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3E/3.5 Comparison to 3.5e

We're just now going to go into 5th edition. A player has expressed missing 3.5 which we played for years. Since there is no online support at WOTC for 5e we're planning a character generation night with one encounter which I play tested successfully with my kids. Still, I'm facing the desire of a regular to try 3.5 again. How have players of older editions found 5e in comparison? Positive? Better Worse, broken? Too Restrictive?
 

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Wik

First Post
5e vs 3.5?

5e is ultimately simpler, but with a looser rules system. It requires more GM interpretation of the rules, and isn't as solidly written. This is a feature, not a bug, but some people don't see it that way.

5e is less mathsy across the board, with fewer buffs and the like. There seems to be less "you get +2 from here, +1 from here, and another +3 for here". It doesn't have the OotS joke - "he'd be a great fighter if he had a better head for math". Combats seem slightly quicker, but not as much as some fans express.

5e has shorter buffs when they show up, and save or die effects tend to only last a few rounds at most. Characters get hit more, and take more damage, but are less reliant on heals and all that. Whereas 3.5 was about the game on an encounter level, 5e takes a more "adventure" approach, what with the short rests. 3.5 seems to be balanced towards 3 or 4 encounters a day. As indicated in the DMG, 5e aims towards 6-8. I'm not entirely sure if this is true, but personal experience shows that 5e adventuring days last longer than the "15 minute adventuring day" issue I saw back in my 3.5 days.

3.5 was definitely more granular. You had a lot of skills for specific things, feats for specific combat maneuvers, and ways to improve/modify every character ability. Want to improve your initiative? There's a feat for that. Like to trip? Feat for that too. 5e, on the other hand, doesn't really work that way. A lot of skills that we saw in older editions (such as riding) kind of get handwaved. If your background supports doing something that isn't in the rules, you can usually just do it, or the GM is expected to make a rule up on the fly.

Combat in 5e is a little less swingy than 3.5. 3.5 tended, especially at higher levels, to have an awful "swing until you crit" mentality - crit-fishing was a pretty valid tactic in 3.5, combined with power attack. In 5e, crits are powerful, but not nearly as much (even with sneak attack dice being doubled!). The fights are less swingy towards the PCs as a result. On the downside, the PCs in 5e have a pretty strong ability to steamroll enemies. Boss fights in 5e seem less reliable to stage effectively.

Honestly? I prefer 5e, and that's where my bias lies. I really don't like 3.5/pathfinder, and haven't for years. I think gaming should be simple, and that rules wind up being impediments to play. that is where my tastes like, and so, expectedly, I'm not much of a fan of the legalese texts that were in vogue in the 3e eras.

If you do it try it out, have fun. As with a lot of things, it all depends on who you play with.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
The thing one of my players most misses about 3.5/Pathfinder is gold having a use. He misses magic items being purchasable. 5E is much lower magic than 3.5. Personally, I prefer the lower magic. I do agree that gold has limited use in 5E unless you're a caster. Gold and treasure isn't worth writing down a great deal of the time. Magic items should be handed out sparingly unless you don't mind the players steamrolling encounters or having to rebuild encounters to account for magic items. That's the primary complaint about 5E from my players.

Otherwise, Wik covered a lot of the differences.
 

SailorNash

Explorer
3rd ed was like looking at the raw source code. Lots of fiddly bits to mess around with. The new edition is quick, simple, and has the same spirit but far more streamlined. Lower magic and reliance on buffs, easier to make less-optimized characters that are still fun and not drastically behind. I'm a fan.
 

Azurewraith

Explorer
Caster balance is a huge difference between 3.5 and 5e in that 5e casters no longer out shine the melee to the point where you played a party of 4fighters and a rogue(magic wand user) to then kill the fighters and re-roll4wizards at around lvl 10. Most of it has all ready been covered.

Personally i have taken 5e and modified the rules with some 3.5 iv added back the complex skill system and skill points to boot iv added the good ol 4e rules for solo monsters having actions out their backside and some homebrew rules to make the system a bit tougher(our group played the first 3chapters of HotDQ without taking a rest except where it was story appropriate)
 

Saelorn

Hero
I just got out of a year-long Pathfinder adventure path, so 5E is like a breath of fresh air. Many of the changes were made in order to patch specific problems that became evident in the 3.x line.

Not having any real use for money is one issue. When it comes to carrying around hundreds and hundreds of pounds of gold, in the hopes of finding a merchant who can sell +4 weapons and cloaks, which are only necessary to hit arbitrarily inflated AC and save DCs? That's at least three distinct issues.

There's nothing in 3.x that I really miss when playing 5E.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
The main issue with 3rd Edition is... that is completely breaks down at mid- to high level.

It becomes utterly unplayable - as the DM, I'm supposed to spend hours crafting NPCs that die in seconds, and to find that all attacks either auto-hit or can't damage the PCs at all.

The patches that are 3.5 and PF only tweaks the details without coming even close to fixing the fundamental brokenness of 3E.

But this is precisely what 5th Edition does, and that is why I love it :)

The thing one of my players most misses about 3.5/Pathfinder is gold having a use. He misses magic items being purchasable.
Yes. This is the - by far - biggest omission and hurdle.

(The DMG's pricing is a complete joke and is far from an acceptable substitute)
 

Still, I'm facing the desire of a regular to try 3.5 again. How have players of older editions found 5e in comparison? Positive? Better Worse, broken? Too Restrictive?
What was it that he liked about 3.5e? If it was a mini-game of character building, the weighing of options and the ability to customise every aspect of his character, he'll probably find 5e is not for him.

Otherwise, he should be fine.
 

S'mon

Legend
Magic items - it's fine in 5e to have *specific* items for sale, potions maybe - at prices set by the DM, using rarity listing as a (very) rough guide. What you *don't* want to do is simply hand over the DMG as a shopping brochure.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
We're just now going to go into 5th edition. A player has expressed missing 3.5 which we played for years. Since there is no online support at WOTC for 5e we're planning a character generation night with one encounter which I play tested successfully with my kids. Still, I'm facing the desire of a regular to try 3.5 again. How have players of older editions found 5e in comparison? Positive? Better Worse, broken? Too Restrictive?
For me the main reason to switch from 3e to 5e was that I don't have time anymore to spend "mastering" the system. In 3e it felt like to play and especially DM satisfactorily you needed to know and keep in mind a lot of rules very well, or at least be able to know where to look up for them quickly. I spent a lot of time back then preparing adventures, and today I simply cannot afford it. Maybe if I still had that time, I would still play 3.0 which I liked a lot anyway! In general, 5e still allows enough tacticalities to be interested (by my standards I don't need more that this), but at the same let us focus more on the story, the narrative, and the exploration. Combat is still fun but is just one of the many parts of the game, also in terms of time invested.

I cannot speak about balance at high level, because I've only been playing and running the game at low levels so far...

Magic items - it's fine in 5e to have *specific* items for sale, potions maybe - at prices set by the DM, using rarity listing as a (very) rough guide. What you *don't* want to do is simply hand over the DMG as a shopping brochure.
I would be curious to try doing that anyway sometime, and let the PC buy whatever they want in one campaign. I don't think it would lead to the same problems as 3e.
 

Tia Nadiezja

First Post
Gold is definitely more a story reward in 5e than a character-power reward, once the fighter's got their plate and the wizard's nabbed a few spells. I rather like that... it gives me more choice as to how my characters spend their gold. I've had my Paladin rebuild ruined shrines and my Abjurer start a private investigator business and invent the spelljammer.

But it's definitely a change from 3.x.
 

EzekielRaiden

Explorer
We're just now going to go into 5th edition. A player has expressed missing 3.5 which we played for years. Since there is no online support at WOTC for 5e we're planning a character generation night with one encounter which I play tested successfully with my kids. Still, I'm facing the desire of a regular to try 3.5 again. How have players of older editions found 5e in comparison? Positive? Better Worse, broken? Too Restrictive?
Simply put: 5e is very much like 3.5e, except where it's not.

Expanding: I don't mean that facetiously. The two are like siblings with very strong family resemblance and a small age difference--not twins, but if you casually pass one in the cafeteria, you might mistake one for the other. But in the handful of places where they're different, it's a pretty distinct difference.

To my mind, there are four really big differences between the two.

1. Casters are reduced in power, and (primarily) non-casters are increased in power.
This is not to say that I think they actually eliminated or "solved" the LFQW problem; I think it's still present in 5e. It's just not nearly as dramatic; casters have some specific and important limitations, and non-casters have been brought up a notch. (If you're familiar with the "tiers" classification from 3.5e discussions, I'd argue that 5e forces all classes into the equivalent of tiers 2, 3, and 4--still a noticeable gap, but not so great that you're playing Casters & Caddies by 10th level).

2. Magic items are dramatically de-emphasized.
The designers said they were designing assuming no magic items, and they meant it. Giving them out at all like you're used to in 3e will take the already-unsteady encounter difficulty math and crush it. Further, no "standard" magic item goes above a +3 AFAIK; many items (some powerful, some...less so) require Attunement and you can only Attune three items total; and there are essentially no 'price' guidelines for the vast majority of items (the provided rarity/value comparison is hella wonky).

3. Combat is mobile and "theater of the mind."
Like 3e, you provoke opportunity attacks if you try to leave an enemy's range. However, unlike 3e, you can split up your move before and after you attack--for classes that get Extra Attack, you can blend movements and attacks as much as you like. Also, although there's still just as much of the stuff that made third edition battlemap-centric (everything is listed in five-foot increments, many spells are more natural snapped-to-grid), the game takes pains to make "theater of the mind" (gridless, abstract-position) combat core. So things are much "looser," combat-wise, than in previous editions.

4. Customization and character-building are dramatically reduced.
3e became almost notorious for the level of intricacy you could get into, with LAs, ACFs, substitution levels, PrCs, skill points, and feats--and that's not even counting the really out-there stuff like flaws, traits, etc. 5e admits almost none of that. Feats are chunky but extremely limited--even the Fighter, that gets extra, only gets 7 over the course of 20 levels (compared to the 18 a 3.5e Fighter got)--and they compete with stat-boosting. Backgrounds allow a lot of 'flavor' customization, but very little advancement. All classes get subclasses, which sometimes take the place of PrCs or other feature-alterations, but you lock those in very early and cannot change them later. There are no skill points, only Proficiency, and RAW you can't gain new skill proficiencies after chargen (tool proficiencies can be, though). On the whole, it means that several complete builds are core-supported in 5e, but comparatively none of the "build your character from 1 to 20, your way" stuff remains.

If your friend is a fan of uber-powerful casters, high-magic/many magic items, low-mobility/precise combat, or deep customization options with many choices to make, 5e will probably not please them.

If your friend prefers to play non-casters (or "secondary" casters, like the Paladin), likes magic items to "feel magic," likes mobile/"theater of the mind" combat, or hated the character-building minigame, 5e will probably feel like the second coming of 3.5e.

Though I strongly recommend, if your friends are all experienced gamers, that you start no lower than level 3. Level 1--from personal experience, now--is extremely fragile, and gives you few if any resources to work with. Also, some subclasses (like Valor Bard) don't kick in until level 2 or 3, which can seriously hamper players shooting for a particular archetype.

Oh, there's one last change, though AFAICT everyone who hears about it sees it as a straight-up improvement. "Finesse" is no longer a thing you have to invest in. Anyone can fight using Dexterity as their main offensive stat, they just have to use a weapon that has the "Finesse" tag, such as the rapier (1d8 damage, as good as a longsword) or scimitar (1d6). This does, however, have the consequence of making Dexterity an extremely attractive stat for many characters, as it then determines AC, the most common spell save, attack, damage, and Initiative--plus helping all the old Dex skills like Stealth. No other stat can claim such broad appeal, but the general consensus (which even I share) is that that's better than punishing people who want to play a Dextrous Paladin or Fighter.
 

I started playing AD&D in the 80's. I still haven't progressed out of 3.5E. To me it has the detail level that I want. 3.5 feels the way a paper RPG should. Character development, planning and history. 5E feels more like a computer game on paper. I have read through 5E and sat through several games. I find it a horror show that disables all character individuality and makes for hack and slash, lets drink some potions and kill something else. I'd rather play DDO than 5E.

I know you guys will tear me apart for this post. I am good at math and know where to find the information in the 20+ 3.0 & 3.5 books that I have.
 


Voadam

Adventurer
Overall I like 5e a lot and it is my system of choice after years of 3.o/3.5/PF. I much prefer the skill system, I think it has better class balance, and good improvements such as concentration that address in part caster power imbalances. I like that it does not assume magic items and the bounded accuracy allowing the impactful use of lower CR monsters against higher level PCs. On the downside you lose a lot of the dozens of neat classes from 3.5 and lots of neat mechanics like specific feats and such that developed over the years.

Here is my post from the sell a 3.5 grognard on 5e thread:

It is a lot like 3e with some house rules designed to make it a little simpler and reduce power imbalance of casters and some of the high level imbalances.

Concentration means less spell stacking to track and it narrows (but does not eliminate) the LFEW (linear fighter exponential wizard) phenomena. It is a great mechanic that can be implemented in 3.5 as a UA style house rule if desired.

Fighters are not feat based, they get their own things.

Moving and full attacking as default so melee warriors can be more mobile.

AoOs only when you leave reach means everybody can charge in without getting tagged.

Bounded accuracy means low level stuff can be used in higher level games and have an impact.

Flat save instead of spell level based ones for spells means low level spells are still relevant at high levels.

Spells are (generally) designed to expect a failed save but not to full stop a combat.

Warlocks as a core PH class and not considered significantly lower tiered than other casters.

Multiclassing spellcasting is better integrated.

Paladins are a stronger class in 5e than in 3e. Smite in particular is better.

Less Christmas tree magic items. Atunement limits number of big magic items.

Skills do not have the +0 to +30 discrepancy they could have in high level 3.5.

All classes get at least two skills from class and two from class-independent background, things like Rangers and Rogues and Bards get more.

All classes get a subclass specialization between 1st and 3rd level that provides different class benefits at defined levels. For instance a fighter has an option for being a mechanically straightforward powerful number enhancer (extended crit range, etc.), a fiddly resource tracking bonus die technique option, and an eldritch knight spellcasting option out of the PH.

Feats are an optional subsystem (swap out a stat bump for a feat) with fewer more powerful feats. No feat tax for PCs and fewer fiddly bits to track with monsters.

Short rest mechanics allow more recharge power options than per day.

Hit die healing mechanic means there can be significant non-magical healing between combats in a day. A little similar to the reserve points from 3.5 UA.
 

humble minion

Adventurer
I like the 5e system as a whole better than the 3e system, for many of the reasons described above. Maths improvement at high levels, less obligatory magic items (the stat/save boosting items especially), less layering of buffs, smaller stat blocks. Dice rolls matter all the way through. Combat is fast, and the way that all six ability stats now have saving throws tied to them means that Dump Stat Syndrome is much less of a thing now. And I do like the background and inspiration concepts. They're very loose and flexible, but in my opinion they do help encourage playing a role more than playing a character sheet, your mileage may vary of course.

One thing I do dislike is that there's much, much less scope to customise and grow your character. Your PC gets fewer feats, from a smaller list of options, and has to choose between them and stat boosts. There are very few subclasses, and once you've chosen your subclass (level 3 at the latest) you pretty much have no more class choices to make. It's enormously hard and expensive in character resources to do something as simple as learn a new weapon or skill. And the small number of official subclasses (and spells, to a lesser extent) mean that if you have a particular vision for your character theme, it;s going to be quite difficult to realise that as a character. Limited cleric domains are a big culprit here in particular.
 


collin

Explorer
I like the 5e system as a whole better than the 3e system, for many of the reasons described above. Maths improvement at high levels, less obligatory magic items (the stat/save boosting items especially), less layering of buffs, smaller stat blocks. Dice rolls matter all the way through. Combat is fast, and the way that all six ability stats now have saving throws tied to them means that Dump Stat Syndrome is much less of a thing now. And I do like the background and inspiration concepts. They're very loose and flexible, but in my opinion they do help encourage playing a role more than playing a character sheet, your mileage may vary of course.

One thing I do dislike is that there's much, much less scope to customise and grow your character. Your PC gets fewer feats, from a smaller list of options, and has to choose between them and stat boosts. There are very few subclasses, and once you've chosen your subclass (level 3 at the latest) you pretty much have no more class choices to make. It's enormously hard and expensive in character resources to do something as simple as learn a new weapon or skill. And the small number of official subclasses (and spells, to a lesser extent) mean that if you have a particular vision for your character theme, it;s going to be quite difficult to realise that as a character. Limited cleric domains are a big culprit here in particular.
This. You've encapsulated all that I like and dislike about 5th edition in a nice nutshell. Bravo.
 


Horwath

Adventurer
I like the 5e system as a whole better than the 3e system, for many of the reasons described above. Maths improvement at high levels, less obligatory magic items (the stat/save boosting items especially), less layering of buffs, smaller stat blocks. Dice rolls matter all the way through. Combat is fast, and the way that all six ability stats now have saving throws tied to them means that Dump Stat Syndrome is much less of a thing now. And I do like the background and inspiration concepts. They're very loose and flexible, but in my opinion they do help encourage playing a role more than playing a character sheet, your mileage may vary of course.

One thing I do dislike is that there's much, much less scope to customise and grow your character. Your PC gets fewer feats, from a smaller list of options, and has to choose between them and stat boosts. There are very few subclasses, and once you've chosen your subclass (level 3 at the latest) you pretty much have no more class choices to make. It's enormously hard and expensive in character resources to do something as simple as learn a new weapon or skill. And the small number of official subclasses (and spells, to a lesser extent) mean that if you have a particular vision for your character theme, it;s going to be quite difficult to realise that as a character. Limited cleric domains are a big culprit here in particular.
customization is a little problem, but you can always house rule some stuff.
Like bonus feats.
add Extra feat at levels 1,5,9,13,17,20 or whatever level you like.
Cap ability scores to 18.
Maybe you can make a list of bonus feats that are "2nd tier" that can be available in this option.
Just do NOT give away bonus; Great weapon master, Polearm master, Sharpshooter, Crossbow expert, Heavy armor master feats.
 

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