Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The D&D Guidebook, 3rd Edition Part 1: Welcome and Remember These Two Things

Hi, my name is Charles and I like Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons (3e, 3ED&D, 3.5e, or 3.5ED&D*). I know that probably sounds odd considering that the game is wrapped up in moth balls and that most of the people online who love D&D mean either: Original D&D (OD&D); one of the Basic versions of D&D edited by either Holmes, Moldvay, or Mentzer (HBD&D, MOBD&D, or MEBD&D respectively); Fourth Edition D&D (4e or 4ED&D); Fifth Edition D&D (5e or 5ED&D); Pathfinder; or some retro-styled indie variant of the earlier editions of D&D (like Swords & Wizardry or OSRIC). The focus always seems to fall on these other versions of the game with Second Edition D&D (2e or 2ED&D) and 3e receiving little love among the role-playing game blogs. 

Trust me, I know. 

So why focus on 3e? Because I fucking love it. 3e was the game that got me to actually spend time on D&D and it was the one that got me playing role-playing games after years of wanting to but never having the opportunity. It was the game that opened itself up to me and that I completely got from the get go; so much so, that I've run well over 800 sessions of it in the last decade. This, then, is my love letter to Third Edition. 

This series will be looking at 3e, warts and all. It won't cover every book that was produced but it will focus on the ones that I liked and that got me excited to play the game. Some of the parts that I'll be looking at might sound a bit boring (I'm looking at you grapple rules) but stick with me and I promise it'll be worth it. Before we go any further though you need to remember two things about Third Edition: (1) we always, always round our fractions down; (2) the math you learned to get here will be meaningless. 

Welcome to Third Edition; you're in for a fun time. 


  1. 1e and 2e are basically the same game, and together they were "D&D" for 20 years. And they did it in a time when -nothing else- was D&D... except Basic. But Basic was compatible with it anyway.

    My point is: 2e has far more of a right to call itself D&D than anything that came after. How dare anyone exclude it? I demand justice!

    1. Then start a blog and rectify this situation, Anonymous.

  2. Oh yeah, I am waiting for this. 3 was my first D&D and I would jump at the chance to be in a 3e game.

    1. If I ever get better internet I will run it for you.

  3. While my roots are in basic( red box and rules cyclopedia) and second ed, Our current group played way more third (3.0) over the years than any other D&D.
    I think it's a great game.

    1. Me too. Also, if I get better internet I'm sending you an invite to that game I'll be running with Johua.

  4. I have to more less concur with Anonymous above. To most of the older fans "Dungeons & Dragons" means AD&D (either 1st or 2nd edition). Many of them may have started with OD&D or Holmes Basic, and many of them may have moved on to later editions, but AD&D is, w/o a doubt, the most important product line TSR ever released.

    Probably the main reason there is little love for 3e is that it was released for purposes of re-branding and marketing. There was no particular demand from players for a new and dramatically different version of AD&D (or BECM* for those that stuck with the "Basic" game). But WotC had just bought TSR and wanted something "New & Improved" to distinguish themselves from old owners. Thus 3e was born. And when it turned out to be NEW, but not exactly improved, it was quickly replaced by 3.5e which allegedly fixed most of the so-called game-balance problems 3e introduced (and cleaned up some of the stupidity left over from past expansion books like the Fiend Folio).

  5. If you go by sheer numbers, then despite what some OSR diehards will tell you, 3e (including 3.5 and Pathfinder) is the definitive edition of D&D.

    Despite the existence of 4e and 5e, more people play 3e today (in the form of Pathfinder) than ever played 0e, Basic, 1e, or 2e. As much as we all love to look back with nostalgia at the early days of gaming, the real golden age of D&D began (and ended) with 3e.

  6. That may well be true, Anonymous(August 12, 2015 at 1:31 PM). But there are two dynamics in play that you may not be considering.

    The first is Demographics: The U.S. and World populations have grown dramatically since the late 70's - 90's era of AD&D. The number of people outside the U.S. with disposable income and leisure time has grown even more dramatically. TSR was formed on a shoestring budget and only managed to print a few thousand copies of OD&D. Even at their height, they only had easy access to the North American markets, some of Europe and Australia & NZ. WotC (via Hasbro) had plenty of cash and worldwide distribution reach right from the start. Pathfinder is distributed for free over the internet, as well as printed volumes from Paizo.

    If you could and did adjust for that, the picture might look different.

    The second factor is social acceptance. In the 70's & 80's the common perception was that you had to be some kind of nerd, weirdo or Satanist to be interested in RPGs. Female players were virtually nonexistent. Few parents wanted their kids wasting their time & money on that stuff. Now RPGs are much more mainstream. It is still a male dominated hobby, but the disparity is much smaller. Parents know it's harmless, maybe even educational fun because many of them used to play, or still do.

    Sheer numbers, maybe, but that doesn't make what I wrote: "To most of the older fans..." any less true.


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