D&D 3rd Edition: Player's Handbook
Core Rulebook I, version 3.5
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Endless adventure and untold excitement await. Prepare to venture forth with your bold companions into a world of heroic fantasy. Within the Player's Handbook, you'll discover all the tools and options you need to create characters worthy of song and legend for the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game.
The only reason to keep any AD&D around is for resource material. Once you play third edtion you will never go back. It would take an hour to read this if I mentioned every new or improved thing in this edition so I will attempt to be brief.
This is the best thing for D&D since I started playing 20 years ago. It is easy to teach to new players and brings a new wonder to the veteran players as well.
All those friends of yours who bailed on AD&D will come back and play this one. I am bold enough to say this because in my circle of gamers it has held true. The mechanics are easy to grasp (roll a D20 add your modifiers and state the result.) The old character restrictions are gone. You want to play a dwarven wizard, sure. Halfling Paladin, by all means. Elven Barbarian, what are you waiting for? Even level limit restrictions have been abolished along with the racial ability score min/max rules.
On a DM's level the rulebook is easy learn, the game runs faster, and players are less likely to slow down game play with a rules question.
Long Live the King!
I belive my gaming history is necessary for context. From 1981 to 1993 I played in D&D/AD&D campaigns semi-regularly. First edition only, of course. However, in 1990 I was first exposed to other RPGs, like Champions, Shadowrun, and Rolemaster. And although I continued to play D&D for 3 more years, its flaws were becoming obvious to me. Then, in 1992 I started running an Amber game, and quickly came to the conclusion that 'roll'-playing was lame, and even if I was in the mood, there were much better games than D&D. Once Ebay hit, I sold off my D&D stuff (for an impressive return) and spent the $$$ on board games.
I've mostly stopped playing RPGs since 1996, but I still continue to buy them. I like reading the source books, and critiquing the mechanics. I also like making characters, even though I don't get to play them. The same is true of plotting adventures. I still spoke disdainfully of D&D though.
Then I read about D&D third edition, and I got interested. Then I read the PH, and I got excited. Tweet, et al, have done something I would have considered impossible. They've fixed AD&D. Almost everything that I consider 'essential' D&D (lots of cool spells, strongly differentiated classes, alignment, d4-d20, etc.) is still there, but now it all hangs together. The number of improvements they have made can't even be listed. Suffice it to say that Clerics can now take non-Cure spells without getting the party mad at them, the Thieves' 'backstab' is now easy to adjudicate, the Bard, Monk and Barbarian seem to be well balanced and interesting classes, multiclassing is sensible and easy, and everyone gets Feng Shui type 'feats' that allows characters (esp. Fighters) to differentiate themselves. I think I may make up a couple of competing 9th level parties just as a creative writing exercise.
Obviously, as I said above, this is still D&D. If you truly do hate D&D and all it stands for, you probably didn't even click on this page. Also, if you are looking for anything about the setting of the D&D world, or background on the Elvish race, or a description of why Magic works, well, it's not in here. You have 250+ pages of rules and spells. In small type. I found it refreshing myself.
Basically, if you ever thought D&D was cool, I think you'll enjoy this book. And if you are a younger gamer, I firmly belive that this is the best high-fantasy RPG on the market.