AD&D 3rd Edition

On the advice of my fellow geek, Steve, I’ve decided to start up my blog once more… and use it to discuss the design and development of my pet project:

AD&D 3rd Edition Player’s Handbook
AD&D 3rd Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide
AD&D 3rd Edition Monstrous Manual

For those unfamiliar with my labor of love, here’s a quick explanation. AD&D 3 is my attempt to mesh the best elements of AD&D, Castles & Crusades and 5th edition D&D into a cohesive, relatively rules-lite package.

Within the pages of AD&D 3rd Edition you’ll find the 7 player character races (humans, dwarves, elves, gnomes, half-elves, halflings and half-orcs) common to AD&D, Castles & Crusades and D&D 3.X, as well as 11 character classes taken from AD&D and Castles & Crusades. The 4 core classes are the cleric, fighter, magic-user and thief. The cleric has 2 subclasses; the bard and the druid. Fighters have 3 subclasses; the barbarian, paladin, and ranger (I eliminated the cavalier due to its overlap with the fighter class). The magic-user has no subclasses, but I’ve included rules for specialist wizards such as illusionists and evokers.  The assassin is a subclass of thief. Monks serve as an optional, 5th, core class.

Mechanically AD&D3 is a d20 lite game, drawing its inspiration from the SRD, 5th edition, and Troll Lord Games’ excellent Castles & Crusades.

I’ll use this blog as a design journal; where I’ll go into further detail about AD&D3… describing my design choices and the reasoning behind those choices, providing rule updates as I tweak the rule pdfs, and wondering aloud as to what rules I’ll muck with next.


84 thoughts on “AD&D 3rd Edition

    1. Hey there, I’m absolutely loving this product. I was wondering if it’s acceptable to print this through Lulu (EXCLUSIVELY for my own purposes, not selling anything to anyone, and all the costs out of my pocket) and if I wanted to do that, if there was any tinkering I had to do to get it to come together right?

      1. The quick answer is no. Lulu shut down my account for doing exactly what you’d like to do; printing copies of my book for myself and my gaming group.
        I wish that weren’t the case, since I’ve recently made some minor edits to the game (to magic-users, and how both cantrips and ritual spells may be cast) and would love to reprint the PHB and DMG with those changes.

  1. Nice, thanks for putting that out there. I think lots of players are trying to find the perfect “mix of games” for them. The same motivation eventually created my version of my “perfect mix of games” at . It’s also a d20 style system. Mine is a bit more focused on being a universal system so some things are boiled down a little more. Anyway, nice work and thanks for putting this out there!

    1. Upon reading this last incarnation of your ad&d 3e rules,i noticed you removed ,among other things, like npc classes,the rules for getting lost.
      Was it intentional ?or just an overlook .

      1. The removal of the NPC class was intentional. I modeled my revised AD&D3 rules on 2nd edition AD&D (compare the PHB and DMG chapters with those of their 2nd edition counterparts and you’ll see they are pretty much in sync).
        The idea of an NPC class comes out of 3rd edition and the idea that PCs and NPCs followed the same rules and that, in order to be highly-skilled, you MUST be a high-level character. Having thought about that over the past few years, I prefer the idea of either 0-level NPCs or NPCs with class levels.
        So, for example, your town blacksmith could either be a 0-level NPC who is skilled at iron-working or is a fighter with those skills. Without getting into fiddly rules, there’s no reason why your 0-level NPC blacksmith can’t be highly skilled without being a high-level character. After all, that’s all that the NPC has focused upon throughout his life.
        The “getting lost” rules were also ported over from 3rd edition and got chopped because I prefer a more “fast and loose” approach, where the DM sets a DC to avoid lost and characters make their Wisdom checks.

  2. Dear Chris,

    “Zudrak” here. I have just rediscovered your blog and see that you’re now playing 5e. I have just returned to AD&D 3e with the books I printed about 5 years ago. I have tried returning to straight AD&D, but am finding some of it difficult to use compared to C&C. I’ve pretty much come back to where I was when you and I corresponded over the Troll Lord Games’ message boards in 2010.

    I am glad to see you gaming again and hope to see more cool stuff here. I have purchased 5e and found it ok. It’s not as bloated as 3e but still a little too easy-going for my preferences. If it were the only game in town, I would play it, though. Thankfully, I have the choice of your AD&D 3e or Primeless AD&D 3e.

    Happy gaming,

    1. Thanks for the kind words. To be honest, I found 5th edition to be a little too fiddly too. That’s why I’ve been working (ever so slowly) on an “AD&D 5th edition” rule set. One of the things that I really like about 5th edition is that it de-emphasizes the need for magic items and cuts back on the numbers’ bloat of 3rd edition. I’m using those criteria to re-examine my rules and pare them down.

      1. Excellent! I look forward to that. I find myself vexing over “skill checks,” but an honest Original School player knows thieves had skill checks (%) before there was a d20 system. So I am less loathe to use them. I just dislike a game where everything a player tries to do is met the response, “Make a ____ check.” Taking 10 years off (1990-2000) is messing with my ability to find the AD&D/C&C happy medium. That’s where I’m thankful to have paid Lulu to print your AD&D 3e.

  3. Hey, Chris, I forgot to ask: Is this the best place to get news on your “AD&D 5th Edition” or do you have another place where you would update it?

    Just trying to keep my ear to the ground! 🙂


  4. I’ve been neglecting this blog for a while BUT, if I post updates, I’ll be sure to post them here.

    1. Chris, I just found this and have a few questions. 1) I do not see some of the classes in the players handbook such as the cavalier and the illusionist. Were they included. 2) is there an Unearthed Arcana somewhere?

      1. Hi Ronald,

        First off, I think I remember seeing you in the Myth & Magic comments section… as one of the many people (like myself) who were let down by that Kickstarter project. Also, thanks for your questions! I had forgotten to update this post when I updated my Player’s Handbook recently. I’ve now done so.

        The illusionist has been folded into the magic-user class (along with other specialist wizards). The cavalier was eliminated because it had too much overlap with the fighter class. For a cavalier, I’d make up a lawful-aligned fighter with proficiency in Animal Handling and a decent charisma score (to help with saves versus fear). Maybe I’ll add the cavalier, as an variant class, at the end of my updated Dungeon Master’s Guide.

        As for Unearthed Arcana, I added all of the information from that book into the Dungeon Master’s Guide a long time ago. Right now I’m about 2/3rds of the way towards changing the DMG so that it is compatible with my updated PHB. It’s coming along nicely and my hope is to have it done be the end of May. I’ll post the unfinished draft one of these days.

        Happy gaming!

  5. Ok, so I gave a quick skim of both. I know you used some C&C so my first question is why this, why not just use C&C? Second what is still needed to be updated in the DMG? Are you planning a MM?

  6. C&C was jumping off point for these rules, back in 2006. I was playing in a game with a few friends and, while I really liked it, I kept wanting to add more and more bits from AD&D. At the same time, I didn’t care for the use of Primes, the multiclassing rules, and the lack of a coherent (but simple) skill system.

    My latest version (the one posted) is a cleaned up version of my original rules from back in 2006. The DMG refers to game mechanics and rules (like classes) from that version. I’m updating it so that it works seamlessly with my Player’s Handbook (and is more compatible with AD&D than it had been).

    The Monster Manual is my “white whale”. I plan on using converting the 2nd edition Monstrous Manual eventually… but it’s a big, sanity-reducing project. 😉

    1. Those are my thoughts as well. I have played every edition. We currently play 5e. While I enjoy 5e there are things I don’t like; one of which is the loss of individual roles. I think character classes need to have unique niches, for example why can everyone detect/remove traps. The old school way allowed everyone at the table to be useful in the group in their own way. In Pathfinder characters become way to overpowered at high levels and the excessive fears lead to power-gaming of the highest sort. AD&D first edition was the best but the descending AC was improved by the d20 mechanic and ascending AC. C&C was an improvement but I am also not high on primary and secondary attributes.

  7. I tried to protect niches (for example) by giving thieves class features that ensure that they’d be the best at Stealth, Find Traps (Perception), and Disable Device skill checks. At the same time, fighter-types are going to outshine all other characters in melee or ranged combat. I tried to balance spellcasters against non-casters by placing concentration restrictions of spellcasting (especially while in combat) and limiting the number of spells available for spell levels 7-9.

    The other side of the coin is that I seldom have more than 3 players who can join me for games, so I prefer that all characters have access to skills like Stealth, Survival, and Perception (even if they’re not as good as a Thief or Ranger with those skills). It adds a little flexibility to characters that didn’t exist in AD&D and allows for the customization of characters so that you can make:

    1] A fighter, ranger, or paladin who is also a knight.
    2 ] A thief who is a good wilderness scout
    3 ] A cleric who knows a bit about arcane magic

    … etc.

  8. how’s the AD&D 5th ed coming?
    or is there any plan to update this DMG?

    looking forward to trying your system. 3rd and everything after is so bloated, and everything before so brutal and limited. been looking for something just like this for a year.

    please keep the spellcasting fighter schtick from 5th ed. i’m going to add it to your 3rd ed, because it makes me giddy and i want to kill my friends with mage-knight NPCs

    1. I’ve finished the DMG and PHB for AD&D 3 (the revamped and cleaned up version). They’re both available for download at:

      The 5th Edition Classic PHB is available at:

      I’ll try to come up with a gish (mage-knight) and post it soon. For now, if you want a fighter/mage in AD&D 3 you can either split-class or multiclass as a fighter/magic-user. Elven chain can be worn by fighter/magic-users without penalties to their casting abilities.

  9. I very much enjoyed the last update to your ad&d 3 rules.I have been thinking for a long time about adopting the same adjustments you did to the Proficiency bonus (topping at 10), even before that trend showed up on 5e.
    The only thing that bugged me about this latest version is your removal of the War Machine mass combat/siege rules and the simplified dominion management, since they gave it an air of completeness.Any plans of bringing them back? Also, have you ever adopted the 2e non weapon proficiency rules in your games/you think it might work well? Other than that it achieved a perfect level of complexity for a d20 based system in my opinion. It’s the closest thing to a Dream Rules set for me.Congratulations and forgive my bad english.

    1. Thank you!
      I’ll look at the DMG and see if I can add those rules back in. To be honest I left them out because I never used them for mass combat or dominion management.
      If I add them back (time has been short lately) I’ll add them to the appendices so that I don’t have to shoehorn them back into the middle of the book and re-paginate the entire index.

      1. Thanks for the answer.
        They would fit well in the appendices,being a secondary focus of the rules, but nonetheless an interesting set of guidelines to have at hand in case the players like that epic campaign scope.

  10. Hi Chris,

    Big fan of your work! I love how you’re blending the best of all editions. I’ve often thought about just this sort of project.

    I’m typically play some flavor of paladin (when not DM’ing) and am a bit curious. Why did you not give the paladin his/her smite evil ability in the latest edition? In 3.x and above, smites kind of became the paladin’s “thing”. How could I add that back in? I’d even give up the paladin’s spellcasting. Btw, I like the spell-less ranger too:)

    Thanks again for all you’re doing.

    1. Hi,
      I tried to balance the Paladin and Ranger against the Fighter class… and was trying to emulate 1st and 2nd edition more than 3rd edition (and later ones). If you’d like to add it back in, model it on the Ranger’s Favored Enemy ability (it would work against undead and evil, extraplanar foes) and get rid of Divine Grace or spellcasting. I’d say that’s a fair trade. 😉

      1. Sounds workable. In 5e, the paladin’s smite ability is tied to spell slots. How would you recommend implementing if the paladin is spell-less?

        Also, there’s been a lot of debate re: the ranger’s “favored enemy” feature. It seems very situational. It’s been suggested that the feature be replaced by something similar to “Hunter’s Mark” or Pathfinder’s Slayer-class “Studied Target”. Do you have any thoughts on something that would be less situational?

        Thanks in advance!


  11. You could make Smite a spell… hmm. I’d make it a 0-level Cleric spell that adds your proficiency bonus to damage against undead or extraplanar evil foes. It would be on-par with the Elemental Bolt spell. Then again, you’d have to wait until 8th level to get the spell (as a Paladin).

  12. For Favored Enemies, I expanded the list of creatures so that it mirrored creatures that AD&D rangers were more effective against:
    Rangers possess an extraordinary ability to combat their most common foes: bugbears, cyclopskin, cyclopses, dune stalkers, ettins, flinds, giants, gibberling, gnolls, goblins, grimlock, hobgoblins, kobolds, meazels, norker, ogres, ogre magi, ogrillons, orcs, quaggoth, tasloi, trolls, and xvarts.

    When fighting these foes, rangers deal an additional 2 points of damage with both melee and ranged weapons. At ranger levels 6, 11, and 16 this bonus increases by 1.

    Rangers may choose any two languages spoken by their Favored Enemies to gain as bonus Language skills. Rangers make all Survival checks to track Favored Enemies with their Favored Enemies bonus
    (+2 at level 1, +3 at level 6, and so on).
    It is situational but not as much as the 3.X ability. As a DM, I’d let players swap out creatures to better suit the setting or ranger’s background.

  13. Any thoughts about a spell-less bard? I know the bard was a hot mess up through 2e. BECMI (VotPA) had the bard as a thief subclass with charm-type and counterspell abilities.

    I’m seriously leaning toward keeping spells to the actual casting classes.

  14. I’m all about old-school, druidic bards… so I’d build a spell-less bard as a thief with lots of musical and persuasion skills.

  15. Hi Chris,

    Is there a way we can email off-page? I’m working on my own OSR/3x/5e mashup and would love to keep picking your brain, but I don’t want to keep loading up your blog here.

    I think you have my email..

    Thanks, from one grognard geek to another!


  16. I’m loving these books, my deepest dream since about 2000 😀
    Am I right if I consider this “3rd edition” closer in spirit ant tone to the 2nd, despite the 1st edition art?
    Thank you very much for this work, cheers from Italy!

  17. You are 100% correct… I aimed to make my 3rd edition rules as compatible with 2nd edition as possible, but with a unified (d20) resolution system. At this same time, I tried to streamline the rules but capture the flavor of 1st edition… without all of the fiddly bits.
    It makes me happy to read praise like this, so mille grazie!

  18. Interesting. Gary G. said that C&C is what 3rd Edition D&D WOULD have been had he been in charge of creating it.

    1. True! I love C&C and enjoyed it thoroughly after playing 3.5 for years… and years… and years. 😉

      It was actually my love for C&C that led me to port over other spells into C&C and, over time, bring other AD&Disms (such as multiclassing and split-classing) into the game.

      Once I started doing that, I started to tweak more and more C&C rules and, eventually, got rid of Primes altogether. At that point, the rules felt (to me and my players) less like a C&C rules hack and more like a d20 reinterpretation of AD&D.

  19. If a spell is in two schools, and neither are universal, how does that affect specialist magic users?
    Can they learn that spell if only one of the two schools are banned, or no?

    1. Hi. As long as the spell appears on a list for a non-barred school then it may be cast. If it only appears on a barred school’s list then it’s off limits.

      1. Thank you. I just want to ask another question: I’m assuming the Eldritch Knight’s extra attack doesn’t stack with the Fighter’s?

  20. Correct. That could probably be clearer in the multiclassing rules section.
    The same goes for fighter/monks.
    Since the Extra Attack class feature for the fighter class is superior to that of the eldritch knight, you’d gain the fighter’s number of attacks rather than the eldritch knight’s. For a fighter/monk, the Extra Attack benefits for both classes are the same and do not stack

    1. When a multiclass character gets xp, say 30, when they divide it, do they get in effect 15 xp with two classes, making it twice as long for them to level up, and 10 xp with three classes, making it three times as long for them to level up? Is that how they work? Do they take longer to level up? Or do you give 30 xp to all classes?

  21. Yes, that’s right.

    So, at lower levels, multiclassed characters with 2 classes lag 1 level behind their single-classed companions because XP requirements to level up roughly double until level 10 or so.

    After 10th level, multiclassed characters will fall further behind… especially if they divide their XP by three (between three classes).

    If everyone in the party had the same XP, they would be the following levels:

    3,000 XP: Single class (2nd), multiclassed, two classes (1st), multiclassed, three classes (1st)
    7,500 XP: Single class (3rd), multiclassed, two classes (2nd), multiclassed, three classes (2nd)
    12,000 XP: Single class (4th), multiclassed, two classes (3rd), multiclassed, three classes (2nd)
    21,000 XP: Single class (5th), multiclassed, two classes (4th), multiclassed, three classes (3rd)
    48,000 XP: Single class (6th), multiclassed, two classes (5th), multiclassed, three classes (4th)
    120,000 XP: Single class (7th), multiclassed, two classes (6th), multiclassed, three classes (6th)
    240,000 XP: Single class (8th), multiclassed, two classes (7th), multiclassed, three classes (7th)
    480,000 XP: Single class (9th), multiclassed, two classes (8th), multiclassed, three classes (8th)
    900,000 XP: Single class (11th), multiclassed, two classes (9th), multiclassed, three classes (9th)
    1,500,000 XP: Single class (14th), multiclassed, two classes (11th), multiclassed, three classes (10th)
    2,400,000 XP: Single class (17th), multiclassed, two classes (12th), multiclassed, three classes (11th)
    3,000,000 XP: Single class (20th), multiclassed, two classes (14th), multiclassed, three classes (12th)

  22. Yes. Since they’re variants of thieves and magic-users, treat them as being the same class (so you can’t multiclass as a delver/thief, for example).

  23. Thank you for answering all of my questions. I have two more about spellcasting:
    1. What does this sentence mean: Clerics, bards, druids, paladins, and rangers may cast
    lower level spells in place of higher level spells they are unable to cast.
    Does this mean they can use their higher level spell slots to cast and prepare spells of any level
    if they can’t use them for their intended level?
    2. Does the eldritch not cast cantrips like magic user, do they have to expended level 0 slots to do it?

  24. You’re welcome!

    From page 4: “Clerics, bards, druids, paladins, and rangers need to have an adequate Wisdom score in order to cast their divine spells. They must have a minimum Wisdom of 9 in order to cast spells. Their maximum spell level is equal to one half of the spellcasting character’s Wisdom, rounding fractions up. As such, a cleric with a 9-10 Wisdom may cast up to 5th level spells while a cleric with a 15-16 Wisdom may cast up to 8th level spells. Clerics, bards, druids, paladins, and rangers may cast lower level spells in place of higher level spells they are unable to cast.”

    So, if your cleric only has a 13 Wisdom, for example, he would be limited to casting spells with a spell level of 7 or lower. He couldn’t cast 8th or 9th level spells and, if he had spell slots for 8th or 9th level spells, he’d have to to use those slots to cast 7th level (or lower) spells.

    Likewise, any spell caster can chose to prepare spells with a lower spell level than that indicated by the spell slot.

    So, a 9th level magic-user who REALLY likes casting Fireball spells can use a 4th-level spell slot and a 5th-level spell slot, as well as a 3rd-level slot, to prepare Fireball spells.

    Eldritch knights, unlike magic-users and hedge wizards, expend 0-level spell slots when casting cantrips. That’s because they lack the focus on spellcasting that those other classes have.

      1. Exactly. A 20th level magic-user could prepare all 1st-level spells in 1st-9th-level spell slots if she wanted to. It would be weird BUT wizards can be eccentric.

  25. Another question: How long is 1 range increment? Is it 1 foot? So does that mean firing 1 square (5 feet) further than normal gives you a -10 penalty? Pg 44 “ranged weapons” PHB for reference.

      1. Thrown weapons can be thrown up to 5 increments away. So, in your example:

        1] Up to 10′: No penalty
        2] 11′-20′: -2
        3] 21′-30′: -4
        4] 31′-40′: -6
        5] 41′-50′: -8

    1. From Page 40:
      “Ranged Weapons” All ranged weapons may be fired up to their listed range (called close range) without penalty. For each range increment beyond the first a cumulative -2 penalty is applied to the ranged attack roll. Thrown weapons may be thrown up to 5 range increments away (the initial range increment plus 4 increments beyond that) while other ranged weapons, such as bows, crossbows, and slings, may be fired up to 10 range increments away.
      All bows require two hands to use properly. Crossbows require two hands while loading, though they may be fired one-handed.”

      So, if a weapon has a close range of 30′, the first 30′ imposes no penalty. Each increment of 30′ beyond that imposes a cumulative, -2, penalty.

      Up to 30′: No penalty
      31′-60′: -2
      61′-90′: -4

  26. Alright, I have 2 more questions: 1. The Dungeon Master’s Guide confirms that Favored Enemies affects Half-Ogres. Does it also affect Half-Orcs?

    2. Some classes are proficient with a Heavy Mace. What weapon is this? I don’t believe it’s either the Horseman’s Mace or the Footman’s Mace.

    1. 1] In AD&D3, no. In BX3e, yes… for game balance purposes.
      2] It would be a footman’s mace… but I need to fix that. It’s a typo.

  27. I’m confused about spellcasting: Can you use spell slots to cast any prepared spell of their spell level or lower, or does it have to be the spell slot that the spell is dedicated to?

  28. Yes. If you have three, 3rd-level spell slots you can prepare any three spells of 3rd level (or lower) with those slots.

    So, if you prepared Fireball, Continual Light, and Haste, you could cast each spell once OR cast any one of those spells up to 3 times OR mix and match the casting of those spells (so long as you don’t wind up casting more than three 3rd level spells).

    1. So the first one. Thank you. I mean it.

      Anyway, here are a few errors I found.

      The Thief (PHB) and Delver (DMG) have a weapon proficiency called Mace. I’m assuming this is a Horseman’s Mace.

      The Warden on page 183 has their wisdom requirement as 9. But on their class page (pg 193), they have it as 13.

      The Ankheg in the Monstrous Manual should have its Hit Dice yield changed to 2-8 (to account for new born), and its XP value changed to 120-1140 (they are worth 2 additional HD in experience if I remember correctly).

    1. A note, and then a question:
      Note: where the Ankheg’s HP says 15-80 in the Monstrous Manual, it should say 10-80
      Question: For the psionicist’s Body Weaponry power, are they proficient with it regardless of the power they select?

  29. I’ll have to fix that (in the Monstrous Manual).

    As for Body Weaponry, you can create weapons that you are not proficient in BUT would still get a non-proficiency penalty.

    1. Look like GoDaddy is down again… my site is also not responding. Sadly, this happens all too often with them.

  30. I noticed an oddity in the Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide:
    “Thieves and assassins gain a +2 bonus to attack rolls made against
    surprised opponents.” Where does this bonus come from? Do Delvers get this bonus?

      1. Hi. This bonus comes from the Backstab ability… but I need to spell that out more clearly.

        “Thieves are opportunistic attackers, striking vulnerable foes more effectively than others. When making a melee or ranged attack against an opponent’s rear facing, or when making a melee attack against a flanked foe, thieves gain a +2 bonus to their attack and damage rolls. This bonus to attack and damage rolls increases by 1 point (to a maximum of +5) at thief levels 6, 11, and 16.”

  31. I’ve updated both books to make the source of thieves’/assassins’ bonus vs. surprised foes clear. Delvers don’t get Backstab bonuses.

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