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D&D 3E/3.5 Edition Experience - Did/Do you Play 3rd Edtion D&D? How Was/Is it?

How Did/Do You Feel About 3E/3.5E D&D?

  • I'm playing it right now; I'll have to let you know later.

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    333

nevin

Adventurer
My point was people loved the modified classes with different abilities. there was a lot of complaining at 3e launch that they didn't have the spheres and specialty priests. Anyone who thought players weren't going to eat up being able to min/max/modify character classes was just not paying attention.
 

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Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
My feelings have changed.

when it came out I was a big fan. But as time passed and I grew more experienced with other systems, my dissatisfaction grew. Pathfinder, which seemed like a "better" 3.X at first, made me realize that "better" (as in more complete, more complex) rules weren't the solution.

Now I see it as bloated, poorly balanced and much to complex. 5e or simpler is my preference. I have been having a lot of fun with the GLOG and Troika! lately.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Then he didn't pay attention to anything in the 2e forgotten realms book or how popular specialty priests were. I don't think I had a single just cleric from the time 2e launched to the time I started running 3e games. People ate that stuff up.

I saw a cleric early in 2E for us (1995). Once we got Faiths and Avatars no more clerics picked.
 

MGibster

Legend
I have mostly positive things to say about 3rd edition. My biggest negative was Prestige Classes. I liked the idea, but I hated how someone needed to plan their character out in advance to get the Prestige Class they wanted later. And I mean really plan by making sure they took just the right feats, skills, and level combinations to get what they wanted to by level 8.

Edit: Oh, and the two bladed sword was really, really stupid. It was obvious that it was there because of Darth Maul.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
But to be fair 3.0 was advertised as a game that the DM was supposed to balance. The developers never intended a game where players set down and demand to play whatever was in thier favorite splat book, because it was an official Wizards of the Coast supplement..
This matches what I remember. Right around when the game came out, there was a lot of talk about the "toolkit" approach, where the unified game engine (compared to the relatively independent subsystems of AD&D) meant that the DM would be able to add, remove, and alter parts of the game with ease, making it much simpler to run whatever sort of campaign they wanted. The primacy of the RAW (Rules As Written) that emerged sometime thereafter was very much not in the same vein as this.

Justin Alexander talks about a similar thing on his blog with regard to encounter design in 3.0:

 

teitan

Legend
This matches what I remember. Right around when the game came out, there was a lot of talk about the "toolkit" approach, where the unified game engine (compared to the relatively independent subsystems of AD&D) meant that the DM would be able to add, remove, and alter parts of the game with ease, making it much simpler to run whatever sort of campaign they wanted. The primacy of the RAW (Rules As Written) that emerged sometime thereafter was very much not in the same vein as this.

Justin Alexander talks about a similar thing on his blog with regard to encounter design in 3.0:

This is a great article that addresses many of my issues with even 5e design. They tried very hard to address these things in 4e and 5e but the idea of “balance” has been warped to everything has to be a challenge.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
I have mostly positive things to say about 3rd edition. My biggest negative was Prestige Classes. I liked the idea, but I hated how someone needed to plan their character out in advance to get the Prestige Class they wanted later. And I mean really plan by making sure they took just the right feats, skills, and level combinations to get what they wanted to by level 8.
Well, that's if you wanted to get into the prestige class by level 8. There was a lot of hand wringing over this issue, but you never had to take a prestige class at the first opportunity, nor did anyone ever need to acquire all of the levels in that prestige class. It was a mindset that people found trapping more than the rules.
 

Prestige classes would have worked better and made more sense if you had to do something in the game world - rather than hosts of garbage mechanical requirements.

I.e to become an "Undead Slayer" you must have slain a vampire.
 

MGibster

Legend
Well, that's if you wanted to get into the prestige class by level 8. There was a lot of hand wringing over this issue, but you never had to take a prestige class at the first opportunity, nor did anyone ever need to acquire all of the levels in that prestige class. It was a mindset that people found trapping more than the rules.
I didn't have an objection to the concept. Much like kits in 2nd edition, I just didn't like how the idea was executed.
 

Edgar Ironpelt

Explorer
I GM more than I play, so I have the GM power to rule-zero out the parts I don't like.

Right now I'm running a "Brotherhood of Rangers" campaign where the PCs are all gestalt-rangers (fighter-ranger gestalt, wizard-ranger gestalt, cleric-ranger gestalt, etc.) I'm trying to keep the house rules in this one down to a minimum, with the biggest change being to disallow a list of teleport/travel spells that would ruin the "ranger" feel (IMHO). The second biggest would be allowing feats instead of favored enemies - none of my players wanted favored enemies if they could have feats instead.

For a more general D&D game, I'd have more house rules - but still many fewer than in earlier editions. And I'm meh-to-yuck on Pathfinder, 4e, and 5e, so when I run D&D, it's going go be 3.5.

I have an old (c. 2006) rant about 3.x that I might as well unload here:

The Things I Love and Hate about Third Edition D&D
(AKA the Good, the Bad and the Ugly)

This rant has been building pressure in my head for some time, but only now has it burst out in actual written words. It's divided into three sections, the "Things I Love" about 3.0/3.5, the "Things I hate" and the stuff I have mixed feelings about.

Things I Love
1. Skills: At last D&D has a decent skill system. I have quibbles about it (e.g. the cross-class penalty being too big), but my quibbles are just quibbles.

2. Feats: I first went "huh?" when I first encountered them, but they've grown on me since as being a really good idea.

3. A set of battle-mat combat rules actually usable by Mere Mortals, as opposed to the 1e rules that were only usable by Total Wargaming Geeks, and that most players (including myself) therefore ignored.

4. The d20 mechanic itself: A nice job

5. The general rationalization and simplification of saving throws, xp needed per level, ability score bonuses, etc.

6. The rules for creating magic items, and the wealth guidelines in general. It is a good thing that the rules no longer try to stupidly pretend that a +1 sword is a [reverberation]BENISON BEYOND PRICE[/reverb] And I have no sympathy for the DMs who whine that they can no longer act like Gawds; that they no longer have the unquestionable authority to insist that their players smile and say "thank you sir" if they choose to inflict such poverty and suffering on the PCs as would make a sane person envy Job.


Things I Hate
1. The double-power-every-two-levels power curve: Works OK up to about 8th level, starts to break down at levels 9-12, completely wonky at levels 13+

2. Magic as a Trump Card: The general philosophy that has magic trumping non-magical abilities, and that only more-powerful magic can counter less-powerful magic. There are exceptions, yes, but they strike me as being rare and grudging.

3. Disposable/expendable magic items: Some items do have to be consumable, like potions or scrolls. But I find it annoying that so many other items are consumables as well. Wands. Staffs. A lot of the miscellaneous magic. And it really bugs me that it costs xp to create those consumable magic items.

4. Spellcasters as the ultimate source of all good things. This is related to (2) above, but the issue would be less annoying if non-spellcasters had a greater ability to create magical or otherwise special items. For example, if crafting magic arms and armor were something fighters could do. Or possibly even something they could do better than wizards.

5. Prestige Classes. Bah! I say, and Bah! again. They're munchkin-bait; things that actively encourage the unspeakable practice of trying to produce the uber-build. ("Rogue 1/druid 1/milkmaid 2/divine rennet 1/munchkin cheese 15 - ha! Let's see you beat that build")

Mixed Feelings
1. The great number of magic items that characters have. Yes, magic items are a necessity given how D&D is set up to be a high-magic game. I'd prefer, though, that characters have a smaller number of really cool & powerful items, rather than the larger number of weaker ones that the game gives by default.

2. Multiclassing. In some ways 3e fixed multiclassing, and made it sane and rational. In other ways, it created new problems (with those unspeakable "prestige classes" then being offered as the kludge to "fix" those problems).

3. The rigidity of the wealth guidelines. It would be nice to have an analysis of just how much extra wealth boosts a character's power, and just how much relatively poverty diminishes it.

4. Rangers. I imprinted on the 1e ranger as "the" ranger, and I though the 3.0 ranger was almost perfect - it just needed to be a little less front-loaded, and to have more combat flexibility than that hard-coded TWF ability, and it would be good to go. The 3.5 ranger felt like a step backward to me; a change to "wilderness ninja" from "Paladin of the Forest" (Which is what a ranger should be, in my completely arrogant opinion). And that TWF or Archery choice, while an improvement, still felt like a horrible kludge.

5. Healing. Healing via divine magic is such a deeply rooted D&Dism that any change will have huge, far-reaching effects. On one hand, I'd like to see less dependence on the party medic, er, cleric. But on the other hand, it just wouldn't be D&D without this element.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I voted that I played it and wasn't impressed one way or the other, but that's actually not the case (just the option that I felt was closest to the truth).

I followed the pre-release in Dragon magazine with great excitement, and started playing it as soon as it was released. I loved it. I thought it was brilliant.

As time went on, however, it began to encourage seriously bad habits in myself and other gamers at my table. Particularly power gaming. Now, we were never a table that was vehemently anti-power-gaming or any such thing. But RP and actual characterization was also important to us. And without noticing, the power gaming took a strong priority at the table over time.

I think that a big part of this was that the game was designed to encourage optimization. An unoptimized character was practically guaranteed to die, as we saw many, many times. You can't play a dead character (in our games raise dead and similar magics often had limited availability), so therefore the numbers were prioritized and the character was often shoehorned to fit those numbers.

It took a long time to recognize that this was happening, and when I finally did I realized that I hated the system and the type of gamer it had encouraged me to become. When I discussed it with the other gamers at my table, the sentiments were similar.

As a result, about 2 years prior to the release of 4e, we started using various homebrew systems of our own design. We wouldn't return to D&D until 4e. Even today, the thought of playing 3e or a derivative thereof leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, so to speak.

Hence my response. When I started playing 3e, and for years thereafter, I absolutely loved it. However, over time I grew to hate it (which is a strong word, but honestly back then I did). I wouldn't say I hate it anymore. I think it was brilliant and revolutionary in many ways. I don't think 5e would be what it is today without 3e. I just have absolutely zero desire to ever play it again.
 

Doctor Futurity

Adventurer
I'm an old 3.5 fan. Like many I was fairly burned out on the sheer volume of content and choice, although for me by 2007-2008 it was the heavy focus on the player base in the min/max game that killed it. As a DM I could only keep up with that kind of player so much. Switched to 4E, liked it but found it too narrow in design to support more organic or "realistic" stories and then defected to Pathfinder. Stuck with Pathfinder until D&D 5E. 5E was better....but it was almost too simple, and condensing all damage into large troves of hit points was tiresome and boring. Jumped to Pathfinder 2E when it came out, and enjoying that system but it has design elements that left me wondering if maybe I'd prefer trying 3.5 again (for the liberating feeling that I remembered from the first few years). Recollected the core books, started a new campaign this year, and having a blast. Playing 3.5 in 2021 is great because of these reasons:
1. The game is done; I can collect old tomes as needed, but no new stuff is on the horizon; the game is "complete";
2. The old culture around D&D 3.5 is gone, and people who I am gaming with make builds for fun that are interesting or for story reasons, and not because they are min/maxing to hell and back;
3. The vast level of customizable options and flexibility solve all the restriction issues I have with 5E and PF2E. The enormous amount of support content in existence, both in print and online, means I as DM can fill out statblocks or mod existing content to save time.

So indeed, the game I've personally had the most fun running this year is D&D 3.5, and it's the only system I am obsessing over right now. I seriously never thought I'd type those words even just 8 years ago, and my 2008 self would think I was mad!
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
2. The old culture around D&D 3.5 is gone, and people who I am gaming with make builds for fun that are interesting or for story reasons, and not because they are min/maxing to hell and back;
That's an interesting observation about the old culture being largely gone. I hope it keeps holding true for your game group.
 

Scribe

Hero
Its still probably my 'system of choice'. Not perfect, but it has aspects that I dont think you get out of 5e to the same degree.
 

Doctor Futurity

Adventurer
That's an interesting observation about the old culture being largely gone. I hope it keeps holding true for your game group.
I bet it still exists, as I can dig through forums and find discussion on builds and such, but locally at least the only 3.5 edition groups I am aware of are like my own....running the game because its the engine most flexible for the job. No one in my current group, for example, has played 3.5 before now, and only a couple of my players have experience with Pathfinder 1E.
 

Silvercat Moonpaw

Adventurer
Didn't really get to play that much; played more Pathfinder 1e, for how much they're similar. I liked what I read, but I'm not sure how much that manifested in play.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Didn't really get to play that much; played more Pathfinder 1e, for how much they're similar. I liked what I read, but I'm not sure how much that manifested in play.
Looking back now, it's interesting to consider some of the adjustments that 3.5 put into play later in its lifespan that didn't make it into Pathfinder 1E (most likely because said adjustments never got added to the 3.5 SRD).

For instance, the Magic Item Compendium re-balanced the pricing on a lot of non-standard items, as well as adding a great way of changing out the functionality of magic weapons and armor with augment crystals. Plus the subtle (and somewhat poorly written) rule in appendix 2 which changed the costs associated with adding resistance bonuses to saves, deflection bonuses to AC, (enhancements to) natural armor bonuses to AC, and enhancement bonuses to ability scores (aka the third-through-sixth bullet points on the list of "Big Six" magic items) onto extant magic items.

It's really a shame how today, that book is known for how much errata it needed, and how the premium reprint was advertised as incorporating that errata when it actually didn't.

Another one was the Battle Blessing feat in Complete Champion, which gave paladin spellcasting a modest boost by making all paladin spells with a full-round action casting time take only a standard action, and all paladin spells that required a standard action to cast take only a swift action. It didn't fix the fundamental problems associated with paladin spellcasting (which Pathfinder tried to address in their own way), but it at least made it so that using those spells in combat didn't come at the cost of doing something more effective, such as attacking.

Little things like that cropped up quite a bit when you started looking for them, and it was sad to see that Pathfinder wasn't able to incorporate them.

Please note my use of affiliate links in this post.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I'm an old 3.5 fan. Like many I was fairly burned out on the sheer volume of content and choice, although for me by 2007-2008 it was the heavy focus on the player base in the min/max game that killed it. As a DM I could only keep up with that kind of player so much. Switched to 4E, liked it but found it too narrow in design to support more organic or "realistic" stories and then defected to Pathfinder. Stuck with Pathfinder until D&D 5E. 5E was better....but it was almost too simple, and condensing all damage into large troves of hit points was tiresome and boring. Jumped to Pathfinder 2E when it came out, and enjoying that system but it has design elements that left me wondering if maybe I'd prefer trying 3.5 again (for the liberating feeling that I remembered from the first few years). Recollected the core books, started a new campaign this year, and having a blast. Playing 3.5 in 2021 is great because of these reasons:
1. The game is done; I can collect old tomes as needed, but no new stuff is on the horizon; the game is "complete";
2. The old culture around D&D 3.5 is gone, and people who I am gaming with make builds for fun that are interesting or for story reasons, and not because they are min/maxing to hell and back;
3. The vast level of customizable options and flexibility solve all the restriction issues I have with 5E and PF2E. The enormous amount of support content in existence, both in print and online, means I as DM can fill out statblocks or mod existing content to save time.

So indeed, the game I've personally had the most fun running this year is D&D 3.5, and it's the only system I am obsessing over right now. I seriously never thought I'd type those words even just 8 years ago, and my 2008 self would think I was mad!
This was the post I needed to read today, Dr. F. You just might have inspired me to write my first 3.5E adventure in years.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Looking back now, it's interesting to consider some of the adjustments that 3.5 put into play later in its lifespan that didn't make it into Pathfinder 1E (most likely because said adjustments never got added to the 3.5 SRD).
I've said this before, but late-era 3.5 (2005-2007) is considerably more interesting and flexible than PHB based 3.5. There's some great class design with limited full casters like beguilers, the fighting classes in Book of Nine Swords, and some of the weird utility options like totemists and dragon shaman. Not to mention the awesome customizability of Magic Item Compendium, or the sheer convenience of the Spell Compendium.
 

Jack Daniel

Legend
I would have to say that my relationship with 3rd edition D&D is very "love–hate," in that I loved it right up until the day that I hated it.

I started gaming seriously in the late 90s, so I was primed to be caught up in the hype over 3e's release (raise your hand if you remember checking this very website daily for info and leaks — and raise two if you were haphazardly kludging said leaks into your AD&D 2e games in the months before 3e came out). And to be whole-hog on board with the bandwagon of smug condescension aimed at any vocally apalled grognards, shaking our collective heads at those poor, benighted holdouts who obviously didn't know what was good for their own gaming. There was no question about whose side I was on in the Y2K Edition War.

Naturally, I snatched up the 3e core rulebooks as soon as they came out. And I bought all the splats that I could find and afford. I loved it all. I loved the crunchy tactical combat, I loved the complete and robust ruleset, I loved the vast and wide-open landscape of character-building options. And slowly… over time… these things conspired to wear me down. They burdened my soul. They abraded away my creativity and my love for the game.

(To be fair, it wasn't precisely the 3e rules alone that did this. It was the combination of the 3e rules and the trad campaign style, which demands a constant and stressful balancing-act from the DM, who must at all times be both nimble and subtle in quietly tweaking the game-world to provide the players with both balanced challenge and engaging narrative — while the game system usually fights against you instead of helping.)

I was generally positive toward v3.5 when it came out (even though I still, as then, can't stand the fact that it was dubbed "3.5" instead of a more accurate "3.1"). I bought those core books as soon as they were available too. And I mostly kept buying new hardcovers as they arrived… up to a point. Around the time the "class splats" were getting the hardcover treatment (because, e.g., a book like Sword & Fist was now totally deprecated and really needed to be replaced with something like Complete Warrior), that was when I started to feel splat-fatigue. And to long for a simpler game, a less bloated landscape of class options, and less in the way of flagrant departure from the formative 2nd edition feeling that I had known.

(The 3.5 ranger was just the first inkling of that departure, and it rankled. I was very happy when 3e's version of Unearthed Arcana gave us the "prestige" versions of the paladin, ranger, and bard — this was an excellent excuse on my part to really pare down the list of character classes allowed in my campaigns, down to a nice and tight little list of core classes and an equally curated list of prestige classes — summarily exorcising all other PrCs, from every source and splat and setting, totally from my game for all time. It was an immense relief.)

So, I mostly missed out on "late" 3.5. I never played with Incarnum or the Book of Nine Swords or the Tome of Magic. I admired the focused caster-classes (beguiler and healer and what-not) but never saw them in action. By 2006, I was basically done with the edition for good. I backtracked to my origins in fits and starts — converting a whole campaign, mid-stride, from 3.5 to Castles & Crusades to 2e to BXCMI (the edition that I had originally learned the game on, before taking up 2e) over a matter of maybe eight weeks. And then largely sticking with BXCMI (or as I still know and prefer to call it, red box/black box OD&D) ever since.

If I were ever to run 3rd edition again — and I have, on occasion, felt the itch of nostalgia — it would be for one reason. To get through some of the 3e adventures that I never got to experience DMing previously, unconverted. I only ever ran groups all the way through The Sunless Citadel, The Forge of Fury, and the very beginnings of Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil and Red Hand of Doom. I'd like to try my hand at running the whole blue-cover Ashardalon saga, and to maybe get all the way through RttToEE (after running a group through the original ToEE) someday. Red Hand of Doom is probably much too "late three-point-fivey" for me to want to bother with it — which brings me to the point that I would definitely run 3.0 and not 3.5. Something about the 3.0 books just feels more right than the 3.5 books — like they have more "TSR DNA" in them, that got squeezed out with the juices in the 3.5 revision. (I often think of the TSR editions as an organic life-form, 3rd edition as a cyborg made from that life-form, 4th edition as a robot that replaced the last organic bits of the cyborg… and 5th edition as some horrible golem wearing a stitched-together skin-suit that it thinks will make people believe it's a friendly organic life-form again. Yes, I know this analogy won't win me any friends.) And even then, I'd probably have to make some tweaks to 3.0 to make it "playable" for me — at the very least, I wouldn't be awarding XP for winning combats and overcoming challenges. XP-for-treasure is just entirely too fundamental to how I understand D&D ought to work anymore.

It would be interesting, I think, to see how the 3e system functions when totally divested of all the trad baggage (things like "DM as maestro Houdini storyteller" and "players ought to role-play, not roll-play") that early-2000s me had been saddled with.
 
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