D&D 3E/3.5 Retro-cloning D&D 3.0

I had considered granting martially inclined characters access to the ranked abilities from the fan-created Tome of Prowess to even the odds but perhaps it is less work simply to cut down the number of spells a spellcaster can use (e.g. after all, the wilder, despite only having 11 powers, is still considerably powerful).
 

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@Yora
Just a couple of quick thoughts, as you seem to be leaning toward a heavily house-ruled 3.0, and I'm wondering at what point does a retroclone become just a modified ruleset? The 3e era was awash with various attempts to find "balance" or to emphasise certain elements, and downplay or rewrite others, depending on playstyle preferences.

If I think about what made 3e authentically 3e, and distinguished it from previous (and subsequent) editions:

* CharOp. I mean, this was the first time people got really serious about min/maxing. To the extent that it was kind of core to the 3e experience. It seems that you would want to retain this possibility, when attempting to evoke an authentic 3e feel.

*Prestige classes. I would argue that these were central to the 3e feel and experience. Some limitations (i.e. only one) might be warranted

*Overpowered legacy spells. Haste, Harm, Disintegrate, Teleport etc. For an authentic 3e experience, surely you should roll with these, and let the consequences unfold as they will.

*Big stacking bonuses to Save DCs and multiple applications of the same metamagic.

*Cleric/Wizard supremacy. No change there. Druids weren't the monsters they later became with Natural Spell.

Skills you could probably trim without impacting the experience at all, and eliminate some of the wackiness.

Getting rid of the goofy double weapons is certainly a good idea.

Various conditions (dazed, stunned etc) could probably be condensed.

Overall, 3.0 has a lot of warts, but I’m rather fond of them.
 

GreyLord

Legend
Balancing Castes and Martials can be a relatively easy thing. Just make it so that if Casters are hit by anything (even if it can't penetrate a spell or do damage) the spell is disrupted and the magic fails. Very similar to what it was like in the Old days.

If you want to push it even more towards the Martials, make it so that the saves are tripled (so a +2 to the Fort becomes a +6 Fort given from a class), or make it so that after level 5 their saves are doubled, after level 10 their saves are tripled and after level 15 their saves are quadrupled.

This makes it so that martials are more likely to make their saves as they get higher in levels (as it was in the old days) rather than get far less effective with certain saves.

Overall, though, I like 3e for the most part. Spellcasters weren't the all powerful beings at lower levels and Martials really were pretty good. It wasn't until mid-level that Casters could do quite a big that Martials could, but that was balanced with limited spells. You COULD use your spells doing what the Martials did in the group...but why. The Martials were already there, better to do something else with your spells.

It wasn't until the higher levels where I feel Martials were completely overmatched, and that was as it should have been for how the game was at the time. You paid for that power by being relatively weaker when you first started. Survival to even get to that point was far more questionable for most of the Spellcasters (though Clerics didn't have this problem as much) than it was for Martials.

At the very beginning 4 HP means you normally could be taken down by a single hit (and it didn't even have to be a lucky one).
 

* CharOp. I mean, this was the first time people got really serious about min/maxing. To the extent that it was kind of core to the 3e experience. It seems that you would want to retain this possibility, when attempting to evoke an authentic 3e feel.
I personally wouldn't encouraging CharOp. It contributes very highly to a DM's workload with very little in return.
*Prestige classes. I would argue that these were central to the 3e feel and experience. Some limitations (i.e. only one) might be warranted
Prestige classes were a negative contribution to 3e's feel and experience. I suggest keeping them largely under the DM's purview.
*Overpowered legacy spells. Haste, Harm, Disintegrate, Teleport etc. For an authentic 3e experience, surely you should roll with these, and let the consequences unfold as they will.
I recommend balancing them. Either add the fangs back from prior editions or nerf them.
*Big stacking bonuses to Save DCs and multiple applications of the same metamagic.
I recommend only permitting the big stacking bonuses to Save DCs if spell level/HD is removed from the DC calculations.
*Cleric/Wizard supremacy. No change there. Druids weren't the monsters they later became with Natural Spell.
Again, I would add the fangs back in for full casters. Add in casting times. Make casting difficult in combat.
Overall, 3.0 has a lot of warts, but I’m rather fond of them.
I do not recommending settling for the warts. Balance and ban as you see fit. If anything, I encourage people to check out Blacky the Black Ball's 3.Y if they are looking to run a 3e game that undoes some of excesses and oversights introduced into D&D by the third iteration of the game.
 

Staffan

Legend
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.
Sure, but even without getting into the martial/caster stuff in other threads, there's still the issue that fighters basically can't get cooler stuff after about level 6. They can get other stuff, but nothing that wouldn't be available at level 6 if they wanted.

For some ideas on what to do about that, if you feel that's an issue, I would recommend checking out Iron Heroes. It's a 3e off-shoot that mostly removes magic from PCs and introduces a number of classes with a more complex feat system, where feats come in different categories and tiers and different classes get different feat tiers. As I recall, the high-level feats were on occasion cinematic and mythic without being outright magical. It was written by some hack named Mearls, I wonder what happened to him.
 

R_J_K75

Legend
3.0 was a huge step forward in the annals of D&D history. WE NEED A NEW 3.0 called 6E!

Wow didn't realize it was that long ago. 3.x is just 5E on steroids. There was too much crunch with 3.x, so I can understand why an updated rendition would be welcomed. Pathfinder didn't scratch that itch; it just gave it way too much more crunch. Thats why I'm sad we're not getting 6E but rather D&D24. With PF2 Paizos main focus, and the 50th anniversary of D&D coming, just seems like money left on the table, could be an opportunity for a new edition, new rules and innovation in the TTRPG industry.

One thought I have on the core books, write and color code them somehow so if you want the wall of text descriptions, you got them friend, if not. then here is the highlighted text that just parses out the actual rule. And FFS. put everything about a rule in the same F@@@ing place/book....

I had more to say than I thought...
 

Celebrim

Legend
Sure, but even without getting into the martial/caster stuff in other threads, there's still the issue that fighters basically can't get cooler stuff after about level 6. They can get other stuff, but nothing that wouldn't be available at level 6 if they wanted.

In the core rules sure, but if you are removing PrCs as I suggest then there are plenty of silo'd martial class abilities that can become part of feat trees, and there are plenty of things out there that were published as more powerful feat concepts for martials - including in Iron Heroes that you cite - that can be adapted to standard feat trees with only slight modifications.

For some ideas on what to do about that, if you feel that's an issue, I would recommend checking out Iron Heroes. It's a 3e off-shoot that mostly removes magic from PCs and introduces a number of classes with a more complex feat system, where feats come in different categories and tiers and different classes get different feat tiers. As I recall, the high-level feats were on occasion cinematic and mythic without being outright magical. It was written by some hack named Mearls, I wonder what happened to him.

I'm familiar with it. Iron Heroes basically builds an entire feat tree into each feat using the Mastery levels you mention. This complexity isn't really necessary if we are trying to give all the good stuff to Fighter class and be fully compatible with standard base classes. For compatibility with the base classes, it makes more sense to just have each thing be its own feat. However, the feats are really the smallest part of what makes Iron Hero classes powerful. Most of the power is really built into the class abilities and many of them rely heavily on the introduction of new types of meta-currencies that can be earned and spent in a variety of ways. I am not a huge fan of meta currencies as they tend to by their nature be only lightly associated with game state. Overall, I consider Iron Heroes to be simply not aggressive enough in its approach and to be too fixated on its need to have a wide variety of classes to do what I want to accomplish - consider my statement above about how one of the key weaknesses of martials compared to spellcasters is that they are one trick ponies in the light of the martial design for Iron Heroes. I also think that Mearls really fails to understand the problem, in that almost all of his innovations are simply to make the martial more likely to hit, or to have more attacks, or to do more damage, or to "win more" in melee combat with another martial.

One of the problems you get into when talking about this is that almost everyone has a different sense of what the problem is based on different ideas of what is "cooler". Some people literally just mean that they want the cinematic action that a fighter engages in to be cooler to imagine, and so want more concrete choices that directly translate to game state. Others just want the numbers to be bigger. And so forth.
 
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Peregrinus88

Villager
I loved 3e growing up. I think I completely resonate with the OP comments in regards what I think might have happened with the transition from 2e to 3e. I stopped playing for years when 3.5 came out. But it always turned me off for how much was available to choose from for min maxing. I loved the idea of more customization, but something about so much of it was designed from the perspective of how to power creep the game.

I remember someone from an OSR reddit post I think that said he considered there were 3 schools of D&D...
1) OD&D - 1ish
2) 2e-3e
3) 4e-5e

I think there are overlapping mentalities for each different school, and it creates a strange idea to segment things from the different schools. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. For myself I think I overlap between 1 and 2... I want the mechanics to support customization, and even allows overpowering of characters, but I hate min-maxing characters. Maybe it is a juxtaposition that others would hate, but I love playing in this manner. I loved playing B/X, but my heart always loved the CMI additions even more with than the B/X stuff. I loved the OD&D books and some of 1e, but I loved the 2e kits even more. Man, I loved playing Baldur's Gate 1 & 2, Icewind Dales. And Icewind Dale 2 I loved in the same series even though it transitioned to using 3E ruleset... and I think it relates to this thread.

Sometimes I wonder if it would be great to read a book that describes the history of transition from 3e to 3.5, something like how Jon Briggs (?sic?) wrote in regards to the conflicts in early AD&D history. Did Skip Williams and Jonathon Tweet leaving make a big difference in how writing out the books were handled? I mean, they even invited Gary Gygax in the earlier part of writing 3e. To be honest, I'm completely clueless in regards to the personalities of 3e compared to the earlier editions, mostly because I find the OSR crowd fixating on Gary Gygax, Arnesson, and the like vs 3e guys. If anyone has any book or blog suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

And I know some people played 3e for power playing, its cool. I mean, happens in every game I guess. I just always have a feeling other people played 3e for different reasons than I did, and most of the ones that loved 3e for all its warts never transitioned to 3.5. Most online places keep saying how 3.5 balanced things better, but then they always had more problems with different things. It always seemed like 3.5 was balancing things for people who wanted to keep and keep and keep power playing, and I just wanted a really awesome toolkit to play with and jived the same as 2e, but with some differences. I mean... action economy, feats, skill rules (and I think BEMCI and AD&D 2e had great ones too), and so on... 2.5e/BECMI/3e was great! I'm sure 3.5 and pathfinder 1e are great too... but 3e just had this 2e thing going on that seemed I would miss.

Things I am contemplating for making 3rd Ed. smoother to run and play:
  • Dwarves' movement speed is always 20 ft., regardless of their armor or load they carry.

I love your house rules. my thought though was would you take away the penalty of armor check penatly... I always thought it was an intentional choice to discourage the idea of Dwarf rogues? Plus with dwarf strength, you should be able to carry more stuff before the penalty applies. Honestly I'm almost inclined to consider bumping up to 5e suggestion of 25 ft. movement (though I love the idea of super slow dwarves no matter what! loved it when playing Kings of war miniature game) I thought 3e idea of everyone being penalized with armor check penalty was too good, even more so for dwarves. or homebrew an armor set of mithral (more exclusive to dwarfs) being less weight?
  • Prestige Classes are off by default. They are exclusively for secretive orders and only shared among members.
Brilliant! I'm taking that idea!
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.)

  • 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.
I always had to revert group initiative back to dynamic. I always hated individual initiative. I've always prefered the 2e 2d10 reaction check. Allowed more clashing between alignment differences to determine the reaction of the monster when you want granular differences.

For me, the only mistakes of 3e that I think should be redone in rework is different experience levels for the characters. Spellcasters will ALWAYS outshine martial at later levels. And I think that is ok! Only ingame mechanisms like AoO and punishing spellcasters with making them earn their higher level spells will make it fairer for martial characters. I've tried giving powerful items or more feats to fighters, but it just always made it harder to challenge the players. Then it also made the game into a 5e power problem of fighters and spellcasters being the same at every stage.

The other mistake was giving drow a charisma bonus... I mean... come on...
That was the start of tieflings changing from a negative to bonus modifier...

Long rant, but only cause I love 3e!
 

Orius

Legend
I wouldn't want to ban PrCs entirely, as they were an attempt to improve upon some things AD&D experimented with. There's the campaign specific PrC that represents organizations in the campaign world, one of the older inspirations for this was things like Dragonlance's Knights of Solamnia. That was a concept that PrCs seemed like they were meant to emulate. Another concept was 2e's kits which had balance all over the place and could be pretty front loaded, where PrCs required players to work towards them. The early PrCs weren't too bad and tended to be archetypical and some of the concepts were things a DM could build upon and customize. Later ones were much more specific and had a lot of fluff built into them, maybe not bad if a DM liked the concept and wanted to use it, but if not they were kind of a waste of space. That's not too bad, since everyone has different tastes, and it's okay if a supplement has material I don't want to use if there's plenty of stuff I like. This becomes a problem when charopers just look at the mechanical benefits ignore the fluff and then insist on being allowed to use something that doesn't fit in a DM's game.

Casters are harde to disrupt in 3e, but I don't have a problem with the idea of the Concentration skill itself. That's fine. But a DM has to be aware of and use the elements of the combat system that are there to potentially disrupt a caster, attacks of opportunity and readied attacks. A smart player will probably minimize the threat of AoOs and avoid doing things like casting in melee and this is fine too. But DMs should use readied attacks to potentially disrupt a caster, especially with ranged attackers. You don't want to do this all the time, but the DM should make use of tactics that threaten casters. And another thing I'd avoid here is swift actions. The action economy didn't need them, and many of them seem to involve using abilities to avoid AoOs that were a balancing factor. So they are forbidden in my game.

One of the things I want to do with martials is to bring back old school followers and transition away from dungeon adventuring where PCs used to hit name level. You could also look at it as gaining followers around 5e's third tier of play, it doesn't matter too much. The fighter's big thing was that they become leaders at level 9 and start commanding armies. I want to bring in things like stronghold building and domain play around 10th level because I think the game needs the shift in focus. So the martials here become leaders while casters like wizards and druids don't get armies but have other high level benefits instead. The biggest issue here though are clerics who gained a significant number of followers in the old days but cleric is one of the classes that does NOT need a boost. I think the thing to consider here is that while the fighter's followers are combatants, the cleric's followers should be mostly 1st level commoners, since they're a congregation rather than an army. This whole element of play is something I'm going to have to examine after going over dungeon and wilderness exploration and how to make them feel more old school using 3e mechanics.

My absolute ban list for 3e so far:

Desert half-orcs
Whisper gnomes

Archivist
Duskblade
Factotum

Arcane Thesis
Divine Metamagic
Natural Spell
Reserve feats
Spontaneous divine casting
All LA reductions
All metamagic cost reductions

Celerity
All swift spells and powers

Nightsticks

Magic of Incarnum
Tome of Battle: Book of Nine Swords

This stuff is either broken to the degree where charopers see it as a must have, so therefore it's a must ban, or it's stuff that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Or both. Or in the case of Incarnum, it adds another big layer of complexity that I don't want to deal with. Book of Nine Swords is pretty much all of the above. There's probably a good number of material that needs to be added to this list as well, but I haven't examined it yet.
 

Casters are harde to disrupt in 3e, but I don't have a problem with the idea of the Concentration skill itself. That's fine. But a DM has to be aware of and use the elements of the combat system that are there to potentially disrupt a caster, attacks of opportunity and readied attacks. A smart player will probably minimize the threat of AoOs and avoid doing things like casting in melee and this is fine too. But DMs should use readied attacks to potentially disrupt a caster, especially with ranged attackers.
I think this is crucial. I think if adversaries are intelligently managed - i.e. they recognize that a caster is about to cast a spell, or reasonably suspect a caster, and ready actions accordingly - then the in-combat effectiveness of casters can be rather mitigated. Their out-of-combat effectiveness, where high level spells can direct the strategic course of play, remains a feature - which becomes a problem, where no equivalent authority is afforded to martials. You already floated the solution to this problem:

One of the things I want to do with martials is to bring back old school followers and transition away from dungeon adventuring where PCs used to hit name level. You could also look at it as gaining followers around 5e's third tier of play, it doesn't matter too much. The fighter's big thing was that they become leaders at level 9 and start commanding armies.

Desert half-orcs
Whisper gnomes

Archivist
Duskblade
Factotum

Arcane Thesis
Divine Metamagic
Natural Spell
Reserve feats
Spontaneous divine casting
All LA reductions
All metamagic cost reductions

Celerity
All swift spells and powers

Nightsticks

Magic of Incarnum
Tome of Battle: Book of Nine Swords

This stuff is either broken to the degree where charopers see it as a must have, so therefore it's a must ban, or it's stuff that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Or both. Or in the case of Incarnum, it adds another big layer of complexity that I don't want to deal with. Book of Nine Swords is pretty much all of the above. There's probably a good number of material that needs to be added to this list as well, but I haven't examined it yet.
Given that any retroclone would be restricted to 3.0 SRD material, I don't think any of this would be an issue. And there are no swift actions in 3.0, only free ones.
 
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