So, let me throw this out there.
Instead of the death march to the land of diminishing returns that continuing down the path of perpetual new editions dooms Wizards of the Coast too, how about a multi-edition edition of Dungeons & Dragons?
The Game is built of multiple core components and elements that show up in all editions. Combat, Character Generation, Player Character Stats, Armor Class, Initiative, Surprise, etc… All the topics that we argue over and discuss on blogs and forums without end.
You could take these core elements as they are written in each edition and group them together to compare and contrast how each edition of The Game treats them.
Each edition is a product of the spirit of the times in which it was produced. Each one makes its own assumptions about what the game is meant to do, how to provide that outcome, and what players are looking for in the play experience.
Every edition made rule changes guided by these assumptions, and which edition you started with, and when, colors your view on what’s right and what’s wrong with the others.
Everybody knows I’m an AD&D guy, I don’t think there’s anything I can’t make it do with sufficient tinkering. But, I will readily admit to prying bits and pieces off of other editions, other RPGs, house rules gathered from blogs and forums, pretty much what ever catches my eye, and seeing if I like it in play. I think most of us, (the Old School blogosphere), do this without giving it a second thought.
You wouldn’t have to do every component of The Game, only the major ones which diverge significantly from previous editions. That would keep it from becoming the Encyclopedia of D&D. (though I would buy the Encyclopedia of D&D WOTC, if you're watching.)
You could present it by topic, say, Hit Points, and then the relevant sections from Original, AD&D, 2E, 3E, 3.5E, 4E, concerning what hit points are, how they are generated, how they are viewed in the game, and then a bit of considered commentary about why each edition makes changes, the different ways hit points are used to represent actual damage sustained, personal energy expended, near misses, luck, etc.
The hit points section could be followed by a bit about the various rules concerning when is dead really dead. Since there is always discussion about death at zero, death at -10 hps, deaths door rules, recovery from near death, I don’t want to go on the cart, yadda yadda.
The point of this book would be to create an Ala Carte Dungeons & Dragons which would allow DMs to pick and choose the elements from all editions that best suited their game and gaming sensibilities and build a personal edition. This is what we all really do anyway, at least, we of the Old School.
Of course, not all elements from all editions can be made to play nicely together. I don’t expect they could be made to do so by a Super Edition, still, having examples side by side of all the different ways that Combat, or Skills, or what have you have been treated in The Game would be horizon broadening for those unfamiliar with other ways of looking at things.
It’s my perception that newer generations of gamers are much less likely to have a do it yourself-make it your own attitude towards gaming. I think a book that actively encourages the idea of tinkering would go a long way towards changing this.
The majority of OSR bloggers and related forum posters are in their mid thirties and forties, I think I can safely assume, and they have been a fountainhead of creativity that I am overjoyed to drink from. However, I find it unsettling that the younger gamers seem to be the ones wearing blinkers about The Game and what it does. It’s supposed to be the kids who are wild and creative.
I can’t tell anyone to get off my lawn if they never jump fences. Dagnabit.
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