I'm new to D&D so I got the 5e Player's Handbook, but my friend and his pals only play 3.5e. Can I use my book and character sheet to play in their game?


3 Answers 3


No, they're very different games. Anything you try to use out of the D&D 5e Player's Handbook will be nonsense to the “game engine” that a D&D 3.5e game uses. It would be like trying to put a Blu-ray disc into a CD-ROM drive: it will superficially look like it fits, but it will not function.

To play in their 3.5e game, ask them what you need. They may lend you a 3.5e PHB, or they may just point you to the d20 System Reference Document and give you some guidance on how to build a character (which is missing from the d20 SRD on purpose), or they may have a different set of information to use for making characters in their particular campaign. Ask and find out.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Nice analogy with the discs! \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jul 1, 2015 at 12:35

D&D 5e is a completely different game from 3.5e. While the two have superficial similarities, the rules are so far apart from one another that you can't really use one set of rule with the other. Your 5e books will not do.

If the people you're playing with already have the 3.5e games, you don't need any books - they already have all the books you need. Just borrow them from those players/the DM.

You can get the D&D 3.5e player's handbook if you want to read the rules on your own without borrowing a copy or referencing from the internet, but any group that wants to play the game really needs only one copy of the books.

You will need a Character Sheet of your own though - that's something each individual player will need - but fortunately, those are incredibly easy to find online just by searching for "D&D 3.5e Character sheet". Different groups use different sheets, so ask your fellow players which sheet they're using. For the most part though, the differences for each sheet are superficial - any sheet will do as long as it's for 3.5e.

Technically you don't even need the sheet if you're good at writing down and organizing statistics on your own, but it's highly encouraged if you want to organize your character stats in an easy-to-read way, and for two sheets of paper and a bit of printer ink, is easily the cheapest thing to get.

Or if you have a tablet or smartphone, you can use one of the many online tools that exist for keeping track of character stats - many of which are free - and just keep your tablet/phone on hand at the table.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that there are certain special classes - like psionics - that add a few new things that you'd need a special character sheet for, but it's unlikely you'll need a sheet like that if this is your first game, and if you did, your GM would let you know about those special rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibbobz
    Jul 1, 2015 at 13:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you take a non-standard race, you may also need to make up your own sheet, as you will if you play an optimised Cleric, Wizard, Druid, or other spellcaster, or any class from the Tome of Battle, or rely extensively on situational bonuses that are normally overlooked, or buy a fair quantity of complex starting equipment, or livestock you intend to use in battle or whose stats are otherwise important. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 1, 2015 at 14:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer True, there's a number of different special character sheets you can use for more advanced character-making, but for a first 3.5e session, the standard one should be enough. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibbobz
    Jul 1, 2015 at 14:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ "for two sheets of paper and a bit of printer ink" Really that's "a bit of printer ink" as you need the two sheets of paper in any case \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleth
    Sep 4, 2019 at 13:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Caleth Actually thinking on it, even those are superficial if you have a tablet and access to a character-tracking site, so I'm adding that to my answer too. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibbobz
    Sep 4, 2019 at 16:33

Yes With Flailsnails, No without

If your table is playing a strict RAW game, then no, you will not be able to use 5e books in a 3.5 game.

However, if your group is like my group, it is entirely possible to mix the systems together and have fun doing so. This basically requires a few requirements.

  1. Players don't mind that their options don't match other player's options.
  2. The GM is proficient enough in both systems to be able to make judgement calls on the fly without consulting any books.
  3. You have no or lenient rules lawyers at your table.

In one of the games I'm currently DMing, we have characters/races/abilities from Dungeon Crawl Classics, Warhammer Fantasy RPG v1., D&D 3.5 and D&D 5.0 all mixed together.

Because 3.5, DCC, and 5.0 are mostly D20 based, they meld together nicely. WFRPG however has a dice system that is too dissimilar and so we had to make custom classes which reflected those characters instead.

If your group doesn't find the merging of systems too difficult, and finds that they actually enjoy mixing the systems, then I would recommend looking into the Flailsnails Convention which gives guidelines on how to mix characters from one game system into another. It also makes it a bit easier for those who need to follow the rules as closely as possible to adjust.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Given the votes on this answer, I feel I have to point out that, while it's a reasonable answer to the general question here, this is terrible advice to give a new player. They're going to be confused enough as it is without trying to mix editions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Jul 1, 2015 at 23:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @miniman the 12 year old at our table disagrees. He finds it fun and fascinating. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Jul 2, 2015 at 10:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ The question states that his friends 'only play 3.5e'. Using flailsnail to blend 5e with 3.5e would be making an entirely new system - and if his friends are only willing to play 3.5e, they're probably not willing to play a blend of one system they do play and one system they don't. The answer is technically correct for the question title, but doesn't work for the asker's specific situation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibbobz
    Jul 2, 2015 at 13:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @zibbobz that may be true and it may not be true. The reason my table started with flailsnails is because somebody bought the DCC book and wanted to try it out. We had never used that game before, nor did any of the rest of us want to play it, but flailsnails did catch our interest. Better to give all options than assume what people will or will not be willing to do. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Jul 2, 2015 at 18:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GMNoob it doesn't matter, because FLAILSNAILS describes itself as inappropriate. One of the preconditions there is a DM who is expert at both systems. Unless you have some inside knowledge that this is the case there, FLAILSNAILS is not an answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Mar 16, 2016 at 12:09

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