Divisions in the OSR on what is Old School, what is the “Right Way” to play, and what editions are best are not merely intellectual bones upon which we gamers can chew. It is a serious deal, along the lines of religious convictions and the schisms of Christendom. Though to the outsider they may all believe the same things, in fact those profoundly minute details are what stir up the fieriest passions and rousing the rancor of those who ‘believe wrong’. This struck me when someone in the OSR referred to a particular edition, despite its flaws, as being an ‘inspired’ work. Now, there are lots of known flaws in the King James translation of the bible, but it is still considered to be an ‘inspired’ work, and all flaws can be overlooked due to the inherent divinity of that edition of the work. Now, interestingly enough, the edition to which this blogger referred was not even the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Much like how the King James Version was not even the first English Bible (it was just the most ‘inspired’).
So why the edition wars? For the same reason there are schismatics in the church and heresies among believers. At one point, one grabs hold of a touchstone ideal and makes it the core of his being, central to his faith. But what if that ideal was misintroduced marginalia or if the Orthodoxy simply disregards that atom upon which a number of people have based their faith? People attacking or disregarding that item are not merely assailing an idea, but are perceived as attacking the core of an individual’s faith! Because it is a matter of faith, it is a question beyond reason. And THAT is why edition wars exist. It has nothing to do with which rule set is actually better or whether an edition was ‘commercialized’ or ‘old school’; it has everything to do with what ideas make individuals feel the most safe, comfortable and happy with who they are as gamers, and challenges to those ideas represent challenges to their happiness, faith and nature!