D&D 3E/3.5 Retro-cloning D&D 3.0

Edgar Ironpelt

Adventurer
How does that work with something like the mystic theurge prestige class? Because a wizard 3/cleric 3/mystic theurge 6 could end up more powerful than most other casters could be under that paradigm.
"What is this 'prestige class' thing you speak of?"
Seriously, I blanket-ban prestige classes, so your suggestion would 'work' by not being allowed. As I noted above:

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")

More generally, I want the core PC classes to be the prestige classes, rather than being 'beginner' classes that get left behind as the characters advance.
 

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Yora

Legend
Things I am contemplating for making 3rd Ed. smoother to run and play:
  • Replacing creatures' Face with 3.5e's Space. Yay, spherical cows!
  • Dwarves' movement speed is always 20 ft., regardless of their armor or load they carry.
  • Only partial and full concealment and partial and full cover.
  • Clerics, druids, paladins, rangers, and wizards prepare spells like in 5th edition. (A number of spells of any level equal to their class level plus spellcasting ability modifier. Spells remain prepared after casting.)
  • Prestige Classes are off by default. They are exclusively for secretive orders and only shared among members.
  • Initiative is rolled for the entire group instead of individual characters. The roll is made by whichever character makes the most sense in a given situation, like the one in front of the marching order or the back of the marching order, the one being on watch, or the one who first draws a weapon in a confrontation. If more than one character could roll initiative for the group, the roll is made by the character with the highest initiative modifier. (Group initiative greatly increased turn speed by letting players think about their turn at the same time and avoiding them getting distracted when they have nothing to do for several minutes on end.)
  • When the PCs are first noticed by NPCs or creatures, a 2d6 reaction roll is made to determine their initial reaction. (2 immediate attack, 3-5 threatening violence, 6-8 waiting for the PCs' move, 9-11 avoiding confrontation, 12 offering help.) If a PC approaches and greets a group of NPCs or creature, the 2d6 roll is modified by the Charisma modifier.
  • Creatures and NPCs must make a DC 15 Will save when the first member of their group goes down in battle, when their group loses half its members, and when their leader is taken out of the fight or become frightened. (Must flee from combat, -2 to attacks, checks, and saving throws if cornered.)
  • Spells and effects with durations measured in rounds last for the entire combat in which they are cast. Durations measured in minutes last for the whole scene in which they are cast. Durations measured in hours last for the entire day on which they are cast. (No longer having to track which spells expire in which round.)
  • When attempting to hide from other characters or move silently as a group, the opposed skill checks are made by the character with the highest modifier to Listen or Spot and the character with the lowest modifier to Hide or Move Silently. The same principle applies to other opposed skill checks between two groups of characters when applicable.
  • Characters can carry a number of items equal to their Strength score as a light load, twice their Strength score as a medium load, and three times their Strength score as a heavy load. 100 coin and one daily ration of food and water count as one item each. Two-handed weapons and armor counts as two items or more.
  • Removing all the large exotic melee weapons. They are all stupid!
  • Humanoids are always "Unaligned" unless they are clerics or paladins. Alignments are only for supernatural beings and divine servants.
 

Edgar Ironpelt

Adventurer
So, no such thing as a single-classed character? What player in their right mind would have a PC with only a single class, and thus limited to 6th level in that one class, as opposed to ALWAYS having a PC with two classes and thus twice the character levels?
Fighters are the exception that are allowed 12 levels. Other than that: Exactly so. PCs in this game are all expected to have two classes, at least after they reach sixth level.
 

Things I am contemplating for making 3rd Ed. smoother to run and play:
  • Replacing creatures' Face with 3.5e's Space. Yay, spherical cows!
  • Spells and effects with durations measured in rounds last for the entire combat in which they are cast. Durations measured in minutes last for the whole scene in which they are cast. Durations measured in hours last for the entire day on which they are cast. (No longer having to track which spells expire in which round.)
  • Humanoids are always "Unaligned" unless they are clerics or paladins. Alignments are only for supernatural beings and divine servants.

3.5e Spacing: I prefer 3.0e spacing (I found I could have more natural maps with it than otherwise).
Simplified spell durations: Having ran a 4 year campaign with something similar (though a few caveats), definitely make a list of spells that are the exception to this rule.
Unaligned: Definitely a good idea (detect and similar spells tend to be a huge crutch for some play groups).
 


Orius

Legend
I prefer 3.0 to 3.5 myself. All the so-called "improvements" tended to be a lot of hype to drive sales of the new books. There was some errata that was useful, but not enough to warrant reprinting core entirely. Some material from 3.5 is useful though.

My thoughts on how to handle things go like this:

Cull or disallow a lot of the new races and base classes from 3.5, as they tend to be bad filler and attractive to min-maxers for charoping. Too many races, especially the new stuff from 3.5, have an appeal of ability bonuses and penalties that are optimal for the favored class. And very few of the races introduced in 3.5 ever impressed me. Base classes usually have the problem of having too many hybrids and they have one of two problems. Either they hybrid two non-casters and end up being a crap class when non-caster multiclassing didn't have too many serious issues, or they hybridize a caster with a non-caster which powercreeps the non-casters. Or they're junk classes to begin with; the trash from the Miniatures Handbook is a bad example of this with three base classes -- Healer, Marshal, and Warmage -- that are watered-down versions of the Cleric, Fighter, and Wizard. Their limited abilities are fine for a miniatures game I guess, but they're overshadowed by their original archtypes. Or junk classes that are just broken like the Truenamer.

As someone who started before 3e, I roll my eyes at empty level whining. In the old days, damn near all your levels were empty! It was mostly better chances to hit, more hp and better saves. You might get followers at name level. Some classes, like the paladin, druid, or bard might pick up abilities every so often, but it sure as hell wasn't every level. The one class that had the fewest empty levels was the monk, and they always suck.

Dial back the PrCs. Min-maxers might tack on whatever PrCs they want but they're supposed to be under DM control. And the DM doesn't have to allow a single one. I won't allow more than one PrC because I feel they should require some level of dedication. The best abilities should require full progression through a PrC and there should be no dipping. Probably rewrite the decent PrC concepts to 5 levels instead of 10 to make them more focused.

In fact, I think I'd limit multi-classing to three classes, including a PrC to keep characters more focused, dial back the dipping, and to prevent less knowledgeable players from chaining together too many classes that aren't working together properly.

I'm okay with the 3.5 skills. I think 5e ripped too many out or mashed them together. I'd consider increasing the number of skill points classes receive each level by two though.

Magic items need to be more closely under the DM's control. Spell acquisition as well. There needs to be much more limitations on anything from outside core, though that won't fix all the problems. Definitely get rid of the divine wands, that creates too many problems with easy healing. Maybe reduce the number of charges on a freshly created wand too, but I'm not certain about this one. Wands are there so that as wizards get more powerful, they can use the wand to crank out the combat spells, but I'm not bothered by wizard utility wands either. The tricky case here is bards, since they're considered arcane casters but have a mix of arcane and divine spells, plus their own unique stuff.

DR I'm divided on. It's closer to its roots in folklore and mythology by having some enemies be vulnerable to certain materials, but then that leads to the golf bag problem. And the +x is a classic element of D&D as well. Reducing the target numbers is fine though and the 3.5 revision book made it a good argument for it.

I like the typed bonuses of 3e, but I'm thinking of capping at 3 bonuses and eliminating some of the less used bonus types.

No reduction of LAs or levels added by metamagic feats. You need to pay for that power.

E6 I think is too limiting. E10 or E12 might be fine, but E6 just seems like it limits things too much. Or add caps somewhere around or after 10th level.

Some of @Yora's ideas I'm considering. He's got two ideas that look like old-school reaction and morale checks which I've been thinking of myself. The reaction checks I need to do some thinking on, I've only got some vague ideas on how to adapt them to a 3e game. Morale I've put more thought into. I'd probably do a Will save too I think, and use 2e's triggers, but I'm definitely thinking of doing more: having Charisma scores play a role, including opposed Charisma checks, affect it with the Intimidate skill, and maybe use Sense Motive to resist being intimidated. Haven't fully worked this out though.

Encumbrance I'm thinking of porting in 5e's system which just uses multiples of Strength instead of a table as a start. A more developed approach would be to give encumbrance slots based on Strength scores that would be equal to 5-10 lbs and count items as bundles of related items or something instead of itemizing every single item. And I'd set it up so it can be used across editions.
 

I just want to say I love this thread. I love, love 3.x. I was an immediate adopter of 3.5 and then PF1 which I ran pretty consistently for 10 years.

The 3.x family of D&D is a sweet spot for me. A warm comfortable blanket. We’ll broken in, has some holes, but still the one your reach for.

On a constructive note the Trailblazer products were a radical rework of the 3.5 engine that might have some useful item resources. All the classes were reworked significantly, as I recall.
 

I prefer 3.0 to 3.5 myself. All the so-called "improvements" tended to be a lot of hype to drive sales of the new books. There was some errata that was useful, but not enough to warrant reprinting core entirely. Some material from 3.5 is useful though.

My thoughts on how to handle things go like this:

Cull or disallow a lot of the new races and base classes from 3.5
Agreed. Too much and always resulting in an unreasonable uptick in power.
Dial back the PrCs. Min-maxers might tack on whatever PrCs they want but they're supposed to be under DM control. And the DM doesn't have to allow a single one. I won't allow more than one PrC because I feel they should require some level of dedication. The best abilities should require full progression through a PrC and there should be no dipping. Probably rewrite the decent PrC concepts to 5 levels instead of 10 to make them more focused.
I'm fed up with prestige classes as a whole but I can see why allowing one per character seems like it might be an acceptable compromise. Personally, since players always focus on PrCs that give up too little in exchange for too much power, I rather wash my hands of them all together.
In fact, I think I'd limit multi-classing to three classes, including a PrC to keep characters more focused, dial back the dipping, and to prevent less knowledgeable players from chaining together too many classes that aren't working together properly.
With my last 3.5e campaign, I did this. It was refreshing not to have a party of characters with 3-5 classes (2 of which might be PrCs).
Magic items need to be more closely under the DM's control. Spell acquisition as well. There needs to be much more limitations on anything from outside core, though that won't fix all the problems. Definitely get rid of the divine wands, that creates too many problems with easy healing. Maybe reduce the number of charges on a freshly created wand too, but I'm not certain about this one. Wands are there so that as wizards get more powerful, they can use the wand to crank out the combat spells, but I'm not bothered by wizard utility wands either. The tricky case here is bards, since they're considered arcane casters but have a mix of arcane and divine spells, plus their own unique stuff.
For spells and magic items, absolutely in agreement. There are magic items (e.g. starmantle cloak, hathran mask of true seeing, belt of battle, amulet of second chances, wrathful healing weapon enhancement, etc.) that just need a hard veto. As for consumables (such as wands), they're just a pain that even an prominent CharOp enthusiast (PBMC) said you should outright ban them. I'm not quite there yet but wands should have a minimum caster level of 5 and something needs to be done about scrolls (at a certain point, a lot of utility effects can be cranked out well within a PC's expected WBL which undermines assumed limitations on spellcasters).
DR I'm divided on. It's closer to its roots in folklore and mythology by having some enemies be vulnerable to certain materials, but then that leads to the golf bag problem. And the +x is a classic element of D&D as well. Reducing the target numbers is fine though and the 3.5 revision book made it a good argument for it.
In my experience, the high DR of 3.0e is better because it allows monsters to live past a full-attack blitzkrieg.
I like the typed bonuses of 3e, but I'm thinking of capping at 3 bonuses and eliminating some of the less used bonus types.
I tried limiting the typed bonuses that were applicable and players refused to wrap their heads around it. Caps by level are easier but you could also try recategorizing bonus types to a saner and smaller set. After all, do we really need alchemical, deflection, profane, insight, sacred, etc. bonuses?
No reduction of LAs or levels added by metamagic feats. You need to pay for that power.
YES! LA Buyoff was always a common request from the obnoxious powergamer types and inquiries about how metamagic reducers would work was always a bad sign (often asked as a prelude to whether or not they could early entry into some PrC through some Sanctum Spell or similar jank).
E6 I think is too limiting. E10 or E12 might be fine, but E6 just seems like it limits things too much. Or add caps somewhere around or after 10th level.
Having ran multiple campaigns past 12th level, there's really no support and since most worlds (even FR) are not setup to deal with that tier of play, slowing advancement dramatically down at around sixth level and capping things around 12th-13th level is a solid choice.

Overall, a pretty solid take and one I would play under.
 

Staffan

Legend
Another issue I remember quite well as coming up frequently as a controversial change is damage reduction. The original version was that you need a weapon of a specific +X enchantment to deal full damage, and without one the damage would be massively reduced. 3.5e changed it so that you can overcome many types of DR with weapons of specific special materials or alignment enchantments instead, and even if you didn't have the right weapon, there was often still a good chance that not all of your damage would be negated and at least some get through.
Unfortunately, I don't actually remember the arguments that were made for the original DR system being better. Only that I found them very convincing. Though I believe one of them was that the multiple different types of DR greatly increased the Magic Weapon Golf Bag issue, as with the original system, your new +2 weapon could completely replace your old +1 weapon.
I think the 3.5 DR rules were more faithful to the original idea behind DR in the first place.

In AD&D, many monsters (particularly planar ones) were outright immune to weapons below a certain plus. If you were fighting a gargoyle without a +1 or better weapon, you were SOL. But one of the mantras behind 3e was not to provide hard limits on things (that's also why prestige classes had requirements along the lines of "can cast 3rd level spells" or "Base Attack Bonus +6" rather than "Level 5 wizard" or "Level 6 fighter), so they wanted to you could fight a monster with the wrong weapon, but you'd be at a pretty big disadvantage. But then they made the actual DR values so ridiculously high that the monsters might as well be immune (e.g. 50/+3). But since a magic weapon with enough of an enhancement bonus would suffice to hit anything, you were assumed to have the requisite weapon, making DR more of a flavor thing as well as a shield against hordes of less-powerful beings (In 5e, an army of archers is a serious threat to a dragon, but a 3.0 dragon with DR 10/+1 can basically shrug off their attacks while still being threatened by PCs).

3.5 changed it so that piercing DR became more difficult – if something had DR 10/good, you'd probably drop 10 points off most attacks. It was assumed to be an actual defense, not just a "You must be this tall to fight this monster". But at the same time, values dropped drastically so they were almost always in the 5-15 range. This was a pretty cool idea, but lead to people trying to find ways around it – either by temporary solutions like silversheen or various spells, or by having multiple weapons. I personally liked the multi-weapon idea, but I've always been fairly partial to the "cunning warrior" archetype, where a person who lives by the sword would make sure to know what they're in for and prepare accordingly. I recognize that that's not something everyone's into.


g) Redo the fighter by giving it more skill points and more feats. Four skill points and one feat at every level not divisible by 3 up to 15th level and then an extra feat at every level above 15th level works pretty well (so like 2 bonus feats at 16th). It still won't get it up to tier 3 without some more help but it does make fighters relevant.
Giving the fighter more feats wouldn't help, except that they'd be able to "finish" their builds sooner. The fighter's problem is that they do not get high-level abilities.

For example, take the "brute" archetype. Once you have Weapon Focus, Power Attack, Cleave, Improved Overrun, Improved Bull Rush, Great Cleave, and Weapon Specialization you're done. That's 6th level. You could add in Improved Sunder too if you're feeling spicy and you like to reduce the amount of treasure you're getting. So what do you do at 8th level? Start work on the ranged feat tree instead with Point-blank shot? That's like telling the 7th level wizard that they're not getting 4th level spells, they have to choose more 1st level spells instead.

I suspect that's a big part of what makes E6 work – it hides the fact that martial characters (especially fighters) don't gain anything new and exciting after 6th level, by making sure no-one does.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Giving the fighter more feats wouldn't help, except that they'd be able to "finish" their builds sooner. The fighter's problem is that they do not get high-level abilities.

There is some truth to that, but writing about what it takes to get fighters more on par with spellcasters is a huge and often discussed topic that would derail the thread if I got into it.

But I think you underestimate the value of being able to do more than one thing well. The key thing that makes spellcasters better than non-spell casters is that they aren't just one trick ponies but can have tools to solve virtually every situation that could arise. Now part of that is not balancing spellcasters well, but part of that is just seeing martials as one trick ponies and thinking the solution is just to make them better at that one trick.
 

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