Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Second Editions: How Soon Is Too Soon?

Well, we're back to blogging, folks!  The break was much needed, and we appreciate everyone's patience as we recharged our batteries.  And as we're working on a semi-major project that really breaks our mold, we have to ask ourselves... 

How soon is too soon to publish a Second Edition of a role-playing title?

No, we aren't doing this yet.  Hell, yours truly has just gotten back to doing anything game related at all, much less tackling a major do-over.  But as we (maybe) begin breaking established molds all over the place, we can't help but reflect a bit.  We've been doing this for four years.  It's been a learning curve.  But with time comes experience.  And with practice comes improvement.  And not just in the design department... 

So when does it make sense to re-consolidate an existing set of rules into a better, more coherent package and apply lessons learned?  Or improve its production?        

Is a Second Edition seen as a giant middle finger to the people who've already shelled out for the previous version?  Or a cynical ploy to get the buyer's money twice?  Now I'm not implying anyone is doing this.  My question is somewhat rhetorical because I could actually see the need for a fifth Edition D&D after the badly contrived 4th....

Much as I could see the need for a 2nd Edition AD&D, or pretty much any edition of my beloved Tunnels & Trolls.  Time makes rules better, and experience (and revenue) makes it easier to improve the physical (read: production) value of a given product.

So, for a little historical perspective...

OD&D to AD&D - five years (from the initial boxed release to publication of the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, which made AD&D a complete system)

AD&D to 2nd Edition AD&D - ten years (calculating from 1979 to 1989)

2nd Edition to 3rd - eleven years (from 1989 to 2000)

Initially, you see a retooling of the original into a more coherent package.  And when you really think about it, AD&D was really was just a cleaned-up (and better organized) version of the booklets and their supplements.  Indeed, there was actually a three-year overlap...

After that, each new edition was given ample time to marinate at the tables of a thousand enthusiastic gamers.  Except for grumpy old holdouts like myself, obviously!

So when is the time "right" for a new edition?  I suspect it's when the game would really benefit from a little reconsolidation.  And I've seen it pulled off nicely across many different systems, so I guess I know.  But the mind wanders after a long break.  Especially when thinking about the future of your favorite projects.  Well, this blog has a future for sure, even if only as a monthly post.  And we'll try to make it worth your time to drop in and visit...    


  1. OD&D to Greyhawk is a more apt analogy. Greyhawk was almost a different game. So, that's like 18 months maybe?

    Do it when you can't stand the old edition, that's my real advice.

  2. As with many things, the answer is "it depends".

    For D&D, or similar, the decision will be made by commercial factors - as soon as the powers-that-be determine that the financial benefits of a new edition outweigh the costs of development, they'll begin production.

    For a new RPG, I'd generally argue that the second edition (specifically) should come out as soon as enough major revisions are made to warrant it - games like "Vampire: the Masquerade" got second editions after about a year, and were all the better for it. (Of course, that also meant that Storyteller fans were well advised to wait a year before buying into any of their new games!)

    For labour-of-love games, though, I would argue you should do a second or subsequent edition when you want to - if you reach a point where you're house ruling your own game extensively, or you get bored with it, or you just feel like doing a second edition, go for it. And if you don't ever reach that point, or indeed you just want to do a different game entirely, do that!