D&D 5E This Game Feels Like D&D 3.Xe


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How about some magic items to bring back a taste of 3.X mechanics? Some ideas:

Blade of the Ancients: a sword that allows you, once a day to make attacks replacing your proficiency bonus with BAB rules, and make additional iterative attacks, but limits your movement to 5 feet.

Vancian Orb: Kind of like a ring of spell storing, but you cast spell slots into it only at the end of a long rest and they only stay there until the end of the next long rest. Every spell slot cast into it becomes two spell slots, but have to be assigned to specific spells.

Crossbow of the Archmage: A +X crossbow that can only be attuned to by a Sorcerer or Wizard, with a curse that makes their cantrips suck.
 
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Allow casters to concentrate on multiple spells. Glowing characters from buff spells before fight, that is my strongest memories for 3.5

Allow crafting of magic item.
 


DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
The biggest issue I see with a lot of the suggestions here is that while they are all bits and bobs that have roots in 3E... most of these things will never actually show up in your game. And even if they do, they will be no different than what you could already see in 5E and thus I don't seem them really feeling like there's a difference.

Chaotic barbarians and Lawful monks? Sure, you can force the issue during character creation. But have you actually had so many 5E games with Lawful barbarians and Chaotic monks that this change would actually feel different than what you've already played with? And this even suggests you end up with a barbarian and/or monk being played in the first place.

Removing stat caps? It's going to be such a long time down the campaign road before that ever becomes an issue that that's not going to be any rule that will make your current game feel 3Eish.

Axiomatic weapons? How often do you put in magic weapons into your games where a bonus to Chaotic creatures would actually change the feeling of the game? Isn't that just like any other 5E magic weapon except it gives a couple bonus damage dice to a different selection of monsters than the standard dragons or undead?

Monsters that have certain abilities like they had in 3E? Those are all well and good, but that requires you to actually put one of those special monsters into your campaign, and it requires you and your players to actually remember that X special ability was normally only found in 3E and not in the 5E version. An iron golem immune to magic? I mean if you've experienced enough iron golems in 5E that haven't had it to make you actually feel like magic immunity has been missing this entire time, then okay. But I know I couldn't tell you what abilities the 3E and 5E iron golems had differently (or almost any monster for that matter) to make putting a 3E one into a 5E game would suddenly make the game feel like 3E.

Basically what I'm saying is that unless you've played 3E and 5E so much to the point that not having these 3Eish things in the game has actually made you and your players stop and go 'Huh... remember when..." then putting any of this stuff into your 5E game I suspect will just feel like a 5E game with new bits in it. Because it's none of these little things that make 3E and 5E different... it's the entire ruleset-- character creation on up.

For 5E to feel more like 3E at the barest minimum at character creation... you'd need to strip out probably 50% of all class features and turn then into Feats, while also taking the current Feats and cutting all their abilities in half to create two smaller ones. And then take every other class feature and de-power it, while making a Feat that becomes the standard version as 5E stands now. Then give everyone more feats with which to "customize" their character, so they build their PC up like they did in 3E. But then again... even something like that probably won't accomplish anything, because that'll just have players re-creating their 5E character archetypes they have now, but it being built piecemeal via Feats, rather than just have their power from the get-go.

I don't mean to be a Debbie Downer about this... and quite frankly I might very be the absolutely wrong person to even bother talking (given my general disdain for game mechanics to begin with.) But I know for me... the only way to get a game to feel like an older game is to actually play the older game. Because it's not just isolated bits and bobs that make a game what it is that you can just "patch in" to another one... it's the entire essence of the game built from the ground up. So no matter what I could do... I would never be able to recreate the feeling of a 4E game using 5E, even by including all the variant tactical combat units into it. Likewise, there has never been a 3E, 4E, or 5E game that has even come close to being like AD&D. Even when I look at the 5E Basic Rules, that doesn't say "AD&D" or "2E" to me... instead it says "A 5E game with a specific character pool that any of us could be playing with right now."

Now if you can actually demarcate these rules bits in your own mind where you can achieve the 3E enlightenment using the 5E engine... then I congratulate you and say go for it! I just know I am incapable of switching an emotional feeling of a game via intellectual mechanical changes. All the best!
 

Off the top of my head and that I think would improve the game:
  • You get both feats and ASIs. (And stats are uncapped) Also free feat at L1.
    • Alternative that's less tightly 3.5 but feels more 3.5 to me: No ASIs. Instead feats at L1 and every even level. If you want to boost your stats take half-feats
  • No hit dice - but lots of magical healing (wands of Cure Light Wounds/Lesser Vigor)
  • Crafting is explicit and player controlled. Artificers get bonuses
  • No attunement
  • Magic item markets
  • More armour bonuses so armour still means a lot at high levels. (i.e. you can have a +X Shield, +X Armour, and a +X amulet)
  • Attacks of opportunity against anyone who tries to shoot or cast a not explicitly melee spell in combat
  • Skill points rather than proficiency bonuses. You can't skill to more than expertise.
  • Crits do full double damage
  • Extra damage for two handed weapons (magic shields are going to change the balance); I'd make two handed weapons crit on a 19-20
  • Spiked chains
  • Weapon Finesse takes a half-feat. Otherwise you attack with strength
  • Ranged missile damage is based on str not dex
  • Move either before or after attacking, not part way through
  • Concentration doesn't make a cap to your spell numbers (although concentration checks stay). Disclaimer: I think this is a bad choice overall
  • 2 failed death saves not 3.

Things that would set the mood but I really wouldn't want to see:
  • Iterative full round attacks
  • Armour check penalty
  • Cantrips become limited use/day
  • Healing word and rituals are both out
  • Random types of monster including plants, constructs, and undead are immune to both crits and sneak attack
  • Rogues lose cunning action. Instead:
    • Disengage takes a skill check by a new skill (Tumble)
    • Hide as a bonus action can be done by anyone ... at -10
    • Dash can't be done as a bonus action
  • Everyone except wizards and clerics have their subclasses delayed until level 6. Clerics all gain heavy armour but cleric and wizard subclasses mostly just give an extra spell per spell level per day only in their domains.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
Not sure if you would consider these too big changes, but here's what I would think about:

  • weapons' critical hits threat range, and special properties (adapted to 5e in the form of advantage if you try to disarm, trip etc)
  • (positive) Intelligence modifier grants bonus skill proficiencies and languages
  • follow the equipment value per level chart in adventure design (requires to fix a default price for magic items)
  • skill points, or rather an adaptation... for example each time you increase your proficiency bonus, you increase by +1 a number of skills equal to what would be your total skill proficiencies (meaning, you can have more proficiencies if you split your bonus into multiple skills)
  • strict vancian casting for everyone except Sorcerer (aka the Sorcerer's vengeance)
  • spellasting and range attacks provoke AoO
 

Lakesidefantasy

Adventurer
If you're like me and find yourself playing a lot of Adventure Paths, then play modules instead. I feel like this change would help to bring back that old school feel.

Seriously, I'm getting tried of playing the same character in the same adventure for years at a time.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
The biggest issue I see with a lot of the suggestions here is that while they are all bits and bobs that have roots in 3E... most of these things will never actually show up in your game. And even if they do, they will be no different than what you could already see in 5E and thus I don't seem them really feeling like there's a difference.

Chaotic barbarians and Lawful monks? Sure, you can force the issue during character creation. But have you actually had so many 5E games with Lawful barbarians and Chaotic monks that this change would actually feel different than what you've already played with? And this even suggests you end up with a barbarian and/or monk being played in the first place.

Removing stat caps? It's going to be such a long time down the campaign road before that ever becomes an issue that that's not going to be any rule that will make your current game feel 3Eish.

Axiomatic weapons? How often do you put in magic weapons into your games where a bonus to Chaotic creatures would actually change the feeling of the game? Isn't that just like any other 5E magic weapon except it gives a couple bonus damage dice to a different selection of monsters than the standard dragons or undead?

Monsters that have certain abilities like they had in 3E? Those are all well and good, but that requires you to actually put one of those special monsters into your campaign, and it requires you and your players to actually remember that X special ability was normally only found in 3E and not in the 5E version. An iron golem immune to magic? I mean if you've experienced enough iron golems in 5E that haven't had it to make you actually feel like magic immunity has been missing this entire time, then okay. But I know I couldn't tell you what abilities the 3E and 5E iron golems had differently (or almost any monster for that matter) to make putting a 3E one into a 5E game would suddenly make the game feel like 3E.

Basically what I'm saying is that unless you've played 3E and 5E so much to the point that not having these 3Eish things in the game has actually made you and your players stop and go 'Huh... remember when..." then putting any of this stuff into your 5E game I suspect will just feel like a 5E game with new bits in it. Because it's none of these little things that make 3E and 5E different... it's the entire ruleset-- character creation on up.

For 5E to feel more like 3E at the barest minimum at character creation... you'd need to strip out probably 50% of all class features and turn then into Feats, while also taking the current Feats and cutting all their abilities in half to create two smaller ones. And then take every other class feature and de-power it, while making a Feat that becomes the standard version as 5E stands now. Then give everyone more feats with which to "customize" their character, so they build their PC up like they did in 3E. But then again... even something like that probably won't accomplish anything, because that'll just have players re-creating their 5E character archetypes they have now, but it being built piecemeal via Feats, rather than just have their power from the get-go.

I don't mean to be a Debbie Downer about this... and quite frankly I might very be the absolutely wrong person to even bother talking (given my general disdain for game mechanics to begin with.) But I know for me... the only way to get a game to feel like an older game is to actually play the older game. Because it's not just isolated bits and bobs that make a game what it is that you can just "patch in" to another one... it's the entire essence of the game built from the ground up. So no matter what I could do... I would never be able to recreate the feeling of a 4E game using 5E, even by including all the variant tactical combat units into it. Likewise, there has never been a 3E, 4E, or 5E game that has even come close to being like AD&D. Even when I look at the 5E Basic Rules, that doesn't say "AD&D" or "2E" to me... instead it says "A 5E game with a specific character pool that any of us could be playing with right now."

Now if you can actually demarcate these rules bits in your own mind where you can achieve the 3E enlightenment using the 5E engine... then I congratulate you and say go for it! I just know I am incapable of switching an emotional feeling of a game via intellectual mechanical changes. All the best!
I think you might be missing the point @iserith is going for here. He’s not trying to use house rules to make 5e play like 3e, he’s trying to run a 5e game that has lots of little references to 3e.
 
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haakon1

Adventurer
What else would you play up to make a D&D 5e game reference D&D 3.Xe in small ways?
Not really the question, but I’ll point out that I never stopped DMing 3.5e. As DM, what edition you run is your call. There’s no shortage of players who like 3.5e, if your players are new to D&D or have been playing for a long time - I have both in my games.

Oh, and … I run Core Rules plus a few house rules, some from PF1.
 

Voadam

Legend
What else would you play up to make a D&D 5e game reference D&D 3.Xe in small ways?
Giant animals are dire animals with bone spike projections.

Fiendish monsters. Regular monsters described as evil looking, particularly summoned ones. No rules adjustments really needed.

Lots of Half-Dragons. I might give them a monster energy resistance and a one shot breath weapon if I didn't find anything suitable off the rack.

Ridiculous multi-template looking monsters. Not sure how you would reskin something in 5e though to make an advanced two-headed pseudo-natural giant hunting spider.

I would go with foregrounding NPCs who follow iconic 3e alignment class rules. Lawful Good paladins with a reputation as such. Chaotic Bards and Barbarians. Lawful monk orders. I would not require it of PCs but I would have the expectation in world that if you are a paladin people expect goodness. If you are a known assassin people expect evil. Barbarians and bards are wild and crazy guys.

I agree with using the 3e Greyhawk default pantheon. Based on a number of 3e games I was in feel free to have no other Greyhawk context in the setting but go all in on the core PH pantheon.
 

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