiclassing in character customization.

D&D 4.0

4.0 – Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition (D&D 4E) 2008
This edition is a completely new game with only a few game mechanics carried over from the 3rd Edition. It has a simple set of core rules and defines all character and monster abilities as exceptions which are described in standard terms. Higher level combat has been simplified, and class has been designed to have specific roles in combat. Every classes has a diverse set of combat options to use.

D&D 5.0

5.0 – Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition (D&D 5E) 2014 The current edition of D&D.
Skills, weapons, items, saving throws, and other things that characters are trained in now all use a single proficiency bonus that increases as character level increases. Multiple defense values have been removed, returning to a single defense value of armor class and using more traditional saving throws. Saving throws are reworked to be situational checks based on the six core abilities instead of generic d20 rolls. Feats are now optional features that can be taken instead of ability score increases
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 canceling each other out when more than one apply.


9 responses to “D&D – How many editions are there? (2021)

  1. Gordon Johansen June 26, 2021 at 12:49 pm

    This is a great recap of the editions. It skips the minor printing differences which is probably wise. Would you have any issue if I posted a link to it on my store’s Facebook page for the edification of newer players? Feel free to check it out at sentrybox.com or https://www.facebook.com/sentrybox if you want to vet us before answering. -Gord

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ronny June 26, 2021 at 2:36 pm

      Thanks for the kind comment.
      I would be honored to have you post a link to this or any other of my posts. The Sentry Box looks like a great store. Good luck on your re-fully-opening plans. Local game stores are a major link in keeping the D&D gaming community active. I strongly recommend anyone who is in your area to check out this store.
      If you think of a D&D related topic you would like for me to cover, just let me know.
      I see on your web site that you will be running D&D Adventures League games. I may have missed it, but I didn’t see if you had gaming tables available for local gaming groups to run face-to-face games in your store.
      After a 15 month hiatus, I have again started running a face-to-face D&D 5E game (not Adventures League) at a local gaming store here (Enchanted Realms, Colorado Springs, Colorado).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Miztres June 26, 2021 at 4:03 pm

    You wouldn’t consider Next as its own edition. I understand it was testplay for 5e, but there are some bid departures from in Next to what we have now. it saw a lot of play by groups private and public and spearheaded the game away from the mistakes of 4th. Thanks for the summary, I often get asked by friends and colleagues, now I have someplace to send them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ronny June 27, 2021 at 9:22 am

      No, I wouldn’t consider D&D Next as its own edition. Not only was it not published, it was continually revised as it went through extensive public playtesting from early 2012 until the final playtest packet was released on September 20, 2013. Many rules were changed from one packet to the next. If there was a particular rule that you liked that didn’t make it into 5th edition you would need to be sure to specify which playtest packet you are using. The earliest packet I have has the name “082013_DnD_Next_Playtest_Packet” but there may be earlier packets that I missed.
      However – I think that basically dropping back to 3rd edition as a starting point and the extensive public playtesting and revising during the “Next” phase did lead to the best Dungeons & Dragons edition ever.
      Next would deserve a mention in any more comprehensive review and it is covered briefly in the “Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition” section in Wikipedia’s “Editions of Dungeons and Dragons”.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. brian johnson June 28, 2021 at 1:56 pm

    Nice, definitely bookmarked.


  4. cjwalters7 June 28, 2021 at 6:37 pm

    Thanks Ronny! This is an excellent review of all the varied editions.

    Which one is/was your favorite edition?

    Christopher J. Walters
    “Four Fans of Freedom”

    From: Dungeon Master Assistance
    Reply-To: Dungeon Master Assistance
    Date: Saturday, June 26, 2021 at 1:18 PM
    To: “cjwalters7@gmail.com”
    Subject: [New post] How many D&D editions are there?

    Ronny posted: “Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is a game where players sit around a table and roll dice. They create characters and go on adventures led by a dungeon master (DM), who controls non-player characters (NPCs), monsters and events in the world. How many D&am”


    • Ronny June 29, 2021 at 9:35 am

      Thank you.
      I have preferred each edition as it came out to the previous edition, with the exception of 4th edition which I didn’t care for. My favorite, by far, is Fifth edition. It is what I had hoped that 4th edition would be. It simplified the 3.5 rules and made it a lot faster and easier to play. This is not to say that there isn’t room for improvement, but if I had to recommend a version to play, it would definitely be 5th edition.


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