Since RPGs are often so rules-intensive that picking up and learning a new one is not casually done, I wanted the kids to have something they could play forever, or at least use as the basis for moving to other games later. If they decided they liked other games better than D&D, fine, but I wanted them to know what they were supposed to be comparing those other games to.

As for myself, I've loved D&D for decades. I played countless hours of both the basic D&D and the now-classic first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. I wrote several products for the second and third editions of the game, and I even wrote a fourth-edition adventure that Game Trade Magazine published this past August. So, D&D it was.

Still, that just barely narrowed it down. One of the strange things about RPGs is that many players refuse to play a "dead" game - any game that its publisher isn't actively supporting with new products. I get this. It's more fun to be involved with a game that's constantly evolving, improving, and adding newer, shinier bits.

However, thinking of a game as dead is silly. It's like saying that Uno is dead because there's no new basic set out this year. Or that a book isn't worth reading because there are no sequels in the works.

You can still enjoy a dead game for what it is, without worrying about whether or not you'll ever see a new supplement for it. It's actually comforting to know that the rules are complete and done, with little to no chance of any new books coming along to shake the game up, for better or worse.

If you're willing to play any version of D&D, you have at least nine different editions to choose from, and arguably many more. If you toss in the D&D variants that the Open Game License for Third Edition spawned, you have countless other choices.

You can even find and download versions of these older games for free. If you like the original D&D, check out OSRIC (Old School Reference & Index Compilation). If 3rd Edition (or the updated 3.5) is more your style, you can find lots of copies of the d20 SRD (System Resource Document) around, including the excellent Hypertext d20 SRD.

However, if you decide you want to stick with a "live" version of D&D, that still doesn't narrow down the choices. This summer, Paizo released its Pathfinder RPG, which is essentially D&D 3.75. It competes head to head with D&D 4E and has a wealth of active support.

Me, though, I like the new shiny, and I was eager to try the latest version of the game from Wizards of the Coast. The designers are friends of mine, and I trust them to do excellent work. Also, despite having written an adventure for 4E, I'd not had the chance to actually play the game, and that's an itch I needed to scratch.

Some hardcore gamers claim that you could put out any game you like under the D&D logo, and it would sell. There's some truth to that, of course. The game's brand is far stronger than its design.

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