3.5 Think I Have Finally Figured Out How To Fix 3.5 (it took a decade)
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  1. #1
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    Think I Have Finally Figured Out How To Fix 3.5 (it took a decade)

    In late 3.5 (after 4E landed, before we switched to Pathfinder) circa 2009 I had a page of house rules in order to fix 3.5. It was mostly a banned list of various feats, PrCs, etc and adding some things back in from 2E namely magic item creation rules. It didn't do much to fix the mathmatics of the game but we still had some fun.

    After playing 4E, 5E, and Star Wars Saga plus OSR games/clones I have some fairly good ideas. Basically if you liked 3.X (at the time) I thought I would identify some key aspects of it.

    1. Player options
    2. Prestige classes
    3. Weapons and armor having a bit more variety
    4. Microfeats
    5. Slower rates of non magical healing and some ye olde AD&Disms (LG Paladins etc).

    Bad things about 3.5
    1. Amount of skills between classes (fighter 2, Rogue 8 WTF)
    2. The math.
    3. Complexity.
    4. Balance at higher levels (level 7+ generally).
    5. Way Saving Throws scaled

    5E fixed a lot of things but also created new things such as balance variance between feats, dex to damage, over night healing and some ye olde D&Disms which some people may not prefer (rapid healing, no mechanical alignment things).

    So anyway I want to preserve the character build options and things like prestige classes, but they will need to be toned down along with the math overhauled. Anyway some thoughts.

    1. Some form of bounded accuracy. 5E had a great idea here but you can probably stretch it a bit more. A fixed 3.X could use the 4E half level to everything, or use the old cleric BAB instead so by level 20 you have +15 proficiency. Higher than 5E stretche, but you can also stretch out ACs a bit more. A Dragon for example could have AC 30.THis would included capping ability scores, probably at 20 and no higher than 25 (a'la AD&D). All the various modifiers (natural armor, deflection etc) are gone.

    2. Removing outright broken stuff from the game that can't be fixed. Natural spell for example, toning Druid Wildshape down, the 5E moon druid would be a good example here. Broken spels can go back to the AD&D version (assuming its not broken) and a few can be trimmed. Individual buff spells like divine favor and power can go bye bye, group buffs can stay. A few individual spells can be grandfathered in like Strength/bulls strength.

    3. Rewrting a few things that can be fixed. Time stop isn't broken if you can't cast spells wile timestopped (maybe spells with range 0 or healing). A lot of feats can be buffed, consolidated, or removed. Overhaul the classes as well. Saving throws will also go back to AD&D at least conceptually (they will scale faster than saves. You will need to debuff or resort to damage dealing/buff as save or sucks etc will be a lot more unreliable. Damage dealing spells will scale for free but cap out at 2E/3E levels. Probably 90% of spells are fine.

    4. Buffing non combat options. I would make the feats you get at level 1,3,6 (or 1,3,5,7 etc) be limited to a preselected list. Probably non combat feats. THis means each player get a certain amount of non combat utility built in, but its up to them what they pick up (combined with what they get via class). In a way this modernises the 2E WP/NWP system and even 5E struggles here (actor vs sharpshooter hmmn).

    5. Classes get more feats. The fighter retains their feat advantage, but the more martial a class is the more feats they get. These feats can be spent on things like Dragonmarks or the 5E Magic Initiate to pick up a few spells here and there. Wizards and other primary casters won't get that many feats. These feats can be spent on anything you like (unless its pick from a few options). Some classes will also have a variety of optins to pick form a'la some 3E classes and 5E classes.

    6. Prestige classes will have requirements and you are limited to 1 perhaps. They will also be explicitly optional (DM can say no) and they can be optional on a case by case basisis (this PrC is fine, this one is not).

    7. Fiddly +1 skills/attack/damage type options are gone. A feat making you better with say longswords will give you +2 to hit. +1 weapons would remain but they also give you +1 to damage as well. A few things like Prayer, Bless and Faerie Fire can be buffed to a +2 modifier.

    8. Add the advantage/disadvantage mechanic.

    9. Wands of CLW either don't exist, or you can no longer easily and cheaply manufacture magic items (AD&DSpells and magic level of item creation).

    10. Spell/Magic resistance will become a static number again. This will be based of the old 3.5 minis game and to beat it you have to roll a d20. SR 11 for example requires an 11 or higher to beat it. This will be uneffected by caster level. The spell penetration feat gives +2 on the roll. There are no other ways of buffing this. AD&D MR will be converted to a d20 number, MR 90% for example (a mind flayer) can be SR 19.

    11.. Gnome Paladins. These will be buffed to be the best class and race combination. If you're a Gnome Paladin any weapon you wield is treated as a holy avenger.
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  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zardnaar View Post
    In late 3.5 (after 4E landed, before we switched to Pathfinder) circa 2009 I had a page of house rules in order to fix 3.5. It was mostly a banned list of various feats, PrCs, etc and adding some things back in from 2E namely magic item creation rules. It didn't do much to fix the mathmatics of the game but we still had some fun.

    After playing 4E, 5E, and Star Wars Saga plus OSR games/clones I have some fairly good ideas. Basically if you liked 3.X (at the time) I thought I would identify some key aspects of it.
    I also have some kind of thing like this in the works.

    1. Player options
    2. Prestige classes
    3. Weapons and armor having a bit more variety
    4. Microfeats
    5. Slower rates of non magical healing and some ye olde AD&Disms (LG Paladins etc).
    Yes, if anything I would add to this.

    Bad things about 3.5
    1. Amount of skills between classes (fighter 2, Rogue 8 WTF)
    Number one on the list, besides giving more skills overall, I have an idea that since each class has a primary score, why not give extra skill points spendable on skills related to that score?

    2. The math.
    3. Complexity.
    4. Balance at higher levels (level 7+ generally).
    Yes I really want to do something about this too.

    5. Way Saving Throws scaled
    Also this.

    1. Some form of bounded accuracy. 5E had a great idea here but you can probably stretch it a bit more. A fixed 3.X could use the 4E half level to everything, or use the old cleric BAB instead so by level 20 you have +15 proficiency. Higher than 5E stretche, but you can also stretch out ACs a bit more. A Dragon for example could have AC 30.THis would included capping ability scores, probably at 20 and no higher than 25 (a'la AD&D). All the various modifiers (natural armor, deflection etc) are gone.
    My solution goes the other way, limit both HP and damage inflation. It doesn't matter how many times you fail, if you land a hit, it's still significative. However I did take medium bab as a baseline. Fighters are still allowed to be outright better at hitting, but they aren't the baseline for balance.

    2. Removing outright broken stuff from the game that can't be fixed. Natural spell for example, toning Druid Wildshape down, the 5E moon druid would be a good example here. Broken spels can go back to the AD&D version (assuming its not broken) and a few can be trimmed. Individual buff spells like divine favor and power can go bye bye, group buffs can stay. A few individual spells can be grandfathered in like Strength/bulls strength.
    In general I would go out and say remove anything that basically rewrites the character temporally.

    3. Rewrting a few things that can be fixed. Time stop isn't broken if you can't cast spells wile timestopped (maybe spells with range 0 or healing). A lot of feats can be buffed, consolidated, or removed. Overhaul the classes as well. Saving throws will also go back to AD&D at least conceptually (they will scale faster than saves. You will need to debuff or resort to damage dealing/buff as save or sucks etc will be a lot more unreliable. Damage dealing spells will scale for free but cap out at 2E/3E levels. Probably 90% of spells are fine.
    I created a mechanic that addresses most of this stuff at once. It is a single mechanic that makes you good at one thing and evens out even if you want to spread. This mechanic makes fighters good at saving throws, keeps spell damage scaling, limits druid wildshapes -and forces them to choose between being combat monsters and alpha striking-

    4. Buffing non combat options. I would make the feats you get at level 1,3,6 (or 1,3,5,7 etc) be limited to a preselected list. Probably non combat feats. THis means each player get a certain amount of non combat utility built in, but its up to them what they pick up (combined with what they get via class). In a way this modernises the 2E WP/NWP system and even 5E struggles here (actor vs sharpshooter hmmn).
    An actual difference in ideas, the siloing done by the PF2 left a sour taste in my mouth. My take is add more stunts, and compress some of the more unnecessarily long feat chains to be easier to understand and remove the obvious "math only" feats. Why? because to me weapon training is more of a flavor choice than an outright optimization thing. You should be able to pick training on a weapon of your choice at first level.

    5. Classes get more feats. The fighter retains their feat advantage, but the more martial a class is the more feats they get. These feats can be spent on things like Dragonmarks or the 5E Magic Initiate to pick up a few spells here and there. Wizards and other primary casters won't get that many feats. These feats can be spent on anything you like (unless its pick from a few options). Some classes will also have a variety of optins to pick form a'la some 3E classes and 5E classes.
    Again with the previous point, in my book siloing is bad.
    6. Prestige classes will have requirements and you are limited to 1 perhaps. They will also be explicitly optional (DM can say no) and they can be optional on a case by case basisis (this PrC is fine, this one is not).
    Hadn't considered prestige classes. I would tone down prerrequisites so they aren't as nonsensical. And also would bring them more on par with each other and base classes.

    7. Fiddly +1 skills/attack/damage type options are gone. A feat making you better with say longswords will give you +2 to hit. +1 weapons would remain but they also give you +1 to damage as well. A few things like Prayer, Bless and Faerie Fire can be buffed to a +2 modifier.
    I gave myself the philosophy of "if it is less than two, it's too fiddly" and also each conditional modifier is +/-2 or +/-5. Magic weapons don't give actual pluses. It has to be desirable for what it can do, not for the math. And in line with my idea about keeping scaling under control, make liberal use of adv/disadv

    8. Add the advantage/disadvantage mechanic.
    Yes!!

    9. Wands of CLW either don't exist, or you can no longer easily and cheaply manufacture magic items (AD&DSpells and magic level of item creation).
    House rule, a wand gives you access to a spell. And just that, you need to use a spell slot of your own -or that mechanic I mentioned before- to use a wand.

    10. Spell/Magic resistance will become a static number again. This will be based of the old 3.5 minis game and to beat it you have to roll a d20. SR 11 for example requires an 11 or higher to beat it. This will be uneffected by caster level. The spell penetration feat gives +2 on the roll. There are no other ways of buffing this. AD&D MR will be converted to a d20 number, MR 90% for example (a mind flayer) can be SR 19.
    I change SR to interact with the mechanic that makes fighters good at saving throws.

    11.. Gnome Paladins. These will be buffed to be the best class and race combination. If you're a Gnome Paladin any weapon you wield is treated as a holy avenger.
    Nothing against this n_n

    Edit: Though I'm seriously considering scrapping this and retroporting the best parts of 3.5 to 2e. (NWPs do rule!)
    Last edited by MoonSong; Tuesday, 9th April, 2019 at 03:45 AM.

  3. #3
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    You can hack the hell out of 2E. You could probably use 5E skills and add feats replacing WP, skills replace NWP.

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    I don't know. I had literally hundreds of pages that reworked classes, feats, spells, ect wholesale. It was so much work to play 3.5. It was fun tweaking it, mind you. I looked at it as a puzzle or challenge to crack, and it helped give me a really good ability to dissect the system and reverse engineer it. But looking back over some of the stuff I wrote up for 3.5, It was mostly meaningless numbers that had the fluff built around it. Looking back, it was really overwhelming. I can't see 3.5 being fixed, or ever wanting to revisit it. Even trying to skim your initial post gave me flashbacks. *Shudder*

    But the Gnome Paladin buff. That is certainly needed, not just in 3.5. I think we can bump them up a bit in 5e as well. Maybe give them access to Heavy Weapons and the Great Weapon Master feat for free. That should shore them right up on par with everyone else. ^_^
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  5. #5
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    @Zardnaar.

    Huh.

    1. I agree that (meaningful) player options are a good thing.



    But everything else you listed in your ‘good’ column is actually in my bad column.

    2. Prestige classes
    I hate 3e prestige classes. The idea that players are required to take something worthless at low levels, in order to later gain something overpowered high levels, breaks the game in both directions. Eventually prestige classes and its power creep killed 3e. The fact that prestige classes required bad mechanics made it impossible to fix the bad mechanics of 3e. So so many stupid mechanics (like worthless skills) clogged up and petrified the 3e gaming system. Relatedly, the amount of system mastery required to benefit from overpoweredness prevented casual gamers from playing the game competently. The idea of sucking at low levels so that you can be cheesily overpowered at high levels, was a sacred cow (in the spirit of the 1e magic user class) that I am glad 4e and even 5e killed. Hopefully forever.

    3. Weapons and armor having a bit more variety
    The less realistic the nonmagical weapons and armors are, the less appealing the variety of options. There is no such thing as ‘ring armor’ except as an inferior armor due to lack of metal resources. There is no such thing as ‘studded leather’ except for people uneducated in history who dont know what a brigandine is. There is no such thing as a longsword, except for the exact same thing as a bastard sword. And so on. Options can be good as long as the options make sense and are balanced gamewise. I dont want and dont appreciate the unwieldly differentiation of polearms.

    4. Microfeats
    I hate microfeats. I consider these ‘ribbons’ useless meaningless clutter, that distract and prevent players who are uninitiated in system mastery from knowing how to play the game competently.

    5. Nonmagical healing.
    I hate almost as much the dependence on magical healing − the abuse of magical healing and the uselessness of nonmagical healing.

    (Heh, relatedly, I despise with an undying passion how 3e magical healing mostly depended on committing polytheistic idolatry. Actually, 4e was worse about imposing polytheism, and 5e is even worse than 4e. But at least the alternative healing options, both magical and nonmagical, can disconnect from the dependence on the polytheistic cleric class. That said, I still resent that the 5e rules officially make the cleric class polytheistic and makes the polytheistic cleric the best healer by far. Options to make the cleric class nonpolytheistic are also no longer part of the official D&D setting. And even in settings that have zero to do with polytheism, like the Ravnica setting, WotC still tries to force polytheistic clerics down our throats. I do miss the 3e official player option of a nonpolytheistic philosophical cleric, right there in the 3e Players Handbook.)

    I guess to each their own.

    It goes to show how important options are.
    Last edited by Yaarel; Tuesday, 9th April, 2019 at 06:46 AM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yaarel View Post
    @Zardnaar.

    Huh.

    1. I agree that (meaningful) player options are a good thing.



    But everything else you listed in your ‘good’ column is actually in my bad column.

    2. Prestige classes
    I hate 3e prestige classes. The idea that players are required to take something worthless at low levels, in order to later gain something overpowered high levels, breaks the game in both directions. Eventually prestige classes and its power creep killed 3e. The fact that prestige classes required bad mechanics made it impossible to fix the bad mechanics of 3e. So so many stupid mechanics (like worthless skills) clogged up and petrified the 3e gaming system. Relatedly, the amount of system mastery required to benefit from overpoweredness prevented casual gamers from playing the game competently. The idea of sucking at low levels so that you can be cheesily overpowered at high levels, was a sacred cow (in the spirit of the 1e magic user class) that I am glad 4e and even 5e killed. Hopefully forever.

    3. Weapons and armor having a bit more variety
    The less realistic the nonmagical weapons and armors are, the less appealing the variety of options. There is no such thing as ‘ring armor’ except as an inferior armor due to lack of metal resources. There is no such thing as ‘studded leather’ except for people uneducated in history who dont know what a brigandine is. There is no such thing as a longsword, except for the exact same thing as a bastard sword. And so on. Options can be good as long as the options make sense and are balanced gamewise. I dont want and dont appreciate the unwieldly differentiation of polearms.

    4. Microfeats
    I hate microfeats. I consider these ‘ribbons’ useless meaningless clutter, that distract and prevent players who are uninitiated in system mastery from knowing how to play the game competently.

    5. Nonmagical healing.
    I hate almost as much the dependence on magical healing − the abuse of magical healing and the uselessness of nonmagical healing.

    (Heh, relatedly, I despise with an undying passion how 3e magical healing mostly depended on committing polytheistic idolatry. Actually, 4e was worse about imposing polytheism, and 5e is even worse than 4e. But at least the alternative healing options, both magical and nonmagical, can disconnect from the dependence on the polytheistic cleric class. That said, I still resent that the 5e rules officially make the cleric class polytheistic and makes the polytheistic cleric the best healer by far. Options to make the cleric class nonpolytheistic are also no longer part of the official D&D setting. And even in settings that have zero to do with polytheism, like the Ravnica setting, WotC still tries to force polytheistic clerics down our throats. I do miss the 3e official player option of a nonpolytheistic philosophical cleric, right there in the 3e Players Handbook.)

    I guess to each their own.

    It goes to show how important options are.
    Well you probably won't like earlier than 3.5 either or ye olde D&Disms.

    I like prestige classes as a concept the execution was off but that can be fixed.

    I would probably ramp up magical healing but it would be more for daily amounts. 5E has to much healing and I would lower damage as well. Kobold's used to deal 1d3 damage, 1d6-1 or 2 achieved the same thing.
    Last edited by Zardnaar; Tuesday, 9th April, 2019 at 06:53 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hawk Diesel View Post
    I don't know. I had literally hundreds of pages that reworked classes, feats, spells, ect wholesale. It was so much work to play 3.5. It was fun tweaking it, mind you. I looked at it as a puzzle or challenge to crack, and it helped give me a really good ability to dissect the system and reverse engineer it. But looking back over some of the stuff I wrote up for 3.5, It was mostly meaningless numbers that had the fluff built around it. Looking back, it was really overwhelming. I can't see 3.5 being fixed, or ever wanting to revisit it. Even trying to skim your initial post gave me flashbacks. *Shudder*

    But the Gnome Paladin buff. That is certainly needed, not just in 3.5. I think we can bump them up a bit in 5e as well. Maybe give them access to Heavy Weapons and the Great Weapon Master feat for free. That should shore them right up on par with everyone else. ^_^
    3e was beautiful in its day. I was so happy with things like nonvancian spellcasting, and the Expanded Psionic Handbook. But yeah, compared to how things work today, going back makes me shudder. I simply refuse to play 3e because of its lack of 4e/5e atwill cantrips, for example.


    Dealing with the Gnome Paladin.

    I feel the solution is to remove the racial ability bonuses, and instead have racial minimum requirements.

    In other words, you can only play a Drow character if you make the Dexterity is at least 13, and so on. The Drow race itself provides no bonus. That way, as long as one meets the minimum Dexterity, the rest can go to whatever ability scores the class requires. Minimum racial scores of 9, 11, 13, and even 15 (like Orc Strength), still allow for high scores in the key ability scores of a particular class.

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    E6 made 3rd playable. Someone made a grim-n-gritty module that almost worked, too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yaarel View Post
    3e was beautiful in its day. I was so happy with things like nonvancian spellcasting, and the Expanded Psionic Handbook. But yeah, compared to how things work today, going back makes me shudder. I simply refuse to play 3e because of its lack of 4e/5e atwill cantrips, for example.


    Dealing with the Gnome Paladin.

    I feel the solution is to remove the racial ability bonuses, and instead have racial minimum requirements.

    In other words, you can only play a Drow character if you make the Dexterity is at least 13, and so on. The Drow race itself provides no bonus. That way, as long as one meets the minimum Dexterity, the rest can go to whatever ability scores the class requires. Minimum racial scores of 9, 11, 13, and even 15 (like Orc Strength), still allow for high scores in the key ability scores of a particular class.
    Cantrips are over rated. You are better off throwing darts in AD&D in terms of damage.

    If I want cantrips etc I can just play 5E yes? I want gritty on occasion and some ye olde D&Disms.
    Last edited by Zardnaar; Tuesday, 9th April, 2019 at 07:41 AM.

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