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D&D 3E/3.5 Going back to 3.5 - advice?

BigCat

First Post
So our group has been playing 4e for the last few years, and we've finally decided we can't continue with it. The chief problem is that encounters take too long. With our group's logistics, our sessions are short, so if we have a combat then the story doesn't move along at all. People also have complained about the "same-ness" of every battle.

All the players liked 3.5. However, I as the DM dread going back - 4e literally cut my prep time by 3/4. I'm sure a lot has happened in terms of 3.5 clones and mods since we were last playing it (I'm aware of Pathfinder but have never played it) - does anyone have advice for how we might proceed?
 

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kinem

Adventurer
I not a 4e player (I don't like it), but, have you tried the standard 4e fix of halving monster hp and doubling their damage?
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I'd definitely give Pathfinder a look. You can check it out for free at Pathfinder_OGC. At least look for stuff to steal that may streamline your prep. Quite a few monsters got tweaked and you may find that helpful too.
 

Remathilis

Legend
Pathfinder is 3.5 with some 4e dashed into it. Its a lot of fun and keeps the 3.5 feel, but adds some new twists to the mix.

From the DM's perspective, you should keep this in mind.

1.) Thanks to standardization and revisions to skills, monster generation and advancement is smoother. The rules for creating new monster and assigning CRs are better too.
2.) The "XP budget" idea returns, and XP is independent of PC level. Makes leveling simpler.
3.) The Big Six are there, but pricing is a little saner. Magic items are pretty much like they were in 3.5.
4.) Thanks to higher hp, more powers, and faster feat accumlation, PCs are stronger than they were in 3.5. Monsters are revised likewise. Be careful mixing stock 3.5, as some of it can be really weak compared to PF.

If you want see more, check out www.paizo.com/prd
 

CroBob

First Post
If the big problem is seriously just encounter length, then simply shorten encounters. As advised above, double monster damage, half their HP. That seems slightly too extreme to me (I actually liked to half HPs, but only increase damage by about 50% for the less critical battles, since a doubled crit could kill a PC or bring them close enough, and that throws off the pacing). This isn't seriously a huge deal. If you have other big problems, cool, but this is basically a non-issue with a little simple math.

My general advice for going back to 3E is to not to.
 

Ahnehnois

First Post
Don't do any more prep than you have to. There are plenty of DM resources out there (and DM advice threads on ENW). There's no gaming system that can force you to do extra work, so it's up to you as a DM to figure out why your experience was thus and what you can do to keep your free time intact.

Truthfully, even though a lot has been published, I wouldn't strongly suggest spending money on anything other than 3.5; it's still as good as or better than any D&D-ish game on the market. PF has a few nice aspects to it, but I'd just read their SRD and port in what you like. And read Trailblazer.
 

Zustiur

Explorer
In my opinion, most of the 3E prep is in the mind.
Take a 4E DMing mindset to 3E and you should be fine. Specifically:

* The numbers don't have to be "right" per PC build guidelines
* Not every skill, feat etc has to be filled out. Just note down the stats you actually need
* Forget spell lists, pick one or two spells that a caster will use, and fudge the rest if the situation demands it.
* Get used to missing your PCs and having your monsters die quickly again


I'd actually advise against playing Pathfinder. I'm running it now, and I think in hindsight I would have been happier as a DM had I stuck with a ruleset I was more familiar with. My players keep finding changes that I wasn't aware of, and it's interfering with smooth play. That's not a reflection on Pathfinder as much as it's a reflection on the amount of time I put into re-learning the rules. If you're like me (and your issue with prep time suggests that you are), you'll be better off re-learning 3E rules than trying to learn Pathfinder rules.

If you go down the 3E path, I very highly recommend limiting which books are used. A huge number of the problems with 3E don't exist if you only use PHB1.
 

dd.stevenson

Super KY
So our group has been playing 4e for the last few years, and we've finally decided we can't continue with it. The chief problem is that encounters take too long. With our group's logistics, our sessions are short, so if we have a combat then the story doesn't move along at all. People also have complained about the "same-ness" of every battle.

All the players liked 3.5. However, I as the DM dread going back - 4e literally cut my prep time by 3/4. I'm sure a lot has happened in terms of 3.5 clones and mods since we were last playing it (I'm aware of Pathfinder but have never played it) - does anyone have advice for how we might proceed?

The big sink in 3.x prep is NPC prepraration. So I usually google those, or run a pre-built adventure. Or just stick with what's in the MM.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
1) One simple way to cut things down is limit sources. You can do this via an omnibus ban "Only these sources will be allowed", or compartmentalized "PCs may be built with the PHB and any other ____* sources you like."

(Where the blank is usually filled with a small number, like "2".)

2) as others have suggested, going to a close cousin of 3.5Ed might also be a bit of a blessing. While Pathfinder is a good choice, I find it is no better than other top contenders, like Arcana Evolved, FantasyCraft, True20, Midnight 2Ed, or even Mutants & Masterminds using the Book of Spells and Warriors & Warlocks supplements. Each of them does things a little differently, and have their strong points and weaknesses. You might find one of them more to your liking than Pathfinder, or maybe not. But they should be on your radar.
 

Gilladian

Adventurer
There's also a variant like E6. If you want a lower-prep game, this will do it for you. The idea is that characters advance to 6th level, and then stop. After 6th, they gain only feats; typically one every 5,000 XP earned.

This means that there are no (or very few) 4th level spell effects in existence, so no raise dead or teleport, and no super-complex monsters. The world is a grittier, lower-magic place, and the feel of the game is different.

You can also do E8 or even E10, but they raise complexity significantly.

You can find a set of PDFs here: http://esix.pbworks.com/w/page/9900109/FrontPage
 


Drowbane

First Post
...

All the players liked 3.5. However, I as the DM dread going back - 4e literally cut my prep time by 3/4. I'm sure a lot has happened in terms of 3.5 clones and mods since we were last playing it (I'm aware of Pathfinder but have never played it) - does anyone have advice for how we might proceed?

3.5 prep time is only long if you think you have to make every encounter and NPC like a PC. You don't Most NPCs don't even need a full set of skills or skills by class. Know what your PCs are capable of and make your encounters to suit. This may take some practice. As long as your end product doesn't "feel" faked by the players and is challenging and/or fun, then you did it right.

Pathfinder is very much over-rated as a "3e fix". It is just somebody's collection of house rules, some of which are rather bizarre. I do like CMB / CMD, At Will cantrips, and... um... the PF Paladin is cool. I do love me some Paizo modules and world fluff though. The Golarion setting is worth taking a look at.
 
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Li Shenron

Legend
I don't play 4e but I would have suggested the same: if the problem is combat length, just half the HP the monsters.

I also never played PF, but I don't think it's much faster to run and prepare than 3.x, especially if you know 3.x well and now you have to keep track of all the rules changes. I've read the PF SRD several times before, and it seemed more complicated than 3e just because of the sheer amount of options and variants in the core.
 

Kinak

First Post
I'd like to echo the "prep 3rd like 4e" crowd here, although with a bit of a twist.

I DM'd 2nd Edition for years and years and never really "learned" how to handle 3rd Edition monsters until recently. You can really just make up numbers and, if you're afraid of tripping up, write them down as you assign them.

Without obsessing over the monster numbers, prepping for 2nd, 3rd, and 4e are all a snap.

Cheers!
Kinak
 

Jackinthegreen

First Post
As someone who regularly gets hung up on PC creation being perfect, I'll echo the idea that NPC creation doesn't have to be. For example, chances are the things your party is about to kill won't be using skills unless you've decided to spruce things up with skill tricks from Complete Scoundrel.

What level of play do you expect your group to do? Do they do extensive theorycrafting for their characters to make them more powerful? Or are they more lax about things and want to simplify the creation process? Those two things will of course change how you do encounters. Lowering HP and increasing damage or DCs of spells et al would of course help to make encounters shorter, but it's possible the players could eke more from their characters if they wanted to.

Have you heard of the tier system? It's fairly decent for judging how certain classes will perform if they're moderately optimized. It gets thrown out the window of course when you can optimize such that a Fighter 20 can cast 9th level spells.

You'll probably want to limit source books at the start, then expand when you're comfortable with the extra rules from some other places. 3.E is a cluster**** of odd rules that really add up, and it can get into territory that will literally break the game.
 
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dd.stevenson

Super KY
Does that work? I find most pre-written NPCs, and even those I made for myself in 3.x, to be underpar. I suppose the answer was just to use more :)

Google is not a silver bullet that makes 3.x prep a breeze, but it does ok in my experience. Just type in three or four different things that span what you're looking for in an NPC. Like "speed 30" "AC 22" "power attack" "rope of climbing". Usually you'll end up with a bunch of PCs that were posted online over the years, and that's good because 3.x players can usually be trusted to optimize their characters. Swap a few things out, and you're good to go.

It's by the by, but another nice utility for getting CR-appropriate challenges ready is the monster advancer.
 
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Prep can be problematic with 3e, but it doesn't need to be. At this point there are so many resources it should be possible to find many NPCs and monsters to save on prepping. Find NPCs from adventures and look online. Search for some PDFs, and you might find some cheap options.
Plus you can still reflavour monsters like in 4e.

If you can use a tool like HeroForge that will speed up prep. Much of the advantages of 4e is from the tools and less the actual rules system.
 

JustinAlexander

First Post
All the players liked 3.5. However, I as the DM dread going back - 4e literally cut my prep time by 3/4. I'm sure a lot has happened in terms of 3.5 clones and mods since we were last playing it (I'm aware of Pathfinder but have never played it) - does anyone have advice for how we might proceed?

Legends & Labyrinths features a lot of tools -- XP budgets, easy monster stat block creation, a universal chart for setting DCs, etc. -- that will be similar to your 4E toolkit. And it'll be 100% compatible with 3.5, so you can use it interchangeably with zero conversion.

Drop me your e-mail in a PM and I'll toss you a copy of the beta rulebook to check out. (The final version will be appearing in the new year.)
 

Tequila Sunrise

Adventurer
Frankly my attitude about non-4e editions is "I'll be happy to play it...if you DM it." If a group is really keen on a particular system, one of them will step up to run it. Otherwise...

I not a 4e player (I don't like it), but, have you tried the standard 4e fix of halving monster hp and doubling their damage?
Bingo bango, problem solved!
 


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