For someone just getting into D&D, picking an edition must be a daunting choice. Until recently, previous editions were out of print which limited choices severely. Now that WotC has reprinted these older editions, every version is equally available, not to mention all the retro-clones, offshoots, and similar RPGs.
So how does a new D&Der choose one edition over another?
When I started this blog, I recommended either 4e (because it was the only edition of D&D currently in print) or v3.5 (because it was a free download via the SRD on WotC’s website).
Much has changed since then and so have my recommendations.
WotC has begun reprinting all previous editions and is selling PDFs of most of their previously out of print accessories. That changes everything.
With availability no longer an issue, I wholeheartedly recommend 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons! Written by Gary Gygax, it presents the game in the way its creator intended. Imo, it captures the feeling of the game in a way that no other edition has managed to do.
But my opinions aside, what edition you choose is up to your particular taste. I realize that doesn’t help much so I will offer one critique. Newer versions (v3.0 on) are more complicated than older versions (both for the DM and for the players). It takes longer to teach players the basics, character creation takes longer, and combat is more involved (generally due to increased options). I believe that alone makes 1e an excellent choice. Once familiar with the game though, I would suggest checking out the other editions (as well as some of the retro-clones) to see if you like them better or at least to pull out some ideas.
1e AD&D is by far my favorite (followed by Holmes Basic D&D) but every edition has its strong points. It’s worth your time to look at all of them.
There is a follow-up post here.