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D&D 3E/3.5 What was the original intended function of the 3rd edition phb classes?

Particle_Man

Explorer
The 3.0 phb came out and pretty soon players did stuff with the classes that the designers had not planned on. Eventually we got the tier system and CoDzilla and Batmanwizard and the Tippyverse.

But what was the original function of each of the 3.0 phb classes intended to be?

For bonus points: If one were designing classes with those intended original class functions in mind, how would one do it, knowing what we know now?
 
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I believe that the writers of 3e had a bit of a disagreement... no that isn't the right word,

maybe scattered and spread out philosophy??

maybe just they were in the middle of a change that they didn't know they were in...

Simulation Vs Recreation.

sometime they went with "What would happen if" and sometimes they went with "wouldn't it be cool if" and monte cook built in traps along the way
 

NotAYakk

Legend
Let's go back to basic and AD&D. And 4 classes.

You had the Magic User, the Cleric, the Fighting Man and the Thief.

The Magic User could cast spells, but had a limited supply of magic and was fragile. As they gained levels, they gained the ability to cast more spells per adventure, and the impact of their most powerful spells (if they worked) was greater on the world. At the same time, spells fully working on monsters became less and less likely.

The Fighting Man gained in durability more than any other class. They had a weapon and armor, and could survive blasts from a dragon or an enemy wizard better than anyone else. Their offence grew as well, but frankly slower than their durability did. In addition, they had the wildest selection of magical weapons and other equipment they could use.

The Thief was a marginal combatant; better than the wizard, way worse than the Fighting Man. But the thief could move around the dungeon environment better than the Fighting man could.

The Cleric was also a worst combatant than the Fighting Man. They had access to a limited set of magical weapons. Their spellcasting was weaker than the Wizard, and less of it involved blowing enemies up, and more of it involved healing and boosting their allies.

They also had impressive anti-undead capabilities; the first Cleric was a class specifically designed to kill Sir Fang, a PC-vampire, by the DM at the time.

---

We then go forward. The 3e Rogue is a better combatant than the old-school Thief (its sneak attack is less situational).

BEMCI, AD&D and AD&D 2nd made the Fighter's offence scale more than it used to.

The Paladin and Ranger subclasses of Fighting Man where introduced.

The Bard is a spellcasting Thief variant in role.

Other than that, the rest is basically similar in the intended role.

The Wizard is supposed to be fragile and guarded by the front line, and blast stuff when things get hard, and otherwise conserve their power. The Cleric is supposed to be guarding the flank of the Fighters, and using support magic. The Rogue/Bard is supposed to try to avoid the thick of combat, and be a support expert in their field. The Fighter are supposed to defend their party by physically being between them and the hostile foe, and fight toe-to-toe with the enemy.

Rangers are sort of a Thief/Fighter hybrid in role. Paladins a bit of a Cleric/Fighter hybrid role. Bards a Thief/Wizard hybrid. Druids are variant Clerics in their role. Monks where maybe Fighter/Thief in role.

Ie, they are supposed to play like AD&D 2e characters do, with new mechanics.

...

Things that went wrong.

The spell count of high level spellcasters gets insane. Spell save DCs scale faster than saving throws do; in the old saving throw system, the chance of a spell landing on a level-appropriate foe went down at higher levels, while in 3e it went up in practice.

And attempts to make the cleric feel less of a 2nd line combatant ... resulted in them eclipsing the fighter at fighting. The same happened with the Druid, who has a class feature that is as good as the entire fighter class (animal companion).
 
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Stormonu

Legend
The proposed intent we were presented with was that the classes had parity. You could choose any class and they should contribute to the game equally.

Unfortunately, behind the scenes it was never designed that way. For the first 3 levels or so, Martials (Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Monk) had interesting things going on that they could be beneficial. Unfortunately, around 5th level the martials starting hitting glass ceilings where there abilities seemingly couldn't get better without becoming "magic". Skills had limits - far below even Olympic or guinness world record standards whereas spells could accomplish things without a check or limit, or low-level spells giving you bonuses that outstripped anything that level advancement could get you close to.

On the other hand, spellcasters quickly outstripped the "mundanes" - there wasn't a glass ceiling they would hit and they kept getting stronger the more spells were added to their repertoire. And even the low level spells got better as you leveled up. A 1st level attack spell cast by a 1st level caster was slightly inferior to a 1st level fighter's sword attack. But a 1st level attack spell cast by 10th level wizard could outshine a similarly leveled fighter's entire attack routine - and the wizard still had 2nd-5th level spells to fall back on. It was literally Linear Fighter, Quadratic Wizard. Didn't help Clerics getting 8th and 9th level spells while still retaining decent combat bonuses and good armor.

In the end, post 6th level if you didn't have spellcasting available to you, running martials was a fool's errand. And looking back, the designers meant it to be that way. I think that's why there was a large population that adopted the idea of the E6 variant; your character capped out at 6th level ability, mainly to reign in spellcasters and not leave the martials too far behind that they could no longer contribute.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
The intent of the 3.0 classes was to be a reboot by WotC of D&D after it had languished for years under TSR with nothing new.

In terms of the "technology" used to play, it was a huge leap from AD&D - the industry had been making a lot of progress, and the three Lead Designers were big names.

But that means that there's lots of places where things are very new, such as the multiclassing system (very different then what came before), the very concept of Prestige Classes, feats, and of course the aggressive publishing schedule that put out lots more character creation/advancement content, often not playtested with other expansions that were being developed at the same time.

Asking "what was it supposed to be" was a new version of D&D - that things morphed later is something we can evaluate in hindsight but it false to say that the designers knew everything from the beginning.

Looking back at the 3.0 classes, they were meant to evoke spirit of earlier editions of D&D while at the same time modernizing it without killing too many sacred cows. We can look at AD&D classes for a clue, but that's only part of it. Unless you talk to an insider from that time, the best place to get a feel for what the 3.0 classes were supposed to be is the fluff describing them in the 3.0 PHB.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Honestly, all these were fairly well designed and with relatively clear intent. The one thing that they did wrong, and they missed that with 4e as well, was not recognising that the market had changed and that consumer's opinion was everything, you just could not decide to impose something and people would just follow the brand. 5e got it right with a huge multi-year survey that ironed out most of the kinks in the system. It's not perfect, but it's neither so full of holes that the internet cannot tear it out like tissue paper or so far from the expectations that it's massively rejected by the fan base.

And this is why we won't be seeing a 6e for a veeerrryyy long time, because such a long survey is extremely costly and immediately shears into the profits of year 1 of the survey, as, apart from fanatics, people will not buy something for a soon-to-be-obsolete edition. WotC had to do it since 4e was dropping like a stone, but there is zero reason to do it with 5e for which almost every book is a best seller and where they are extremely well managed the power drift.
 

For the first 3 levels or so, Martials (Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Monk) had interesting things going on that they could be beneficial. Unfortunately, around 5th level the martials starting hitting glass ceilings where there abilities seemingly couldn't get better without becoming "magic". Skills had limits - far below even Olympic or guinness world record standards whereas spells could accomplish things without a check or limit, or low-level spells giving you bonuses that outstripped anything that level advancement could get you close to.
yeah, I think the "extraordinary' subtype of abelites was a great idea, but a joke because like you said... if I look up the worlds strong man and the last 5-8 people to break records would need 30str, or the long jump record that 2 record breaks ago a fighter below 18th level can't match and it breaks....

On the other hand, spellcasters quickly outstripped the "mundanes" - there wasn't a glass ceiling they would hit and they kept getting stronger the more spells were added to their repertoire. And even the low level spells got better as you leveled up. A 1st level attack spell cast by a 1st level caster was slightly inferior to a 1st level fighter's sword attack. But a 1st level attack spell cast by 10th level wizard could outshine a similarly leveled fighter's entire attack routine - and the wizard still had 2nd-5th level spells to fall back on. It was literally Linear Fighter, Quadratic Wizard. Didn't help Clerics getting 8th and 9th level spells while still retaining decent combat bonuses and good armor.
Burning hands and magic missle were super useful as 1st level slots at 7th level... (5d4 fire small AOE) (4d4+4 auto hit) but also mage armor would last all day by then...

In the end, post 6th level if you didn't have spellcasting available to you, running martials was a fool's errand. And looking back, the designers meant it to be that way. I think that's why there was a large population that adopted the idea of the E6 variant; your character capped out at 6th level ability, mainly to reign in spellcasters and not leave the martials too far behind that they could no longer contribute.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Things that went wrong.

The spell count of high level spellcasters gets insane. Spell save DCs scale faster than saving throws do; in the old saving throw system, the chance of a spell landing on a level-appropriate foe went down at higher levels, while in 3e it went up in practice.

And attempts to make the cleric feel less of a 2nd line combatant ... resulted in them eclipsing the fighter at fighting. The same happened with the Druid, who has a class feature that is as good as the entire fighter class (animal companion).
To be fair, high spell counts for high level spellcasters was nothing new. 1e/2e had it as well.

The issue of spell save DCs was an interesting one. While it's true that the chances of a similar (or higher) level foe failing the save went down in 1e/2e, there were elements set up in the 3e system that were set up to do something similar for strong saves and common bonuses you could get to your saves were cheaper than most bonuses the caster could get to boost your save DCs. What that ran into was optimization-mania. Most likely targets weren't going to focus on just boosting their saves while spellcasters had all sorts of incentive to invest in their spellcasting stat. I figure this sort of issue is one of the reasons 5e caps the stats. It no longer can skew way out of proportion.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
To be fair, high spell counts for high level spellcasters was nothing new. 1e/2e had it as well.

The issue of spell save DCs was an interesting one. While it's true that the chances of a similar (or higher) level foe failing the save went down in 1e/2e, there were elements set up in the 3e system that were set up to do something similar for strong saves and common bonuses you could get to your saves were cheaper than most bonuses the caster could get to boost your save DCs. What that ran into was optimization-mania. Most likely targets weren't going to focus on just boosting their saves while spellcasters had all sorts of incentive to invest in their spellcasting stat. I figure this sort of issue is one of the reasons 5e caps the stats. It no longer can skew way out of proportion.
Casters had 3 targets for saves; the cost to defend against a spell was 3x larger.

And the "natural scaling" of both was about the same. Ie, the number of ways to add +X was about the same, and the superlinear cost increases where on the same scale.

Getting +4 to your constitution was roughly as hard as getting +4 to your casting stat. Getting a +4 fortitude save bonus was similar in price to getting a +4 to your save DCs.

Your "strong" saves went up at level/2; spell slot levels went up at about level/2.

Your "weak" saves went up level/3; this gives casters a level/6 advantage if they target a weak save.

So you have to invest roughly as much keeping your strong save to match spell save DCs, and more to get your weak saves matching spell save DCs. And then more again because you have 2 weak saves.

And if you do all of this? You are no more effective at doing stuff. You just managed to tread water at blocking some subset of what spellcasters can do to you.

Meanwhile, "no save" spells continue to grow in number, decrease in cost. So even if you do invest enough to tread water against spell saves DCs? You still get to "no save" and suck.

Meanwhile, in AD&D and earlier, each spell cast by a spellcaster had reduced chances of landing against tougher foes.

A level 21+ warrior has a 75%-90% save chance against various effects, with the more severe a better save chance. A level 1 warrior has a 5%-25% save chance.

It requires 1.05 to 1.3 attempts to land a spell on an even level foe at level 1 in AD&D2e, and 4 to 10 attempts to land a spell at level 21+. Even if we take the easiest save at level 1 and hardest at level 21+, this is a 3 fold reduction in spells landing.

To reduce offensive magic by this amount, even if the defender is "treading water" on saving throws, you'd have to:

1. Your number of spell slots at level 20 is 1/3 as many. Just strip piles of slots out. Reduce bonus spell slots. Etc.
2. Good saves progress at +5/4 (so +27 at level 20). Bad saves progress at +1 (so +20 at level 20). At level 6 and 11 and 16, a spellcaster can spend 1/2/3 extra rounds to increase spell save DCs by 5/10/15 points.

A spellcaster spending 4 rounds on a spell has +15 save DC; the target has +14 to +15 bonus over the previous saving throw tables. This acts like a "1/4 as many spells you cast actually land on target as they did at level 1" factor.

And then do a pass to weaken a pile of "no save and suck" spells, and probably boost spell blaster damage without crazy charop (3e high-HP made blasting ineffective).
 

Meanwhile, in AD&D and earlier, each spell cast by a spellcaster had reduced chances of landing against tougher foes.

A level 21+ warrior has a 75%-90% save chance against various effects, with the more severe a better save chance. A level 1 warrior has a 5%-25% save chance.
One of the first arguments I remember having with 3.0, was my buddy who always played fighter/thief in 2e complaining about saves... even if you went 5/5 at 10th level you really only had good Fort and Ref saves.... she argued that fighter at least should have all 3 good saves.

I also remember mid to late 3.5 when a player who was a monk took a dip in paladin to add cha to saves... the entire reason for the dip was because they could not keep up with all 3 save stats, so adding cha to them made it easier.
 

payn

Legend
Im super curious to the intent as well. There seems to be this assumption that every character will be decked out in gear. Not only will they be decked out, but the system math doesn't work without it. This was a big departure and to this day, many GM do not understand its necessity. I believe characters were intended to be balanced around an adventuring day. Though, spells in a can totally borked that expectation and was just one of several caster supremacy issues. Was this planned?
 

Voadam

Legend
I think it was to allow people to play any class or race combo, and have it be roughly balanced for combat at every level/xp amount. So no weak low level wizards, no prerequisites for paladin or ranger, no paladins and rangers are just better fighters with more powers and a higher xp cost.

I believe they had four core archetypes (Fighter, Rogue, Cleric, Wizard) and worked variations off of those.

So warrior types were based on the fighter who were at base tough, had good BAB, and good AC with the new thing of bonus feats for martial expertise. Paladins got powers and spells but gave up fighter feats so they were less good at weapon maneuvers. Rangers gave up some AC and a bunch of feat options for spells and skills. Barbarians gave up heavy armor and feats for rage, d12s, and extra skills.

Rogues got sneak attack and skills at the cost of lower toughness, BAB, and AC. The variants were bards who gave up sneak attack for spells, and monks who got monk fighting powers. Sneak attack and skills were overvalued so the rogue roles were all generally not up to everybody else in combat. Much better at combat than thieves in AD&D, but not the equal of others.

Clerics were full casters unlike in B/X or the limited top level spells of AD&D but with a strong emphasis on easy healing and buffing with a secondary of decently tough in direct melee. Druids were a variation to be less armor, but have more nature spells, skills, and their wildshape and other minor druid powers.

Wizards were vulnerable, they had strong attack and utility spells but weak on all other fronts. Sorcerers were a slight variation throwing more spells of less varieties..
 

Li Shenron

Legend
The main purpose was to provide narrative and tactical archetypes, as in every edition. While doing so they wanted to keep available most of previous editions classes.

In addition, 3.0 classes also wanted to open up more or less every combination with a playable race, although they also wanted to keep the iconic combos slightly advantageous.

And also, they wanted to make multiclassing work a lot more flexibility, though not necessarily to make every single multiclass be equally effective.

The only new class i.e. Sorcerer had a special purpose: to provide a non-vancian spellcaster option to those who hated the default.
 

In the end, post 6th level if you didn't have spellcasting available to you, running martials was a fool's errand. And looking back, the designers meant it to be that way. I think that's why there was a large population that adopted the idea of the E6 variant; your character capped out at 6th level ability, mainly to reign in spellcasters and not leave the martials too far behind that they could no longer contribute.
And by the time they actually figured out a good patch/solution with Martials, which was The Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords, the edition was pretty much over at that point outside of Pathfinder.
 
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soviet

Explorer
I remember the 3e designers talking about how no-one had wanted to play clerics in 2e because healing or buffing others was considered a waste of an action. So, they made clerics able to buff and heal more easily while also contributing to the fight more directly; in effect giving them extra stuff on the basis that it would be shared out. Of course, what they hadn't anticipated was how strong clerics would be when they didn't share it out and instead devoted all that buffing only to themselves.
 

Willie the Duck

Adventurer
I remember the 3e designers talking about how no-one had wanted to play clerics in 2e because healing or buffing others was considered a waste of an action. So, they made clerics able to buff and heal more easily while also contributing to the fight more directly; in effect giving them extra stuff on the basis that it would be shared out. Of course, what they hadn't anticipated was how strong clerics would be when they didn't share it out and instead devoted all that buffing only to themselves.
That would be Jonathan Tweet and his series on how 3E came to be.
 

what they hadn't anticipated was how strong clerics would be when they didn't share it out and instead devoted all that buffing only to themselves.
the funny part is that this too was an internet issue.

in 1987, even 1996 if someone tried to self buff and found "Hey I can be a better fighter then the fighter" that was the end of it... one group, maybe some heresay stories at cons... once 2003 internet shared everything 1 or 2 isolated stories of it blew up to being the power play...

I remember in 2e someone figured out at gen con that a wizard throwing darts did more damage then most low level spells... then someone said that throwing knives (2e combat and tactics did 2d4) were even better. It was a great power play for low level... but really it wasn't like every fighter you saw in every store would know "Weapon specialization for extra attacks and 2d4 throwing knives" so it wasn't as big an issue as 10 years later (let alone not 25 years later) when here we are all talking D&D...
 

Willie the Duck

Adventurer
That would be Jonathan Tweet and his series on how 3E came to be.
Have read through all of these and they didn't include the passage I thought they did about 3e being kind of a compromise the designers arrived at after going at it hammer and tongs. Hope I can find it eventually.

All in all, I'm not sure that there was much in the way of intent or general theory behind much of any of it. Excepting of course that they wanted to make a new edition, wanted to streamline a bunch of the accreted dross that never got cleaned up with 2e, and were willing to kill some sacred cows like racial level limits, class restrictions, lower AC better than higher, and so forth.

Interestingly, upon reflection, most of the different components for the most part make sense in isolation. Giving up attacks of opportunity when drawing weapons, getting back up, running away, trying to attack someone with a longer-reached weapon, and so forth makes plenty of sense, and even seems to be part of the late 2e stuff that people really liked. Getting rid of automatic spell loss if you got hit, complex initiative models, spells which never land at high levels, and few if any ways to cast in armor* also made all sorts of sense, since many of those were the most-often house-ruled-out parts of AD&D. It's just when you combine the two together (and don't make any adjustments based on the results) that you run into trouble. Same with WBL/magic item allotment -- rules for balanced starting above L1 or introducing new characters into an existing game make all the sense in the world, and people had been clamoring for consistent magic item cost and crafting rules for a long time.
*barring elven chain --supposedly rarest of the rare, and maybe drawing a target on your chest if you're known to have it.

yeah, I think the "extraordinary' subtype of abelites was a great idea, but a joke because like you said... if I look up the worlds strong man and the last 5-8 people to break records would need 30str, or the long jump record that 2 record breaks ago a fighter below 18th level can't match and it breaks....

This I think speaks to a question more fundamental even than a specific edition. D&D on a whole seems really reticent to answer basic questions about whether a non-magical-enhanced fighter is supposed to be mostly historical knight (a competent one, but not the best that has ever been), the best that's ever been, a action movie star who does nothing specifically supernatural but violates the laws of probability twelve times before breakfast, or mythic figures like Achilles or Ajax or Arthur who still don't cast spells, but clearly do more than a real mortal human ever could. Obviously there are specifics in jump distances and lifting limits, but that's where most of the dissonance shows up, since otherwise it tries not to solidly answer. I think this is part and parcel of D&D not wanting to answer it it is a general pre-modern fantasy system or a specific implied setting.
 

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