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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.

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Oh absolutely, I couldn't have DMed 3e if I had kept to that "NPCs must be built like PCs" nonsense. I just gave NPCs whatever stats seemed feasible and explained it as a "Custom Template".
I had a DM/buddy who had a huge 5 subject notebook of NPCs they were basically class X built to 1st, 2nd,3rd, ect ect... some with slightly different weapon or items... and he would mix and match and reflavor them... there had to be 200 characters easy in there. he still found himself just saying "forget this" and just winging monsters/npcs and even then got sick of it.

(Note: he also spent 6+ months working an overnight job that in grand total he had to stand up and talk to someone else a hand full of times over the entire night shift... so he was board and made said notebook)
 

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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
If you played 3e with the same general mindset that I saw people play 2e with, it worked really, REALLY well.

I basically played 3.xE (mostly 3.0 with some 3.5 and a bunch of house rules) like this for 16 years and it was great for the most part. I ran my most successful and longrunning campaign to date using that rules set (February 2001 to January 2006). That said, by the end the rules felt cumbersome and seemed to get in the way more than clarify. I think this was not only 3E's fault, but all the various house rules and supplements we crammed into it. After trying Pathfinder (which felt insufficiently different), I was very happy when I finally got my hands on the 5E books in 2019 and aside from a couple of quibbles find running and playing it a lot more satisfying.

To be honest, however, I have approached D&D the same basic way since 2E days regardless of edition (which may be why 4E did not appeal to me after one try).
 

One of the other things I liked about 3E/3.5E were how some of the splat books were great for lore stuff in regards to certain creatures and aspect. I loved Lords of Madness: The Complete Book of Aberrations and the Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead and use parts of their respective lore for Aberrations(combined with 4E's Far Plane lore)and Undead Lore for my 5E games. Like wise, I liked/use the Dragon lore from the Dragconomincon:The Book of Dragons, Races of the Dragon, and Dragons of Faerun combined with Fizban's Treasury of Dragons for my 5E Dragons.

My first ever 5E character ever, is a Fighter Battle Master, and that pc is strictly based on/roleplayed as a Warblade from The Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords and my 5E Psionics and terms are all based from the Expanded Psionics Handbook. And then of course, I have Clerics "titled" by their specialty priest names, such as Silverstars of Selune and so forth, based on the deity.
 
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And I hated NPC/Monster Creation..!
This was my favorite thing about 3.5. Not only did i rewrite all the monsters in MMI (no monster should ever take toughness), i also had a binder full of custom NPCs and monsters. There was a time where i was slapping the multi-headed and legendary monster templates on everything.

You are 100% correct about high level play being completely unmanageable. Debuffs were a nightmare and the math was ridiculous. Had some GREAT times though...
 

teitan

Legend
I feel level dipping was really easy in 3.0. If you are human you can have your main class and dip one or two levels into anything or as many classes as you want and be fine on xp. Non-humans can do the same if their main class is favored or they dip into their favored class.

Casters get hit hard on the power curve with spell level loss, but full BAB classes often do fine (an issue of super weak will saves while their fortitude sky rockets). Ranger was a fantastic dip if you wanted to two-weapon fight (at first level it gave the two feats without prerequisites, 10 hp, +1 BAB, good fortitude and reflex base save, ability to use ranger magic magic items, and twice as many first level skills as a fighter with a good list to choose from). Monk gave you wisdom to unarmored AC, evasion, all good saves, and a decent d6 punch all in one level.

Caster level was definitely the power though, and being down a spell level, having fewer spell slots, and not being up to APL on caster level for things like spell resistance was a big hit that only got bigger the more the level discrepancy thanks to quadratic wizardry.

It even made things like a druid dipping into monk for the wisdom bonus to AC when wildshaped a tough call.
Yeah but monk or Pally dipping was against the RAI so that one time bonus was a waste.
 


Gilladian

Adventurer
We've been playing 3.5 steadily with a one-campaign diversion into 5th (oh, we also played 5e online for a year, so two campaigns, I guess) when it first came out. We played 2nd edition, essentially the same way we play 3rd. I've had ONE prestige class used in all our years of 3e, ONE PC that was not from the PH or PHII, and maybe 3-5 feats selected from non PH I/II sources. But 3 of my 5 players are the same people I played with 25 years ago.

I NEVER stuck to the "NPCs and Monsters are built like PCs" rule. Nope. Just add what you need and wing it. The game works great. Yeah, spellcasters are more powerful. We did try Epic 6th to fix that, but the players didn't care for it much. We rarely go above 8-9th level in a campaign, though this time I've promised "high level" play. Maybe 12th. We'll see.
 


Orius

Hero
I think there's a lot of truth in this. There are instances of earlier editions of D&D that come through much more strongly in 3.0 than in 3.5.

The issue with that, however, is that a lot of those instances don't work as well with the d20 System engine that 3.0 operated on. For instance, find familiar was a spell in earlier editions of D&D, and it was a spell in 3.0 also...but that meant that it could be put on a scroll or in a wand quite easily via item creation feats, which could then be used by anyone with ranks in the Use Magic Device skill. Now, that's not as egregious as it sounds, since 3.0 had restricted skills, limiting UMD to rogues and bards. But even so, you still had rogues and bards with their own familiars now (along with anyone who level-dipped into those classes, or prestige classes that offered UMD, thanks to the new multiclassing system), along with subsequent developments that allowed for gaining access to restricted skills.

In 3.5, by contrast, getting a familiar was a class feature, rather than a spell, making it virtually impossible for characters that weren't sorcerers or wizards to get familiars as freebies.
Familiars were a class feature for sorcerers and wizards in 3.0 as well.

I still prefer 3.0 in general to 3.5 though there are usable things from 3.5. 3.0 at least made an effort to try to work with older material but it wasn't always successful. But 3.5 material from mid 2005 or so onwards just seems to want to throw the old stuff out instead of making a serious effort to patch up the flaws. And of course the hardcore minmaxing charoper is just as much a problem player as the method acting drama queen that has to find any excuse to not work with the party because it's "roleplaying" and totally "in character".

I've been looking over the 3.5 material and the impression is that DM facing material generally tends to be better. In general, the monster splats are pretty good, but the race splats tend to be garbage. The class splats tend to fall in between. I think too that employee turnover at WotC didn't help either; the later designers took the game off in directions I often don't care for. There are a few of the designers who tend to be red flags for me; if I see their name on a book, I usually feel I'm not going to like it, and that usually end up being the case.
 

I basically played 3.xE (mostly 3.0 with some 3.5 and a bunch of house rules) like this for 16 years and it was great for the most part. I ran my most successful and longrunning campaign to date using that rules set (February 2001 to January 2006). That said, by the end the rules felt cumbersome and seemed to get in the way more than clarify. I think this was not only 3E's fault, but all the various house rules and supplements we crammed into it. After trying Pathfinder (which felt insufficiently different), I was very happy when I finally got my hands on the 5E books in 2019 and aside from a couple of quibbles find running and playing it a lot more satisfying.

To be honest, however, I have approached D&D the same basic way since 2E days regardless of edition (which may be why 4E did not appeal to me after one try).
3e never had that feeling for me, but I know we played mostly with the core 3 rulebooks for actual rules. . .and only went outside them a little here and there for setting or character specific options. If we were playing Realms, add the Player's Guide to Faerun. If it's Dragonlance, add DLCS etc. Sometimes someone would play a psionic character, so the XPH would come into play. Sometimes someone would want to play a class or use a feat from some other book, so that might be used. . .but overall we never kept trying to pile on every last supplement.

4e felt like it was trying to create a version of D&D designed to deal with the players on the WotC message boards more than anything else, assuming that the problem with 3e was players trying hard to create powergame "builds" and that the main design focus of D&D should be strict mechanical balance between classes.

When I got my hands on 5e, at first I liked the idea they were trying to make it more straightforward, however far to many things I've tried to do that I had done in 2e or 3e and was told they can't be done in 5e. . .and won't ever be done in 5e. No epic levels, no psionics, no Epic Spells/True Dweomers, no additional skills (a closed and fixed list of skills overall). It seemed custom made just for simple, straightforward basic D&D games, but horribly poorly suited to more complicated or involved campaigns, and the hostile responses I've received in D&D social media and message boards when I asked about the idea of things like profession and knowledge skills, psionics, epic levels etc. has indicated to me that the player culture of 5e is hostile to D&D fans like me.

I can appreciate that 5e was an attempt to haul D&D back to something more recognizable as D&D than 4e was, but every time I've tried to play or learn it, I keep bumping into "This edition doesn't do that". . .and the more I hear about the directions WotC keeps going, like eliminating alignment, rebooting Forgotten Realms and ignoring all pre-2014 Realms canon, making all character races mechanically the same etc. . .I'm starting to think there's no place in D&D for me anymore.
 

3.X has rules issues but it pales in comparison to the people issues. I've had numerous players who just wouldn't reign themselves in despite pointing out the problems they were causing. When I took the opposing tact of just strengthening the world, players would also get upset that they couldn't just roll over opposition which lead to them asking for more and more options and allowances and arguing incessantly over the rules before having a fit that they couldn't keep up (in a campaign with no real PC deaths or deus ex machina saves). So when some DMs say they are still having a blast running 3.X, I can believe them. They're playing with the RIGHT people.
 
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teitan

Legend
One thing I hated in the 3.0-3.5 switch was that while they touted compatibility it wasn't really compatible. It looked the same but it wasn't really. It wasn't like grabbing a Vampire character sheet for 1e and playing Revised Vamp. Same sheet, different interpretation. Conversion was a chore and using 3.5 era books in 3.0 was almost a non-starter without reverse engineering that stuff. Like LIbris Mortis. I think I already mentioned the Elemental Evil conversion document being almost as long as the module itself.
 

Thunderfoot

Adventurer
So, I remember when it dropped. I remember when it updated. I remember the issues of level bloat on combat and I remember that I STILL ran a group of 13 players. That's right. Games were long, drawn out and in combat...tedious at times, but I and another guy tag-teamed DM'd a 1E sized group through 3E combat pitfalls. And it was GLORIOUS.
 
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teitan

Legend
So, I remember when it dropped. I remember when it updated. I remember the issues of level bloat on combat and I remember that I STILL ran a group of 13 players. That's right. Games were long, drawn out and in combat...tedious at times, but I amd another guy tag-teamed DM'd a 1E sized group through 3E combat pitfalls. And it was GLORIOUS.
Man I loved running huge groups in 1/2e... no, never again, not even in 5e. Maybe DCC.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
One thing I hated in the 3.0-3.5 switch was that while they touted compatibility it wasn't really compatible. It looked the same but it wasn't really. It wasn't like grabbing a Vampire character sheet for 1e and playing Revised Vamp. Same sheet, different interpretation. Conversion was a chore and using 3.5 era books in 3.0 was almost a non-starter without reverse engineering that stuff. Like LIbris Mortis. I think I already mentioned the Elemental Evil conversion document being almost as long as the module itself.
Having experience with both 3.0 and 3.5, I think running Elemental Evil (I take it the Monte Cook 3.0 adventure?) in 3.5 could probably have been done with a little hand waving and a less nitpicky conversion. That said, there really were a disappointing number of changes between the two editions. Some things needed adjustment (bards, rangers, harm spells, stat buff spells, and so on), but the change was much broader and full of little details - very few of which were game breaking if you didn't use them, but which could easily wrong-foot you if some players were using one version of the books and others the other version. Changes I liked least included weapon sizing (pain in the ass for small characters and DMs) and reducing the duration of spells too much in line with an encounter focus.
 

Man I loved running huge groups in 1/2e... no, never again, not even in 5e. Maybe DCC.
yup 2e I ran 13+ players in multi campaigns (every other Saturday alternating with a LARP WoD) the biggest I ran I had a co DM, we ran 26 players. In 3e we tried (I can't remember if it was right before or right after 3.5 change over) and it was harder but doable... 4e (as much as I love it) and 5e (my current game) I would not even try an 8 person table.... let alone a basement campaign.
 

3.X has rules issues but it pales in comparison to the people issues. I've had numerous players who just wouldn't reign themselves in despite pointing out the problems they were causing. When I took the opposing tact of just strengthening the world, players would also get upset that they couldn't just roll over opposition which lead to them asking for more and more options and allowances and arguing incessantly over the rules before having a fit that they couldn't keep up (in a campaign with only no real PC deaths or deus ex machina saves). So when some DMs say they are still having a blast running 3.X, I can believe them. They're playing with the RIGHT people.
problem players have been problem players since at least the late 80's... I would be SHOCKED to hear that in 1979 they were not present already...

Having said that the internet (for all the good it does) has magnified some of it. I think I still run into problems with throw back games too, and I will with new games (8th edition D&D wont have less problem players).

I will never forget the first time I heard (and yes it was heard at a table at Gen Con) "Peasant rail gun"
I will never forget the look on my buddies face when I brought a 20+page print out and put it down and asked "Do you want to hear the most powerful kobold ever?" (by then I was into the op boards for fun)

having said that, I want to share what I think is the worst gamer story ever... and it comes in 2 parts

1) I sat to play a 2e (they called it 3e, combat and tactics, skills and power and a bunch of other option books) in mid 90s. The game had a binder of house rules... some where basic, some was a new homebrew class (heck I stole some of there ideas for years) and I skimmed them... then I asked why a few times, I was told "Because of ART!!" I didn't know Arthur yet though... SO I sat and rolled my stats and got really good ones, and thought I would try a fighter/mage/theif... so I asked "Can I be a half elf?" and got 3 players and the DM all stop and scream no... what BS are you trying for... then the DM calmed down and asked "What kind of half elf?" I didn't understand... until "Because ART" A few years earlier Art had said "Gonna make a half elf" and the DM said OKAY, but then Art made a half drow half deep dragon with a bunch of books... made her a necromancer and took necromancer boons from another book... and then claimed "You said I could not my fault you didn't ask more"

2) that DM sat to play at my table... His character sheet (he had made before game at home I might add) was all covered in bad writting... I knew something was the matter he never scibbled this bad. I got down to the notes and it was such a mess I asked "What is this?" His answer was "That's elven" I just sighed and kept going assuming he meant the character knew elven... first fight he pulls out a Vorpal Long sword... and explains he wrote in elven (tolkeen not even D&D) vorpral sword and I was stuck cause I couldn't take back approval of a sheet... then he got mad when I laughed and said "Sure I can"

that whole group (and others I meet) didn't have any good faith, they were full of trouble players I have long since learned to avoid... and none of them were on a TSR website I promise...
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
problem players have been problem players since at least the late 80's... I would be SHOCKED to hear that in 1979 they were not present already...

Having said that the internet (for all the good it does) has magnified some of it. I think I still run into problems with throw back games too, and I will with new games (8th edition D&D wont have less problem players).

The internet, but also the objective of having a player-centric edition in 3e was a real catastrophe. It took 2 editions to put the reigns firmly in the DM's hands where they belong (by going through a "referee" first approach in 4e), and even now, we still have players in 5e coming to tables or forums with a "but the rules say ... so my DM is a bad DM"... sigh
 

Thunderfoot

Adventurer
yup 2e I ran 13+ players in multi campaigns (every other Saturday alternating with a LARP WoD) the biggest I ran I had a co DM, we ran 26 players. In 3e we tried (I can't remember if it was right before or right after 3.5 change over) and it was harder but doable... 4e (as much as I love it) and 5e (my current game) I would not even try an 8 person table.... let alone a basement campaign.
And this is one of the things that makes the newer editions both more amd less accessible. Which is a shame.
 


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