D&D 3E/3.5 Edition Experience - Did/Do you Play 3rd Edtion D&D? How Was/Is it?

How Did/Do You Feel About 3E/3.5E D&D?

  • I'm playing it right now; I'll have to let you know later.

    Votes: 0 0.0%


Limit Break Dancing
With all of the talk about the Golden Age of Gaming, and all of the retro-clones floating around, it's made me curious about the older editions of the game. I'm curious how many folks on ENWorld have ever played these older editions, and what their level of satisfaction was. Or is, if you are one of the rare birds that are still rocking it O.G. Style.

This week I'd like to examine the 3rd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Have you played it before? or are you still playing it? What do you think about it?

By "played," I mean that you've been either a player or a DM for at least one gaming session. By "playing," I mean you have an ongoing gaming group that still actively plays this version, however occasionally. And for the purpose of this survey, I'm only referring to the D&D 3e/3.5e rules set, first published in 2000 and updated in mid-2003. You remember it; it was the "dungeonpunk" version with the Sword and Tome on the cover:


This was a brand-new edition of the game, like nothing that any of us had ever seen. Nearly all of the dice mechanics had been stripped out and rebuilt from the ground up, and the love-it-or-hate-it THAC0 mechanic was gone. Combat was expanded to play more like a tactical mini-game. All character classes used the same XP table. Barbarians and Monks were core classes. And so on. Seriously, I could write a thousand words on the differences between 3rd Edition and AD&D, and not even cover half of it. So much had changed, that it created a split in the gaming community that still hasn't quite healed.

But the biggest accomplishment of this edition was ultimately its doom: the Open Gaming License. Wizards of the Coast decided to make the 3rd Edition of D&D an open-source system, which allowed authors to write new D&D material without needing direct approval. This made it incredibly easy to market D&D-compatible content under their label and suddenly, D&D was everywhere. The D&D Renaissance had begun.

Now I know that some of you expected me to separate out these two versions into different surveys, the way I did for B/X and BECMI. But I didn't for several reasons: one, these two editions used the same mechanics; two, these editions had the same contributing authors; and three, the v3.5 rules were intended to be a rules update and not a completely new release. No, 3.5E doesn't merit it's own survey.

Feel free to add nuance in your comments, but let's not have an edition war over this. I'm really just interested in hearing peoples' stories of playing the 3E rules, and swimming in all of the OGL content that came with it. I know that this edition, and the ones to follow, are going to cause some strong feelings for folks. I also know that some people on this board still consider themselves to be soldiers in an ongoing Edition War. So I'm asking you to just...not. Don't bait the trolls, and don't be the troll that takes their bait. Just reminisce with me, be respectful of other people and their experiences, and save your attack rolls for the tabletop.

Tune in next week for one of the most controversial editions in recent memory...4th Edition!

Other Surveys
Basic D&D
BECMI / Rules Cyclopedia
D&D 4E
Survey Results (24 Apr 2020)
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Mark Hope

I wrapped up a 2e campaign before diving into 3e, but I put many enjoyable years into this edition. I enjoyed the ability to customise your game and your character with a high degree of mechanical specificity. You could really build pretty much whatever you could imagine and have a decent degree of mechanical support for the concept. Tons of options, some evocative artwork, fascinating degrees of system complexity. Myself and several others spent many years working on the 3e conversion of Dark Sun most enjoyably. I was happy to continue with Pathfinder when that came out, rather than adopt 4e.

Eventually, though, the same mechanical complexity and involved nature of the system proved to be too much. I ended up returning to B/X and AD&D, albeit with some houserules carried over from 3e (ascending AC and Pathfinder's CMB/CMD system, for example). I still have a lot of fond memories of and respect for 3e, but it's not a ruleset that I would return to. I sold almost all of my 3e stuff a year or so back and was stunned by how much the books went for. Clearly there are lots of enthusiastic players still out there :)


I am still running 2 3.5 play by post games. I like 3.5 OK, but am fully converted to 5e moving forward at is faster and simpler to play & DM, as well as being more balanced and less mechanistic. So my poll vote is "I've played it, and I don't like it [relative to 5e]*"

*You can do a lot of stuff in 3.5 that you can't do in 5e. It's a goldmine for character concepts. Unfortunately, actually playing with all that stuff ends up a lot less fun to play/run due to complexity and imbalance between the tiers.

I went with "I played it, and wasn't impressed one way or another," but really that's the half-way point on a continuum.

I had stopped gaming in the late 90s. After 3e came out, I decided to take a gander, my love of fantasy being rekindled by the Fellowship of the Ring movie. When I first cracked the books open, I was blown away - any race could be any class! New monsters could be created just by slapping a template on them! Crafting your own magic arms and armor was so easy! The possibilities were endless.

Then, as the options grew and grew, those possibilities began to feel like a burden. The game I wanted was getting buried under options and rules. That's when I jumped ship and went off to play Castles & Crusades. I wouldn't return to D&D until 4e.

All that being said, I think about giving 3e another shot now and then, though I think I'd limit it to the core three books only, plus maybe a setting book.


I followed all the build up in Dragon until it finally came out in August of 2000. I bought the core books and we started a campaign right away. I liked the edition initially as I thought that the changes it made progressed the game forward from the standpoint that the d20 system made it easier to play without having to know too many subsystems. But I always thought that because so many rules were quantified that it put a lot more power in the hands of the players to influence the game than previous editions. Seemed the unwritten rule that the DM had the final say was somewhat lost. There were a lot of good books to come out of the edition like the FRCS, but as the edition wore on I liked it less and less as there were just so many options, and fiddly math for my taste. I created a character a few years back to join a friends group that I hadn't played with in about 10 years and I immediately remembered why I stopped playing the edition. I've kept a few books from the edition but I don't think I would ever play it again except for a one-shot here or there, and certainly wouldn't run it as a DM. I can appreciate it for what is was, the next logical step in the evolution of the game and the building blocks for what came after.


3E was a grand clean-up mechanically of all the kludge of AD&D and 2E and I found it to be like a breath of fresh air. At the time I could not see myself ever playing AD&D or 2E again after so much of the game was made logically sound and clearer with 3E.

But now 5E has done to 3E what 3E did to AD&D/2E. It has cleaned things up even further, make many more logical and logistical changes which make too much sense to ever feel as though playing the older edition is worthwhile. And while I can appreciate the idea that 3E has many more "character options" to choose from than 5E... those options are so small, insignificant and too easily able to be ignored within the story of the game than I don't miss them at all.

Quick example-- I'm currently playing in a Pathfinder game right now and I had to take a feat. I chose Arcane Attack or Arcane Shot or whatever its called, and the mechanics it gives me? A +1 to damage rolls with my weapon. That's it. That is my "character customization"... a +1 to damage. The same exact thing as if my STR modifier was bigger, or it was a magic weapon, or if it was any number of other abilities which raise my damage. And because of the fact this +1 just gets added into the damage stats of my weapon attack... there's nothing noticeable or special or interesting about it. I just went from 1d8+3 damage to 1d8+4. Whoopie! What customization! My PC feels so much more different now since I took that feat! ;)

And that's why I have no desire to go back to 3E anymore either.


I received this edition as a breath of fresh air, at first.

Played a few D&D campaigns but got tired of all the «bonus hunting», «cherry picking» of feats and «level dipping». Despite the clarity of the design decisions made for 3e I felt this was no longer D&D.

But I kept playing d20 games. d20 was perfect for Modern and Star Wars because it made sense to me that characters would have competence in various classes. It comes with the territory. So, I ran a very successful d20 Modern multi-genre game for years. I also GMed a few Star Wars d20 and SAGA mini-campaigns. But no D&D.

My group disintegrated towards the end of the 3e era because of player «real life» issues. I started playing wargames intensively (40k, warmachines) with only occasional games of d20 Modern.

EDIT : Forgot to say I would play 3e (d20 games) again if invited. But I would not want to GM a game. This is the only other edition, with 5e, that I would play.
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