This Revised Edition (also called 3.5) of one-third of the Dungeons & Dragons trinity of core rulebooks (the other two being The Dungeon Master's Guide
and The Monster Manual
) contains errata, rules updates, and outright changes to the already-published Third Edition rules. The majority of changes are made in a quest for the holy grail of game rules: balance. To prevent boredom and enable creative choices, no single ability, spell, character class, or weapon should have an overwhelming advantage over another. So what has changed?
- The spells Harm, Heal, and Haste have been toned down. Other spells have been adjusted or renamed.
- Weapons are classified by the Size of the intended wielder, not the size of the individual weapons. A noteworthy effect of this new weapon size system is that Small characters can wield small-size greatswords, longswords, longspears (with reach), and other two-handed weapons.
- Classes have been tweaked. Bards and rangers received the most changes.
- New feats have been added (some original, some from the builder books), and some feats have been altered (a Power Attack now gives double benefit for two-handed weapons).
- Redundant skills have been rolled into one (such as sense motive and read lips) while others have been renamed (such as "wilderness lore" becoming "survival"). Skill synergies have been expanded and knowledge skills now include appropriate monster lore.
In addition to outright rules changes and tweaks, much of the core rule content has been clarified and updated with 3E errata. The combat section, in particular, is organized much better. Even the dreaded grapple rules are now relatively clear. A much-appreciated import from the D&D Miniatures game are new and simple rules for cover and line of sight, as well as clear photographic illustrations of the concepts of facing, attacks of opportunity, and reach.
All in all, 3.5 is a welcome update. The typographical errors are forgivable, given the extent of the update. The new options available to players (in the form of new class features and feats) make the play experience more fun. Veterans will enjoy re-learning the game they love and exploring all the new character possibilities. Perhaps more importantly, they'll find that introducing new gamers to the admittedly formidable D&D ruleset is easier with 3.5 than it was with 3E--call it a +2 circumstance bonus. --Mike Fehlauer