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3E/3.5 [3.0] Why did they do a 3.5 version?

Marc_C

Solo Role Playing
I'm looking at 3.0 for the first time in ages. It seems fine on the surface. What were the major problems that justified the release of 3.5?
 

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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I'll add that 3.5 gave us the prestige classes that patched multiclassing. You won't find the mystic theurge, eldritch knight, or arcane trickster in 3.0, because it wasn't until after the game released that people realized just how badly multiclassing hurt spellcasting classes, and that a wizard 10/cleric 10 was nowhere near as good as a wizard 20 or cleric 20.
 

Mistwell

Legend
I'm looking at 3.0 for the first time in ages. It seems fine on the surface. What were the major problems that justified the release of 3.5?
 



Li Shenron

Legend
I'm looking at 3.0 for the first time in ages. It seems fine on the surface. What were the major problems that justified the release of 3.5?
I played core 3.0 without real problems. I also had the first wave of splatbooks, and still didn't have much issues beyond a few spells which required some adjudications to prevent abuse. I certainly didn't test all the material however.

When 3.5 came out I switched to it using the SRD (I was merely waiting before buying the books in order to avoid the usual errata phase). I played it maybe 9 months and gradually figured out it was worse than 3.0 because it was built with patches to perceived (for me, imaginary) mistakes, but without regard to how those patches interacted with each other. Instead 3.0 was at least designed "organically" and was more solid.

Generally speaking, you need to keep in mind that both 3.x versions were based on the idea of "system mastery", meaning that the game does have certain better options which players are supposed to discover while playing, and learning how to exploit them is a reward. However, it still does not mean the game should play itself like a videogame where the rules takes care of everything perfectly: the game still needs a human referee to work satisfactorily.

So why did they make 3.5? Many reasons:

  • people insisted that the game needed to work like a videogame and saw flaws everywhere, and the designers were pressured to change things
  • the internet era vastly amplified the perception of problems and the importance of being part of an "official" community: players were constantly reminded by others that the game they thought fine was instead unplayable, and lots of them would not stand the pressure of house ruling and demanded official changes
  • designers ran out of ideas to keep up with the insane release schedule, and a reboot provided the opportunity to reprint slightly updated versions of a lot of character options
  • key managerial staff at WotC had changed and new managers often need to push big changes to justify their jobs

If you want to try either 3.0 or 3.5, I think you should assume that either one will be OK, as long as you play your game without listening to doomsayers. And if you are undecided upon which, maybe take a look at what non-core material is available, particularly campaign settings books, and choose the one version that has settings you want to play most, so that you won't need to worry about converting minutia.
 


I recall the spell harm being singled out as particularly overpowered as well...the 3.0 version was a touch spell with no saving throw that dropped a (non-undead) creature - no matter how many hit points it had - instantly to 1d4 hp. So all you had to do was touch that 660-hp Great Wyrm red dragon, cast a harm spell on it, and then a 1st-level wizard could take it out the same round with a simple magic missile spell dealing 1d4+1 points of damage. The 3.5 version of harm allows the caster to deal 10 points per caster level (to a maximum of 150 points at 15th level) and adds a Will save for half damage (and ensures the creature can't be reduced to less than 1 hp if it makes the save).

Johnathan
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
One way that we can deduce "why" is to look at the changes that were made and extrapolate backward. For example, many spells in 3E were weakened in 3.5E. Therefore, we can deduce that the developers felt some of the spells were too powerful and needed to be changed.

They wouldn't have republished an entirely new edition for just a handful of spells, however. So we can assume that the developers felt that many changes needed to be made, enough to justify the expense of developing and publishing a revised edition.

It was a gamble, too: there was no guarantee that people would be willing to buy the revised edition, especially so soon after having purchased the original. "They did it for the money" might be true in hindsight, but at the time it wasn't a guarantee. (Remember, they tried that same "We fixed your game for you, you're welcome!" sales pitch a few years later with the release of 4E, and it was a disaster.)
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Here's a fun little confluence of 3.0-isms:

  • 3.0, unlike 3.5, had restricted skills. Whereas class skills were cost 1 skill point per rank and were limited to (level +3) ranks, and cross-class skills cost 2 skill points per rank and were limited to [(level +3)/2] ranks, restricted skills were skills that a particular class were not allowed to purchase. Use Magic Device, for example, could only be taken by bards or rogues; if you were, say, a fighter who wanted to purchase that skill, your only option was to multiclass.
  • While wizards' and sorcerers' ability to gain a familiar was a class ability right from the get-go, 3.0 hearkened back to earlier editions by requiring druids and rangers to cast a spell, animal friendship, in order to gain animal companions. Notice the plural there; in 3.0, that spell earned you a number of Hit Dice of animal companions equal to your caster level - or double your caster level if you didn't subject them to "the demands of adventuring" - which could be divided up among any number of animals, none of whom gained increased stats as you gained levels.
  • The previous two bullet points led to an unintended consequence when combined with how standardized magic item creation had become. It was now possible to make a scroll or a wand of animal friendship and have a character with ranks in Use Magic Device - a bard, rogue, or anyone who'd level-dipped into those classes - use the magic item and gain animal companions of their own! As such, it was no surprise that 3.5 moved animal companions to being class abilities for druids and rangers, limiting them to one animal whose stats leveled up along with the character, and eliminated the animal friendship spell entirely.
 

Saelorn

Hero
The first attempt at third edition had a couple of minor quibbles that threatened to derail the whole game, and the revision was an attempt to nip that in the bud.

While 5E also has a number of minor issues that could potentially derail the whole game - great weapon master and divine smite come to mind - the major difference is that third edition was intended to be played by the book. Fifth edition is designed with the core philosophy that you should change anything you don't like, so there's no need for them to publish a revised ranger this time around.
 

Voadam

Hero
I'll add that 3.5 gave us the prestige classes that patched multiclassing. You won't find the mystic theurge, eldritch knight, or arcane trickster in 3.0, because it wasn't until after the game released that people realized just how badly multiclassing hurt spellcasting classes, and that a wizard 10/cleric 10 was nowhere near as good as a wizard 20 or cleric 20.
Not in the DMG, but the 3.0 Tome & Blood splat had the arcane trickster. And the arcane warrior caster bladesinger, dragon disciple, and spellsword prestige classes.
 


A bit after 3.5 came out, a friend of mine compiled a list of everything that changed between 3.0 and 3.5, and it was about 2 pages long. I will admit that these changes improved the game significantly, but I don't feel a new set of rulebooks that were largely the same was necessary for the game. It was really important for WotC, however.

@Mistwell was mostly joking, but this isn't too far from the truth. WotC decided to take a video game model where the core books were not very profitable, focusing on sales for supplements (splatbooks). However, the greatest number of sales were the core rulebooks by far (this is true for every edition AFAIK). This model made the profit of D&D lower than desired, so I presume once they determined the game needed revision, it was far better to release a revision, rather than an errata. They corrected the price of the core books to meet the desired market value, bringing it in line with WotC's expectations. I hated it at the time, refusing to buy any new books that I already owned (using the change sheet instead), but once I understood the situation it made sense from a business perspective.
 

Presents for Goblins

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