3rd Edition is the culmination and clarification of everything that has made Dungeons and Dragons the most popular roleplaying game
in the world. 3E fixed almost everything that was broken in previous editions, versions and variations.
No longer is there confusion and interpretation involved in reading the rules.
The books are laid out with an artist's touch, every page is full color, and most have action.
The system no longer requires players to memorize and refer to numerous charts, and gone is the sense of arbitrariness in rules:
Why can't my elf become a druid?
There are now compelling reasons to be a human. Gnomes are no longer goofy. The classes make sense, and any character can multi-class. Any race
can be any class.
So, if you want to be a 1/2-orc wizard/ rogue/ paladin, go for it.
The game uses one mechanic, the d20 system, for almost all of the task resolution.
Gone are percentile rolls. Gone are cryptic saving throw charts.
One d20 roll will determine success or failure. And you must always roll high.
The rules are sort of a burden to read through, but once you do, they are incredibly smooth and elegant in practice.
3E is still essentially nothing more than wargaming with some rules for character interaction. It is a very detailed combat system. In creating 3E the designers strove to bring adventures "back to the dungeon," there was to be less emphasis on engaging in conversation with meaningless PCs. It shows. It is as much of a roleplaying game as you and your fellow players want it to be, but the rules emphasize combat and task resolution relating to it. 3E still suffers from a couple carryovers from past editions and what I consider to be some of the major flaws of D+D:
1) Elves are still striving to be Tolkein elves, they still are creatures of nature, yet can detect secret doors.
Yet, in trying to make them their own, the designers are still sticking with the Elfquest archetype of the short elves. Explain to me why creatures attuned to plants and animals can find secret doors better than someone else…
2) Alignment- with games having evolved greatly from their inception (which was of course D+D), and most modern games ignoring alignment altogether, focusing instead on character interaction and motivation and not wanting to pigeonhole players specific behaviors, D+D's alignment system,
and even more the ability to detect alignment bugs me. Why are orcs and kobolds evil? This carryover from its wargaming roots makes it seem dated compared to many current games.