Back in 2000, Wizards of the Coast released Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition and my hobby experience exploded in myriad ways. From that time until the publication of 4th Edition, we were playing more D&D than at any other time in my (now) 40+ years of roleplaying. Why? Because we loved that game!
Sitting here twenty-odd years later, the general sense I get about the 3.xe era is one of negativity that I don’t quite understand.
On the one hand, D&D has moved on to a somewhat “lighter” 5th Edition, while those of my age group have migrated back to either earlier editions or out to pastures new. I did both. On the other hand, I suppose when the 3rd Edition bubble burst, it left bad memories and real financial ruin for those in the industry.
For me, D&D 3e and 3.5e woke up and grew the hobby. The OGL opened up the possibilities for myriad products and, eventually, gave birth to the whole OSR movement and thousands of new games. This was an era of innovation and experimentation which also boosted sales for everyone… at least, for a few years. Some of my favourite games got written and published in the wake of the 3rd Edition.
There is a nostalgia for me around the 2000-2008 era in the hobby. It was a good time and I played more games than at any time before or since. Joy was easy to find, at least with the folks I was gaming with. My D&D campaign lasted longest under the robust 3rd Edition. Putting aside the too-many-to-collect additional products, we found the core three rulebooks to be pretty much all we needed.
Things have moved on but I am keen to point out that we wouldn’t have a revived 5th Edition without the innovation and success of the 3rd Edition followed by the transformative 4th Edition. I believe the 5e’s success is built upon the revival that happened 15 years beforehand. There is much to value from that era.
As I look back, I see a positive wave of development from and reaction against D&D 3e that has served roleplaying well. Even the detractors were galvanised to act and build the games they preferred. I’m not sure we’d have the rich panoply of designs available today without that big release from Wizards in 2000.