I've DMed a few 5e D&D sessions and I've thoroughly enjoyed it, but I did some research and found that the more in-depth nature of 3.5 seemed like something I might enjoy.

I was able to track down a comparatively well-priced copy of the Player's Handbook. Now my problem is that all of the other books are quite hard to find or expensive (I live in Germany so I had to import my Player's Handbook to get the English copy, making the shipping costs higher than the cost of the book).

I own all of the core books for 5e and Volo's Guide to Monsters; could I run a 3.5e campaign with just the 3.5e Player's Handbook?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to rpg.se! Take the tour if you haven't already and check out help if you need further guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 15:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you're not already familiar, the Pathfinder RPG is an 3.5-compatible release (sometimes referred to as 3.75) that essentially took over when Wizards dropped 3.5 for 4th edition, I personally find it to be the most fun because there's a lot more customization of your character via class archetypes that tweak each class (a concept that 5e now uses) and just TONS of classes across the many books. 3.5 content is also fairly easy to translate into Pathfinder, which basically doubles the available content, if you like your RPGs crunchy ^_^ \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 21:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @gatherer818 I've heard about pathfinder but I didn't know they were quite that close content wise, I almost regret getting the 3.5e Player's Handbook, instead of Pathfinders core rulebook seeing as how it's a DMs guide and Player's handbook rolled into one. Do you think I should wait for pathfinder 2 or get the current one (When I have the funds to dispose on it) \$\endgroup\$
    – Raptorzoz
    Commented Apr 6, 2019 at 21:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Raptorzoz If mechanics are really your jam, Pathfinder plays better with some previous familiarity with D&D 3.5. The tremendous advantages of Pathfinder are its vast amount free, legally available material on the Web and 3rd-party support that's produces material that's frequently better than 1st-party material. Despite these, this grognard still prefers D&D 3.5, with Pathfinder to him feeling like he's playing with some DM's half-baked house rules and Paizo having earned his ill will with weak backward compatibility and by igoring the results of destructive playtesting. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 7, 2019 at 0:56

2 Answers 2


You can get the content of the first 8 books or so for free, legally, from WotC's site:

Originally found here: http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=d20/article/srd35

As of today (April 5th, 2019) while this link is still active, the files 404, but the Internet Archive still has them. (See links in comments) The rtf files contain the majority of the content of the following:

  1. Player's Handbook
  2. Dungeon Master's Guide
  3. Monster Manual I
  4. Expanded Psionics Handbook
  5. Manual of the Planes
  6. Epic Level Handbook
  7. Unearthed Arcana
  8. Deities and Demi-gods

This is referred to as the SRD, or System Reference Document, and is legally free content released by Wizards of the Coast.

It has more than what you need to play the game. It contains all the rules text, but is missing the fluff text.

It is formatted differently than the books, being organized by subject instead of by chapter. Some people find this easier, others find it harder to find things.

There are also online repositories of this content, for example the http://www.d20srd.org/index.htm is highly regarded and often referenced.

Most people consider the 3 "core" books to be the ideal minimum to have, as the DMG has rules for environments, advancement, traps, dungeons, cities, and treasures; and the Monster Manual had a list of ready made monsters, which are both quite handy, if not strictly needed.

It is also entirely possible to play with only the 3rd edition Player's Handbook, and referencing 5th ed material. Some conversion on the fly will be necessary, and it will be challenging and require more work, but it can be done.

After all, this is a game of imagination, and Gygax himself once commented (and I paraphrase) that if everyone figured out that they could just make up their own rules, they would be out of a job. You don't actually need any books to play, just a set of rules that everyone can agree to. 7

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you so much! The online resources are great, at least until I know that I want to/can get ahold of the other books. sadly the download links 404 when I click on them. I will see if I can find an alternative repository. \$\endgroup\$
    – Raptorzoz
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 16:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Raptorzoz Try here or here for those files if you prefer RTFs. (Both sources are legal.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 20:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I downloaded from that page long ago, so I failed to check the actual file links. My oversight! Sorry, Raptorzoz! Thank you, HeyICanChan! I should have used the internet archive version. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Commented Apr 6, 2019 at 16:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ thank you for the links @HeyICanChan ! \$\endgroup\$
    – Raptorzoz
    Commented Apr 6, 2019 at 21:20

Like this fine answer says, several of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 core books are available as part of its System Reference Document (SRD). There are several different searchable 3.5 SRDs, like this one (with ads but very searchable) and this one (without ads but less search-friendly). The SRD is sufficient to have PCs just fight monsters in dungeons, but a Player's Handbook isn't. A DM still needs to know the rules and format for monsters, and that's left to the Monster Manual or an SRD's monster section. I guess it's possible to use only the Player's Handbook in isolation to run a campaign that lacked both monsters and magic items, but I suspect such a campaign would feel fragile, and, once the players have some system mastery, I'd expect all the PCs to be druids or wizards.

Anyway. Traditionally, even if relying on an SRD for monsters and magic items, an actual Dungeon Master's Guide for 3.5 is pretty much essential: it includes rules for designing encounters, including how much XP and treasure those encounters should earn the PCs. Even if you opt to use milestone leveling or another homebrew system and eyeball what you think is an appropriate amount and kind of treasure, knowing those rules exist gives you a starting point for making your own rules. Further, the DMG includes information on towns (generic for any urban area) that the SRD lacks completely and that comes in handy when a DM wants to know if a village has for sale a potion of cure light wounds or a +5 vorpal halberd.

If you're considering assembling a library of 3.5 material, make room on your shelves. While the amount of official 3.5 material pales in comparison to the amount of material available for Pathfinder and comes nowhere near what's available for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition, there's still a significant amount of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 material.

I run two 3.5 campaigns, and the texts that I find myself referencing most frequently include the following:

  1. Player's Handbook
  2. Dungeon Master's Guide
  3. Monster Manual and its sequels. Every monster tells a story.
  4. Magic Item Compendium as it contains a large number of inexpensive magic items that vastly increase the survivability of PCs and their opponents.
  5. Spell Compendium because you can't have too many spells.
  6. Tome of Battle offers alternatives to the standard warriors presented in the Player's Handbook. One of the best books in the game's line.
  7. Magic of Incarnum offers an alternative magic system yet has pieces that can be used by almost anyone. Fairly unintuitive, but once it's understood, it's hard to think of when using it doesn't make things just a little better.
  8. Complete Mage is notable in that its many spells aren't in the Spell Compendium.
  9. Player's Handbook II for the same reason as Mage plus it has a fairly wide variety of other stuff.
  10. Complete Champion for its alternative class features and feats, although I suspect most will find Complete Warrior a better option.

However, unless you're into actual, physical books—and good on you, fellow bibliomancer—, all of these are available electronically on DriveThruRPG (that's where the links above go). Having somehow accidentally clicked on the bottom of the DriveThruRPG page so that the site appeared to me entirely in German, I can only imagine that this means these electronic versions are available in Germany for less than what it would it cost to have treeware shipped from the US.

Note: I am unaffiliated with DriveThruRPG. Other sites may offer better deals.


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