This question came up in the context of this question: Is D&D Beyond an official rules source? since there was brief discussion about how the SRD is not considered official and I wondered if the Basic Rules were/weren't as well (that is not the scope of this question).

Are there any differences between the Basic Rules and the SRD?

Do they have different purposes, content, publishing methods (for example)? Does it have to do with licensing?

If they are the same, why are they referred to as two separate things with separate names?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm a bit unsure, is this about the Basic Rules found on D&D Beyond, or the other Basic Rules? I ask because the D&D Beyond Basic Rules includes the following: "This section contains the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules and the rules in the SRD, released as part of the Open Gaming License." \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 3:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 my question was originally asked assuming that "Basic Rules" implied the same thing regardless of where that term was found. If that isn't true, I think a great answer would dig into that and explain what differences are and what one can expect based on where you are finding the Basic Rules. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 17:30

2 Answers 2


They are QUITE different

They serve both a different purpose, AND contain different content.

Newbie Set vs. Legal Document

The Basic Rules were released prior to the SRD, and are designed to provide a very limited set of gameplay material in order to give players a taste of D&D 5E before they purchased it.

The SRD is a legal document intended to provide all of the 5E rules and material that Wizards of the Coast consider to be Open Source material that is legal to use under the Open Game License (OGL). You may read the details of this license at the top of the actual SRD pdf

In other words, if you want to create and sell material for D&D 5E, then you may only use material that exists in the SRD or material that you invent.

For example...the iconic D&D monster The Beholder does not exist in the SRD. Therefore, if you want to create content under the OGL, you may not use a Beholder in that content.

Differences in Content

The SRD and the Basic Rules contain dramatically different amounts of Content.

The Basic Rules only includes content for 4 classes: Cleric, Fighter, Rogue and Wizard, each with only a single sub-class (Life Domain, Champion, Thief, and Evoker). Only 4 races are offered: Dwarves, Elves, Humans, and Halflings.

The SRD, on the other hand, contains every Race and Class from the PHB, with at least one sub-class per Class. Additionally, there are several Monsters included in the SRD that are not in the Basic Rules, such as the 'Tribal Warrior.'

Going the other direction, the SRD includes precisely one Background: The Acolyte. The Basic Rules contains 5 backgrounds.


I suppose the best way to show the difference is to simply share what Wizard of the Coast says about them...

Regarding the Basic Rules...

The Basic Rules is a free PDF. Anyone can download it from our website. We want to put D&D in as many hands as possible, and a free, digital file is the best way to do that.

And the SRD

The Systems Reference Document (SRD) contains guidelines for publishing content under the Open-Gaming License (OGL).

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    \$\begingroup\$ You may want to update this answer to account for the fact the D&D Beyond's "Basic Rules" includes both documents. "This section contains the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules and the rules in the SRD, released as part of the Open Gaming License." \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 17:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Exempt-Medic Propose an edit. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 6:21

The basic rules are intended for players, the SRD is intended for developers

The SRD is intended to be used by designers for creating their own content, and is not an official rules source.

The D&D Beyond Basic Rules are intended for all players and contain all content in the SRD:

This section contains the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules and the rules in the SRD, released as part of the Open Gaming License.

You can see here that the basic rules includes all races and classes, and even Tribal Warriors.

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    \$\begingroup\$ idk if it needs to be added, but I just want to point out that while the web version of the basic rules on dndbeyond.com includes all races and classes like you said, the pdf file only includes 4 races and classes \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 18:46

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