D&D 3E/3.5 3rd Edition Revisited - Better play with the power of hindsight?

Pedantic

Legend
I mean, what's wrong with dumping all your buffs on your Fighter/Barbarian/Ranger anyways? Not a damn thing. 3.5's issues occurred because they made those targets not the best target for buffs, since they handed out powerful self-buffs to Clerics and Druids that put them over the top. So yeah, when you have Divine Power and Righteous Might (and to a lesser extent, Divine Favor) that makes a Cleric better than a Fighter at raw numbers, sure someone might get the idea that buffing the Fighter might not be as effective. Or the Druid's Wild Shape for that matter, when just turning into a black bear gives you Barbarian Rage and 3 attacks per turn.

Get rid of those, and action economy alone makes buffing the martials the ideal strategy- sure you can spend a turn to Bull's Strength yourself and get the benefits next turn...or you could buff the Barbarian and he can attack right away.*

*Barring stuff like DMM Persist of course.

I actually think Persist is a great model for buff spells in general, especially if it was combined into the spell itself, 5e slot scaling style. You transition from but spells as an in the moment expenditure, to a standardized daily load out as you level up.
 

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James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
I actually think Persist is a great model for buff spells in general, especially if it was combined into the spell itself, 5e slot scaling style. You transition from but spells as an in the moment expenditure, to a standardized daily load out as you level up.
My experience with Persist is, if used responsibly, it's a great tool for boosting your party members. My last 3.5 character was a Cloistered Cleric/Radiant Servant of Pelor who used DMM Persist exclusively on party buffs at start of day, then mostly healed and used a Reserve Feat (Fiery Burst, I believe it was) or x/day items from the Magic Item Compendium for the remainder of the day, letting my allies obliterate challenges with boosted numbers.

I felt this was responsible use of the Feats. But your DM still has to be on board, as mine soon found that we were punching well above our weight class consistently, and when he tried to use tactics like Dispelling, found that I'd gotten there first, by acquiring methods to make dispelling my buffs harder. It came to a head when we had to fight a Beholder, and found that, stripped of my buffs, the other PC's were actually pretty subpar, leading to a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario.

Which had been my point the entire time, to shore up the other party members so they could basically do whatever they wanted. But if even that caused problems, I shudder to think of what would have happened if my allies had been actual optimizers- for example, I had one buff in particular that granted a larger bonus to other worshipers of my God. Every time I cast it, I jokingly asked if anyone cared to convert. They never did, but an optimized group would certainly do so (opening up the use of a healing spell that would be more efficient if used on other faithful).

So whether or not DMM and/or Persist is good for an individual campaign is kind of up in the air. It was fun at first for me, until I saw the DM struggling, without me doing anything goofy like Divine Power+Righteous Might on top of it.

That having been said, I believe the following things are true:

*Buffing your melee is a good use of magic. You should want your casters to buff other players, to make the game more fun for them, and prevent the casters from using the true painful spells, like hard control which turns every fight into "and my monster does nothing. Pass.". Or always having those defensive/utility spells on tap that everyone complains so much about, like Shield or Silvery Barbs in 5e.

*Buffing should be less painful- the current paradigm of useless buff durations where they might last for more than one combat, but generally won't, and you don't often have time to buff before combat, meaning your first turn each fight is throwing on a buff for your allies- I don't mind this, but I know a lot of players don't like this style of play, preferring to go in there and do their own things.

*Buffing should be worth your time. This is related to the first point, but if you look at how buff spells are constantly being nerfed as the game advances, you go from say, 3.5 Enlarge which was a pretty much must-have due to the advantages of bigger damage dice and reach, to 5e Enlarge, which eats up a caster's concentration in exchange for +1d4 damage on all weapon attacks as a SECOND level spell, or how 3.5 Haste buffed the whole party, and 5e Haste affects one guy, eats up concentration, and if you lose concentration, debuffs the target's next turn...blah.

Generally, I feel that a few patches could fix this. First, perhaps each character has "buff slots" analogous to attunements in 5e, which caps the total number of buff spells on them based on their level. Two, these buffs can be cast and "suspended", doing nothing, until activated by the caster. This lets you prebuff without any fuss, and lets you conserve durations.

Alternately, if you want to add 5e concentration to the game, perhaps make a rule where the TARGET of a buff becomes responsible for maintaining the concentration on it, leaving the caster free to do other things.
 

Pedantic

Legend
Generally, I feel that a few patches could fix this. First, perhaps each character has "buff slots" analogous to attunements in 5e, which caps the total number of buff spells on them based on their level. Two, these buffs can be cast and "suspended", doing nothing, until activated by the caster. This lets you prebuff without any fuss, and lets you conserve durations.

I would focus on the magic item system here. Really, magic items (especially the core 6 in 3.5) are just permanent buff spells. Use that same set of limitations for stacking buff spells, with magic items reducing the need for them with reduced efficiency vs. a leveled slot. You'd rather have Bless, but a Cloak of Resistance gets you 3/4s of the way there. A party without buffs is thus still usable (assuming the DM sticks to an appropriate magic item schedule) and there's an ongoing tradeoff between active actions and banked effects for slots.

That, and much better discipline about bonus types to cut down on the pressure to stack all of them. You can fill in some of space for particularly powerful buffs with expendable effects, that let other characters consume them during their own actions.
 
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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I would focus on the magic item system here. Really, magic items (especially the core 6 in 3.5) are just permanent buff spells. Use that same set of limitations for stacking buff spells, with magic items reducing the need for them with reduced efficiency vs. a leveled slot. You'd rather have Bless, but a Cloak of Resistance gets you 3/4s of the way there. A party without buffs is thus still usable (assuming the DM sticks to an appropriate magic item schedule) and there's an ongoing tradeoff between active actions and banked effects for slots.
I can see the utility of this idea, but I can also see it creating a sort of "soft pressure" that players running a wizard or cleric are expected to regularly drop these buffs on the PCs. The idea of the cleric as the "heal bot," which someone is "stuck" playing, is still around; this idea sounds like it runs the risk of being that all over again.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Pathfinder 1e notably included the presence of buffs in their encounter math. They assumed that of course melee would have access to haste at level 5-6 (and even made a haste-like for the Cleric to make this more likely to occur). Of course, this made the game harder for groups who didn't have access to the proper buffs.

I bring this up because it's the flipside of 3.5's design, where the only thing taken into account is magic items, the default array, and the classic four man part (Fighter/Cleric/Rogue/Wizard), with Clerics doing nothing but healing and Wizards doing nothing but blasting (and we all know what happened there).

If you don't account for buffs in the game because you don't want to force a player to fill a certain role, then if someone does, the game becomes much easier. If you do, and those buffs don't manifest, it becomes much harder. This creates an optimal play pattern either way- you might not be "forced" to play in the "correct" manner, but if you don't, your party might* suffer for it.

*There are, of course, other factors, like player skill, how optimal their characters are built, how well the characters complement one another, and so on.

At the end of the day, if the players go "off script", the DM has to adjust for it without any real guidance from the game books. Now, in the hands of an experienced DM, this might not be an issue, but if the DM doesn't have that experience, I see no problem suggesting players play in an optimal fashion.

One DM I know handled this by simply slashing the xp earned whenever his groups won "too easily"- "after all, that's what the DMG says!". I pointed out to him, however, that he was punishing his players for being good at playing the game. If they knew that they were earning half xp because they dared to use optimal strategies, I'm sure they'd be pretty annoyed by it.

"Oh well, I always use tougher monsters so they get the same xp.", was his reply. Which I felt was even worse- now you had to play optimally just to survive encounters!

What I always tell my players is, "you don't have to have a heal bot or a buff guy or a controller, but things will probably be easier if you do. I'll do my best to adjust if you want to do your own thing, but I don't want to hear complaints if it doesn't work out."
 

Pedantic

Legend
I can see the utility of this idea, but I can also see it creating a sort of "soft pressure" that players running a wizard or cleric are expected to regularly drop these buffs on the PCs. The idea of the cleric as the "heal bot," which someone is "stuck" playing, is still around; this idea sounds like it runs the risk of being that all over again.
There's a fundamental cost of doing business problem here. For a thing to be good, its absence must be bad. You could mitigate it somewhat with DMing advice about magic item availability, but that's just making it a metagame problem.

That and I think buffing is fundamentally more interesting than healing, so long as you present a lot of variables to tweak.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
There's a fundamental cost of doing business problem here. For a thing to be good, its absence must be bad.
Sure, I just think that it's better (from a design standpoint) to build the system so that buffs are either A) not presumed, or B) presumed to operate as magic items that PCs can build/acquire for themselves. The latter being how the d20 System was built. Tweaking things so that magic items are sub-optimal, and the rules presume that buff spells (which will be optimal) will be used, doesn't strike me as the best way to go.

I say that because in addition to putting (even more of an) expectation on the spellcaster(s) in the party, it also means that things become harder for the entire party if their spellcaster decides to buck the trend, with encounters becoming that much more difficult than was assumed. Now, that's already the case for the presumptions built into magic item usage (as noted above), but at least in that instance things don't go to pot for everyone in the party because one player decided that he was fed up with being the buff-bot, and wanted to throw fireballs or cast summon monster spells.

One of the major complaints leveled against 3.X is that it's "caster edition." Making it so buff spells from casters are baked into the game's engine plays into that even more.

EDIT: Also, would you mind citing where Pathfinder 1E builds the expectation of buffs into its encounter design rules? I'm coming up blank on my searches so far.
 
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James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Sure, I just think that it's better (from a design standpoint) to build the system so that buffs are either A) not presumed, or B) presumed to operate as magic items that PCs can build/acquire for themselves. The latter being how the d20 System was built. Tweaking things so that magic items are sub-optimal, and the rules presume that buff spells (which will be optimal) will be used, doesn't strike me as the best way to go.

I say that because in addition to putting (even more of an) expectation on the spellcaster(s) in the party, it also means that things become harder for the entire party if their spellcaster decides to buck the trend, with encounters becoming that much more difficult than was assumed. Now, that's already the case for the presumptions built into magic item usage (as noted above), but at least in that instance things don't go to pot for everyone in the party because one player decided that he was fed up with being the buff-bot, and wanted to throw fireballs or cast summon monster spells.

One of the major complaints leveled against 3.X is that it's "caster edition." Making it so buff spells from casters are baked into the game's engine plays into that even more.

EDIT: Also, would you mind citing where Pathfinder 1E builds the expectation of buffs into its encounter design rules? I'm coming up blank on my searches so far.
So when Pathfinder 1e was written, some classes couldn't benefit properly from Haste, such as the Magus. When the developers patched this, a statement was made that it was expected that weapon users be able to benefit from Haste, which is why the Magus was given an exception.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
So when Pathfinder 1e was written, some classes couldn't benefit properly from Haste, such as the Magus. When the developers patched this, a statement was made that it was expected that weapon users be able to benefit from Haste, which is why the Magus was given an exception.
I'm pretty sure that when Pathfinder 1E was written, there were no problems, since the magus class didn't exist at that time. Later on, when the magus class debuted, there was some confusion about whether its spell combat ability worked with haste. This was solved with a FAQ.

That doesn't look to me as though the game was written under the presumption that some specific buffs would be used, so much as it was clearing up a minor point of confusion for a new class. Likewise, that it allows for that buff to be used seems to me to be less about the underlying math and more about not being needlessly punitive toward a particular ability because of some wording issues.
 
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Pedantic

Legend
Sure, I just think that it's better (from a design standpoint) to build the system so that buffs are either A) not presumed, or B) presumed to operate as magic items that PCs can build/acquire for themselves. The latter being how the d20 System was built. Tweaking things so that magic items are sub-optimal, and the rules presume that buff spells (which will be optimal) will be used, doesn't strike me as the best way to go.
To be clear, I'd push for something like 75% effectiveness of a level-appropriate magic item in the same slot a buff could go, so that the magic item is an effective floor. That, and the ratio of available spell slots vs. available anchor points for buffs should skew thus that you generally can't afford to cover all bases with spell-slots alone (and/or you have to accept some significantly sub-optimal buffs as you rise in level and have to use lower level slots).

The other thing is that buffs come at the cost of spells cast as active actions, which is likely going to be most of your battlefield control/debuffing and some amount of DPS. That trade-off should be hairy enough that it's not a simple calculation to toss all of your spell slots into the fighters each morning, but doing so might be worthwhile in some cases.
I say that because in addition to putting (even more of an) expectation on the spellcaster(s) in the party, it also means that things become harder for the entire party if their spellcaster decides to buck the trend, with encounters becoming that much more difficult than was assumed. Now, that's already the case for the presumptions built into magic item usage (as noted above), but at least in that instance things don't go to pot for everyone in the party because one player decided that he was fed up with being the buff-bot, and wanted to throw fireballs or cast summon monster spells.
Assuming we're talking about a 3.5 base, I don't have a ton of sympathy for the fireball wizard. If it is effective, it's such a drain on the niche of fighting types. Better that they actually are the most effective source of damage.

More generally though, I don't think it follows that if buffing is good, all active uses of spells are outclassed. Summon Monster and Evard's Black Tentacles should be in competition with Haste, and deciding you want spells left to do them is an interesting daily choice.
One of the major complaints leveled against 3.X is that it's "caster edition." Making it so buff spells from casters are baked into the game's engine plays into that even more.
I don't think that's true. If you don't plan for it, then your casters are just even bigger force multipliers. What's the difference between "planning buffs is usually necessary to do well" and "planning buffs will trivialize nearly all encounters" from an optimization perspective? A party trying to succeed is still incentivized the same way, but the former will likely have more fun playing the actual game.
 

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