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Shopping on D&D Classics today I noticed that the Player's Handbook, the Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manual 1 and 2 are all missing from the catalog. However, the Rules Compendium is available. The description implies that it includes most of the content from these and other books:

Tired of hauling all of your D&D rules supplements to the gaming table? Having trouble finding the rule you need? This supplement takes all of the roleplaying game's most important rules and presents them in a single comprehensive, easy-to-reference volume for players and Dungeon Masters alike. In addition to presenting the rules of the game, this supplement incorporates official errata as well as behind-the-scenes designer and developer commentary explaining how the rules system has evolved and why certain rules work the way they do.

Right after that it suggests that you still need at least the PHB, DMG and MM however:

For use with these Dungeons & Dragons core books: Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manual.

The only definite things I can tell that are missing from the RC are "class-specific options and feats." What else is missing? Do I still need the PHP, DMB and MM if I have the RC? And if so what's the point of the RC?

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Monster Manual II is available on the classics site. It's in the 3e section, as it's a 3.0 book. –  Tridus Jul 22 at 21:38

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Yes, You Need All Of Those

The Rules Compendium is a collection of rules. It doesn't have class information (PHB), Magic Items, Prestige Classes, or world building stuff (DMG), and has no monster stats (MM). You can replace those with the SRD if you feel like it, but some source of that stuff is required.

So What's It Good For?

It's handy if you are thinking of a specific rule and want to look it up. It's got some things organized better than other sources, and some clarifications that may be useful.

It also has some rule changes that can cause issues.

It's organized in alphabetical order on rule topic and not in any coherent "all the combat rules are in this chapter" way like the other books are. Thus it's not really a good fit to sit down and read the rules of the game to learn how to play. It's for people who already know how to play and want a quick reference with clarifications.

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Makes sense, but in that case I'm not sure why they wouldn't sell the PHP, DMG and MM on the PDF site. –  Koveras Jul 22 at 21:31
    
@Koveras Because those are available as physical book reprints. They don't list the Spell Compendium or Magic Item Compendium on the PDF site for the same reason. They don't want to put up PDFs of their physical books. –  Tridus Jul 22 at 21:33

While the back cover explicitly states, "All the rules of the game..." it is in fact not, all the rules in the game. The fine print does explain that a bit though.

In many cases, there was a rule in the "core" books that was expanded on, made more explicit or otherwise changed in a companion book. For example, Complete Adventurer added numerous "expanded skill descriptions" including "Move between cover" which consists of several additions to the Hide skill. These are formalized in the Rules Compendium and listed simply under "Hide", so they are all in one convenient place.

Where the RC shines, in my opinion, is in tying these types of rules expansions from the various expansion books in one volume. What it should have stated was, "you no longer need to bring all your expansion books (and appropriate indexes) to the table, we have tied all the expansion rules into one volume" or something similar.

While I can see some issues of concern, the issues were already there (meaning, expansion books were already creating ambiguity, the RC just brings all that to one volume). In many cases, they are more formalized than in the earlier expansion books, and yes, the RC does treat itself as the "final" errata, but, to be fair, it was the last 3.5 book published (actually, there were 3 campaign books and one monster book published after RC - see link in comments), in 2007 after 4.0 was announced (and after 3.5 was put on the chopping block, if I recall correctly). They were simply stating that the RC is the "final errata".

Unfortunately, it was not published under the OGL, so nothing in the compendium can be used in an OGL product, which limits it's use for future 3rd party products.

So, to summarize, yes, you still need the core books, but the RC is a nice addition if you want the expansion rules without having to purchase all of the 3.5 published books. I have run a few 3.5 games with the PHB, Spell Compendium (another nice addition that ties in spells from various, previously published expansion books) and Rules Compendium for the players and primarily the OGL or DMG for the DM.

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