WoW. So obviously I've been missing out on this thread. I thought about what I wanted to say before I even bothered to look. Here are MY initial thoughts.
3E. A short time after 3E came out, I was off to Gen Con to (regrettably promote the new D&D Movie). I was sent there to meet up with another individual to talk about the new movie, it's cast and what we might be in store for. During the Con was my first taste of 3E, with a good DM running it. I remember making a PC (which I never do) and giving the game a go. Right away as most of you have pointed out it was about STATS and builds, but I attribute that to it being new and everyone wanting to get the best character they could get for this particular night. We played for hours and had allot of laughs, but the game definitely didn't play like the game I had been running for ages (but I also wasn't the DM).
The ART was good, but not D&Dish to me... but the same could be said about 2E, I also like the old gritty stuff, black n white just had a mystique about it. Everytime you open a 1E book you get that "fuck yeah awesome" feeling while doing it. You don't with any other edition. As the game went on and the Con went on, I watched many games and even tried to run a short session. 3E ran fine, but as noted above it simply didn't feel like MY game. Munchkinism and monty halls everywhere!
Years later I have come to realize it's the DM and really only the DM. If the DM lets people build ridiculous things, then they will. If the DM hands out piles of money and hordes of items, they will in ANY edition. I'm a strict DM myself, I've pointed that out many times on these forums over the years and I've slowly gotten a little easier to play under thanks to all of you and maybe age/game time taking a toll on my style.
As for RPing, again I'd say that's ALL on the players. Yet my best RPers have all been from 1E/2E. My 2 best RPers ever were both 1E players...but I have lots of other great RPers in the past and now still do. Yet I think this matters not, because if they were playing 3E or 5E they would still be awesome fun.
But where did D&D lose it's soul? Hummm, I'd say the minute Gary Gygaxx sold TSR's rights to WotC. The minute they tried to put there spin on the game, hiring all new people, with all new art styles, all new descriptions of spells, new mechanics (which some are good) it just seemed to die.
Then 4E came along and outright fuckin KILLED it. What a pile of shit edition that is/was. If ever something killed and took the soul away from anything in history it was 4th edition D&D. Created for video gamers, played by inexperienced morons and run by the worst of DM's who couldn't tell a story if a book was strapped to their faces.
but I digress...
I do appreciate that Wizards tried to keep the company going and have at least put out an edition that I would say is ok (in 5E), but I've never had the chance to run it yet as my players always vote it off the ship. It's nice that it's drawing in new players and new generations, but I still see the same problems as 4E unfortunately. The game is brining in new players, but bad ones. Ones who build around stats, min maxers galore and not true ROLE-PLAYERS.
98% of my players (new or old ones) are instructed to build what they want to play, something they enjoy and that STATS do not matter. You will not live in because you have 18 STR, you will live because you are a smart player and a good RPer.
The player makes the character and the character can fit into any game.
~ Long live 1E