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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%


3e is the only major edition that I've never played. Nothing to do with the rules and purely down to it coming along during a time when my gaming group had drifted away and I couldn't find any other players. Dark times!

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Barovian Wannabe
The first long-running campaign I ever played, and the second version of D&D I experienced (after 4E, oddly enough), was 3.5. Maybe it wasn't the greatest place to start. I remember being a little overwhelmed by the options, and I think I hamstrung myself early on by letting the DM talk me into playing a combination of obscure sub-race/sub-class which were in splatbooks he owned. I played a bland character who I didn't connect with, and who I was trying to build toward options I didn't have immediate access to.

I don't have a lot of concrete memories of this campaign, because I felt like I was a bit "clocked out" of it most of the time. Most of the other players were min-maxers and spent a lot of their time scanning the books for optimal builds and preferred magic items to seek in the next town. I found this all very tedious and it felt like it often got in the way of the world the DM was trying to express for us. Combat took a million years and I remember sitting around bored waiting for my turn. (Some of this was my problem, not the system's.)

I didn't really start to enjoy it until I retired my first character and rolled up a new one with a more concrete backstory and mechanics I enjoyed more. Unfortunately this only happened toward the very end of the campaign, and I only had a couple of sessions with this character. I've not really touched 3.5 since then, although I think I've played in at least one game which used the rules.

Since dipping into the OSR and coming out a 5E fan, I've come to appreciate the balance between giving players options and providing a clean and elegant ruleset.


Limit Break Dancing (He/They)
Oh, 3rd Edition. The edition that brought me back to the game.

When Wizards of the Coast bought D&D in the late 90s, I was worried. I was concerned that they would make so many changes to it that it would become an unrecognizable, unplayable mess. I was envisioning a collectible card game, like some weird "Magic: The Dungeoning" offshoot. Or an endless series of tabletop boardgames like the ones that had been floated by TSR and never caught on. Either way, I didn't want it.

By the 90s, I had resigned myself to play my beloved BECM forever, and I wasn't really looking for a new edition of the game. I'd play the occasional D&D game with my friends, but they were all playing 2nd Edition AD&D and I didn't care for it. So I really wasn't much of a "hobby gamer" like I had been in the late 80s. By the time the new millennium arrived, it had been years since I had played a game.

And then I saw the new 3rd Edition Player's Handbook on the shelf at "Poor Richard's," a bookstore in Colorado Springs. It was quite by accident: I think I was there to pick up a Harry Potter book or something, I don't remember, but whatever it was they didn't have it. So I did what I normally do in a used bookstore, I walked over to the Fantasy/RPG section and looked around for some classic D&D modules. And there it was, a shiny new hardcover called, simply, "Dungeons and Dragons." I'll be honest, it was the lack of the word "Advanced" that made me pick it up. If it had the A-word on the cover I would have recoiled with a hiss, like a vampire presented with garlic. But without that A-word, I could let myself believe (even if it was just for a moment) that it was a return to, or maybe a reprint of, my favorite system.

I flipped it open and the first page I saw was the class description of the Druid. I spent 10 minutes reading it, and then purchased the whole book. I read it cover-to-cover, and a few weeks later I had put a small adventure together for my roommate and a couple of our friends. (The earliest versions of the 3E PHB had a tiny section at the end with monsters, DM tips, and such, enough to build a small dungeon or something.) And 4 hours later, we were completely hooked.

We played 3rd Edition exclusively until 3.5E came out, and then we bought all-new books and played that version exclusively until 4th Edition came out. We played one game of 4E but didn't care for it, so we switched to Pathfinder instead so that we could continue playing the 3.5E rules set with fresh material. So while BECMI is my favorite edition, I've played 3.X the most (from 2000 to 2015). It's a robust, highly-detailed, highly-customizable game system with tons of content and a thriving online community--what's not to love?
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I came from a 1e/2e mashup.

My friends and I were trying to invent a better rp game that was d20 and was more skills-focused. When 3.0 came out, we dropped our efforts because it was exactly what we were looking for.

We played it for YEARS. We modded it, mashed up a few of the skills and were very critical of the extra books that came out. Honestly, I felt all those extra books were money-grabs that ruined the game. Taking feats from one book and combining it with a unique class from a different book could just break the game. We mostly only used the core books and some of the prestige classes (some of which we would balance).

-I liked the ability to customize characters which you can't do to the same extent in 5e
-I like the detail in the combat (such as grappling, shoving, tripping and disarming) that 5e lacks. It could be tedious and overwhelming for new players but it added so many interesting options in combat once you had the hang of it.
-I find The skill system has more customization than 5e because you can diverge from your starting skill-set and take skills that aren't typical to your class. We had to hombrew a bit to make cross-class skills a bit more useful.
-I liked how negative hit points work and ability damage and negative levels and all the things that make the game more 'dangerous' and make monsters more interesting.
-It could be broken a bit too easily and things got super-crazy at high levels
-monsters and spells were more interesting.
-5e is much easier to play and make characters. 3e takes time and effort. Especially when making detailed NPCs

It was very crunchy. I went from 3.5 to DFRPG (fate) and that has changed my style of gaming considerably. I find 3e a bit harder to play now but I still have many fond memories.
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Limit Break Dancing (He/They)
Quick example-- I'm currently playing in a Pathfinder game right now and I had to take a feat. I chose Arcane Attack or Arcane Shot or whatever its called, and the mechanics it gives me? A +1 to damage rolls with my weapon. That's it. That is my "character customization"... a +1 to damage. The same exact thing as if my STR modifier was bigger, or it was a magic weapon, or if it was any number of other abilities which raise my damage. And because of the fact this +1 just gets added into the damage stats of my weapon attack... there's nothing noticeable or special or interesting about it. I just went from 1d8+3 damage to 1d8+4. Whoopie! What customization! My PC feels so much more different now since I took that feat! ;)

And that's why I have no desire to go back to 3E anymore either.
Hard agree. So much of the "customization" of 3.X was just a flat, boring, numerical buff. Oh goodie, the numbers go up until I win, hooray. Unfortunately, too much of that carried over to later editions.

I think that running a 3rd Edition game is a lot of fun at low levels. But unfortunately my game turns into a math-management nightmare for me around 9th level, when running a single battle scene can take us 2-3 hours. And by the time the players made it to 16th level, I was having to spend entire gaming sessions just to run a single battle.

And the arguments! Sweet Pelor, the arguments! Having a Rule For Everything meant that there was also an argument for everything. Arguing about which number to add to another number, so that you can add another number, etc. Arguing about what class options are available, which books to include and not include and why. Arguing with the DM about the cool Unbalanced Whatever you just found on the Internet somewhere and need to have for your build.

So I love this edition, I really do. And I played the carp out of it for a decade and a half. But I can't go back to it. Not without the E6 houserule, anyway.
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Why is there no option for "i played it, love it, and its still the main edition i play?"

Aside from what the above question makes obvious, its also the main edition im drawing from to create my custom edition. There is also significant influence from 2nd edition, 1st edition, and becmi. But by far the most influence is from the 3.x era.

I love how customizeable it is. And how customization works. There is a lot you can change without screwing up tons of other mechanisms. But also it is so BROADLY customizable.


At first I really liked the overhaul, logical ordering, systematization & customization that 3e provided. But the excessive processs simulationism, number crunching, system mastery, Christmas tree effect, and many other issues bogged it down for me; transforming it into one of the editions I like the least.

It's by far the edition I dislike the most.

Sure, it had its advancements in comparison to AD&D, so I guess I can say it was the first to make those advancements. Yay? But the system was so fundamentally broken, and class balance so out of whack in part because of said fundamental brokenness, that I could never enjoy it.
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It's by far my favorite edition. I'm still playing it, having actively chosen to avoid 4e, and not having seen enough in 5e to make me want to switch, either. It's really the only edition I want to play.

I like it because, unlike OD&D, Basic D&D or AD&D, it was the first version of D&D to be built on a consistent framework, a coherent system. It is a game that, at its heart, I can teach someone to play in 5 minutes and they understand at least the basics (learning technical stuff takes a lot longer, but there's no "do I roll high or low for this one" and similar questions).

I like it because virtually every person in the game world can be modeled. People without PC character classes aren't just vague "0th level" characters without specific stats. The game always seemed designed to balance the various needs of a well-build, balanced game system

I like it because it's flexible and adaptable and can readily be house-ruled or changed to fit a vast variety of settings or play styles, and do so far more seamlessly than previous editions. . .and most of the changes our groups made to previous editions became core rules in 3e anyway.

I like it because it was the first edition of D&D I ever played that actually could do all the things I wanted D&D to do, without having to be heavily altered or house ruled. It didn't focus purely on combat, and actually started to include a comprehensive skill system so characters could be skilled at social skills even when the players weren't.

While a few of the rules changes to 3.5 seemed a little over-pedantic (I realize they were done to plug loopholes that some rules lawyers were abusing), it generally fit my mental image of what D&D was supposed to be more than any other edition.

. . .and I'm not saying that because it was the first edition I played. I first picked up the "Black Box" Basic D&D set in the early 1990's and first really played with AD&D 2nd edition circa 1998. Those were okay for their time, but once 3e came out, there was no going back.

Theo R Cwithin

I cast "Baconstorm!"
Measured in both number of hours played and system mastery, 3/3.5e has been my main D&D system. I really enjoyed it; and eventually went on to PF1, which I enjoyed even more.

The edition's "crunchiness" really appealed to me back then-- and is what I dislike about it now. The vast network of rules felt very grounded, and made it easy to extrapolate other rulings. The advent of splatbooks was a headache, but I generally only played/DMed games with well-defined limits on available books & features.

Simplified rulesets like E6 or Micro20 really cut down a lot of the issues I had with edition, and those are still my preferences today as far as the 3e lineage of D&D is concerned.

On the meta-side, I really appreciated the OGL. It's a nice motivator to put creations "out there", and while it enabled a lot of garbage, it also dramatically opened up exposure for a lot of creative minds who might otherwise never have seen the light of day. That was hugely important for the hobby, imo.

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