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We recently got a tag suggested that had the description

dnd-3.x is a tag used to denote a specific and standardized hybrid play style using both the 3.0 and 3.5 versions of dnd simultaneously.

Play style is defined by allowing all rules of both systems, except where a rule from 3.0 was replaced or updated by a rule in 3.5. Thus 3.5 material has dominance in all cases over 3.0, but anything that was not updated or replaced from 3.0 is still valid and usable in-game.

This seemed like a neologism for a practice rather than a game in its own right, and I rejected the tag edit. (Although “D&D 3.x” is a common shorthand to refer to both games, that did not seem to be what the tag was being suggested for — nor would we need a tag just for that shorthand.) The author reiterated that it is not their own invention and that it is a widely-played game in its own right.

Does this creature exist? Is there a specific, well-defined, and standardised game called “D&D 3.x”? And if so, is it widely-known and -played enough to transcend “we just use both game's books with this rule of thumb” and emergently become a singular, distinct game in its own right?

In other words, is this a distinct game and topic in its own right, such that we need/should support it as a distinct game with distinct tagging? Or is tagging questions about specific interactions with the right way to categorise questions arising from this practice?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there a tag for third edition not limited to either 3(.0) or 3.5? That is, a third-edition tag that maps to both variants of third edition? \$\endgroup\$ – Mala Jul 22 '16 at 19:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mala Although it's common to use the shorthand “D&D 3.x” when making statements that cover both, for tagging purposes we have simply been tagging with the tags for both games ([dnd-3e] [dnd-3.5e]) when a question is about both games. A single tag to cover two games would be redundant with those two games' own tags; that's why this question is focusing on whether there is a third game called “D&D 3.x” which is somehow distinct enough to be considered a separate third game, such that we would need a dedicated tag for it here. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 22 '16 at 21:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ As far as I can recall from individuals more expert than I (such as Hey I Can Chan and KRyan), that second paragraph of your quote is exactly how D&D 3.5e is meant to work: use D&D 3.5e material where it supersedes D&D 3e material, and otherwise D&D 3e material is fine. Maybe it's being differentiated from D&D 3.5e tables that don't allow D&D 3e material..? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 23 '16 at 7:12
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The usage of 3.x I am familiar with is in discussions where the participants are talking about concepts and mechanics that are common to the two systems (i.e., most of them) and are specifying that the differences between 3.0 and 3.5 are not relevant to the current discussion. This is primarily in discussions comparing 3.0 and 3.5 jointly to D&D editions that don't start with 3. Additionally, I have never seen a RPG convention event list 3.x as the system of play.

So, no, 3.x is not a specific, distinct rule set. It is a rule ecology containing 3.0 and 3.5 and a valid discussion tool. The tag description is inaccurate and IMO the tag is less useful than tagging a post with both and .

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At the risk of being cute: Yes. It's called 3.5.

3.5 is not directly compatible with 3.0. Skills are broken out slightly differently, some of the mechanics work differently (e.g. damage reduction), etc.

However, 3.5 has guidance on how to convert most 3.0 material to 3.5, and what mechanical changes you need to make. So, the combined game you would commonly play actually is just 3.5 (it's possible some tables use a mishmash of mechanics, but I am unaware of any standard way of doing so).

What's more likely in question is what level of scrutiny a table is applying to 3.0 material which did not receive an explicit update. For example, the Spelldancer was not reprinted in 3.5, but is compatible with essentially no changes. Many groups would say it's not 3.5 material, many others might think it's fine. But you can find exactly the same divide in how easily tables allow Dragon magazine content, or third party supplements, or even psionics.

Optimization questions pretty much always need a list of acceptable sources, and no tag set is going to cover every possible permutation. Splitting 3e from 3.5 is worthwhile, both for history questions and because they are subtly different engines, but trying to make tags describe sources will lead only to unhappiness.

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My understanding and usage of the term "D&D 3.x" has always been as a blanket shorthand term covering the 3.5 material with the inclusion of any leftover 3.0 material which has not been updated. This is based on every example of it that I have ever seen used.

"At the table", this is simply an inclusive example of 3.5 being played, where "old" material is presumed still valid. This is as opposed to an exclusive playstyle, where older material is presumed outdated and disallowed.

The method of reference is certainly not new, but it is not a truly separate variation of the game. It is simply a shorthand for referring to the overall system.


At the risk of throwing oil on the fire, there is also the even broader term 3.PF which does represent a hybridized game generally incorporating 3.0, 3.5, and Pathfinder rules. However, with no uniform method of sorting it out when a rules disagreement comes up, this would generally be a purely speculative/opinion-based tag.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I am the culprit who attempted to create the tag, because in all the various states I've role played in, and all the online communities I've been a part of, the term 3.x means one of two things. A generic reference covering all things third edition, and the specific play style mentioned here and above. I have never referred to it as a "third game", and indeed it is not. However, I believe the usage of the term and the commonality of play style may justify a tag. Also, since we only get five tags, it would seem efficient as well as appropriate. \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Jul 23 '16 at 0:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Generally speaking, unless the question is specific to 3e only, the 3.5 tag should be sufficient. Most 3.5 games will accept 3.0 material with some level of DM approval. \$\endgroup\$ – tzxAzrael Jul 23 '16 at 1:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ We use [dnd-3.5e][pathfinder] for 3.PF questions. I actually raised the ambiguity around it on meta at one point (since, as you say, combining the two is absolutely not standardized and there are a lot of different approaches), but the response was largely “it’s not that big a deal, a good answer should just cover discrepancies if any exist.” \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 24 '16 at 16:35

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