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Player's Handbook 3 (4e)
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Player's Handbook 3 (4e)

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Out of the Far Realm they came: creatures of horror and madness. As the gods rallied against the incursion, brave heroes arose with newfound powers of their own. Together they stood against this threat from beyond, just as they stand today.

This companion to the Player's Handbook and Player's Handbook 2 core rulebooks introduces the psionic power source-powers of the will brought to bear against evil's madness. Player's Handbook 3 includes 4 classes tied to the psionic power source: the ardent, the battlemind, the monk, and the psion. It also presents a new divine class (the runepriest) and a new primal class (the seeker).

This essential book for Dungeons & Dragons players contains other exciting options: new races, powers (including skill powers for all classes), feats, paragon paths, epic destinies, equipment, superior implements, and rules for hybrid characters.

Product History

Player's Handbook 3 (2010), by Mike Mearls with Bruce R. Cordell and Robert J. Schwalb, is the third core player's book for D&D 4e. It was released in March 2010.

Ending the Core Series. The initial plan for 4e was to release a new set of core books — a Player's Handbook, a Monster Manual, and a Dungeon Master's Guide — every year. The Player's Handbook 3 started that third cycle with a new power source, new character classes, and other new rules, just like the Player's Handbook 2 (2009) before it.

Monster Manual 3 (2010) followed in June, but unfortunately that would be it. There was never a Dungeon Master's Guide 3, nor a fourth cycle of core books. Wizards had instead decided to revamp its D&D 4e line, just two years after its release. The existing crunch books like the core books and the Power books were being phased out, to be replaced by a new "Essentials" line, which led off with a Starter Set (2010), Heroes of the Fallen Lands (2010), and the Rules Compendium (2010) in September. Even after the Essentials line was cancelled in turn, just a year later, the original 4e lines would never return.

Expanding D&D. The Player's Handbook 3 was all about options — about expanding D&D 4e to give players more choices. This included options that were more complex — an increase in depth that the designers felt was appropriate for a third core rulebook. The plan was to continue increasing 4e's flexibility in future Player's Handbooks, but of course that never occurred.

The book's biggest expansion was its introduction of the psionic power source. This followed the arcane, divine, and martial power sources from the Player's Handbook (2008) and the primal power source from the Player's Handbook 2 (2009). However, psionics wasn't just another sort of magic; instead, it embraced flexibility through its power points, an option that players could use to make individual powers more powerful at any time. Unlike the power points of D&D 3e (2000-2008), 4e's psionics didn't depend on these resources: players could use weaker versions of their psionic powers without expending points — which embraced 4e's requirement that spell casters remain useful at all times. These new psionics were also made a part of the world through evocative backstory, something else that was a continuing trend in 4e books: according to this story, psionic powers were becoming increasingly common due to the Far Realm's incursions into reality.

Hybrid characters offered another type of flexibility for characters. Multiclassing had been very common in D&D 3e, but the 4e designers weren't convinced that its design and its usage had been ideally matched. They categorized multiclassers into two types: dabblers who stayed true to one class with a small sampling of another and fusions who more completely mixed two classes. They felt that most players were dabblers, so the multiclass options introduced in the original Player's Handbook had supported that sort of play. New hybrid options now supported fusion multiclassing. The designers thought it a "bold experiment", because they broke down character classes into "building blocks", then intermixed the options.

A few other options were smaller scale, but still notable for how they improved the flexibility of D&D 4e. Skill powers were utility powers linked to skills that gave players the ability to use niche skills in many different situations. Super implements gave magic users combat weapons of their own. Even the new character races had more flexibility than usual, because many gave players the option to place a bonus in a few different attributes.

The Forgotten Heroes. Following the release of the Player's Handbook 2, most of D&D's most obvious missing character classes had appeared for 4e. However, Player's Handbook 3 added a few more: the monk and the psion — both of which were now psionic classes, alongside relative newcomers like the ardent and the battlemind. Meanwhile, the divine category got a runepriest and the primal category got a seeker, both of which were also new to the D&D game.

The Resurrected Races. Four new races appeared in the Player's Handbook 3: the githzerai, minotaur, shardmind, and wilden. Though the shardmind and wilden were newcomers, the other two were old favorites from D&D's history.

The githzerai were a psionic race originally invented by future author Charles Stross for the Fiend Folio (1981). They returned in the Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix (1994) for AD&D 2e, then finally became a player character race in The Planewalker's Handbook (1996). D&D 3e (2000) players could find them in the Manual of the Planes (2001), which also supported their play as PCs.

In D&D 4e (2008), the githzerai got attention from the start. They almost immediately appeared as a PC race in the first Monster Manual (2008). Their city of Zerthadlun was touched upon in the Manual of the Planes (2008), then even more githzerai background appeared in The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (2010). Unfortunately, the Monster Manual githzerai race was a little weak, so it was powered up with new racial traits in Dragon #378 (August 2009), which was a preview for the Player's Handbook 3. Now, the githzerai had finally found their rightful place right in the middle of a book full of psionic lore.

There were rumors that the githzerai's evil brethren, the githyanki, would also appear in the Player's Handbook 3, but those proved false. The D&D designers didn't want to overdo the conversion of evil races into player character options.

The minotaur was the other notable return among the Player's Handbook 3 races. The monster was as old as the game, dating back to OD&D (1974), but it had gained prominence as a civilized race in the Dragonlance Chronicles campaign (1984-1986), resulting in its inclusion as a player character race in Dragonlance Adventures (1987).

Interest in the race increased in the AD&D 2e era. First, Time of the Dragon (1989) revealed another intriguing minotaur culture in Krynn. Then later books like
PHBR10: The Complete Book of Humanoids (1993) and Player's Option: Skills & Powers (1995) offered minotaurs as a player character race for other settings. Unsurprisingly, Savage Species (2003) provided options for D&D 3e (2000) minotaurs. In the D&D 4e (2008) era, PC minotaurs debuted in Dragon #369 (November 2008), and now were becoming part of the core rules in the Player's Handbook 3.

Future History. Wizards of the Coast published lots about psionics in the year following the release of the Player's Handbook 3. Most obviously, they released Psionic Power (2010), their sixth and final Powered splatbook. Their campaign world for the year — the Dark Sun Campaign Setting (2010) — also focused on psionics. This showed how meticulous the 4e schedule was plotted in its first two years … right up to the point where Essentials led to a massive revamping of the line.

About the Creators. Mearls had started writing for Wizards of the Coast with the advent of D&D 4e. He'd been the lead author on Primal Power (2009) the previous year, and now was introducing the psionic power source. He'd go on to greater fame as the lead of D&D 5e (2014).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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Discussions (2)
Customer avatar
Dani J February 19, 2015 12:48 pm UTC
Give me the first players handbook and 2 of those essentials so I can start.
Customer avatar
Concerned C February 17, 2015 6:38 pm UTC
Enough with the 4e crap already.
Customer avatar
Juncal A February 18, 2015 5:46 pm UTC
I like 4e, so talk for yourself.
Customer avatar
Concerned C February 18, 2015 10:44 pm UTC
That's fine, you're allowed to like whatever garbage suits your fancy. But three weeks of nothing but 4e releases is straining the credibility of a site that calls itself DnD "Classics".
Customer avatar
Dani J February 19, 2015 12:49 pm UTC
Best way to ignore troll is not feeding him.
spraying water on a rotten fish will only worsen its odor.
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File Last Updated:
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This title was added to our catalog on February 17, 2015.