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I have recently purchased the 5e players book and I really like the character system in 5e but my usual DM likes to play 3e and I was wondering, are these compatible? Can I use a 5e character in their 3e game?

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No

The rules are, despite having similar names for things and some similarities in implementation, completely separate. They do not work together, and a campaign has to choose which edition to use.

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Not in any meaningful way, no.

Both 3.5e and 5e are largely defined by their character systems. If your DM likes 3.5e, then the exact thing you like in 5e is precisely in conflict with what someone wants from a 3.5e game.

In theory you could convert a 5e character to 3.5e, but that would defeat the purpose of making the character in 5e in the first place.

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Probably, but don't.

I have played and run both editions fairly extensively. While the negative answers are strictly correct (the systems aren't compatible) translating a character from 5e to 3e would be relatively trivial.

However, if you do that you're gonna have a bad time.

The power level and expectations for what a character can do in 5e are drastically lower than in 3e. Sure, the numbers and system will basically work, but you're going to be a little leaguer playing at an MBA game: even though the rules are the same, you will no longer be playing the same game as everyone else at the table.

(There are doubtless several neat tricks you could do with 5e characters to make them less bad on translation to 3e. Spellcasting in particular is balanced on such a knife's edge that any tiny tweak to how it functions is likely to open new avenues for abuse. But if you are that far into edge-case optimization, you wouldn't be asking this in the first place.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ “translating a character from 5e to 3e would be relatively trivial” I don’t think this is what the question is asking though, so I don’t think this really answers it. If you convert a 5e character to a 3e character, you’re not bringing the 5e character to the game, you’re bringing a 3e character (which is what this answer is about). But the question asks if I can play in a 3e game with a 5e character, which other than to mention other answers, this answer doesn’t address. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 13 at 4:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not convinced such a conversion would be trivial at all, actually. Classes do almost completely different things from a mechanical perspective, and there are several core features of the system that are radically different. Please give more information about why you think it would be easy and how it could be done. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 13 at 15:21

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