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Hero Builder's Guidebook (3e)


Give Your Character Every Advantage

When you sit down to create a character, let your mind do the work--don't just leave it to the dice. The Hero Builder's Guidebook puts at your fingertips everything you need to know before your character's first adventure. With this book you will:

  • Maximize your character's potential with step-by-step character advancement guides.
  • Create a compelling backstory for your character, including family, friends, and enemies.
  • Pick from more than 70 variants to the class descriptions in the Player's Handbook.
  • Choose personality traits to bring your character to life at the gaming table.

Both players and Dungeon Masters benefit from the detailed character backgrounds in this book.

Product History

Hero Builder's Guidebook (2000), by Ryan Dancey, David Noonan, and John D. Rateliff, is the first player's book for D&D 3e. It was released in December 2000.

Introducing the 3e Line. The D&D 3e line kicked off in August through November of 2000 with the traditional trilogy of books: a Player's Handbook (2000), a Dungeon Master's Guide (2000), and a Monster Manual (2000). Wizards of the Coast simultaneously began releasing their first adventure path, as well as scenarios for the Forgotten Realms. However it took until December for their first rules supplement to appear: Hero Builder's Guidebook.

The Hero Builder's Guidebook has a brown cover to mark it as a Player's Handbook supplement. Surprisingly, it's a softcovered release, where all the previous 3e rulebooks had been hardcover. This new softcover line would continue through 2002. The majority of its books would be players' supplement, with most of them grouped into a series of class splatbooks (2001-2002). A pair of Dungeon Master's Guide companions would also appear in the line: Enemies and Allies (2001) and Book of Challenges (2002).

A Different Sort of Player's Handbook. When the AD&D 1e Players Handbook (1978) appeared, back in the hobby's earliest days, it was exactly what its name promised: a handbook to help players create characters. That idea faded with 2e (1989) and 3e (2000), as their Player's Handbooks became general rulebooks for the D&D game. Hero Builder's Guidebook thus feels like a bit of a return. The actual character creation rules for D&D 3e are still in the Player's Handbook, but Hero Builder's Guidebook contains guidelines and tips to help players in that task — including sections on picking names, rolling abilities, choosing class and race, selecting alignments, and even planning for the future.

Some of these sections highlighted how different D&D 3e was from its predecessors. The chapter on planning for the future is particularly notable because it talks not just about upgrading skills (which were an optional system as far back as AD&D 1.5e, in 1985), but also about deciding which feats to take. The idea of characters being able to pick their own unique paths as they leveled up was a real change in the game.

A few other chapters are of special note.

The section on "creating your personal history" includes random tables that players can use to flesh out the background of their character. Similar systems date back to at least Traveller (1977, while D&D players had long been able to use Jennell Jaquays' Central Casting books (1988-1991). However the inclusion of random character backgrounds in the D&D game itself was an innovation.

Hero Builder's Guidebook also features an innovative alignment test, where players can answer questions to determine what alignment they should be. It was one of the best explanations of alignment since the nine-fold path had first appeared in the original core AD&D books (1978-1979).

Love It or Hate It? Hero Builder's Guidebook has received very mixed response over the years, largely based on the audience. New players (and GMs working with new players) seem to love the book, finding it a great introduction. More experienced players are more likely to find it uninteresting or clichéd — though some still appreciate the background tables and the alignment test.

Future History. Though player strategy books of this sort were almost unknown before 2000, they began more popular during the d20 boom, with publications by Goodman Games, Mongoose Publishing, and others joining the small category. Wizards of the Coast returned to the topic for D&D 4e with their Player's Strategy Guide (2010).

About the Creators. Dancey is best known as the creator of the OGL; this is his only major writing credit. Noonan would be a mainstay at Wizards for the next decade, but this was just his second credit, following contributions to the D&D Adventure Game (2000). Finally, Tolkien-scholar Rateliff was the most experienced of the trio, with D&D credits dating back to 1995, though he was nearing the end of his tenure on the game.

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 Thanks to the Acaeum for careful research on Dungeon Masters Guide printings.

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

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File Last Updated:
February 01, 2019
This title was added to our catalog on July 28, 2015.