There are a number of RPG systems and playstyles out there, but I want to focus on two today:
- Modern Dungeons & Dragons (aka D&D 5e)
- Old Dungeons & Dragons (aka OSR)
Yes, these are systems, but they also work as stand-ins for play styles. In more modern Dungeons & Dragons you play as incredibly capable heroes that–once past the squishy level 1 phase–are very rarely in danger of dying. In some communities, this is know as combat-as-sport: you’re fighting because of fun of the game. Whereas older Dungeons & Dragons editions such as Basic/Expert and Original Dungeons & Dragons made combat more deadly and therefore it’s combat-as-war: you don’t necessarily want to engage in a fair fight because you might die in any fight.
The difference between these two is where the “edge” is. Do the player characters have the edge and can do well against almost any foe? Then you’re probably playing Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. On the other hand, if your players are trying to find almost any edge they can before they enter combat, then they’re almost certainly playing an older version of Dungeons & Dragons.