See, back in the 90s AD&D 2nd edition ran for nearly 10 years. And considering it was little more than just a cleaned up 1st edition AD&D which was around from the late 70s game design had advanced. A lot of the flaws inherent in D&D were annoying people outside of the hardcore fans. Thanks to the owner of TSR at the time, the company died.
Once Wizards of the Coast bought them out they decided to revamp the entire game system but keeping its core design and foundation. Only making sense now. Plus the Open Gaming License and another more controlled license to produce content and add ons for the game saving WOTC the effort. (Of course both of these things fell apart but.. we will get to that.)
Since I didn't keep up with all the news from Usenet (Newsgroups), or early news sites for RPGs like ENWorld this little free booklet I picked up from Waldenbooks let me know some of the basics of what was gonna go down. (And looks basically how the 3rd ed books do internally.) It got me HYPED.
Going to something they did to a lesser degree in 2nd ed's time, introductory sets were made. Except unlike the legendary D&D Basic Boxes these sets were not games onto themselves. They were introductions to the game with some starter counters and generally not even allowing you to create a character. I mostly bought the two larger sets as they came out for the miniatures and map tiles. The first set was crucial when 3rd edition appeared. (We will get to that.)
And the backs of the two larger and more impressive Basic Sets showing the goodies inside. (Click for larger as always.) The minis themselves were selections taken from the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Game which was a blind buy prepainted minis game. (Rules and such for it will not be shown here.) You could even download the cards online from WOTC and use the figures in the minis game nobody played. (It did much better than the nonpainted metal miniatures released early on however. But in this case bookstores carried the figures as well as comic shops. And unlike the early D20 D&D minis game Chainmail which was another SKIRMISH MINIS GAME DOOMED TO DIE, the D&D minis were bought by people to actually use in their games.)
Here are the 3 core books, my second copy of the PHB, and the Gazetteer. You see these books came out months apart from one another so the first printings of the PHB had a "Get you by" list of things like monsters and some of the DMG bits. The Gazetteer was an attempt by WOTC to make Greyhawk the default setting of D&D again and this low cost book was part of the plan. While it had minor success as the RPGA club house setting.. Greyhawk went back to nobody but boring people caring about the boring world quickly. Oh.. the PHB also came with a character generator program for Windows that was quite nice. It never got updated and was supposed to be a herald for a complete suite of tools that never really happened.
Speaking of boring.. that is these books. The PHB is practically a cure for insomnia. Very very dry.
WOTC added supplement books to the line as well. Psionics Handbook was the rulesbook for doing stuff with your brains and had a VERY confusion set of rules for Psionic on Psionic combat. The Forgotten Realms book was absolutely MASSIVE and added in rules for playing things like Drow and Deep Gnomes. Oriental Adventures gave you your Samurai and Ninja related needs, with options to run it as the Forgotten Realms subsetting of Kara Tur from the 1st ed days, or as the Legend of the Five Rings' Rokugan from the CCG of the same name. Wheel of Time was one of a number of stand alone rulesbooks using the core D20 system. (Also see my Lovecraft post for another instance.) The Rokugan and Ravenloft books were by other publishers. That more advanced license I mentioned? Some companies took over supporting the world settings WOTC didn't want to bother with to avoid falling into the same trap as TSR did. (They still made too much junk. But more on the rules and power creep side.) Rokugan took you even further into L5R territory but using a system someone might actually PLAY. And Ravenloft was a mediocre revision of my favorite game world for D&D.
L5R even got more stuff with these supplement books. I got most of them cheap but its always cool to have more goodies. The Dread Realms book and GM screen was a supplement covering the GM stuff the Ravenloft core book left out so players could use it too. Expedition to Castle Ravenloft was a 3.5 era adventure during the time WOTC was pulling back and ending their license agreements. It is VERY similar to the COMBAT ENCOUNTER gameplay style of 4th edition D&D and to me sort of screws up the classic D&D module it is trying to replicate.
The 3.5 PHB is the softback version of what I considered a money grab and the end of my buying a lot of D&D 3rd ed era product. It fixed and tweaked some things but in general was just a thing to get everyone to rebuy everything they already owned and at a higher pricepoint. The original 3rd ed core books cost 20 dollars. While they did go up to 30 later on, 3.5 increased the price yet again.
Castles & Crusades was an OGL license dealie where a company wanted to make something closer to 2nd ed AD&D with the better core mechanics of 3rd edition without the player customizing powergaming megadetail that 3rd edition had as its hallmark. 3rd edition REALLY started small and elegant. Then ballooned into a slow and overcomplicated mess. C&C was a mixture of Basic D&D, AD&D 2nd ed's HP, Races, and Classes, and the good central mechanics of 3rd. It is one of my favorite RPGs in spite of the company constantly doing minor revisions to the rulesbook and taking years to get out the honestly not totally needed DMG which has rules for adding back in some of the 3rd ed
POWERBUILDING I mean "Character Customization" and the like. I have the Quickstart Rules I got from some convention that were released on one of the barely promoted or even participated in Free RPG Day . The Castle Zagyg Dark Chateau adventure was a prelude to said Castle which was a co production with D&D's cocreator Gary Gygax to do a proper setting series on his Castle Greyhawk setting and megadungeon. It was this module and a single expensive box set that instantly went out of print when he passed away and his wife wanted to do other things with his IP. (Mostly nothing from what I can tell. Unless she had like a few hundred copies of the set and planned on making mad bank on ebay.) Fright at Tristor was an RPGA adventure module I got from being in said club for a while. Its honestly the only thing that I got out of being in it for a year.
3.x era D&D's biggest problem is how integrated all the rules are. While in previous editions many rules could be skipped and not seriously harm things (though perhaps damaging balance while speeding up gameplay..), in this edition almost nothing can be removed less the whole game fall apart. Skills, powers, feats? All connected to other rules, classes, spells, and balances.
(Though at least now all races and genders are equal and can level up to maximum. Though making a Half Orc Mage is kind of a challenge!)
Here are some more supplemental games/settings using the D20 ness. X Crawl is an alternate fantasy Earth where its a bit like D&D meets Blood Bowl meets Running Man the movie version. Teams of adventurers take on dungeons which are broadcast across the empire. Sponsorships! Less lethal collegiate teams! Intrigue! DMs as celebrity course designers! Plus the DM screen and an adventure. I really wouldn't mind running this.
Munchkin is basically doing a parody D20 supplement set to sort of run the oversaturated (and not that good IMHO) card game/super franchise using the D20 rules. They were cheap and somewhat amusing I guess?
More adventures, supplements, and conversions, most gotten super cheap. Blood Royal was a mistake on an Ebay seller who was supposed to send me the Mekton Zeta GM Screen so it was effectively free cuz they messed up. (And my Mekton game never happened sadly.) I think Centauri Knights was more designed for the D20 Modern stand alone RPG. Nile Empire and Vlad the Impaler were part of Avalanche Press' cheesecakey covered sourcebooks/adventure modules that did semi fantasy versions of historical settings. As silly as these covers are some of their other ones were WORSE. I wished I was kidding! Broncosaurus Rex is a setting I want more books for. Basically its Weird West. In SPACE. WITH DINOSAURS. D20 meets Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs meets Jurassic Park? YES SIR I THINK I LIKE THAT.
Two more cheapie mini adventure books. And some other cheapie modules that went with a super sort of campaign collection for the Dungeon Crawl Classics line. See before Goodman Games took DCC and made an RPG for it due to the shenanigans WOTC pulled on everyone they made adventure modules for 3rd edition and even a couple for 4th (in spite of it having a MUCH more restrictive licensing agreement. So bad it turned more people off than the current information about the X Box One has!). This was what the OGL was supposed to do. Smaller demand/lower profit products like adventures were to come out from the little guys leaving WOTC to make mass appeal books (Though according to one report, the MINDBLOWING TO WOTC 70,000 preorders of the above Psionics Handbook made Hasbro executives ask why they were even bothering to print it!) that would sell to everyone as opposed to just to DMs who didn't grow their own adventures. 5 adventures for 20 dollars (before Borders discounts and coupons) for a full campaign was a GOOD VALUE I jumped on. With a couple of the smaller modules and a few extra I bought on clearance sales I have an entire multi year megacampaign with self contained stories in an episodic ish format taking PCs from Level 1 to 16!
The DCC line as you see was meant to remind people of early 80s AD&D modules. No bad thing really.
Yet as I mentioned WOTC's move to 4th edition changed EVERYTHING. And many many MANY people were not pleased. Including companies like Paizo who took over the duties for Dungeon and Dragon magazine and even made a short term EFF YOU 4E Dungeon replacement magazine when their license expired.
Well they took the name of this new adventure magazine and brought back 3.x edition. It has come back so well it basically beats out D&D in sales. Which isn't a thing that has happened since the 90s and D&D was out of production for a few months in between the end of TSR and WOTC taking over.
PATHFINDER. While many online hobby gamers will cry and whine about CASTER SUPREMACY, the sales don't lie. Pathfinder is more what people want. It is a prettied up and modified 3.5th edition D&D. This Beginner Box here is my style and jam. Less 3.x rules and crap. Less classes. Less spells. Sadly they never made an Expert or Companion box to bring the level cap up a bit more and add in a few new races or classes. Thankfully they have most of the full rulebook rules on their site I can print out and take what I want, mixing in bits from 3rd edition or even 4th ed D&D if I so choose. It is really closer to what not only I want out of my D&D RPG, but what others do as well. Customizing for the power gamer sort, rules light for me. And the box is a hell of a value!
It has caused me to pick up the GM screen made of nice hardback book matertals, and some of their inexpensive Companion series minibooks. Roughly 32 full color pages of extra fluff and rules you might want to use in your game. Plus Pathfinder Goblins are the best Goblins.
And even more info on the Pathfinder settings' religious stuff.
Now this Game Collection entry does not show the Map Tile sets (which in various ways continue to this day by WOTC AND Paizo amongst others!), or my Dungeon & Dragon magazine collection such as they are. Nor does it show the CMG or the minis. That is just getting into Sillytown! (And would make this post stupid big.)
But this is what I have. I have a lot of affection for 3rd edition in spite of me having MAJOR issues with it. One of my best RPG campaigns of all time was run with this system around the time of 9/11 and I still have friends and acquaintances from the games I played and ran in. I also learned from my mistakes both gaming and being a human being.
So it did that. I even have people asking me to continue or restart my Pathfinder game.
Who knows what the future will bring?
(Probably getting me to buy more stuff I don't need. 3.5 Psionic's Handbook fixed up a LOT of things!)