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I'm not a big fan of spending 100ish dollars to buy all three core rulebooks. Are there monster stats to be found online? Also, is there an online substitute for the DMG (for items)?

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up vote 14 down vote accepted

A site called Open5e recently launched that has everything from the SRD: rules, GM guide, character creation guide, spell list, some monsters, and equipment.

It's easily searchable and it's open source, so people can contribute more info if there's anything they've missed.

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1  
Can you speak to the legality of this site? – Premier Bromanov Feb 17 at 0:22
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I don't know a ton about it, but a quick look at the Open Game License that the SRD is distributed under coupled with the legal information section on the site makes me pretty confident that it's legal. – RSid Feb 17 at 13:45
    
I've added Open5e to my answer. – Mark Cogan Feb 18 at 15:26

There are a few things.

  • The basic rules for players and Dungeon Masters provide all the information needed to start play, but not much in the way of monster stats.
  • The Systems Reference Document ("the SRD") includes a subset of the monsters from the Monster Manual and the magic items in the Dungeon Master's Guide. All of the information from the SRD can be found (and searched) on open5e, which may be more convenient than a monolithic PDF.
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Wow, the systems reference is very comprehensive. A lot more than I expected. +1 – Escoce Feb 14 at 16:46
up vote 16 down vote
+600

WotC has released free PDFs that provide you with some of the content from the PHB, DMG, and MM:

  • Basic Rules - Apart from the core rules information, the Players' PDF gives you the most iconic D&D classes and races, and a small selection of spells. The DM's PDF gives you a small collection of monsters and magic items. They can also be viewed online - Players / DMs.
  • SRD - All the races from the PHB (but only one subrace of each), and all the classes (but only one class option template for each), and a good selection of spells, monsters & magic items. There are also 3rd-party sites that lets you view (and search) the SRD online: Open5e or 5e SRD.
  • Elemental Evil Player's Companion - All the spells referenced in the Elemental Evil adventure that weren't in the Basic rules, and a few new races.
  • There are also supplements for Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Princes of the Apocalypse, and Rise of Tiamat that detail all the spells, monsters, and magic items referenced in those adventures that weren't in the Basic rules.

(I have created an index of all the above documents that you may find useful)

You may also be interested in the Unearthed Arcana articles, that detail not-fully-tested options. These may or may not appear in later books, in modified form.

There are also 3rd-party supplements on the Dungeonmasters Guild, some of which are free.

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As well as the free Basic Rules, there are a number of online supplements, most of which contain monsters and magic items.

I remember a thread a year or so ago where one of Wizard's staff said you can play the game by buying one book. I believe they suggested the Monster Manual. That is, use the free Basic Rules and the purchased MM. The idea was that reading the monster stats gave lots of cool ideas for adventures.

Personally, I think that buying the PHB is a no-brainer. The Basic rules only give you a few classes and archetypes; the PHB gives you all of them. Add the free Elemental Evil Player's Companion for a few more races and spells.

You may want to borrow the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide before you read it. I'm hearing mixed reviews, and more than a few people are telling me not to waste money on it. YMMV.

I would also suggest D&D Classics. A few dollars there will get you old d&d adventures that work very well in 5th edition. I've found that 1st ed modules need very little conversion (just picking appropriate monsters for the party level).

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You can also look to Fantasy Grounds (www.fantasygrounds.net). It is an online campaign manager for D&D, and other game systems. It has the rulebooks built into its libraries, and allows the creation of all the hard cover printed books. You also have options to create your classes/abilities/etc.

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Welcome to the site! I'm downvoting your answer because the querent doesn't own the rulebooks and therefore has no way to build them in Fantasy Grounds, and they're more expensive to purchase for use with Fantasy Grounds than the physical books themselves. – Miniman Feb 14 at 22:36

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