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

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.
yeah, a common complaint I have heard is "You can play Merlin, and demigods... or mike the solider"
 

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Voadam

Legend
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...

This seems to me only a quantitative difference and not a qualitative one. Many such issues were fairly clear in the early AD&D books on the face of it. I feel many such issues were spotted by people who read the rules and looked at them with a consideration of the mechanical aspects of the game and player power in mind.

The 1e PH shows the big power benefits of being a ranger over a fighter (giant class enemy bonus, enhanced surprise, spells), with tiny tradeoffs of a good alignment requirement, gear limited to personal stuff you could travel with, d8 versus d10 HD (but even then starting at 2d8 instead of 1d10), bigger xp requirements and stat prereqs. If you rolled well enough and were going to be good anyway the mechanically superior power choice was fairly clear.

From the stat charts it was clear that if you had options in stat generation that an 18 strength percentile fighter was mechanically a huge reverse bell curve mechanical power boost over a baseline fighter.

It was clear to many in the late 80s that hey, Unearthed Arcana weapon specialization is way better than base proficiency and that double specialization is even better.

Looking at the options in the UA book the rate of fire and damage bonus made a fighter double specialized in darts a machine gun for attacks and damage output. I threw in such an NPC adversary at one point when running the Slavers modules.

UA underdark races had clear mechanical bonuses over basline ones, deep gnomes compared to forest gnomes were pretty striking in the mechanical power boost for all the good extras a deep gnome just got.

In the 2e Complete Fighter's Handbook there was an explicit section on continuing punching specialization where you can continue to get +1 to attack and damage per proficiency added in, which can add up quick as a strong build choice. My brother tried it out and his deep gnome got ridiculously good at punching out giants rapidly, accurately, and for lots of damage that could not be matched with a flail.

It was clear from the numbers in 2e Skills and Powers that a cleric starting off with more class points as they did could spend them in appropriate areas and make a stronger specialized warrior class than a warrior or a better specialized spellcaster than a mage.
 

This seems to me only a quantitative difference and not a qualitative one. Many such issues were fairly clear in the early AD&D books on the face of it. I feel many such issues were spotted by people who read the rules and looked at them with a consideration of the mechanical aspects of the game and player power in mind.
yes if you are LOOKING for power, and are GOOD at it anyone can... but only if you know to look and are good at understanding it... the internet means you need to not even know to look, you don't have to luck into it, you just sign on and there are hundreds of thousands of us all looking and shareing...

example: I have a buddy who stinks at character op... like he really with his whole heart tried to tell us (Only last year or the year before... right before covid lock downs) that the most damage out put you could make would be a two handed fighter or barbarian with great weapon fighting style and feat... with a greataxe. First, using the reroll 1s and 2s the 2d6 great sword already pulls ahead in the build itself... but then he neglected to think about any outside source of damage... he drew up this 20th level 4 attack, then action surge 4 attack with -5 to hit +10 damage 1d12 and gave him a +3 greataxe and said it was what he wanted to shoot for... Becky said "SO what, with your 24str you have +16 to hit or +11 with penelty and deal 1d12+20 damage per hit... so 8d12+80 reroll 1s and 2s... 120 AVERAGE she then pulled some broken rogue build off a site and was like "higher to hit, and 135 average damage no actionsurge" then said "Spell casters still better"

He wants it, he just isn't good at it.
 
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Stormonu

Legend
And by the time they actually figured out a good patch/solution with Martials, The Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords, the edition was pretty much over at that point outside of Pathfinder.
I’m sorry, but I don’t agree. Nine swords was NOT a good solution, falling into the trap of making everyone a Wizard. Simply removing the glass ceiling from martials and giving them better, but not necessarily Wuxia options was what people like me wanted, and the designers failed to produce that. There was a d20 RPG that did this, but unfortunarely, I’m drawing a blank on the name (I have it in storage, one of its features was momentum - I want to say it was named something like “Iron Age”)
 


LFQW isn't something players did that the designers hadn't planned on, like some sort of exploit or weird trick. LFQW is in the bones of any game that gets to mid level. It's a fundamental failure of game design.

Yup. And Gygax knew about the problem way back in 1975. That's partially why percentile strength was included in Supplement I: Greyhawk.

He even said as much when he was here on ENWorld (see post #93) though I'm not sure the original thread still exists.
 

Voadam

Legend
yes if you are LOOKING for power, and are GOOD at it anyone can... but only if you know to look and are good at understanding it... the internet means you need to not even know to look, you don't have to luck into it, you just sign on and there are hundreds of thousands of us all looking and shareing...
Or it comes from in game results highlighting it.

In AD&D I played a fighter with a 17 strength (+1 to attack and damage) and another player was playing a fighter with an 18 percentile strength (somewhere between +1 to attack and +3 to damage and +3 to attack and +6 to damage, it was closer to the latter end).

He would always hit harder than my character, would kill humanoids in one shot where it might take more shots for my character, etc.

As soon as our characters were made it was fairly obvious how it would turn out in play. As soon as we started hitting combats it was obvious in effect. Neither of us had to luck into a discussion of it.

There were more big jump power moves in 3e using core not obscure stuff.

In 3e a PH only cleric can do self buffs, buffs are a strong part of their magic and the class is a knight templar divinely powered champion concept. So buffing and meleeing is a straightforward application of the class. 3e gave them more and more powerful buffs and made it a much bigger deal as an option than most AD&D cleric builds could have pulled off. Codzilla is born.

Playing a PH only wizard with some crafting as the bonus feat making cheap wands of useful low level spells you can get a batman wizard with wands of knock, web, grease, invisibility, and summon monster I. This is taking the same strategies of play as an AD&D wizard but using the new resources of 3e. Or just using the resources of 3e wizards straightforwardly starting at low mid levels.

A strong wisdom and con PH only druid does pretty well as a full casting summoner and wildshape meleer after a few levels.

Internet discussion not really required.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
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.
In 2ed, saves were static based level of the character. Sooner or later, saves became pretty much a done deal that you would almost always make them. 3.0 had saves where both the caster and the defender counted in it, and it was possible to fail saves. Of course every non-caster coming from 2ed would feel like the saves were much worst, while every caster would be going "finally".
 

Orius

Hero
What was the original intended function of the core base classes? Honestly, to answer that question, we have to go way back to the mid 70s long before 3e since with the exception of the barbarian, bard, and sorcerer, all the classes go that far back.

For fighter and wizard, hell we're going all the way back to Chainmail, where the Fighting Man is a heroic unit equivalent to a whole squad of mooks and the Magic User is a human magical artillery piece.

For the most part, these classes had purposes that in many way were about flavor rather than crunch, and party role evolved organically.

The fighter was the combatant character. He gets the best attack rolls, has the most hp, and can freely use any weapon or armor found, and this is important when magical gear is found.

The wizard uses magic, but is terrible at combat.

The cleric originally began as a Van Helsing clone to combat a vapmire PC that wreaked havoc in Dave's early game, but it eventually got transformed into a fighting priest. He was more or less in between the fighter and wizard being able to fight and use magic but the other two classes were specialized in one of those areas.

The very roots of the LWQW problem are in place all the way back here, but the wizard was circumscribed by restrictions that keeps its power from overwhelming things. There are few limits onto how a fighter can fight, but wizards are frail, and have limited spell use. LWQW blew up like it did in 3e because the rules took a lot of the restrictions off. Of course the older editions looked at balance over the course of a campaign rather than sinlge encounters, and that skews perceptions too.

As for the other classes, they got added in to try to emulate characters from legends, myths and fiction. And again their roles tended to be more about flavor than fiction.

The paladin is the archetypical knight in shining armor, especially Arthur and his knights. The concept never really changed much. Unfortunately, paladin was the first serious hit to fighter, and very early in the game's history too being basically fighter+. But paladin was reigned in with very strict alignment and ability requirements.

Thief was probably inspired by characters like the Grey Mouser and other roguish fantasy characters.

The monk was inspired by a contemporary pop cultural interest in Eastern martial arts. Unfortunately, the class had a lot of abilities that didn't mesh well together.

The druid I think was the result of alignment restrictions on the original cleric. The cleric started out being a vaguely Christian warrior priest and was restricted to Lawful alignment. There were evil anti-clerics that basically served Chaos and worshipped demons. I think the druid started out as a neutral alternative to the cleric, serving the role as a sort of virtuous pagan. As clerics development and expanded to the nine alignments, druids stayed neutral and became a general nature priest.

The ranger basically stated out as an Aragorn clone.

These were all the classes that entered into 1e and then eventually made their way into 3e through 2e. The monk was the exception, 2e dumped them because it was felt they were out of place in a typical Eurocentric campaign which was the core standard pushed by 2e. Monk concepts were explored through several variants during the edition though.

As for the remaining classes:

The bard was built upon 2e's bard. The original bard was a messy proto prestige class in many ways and had a lot of inspiration from historical Celtic bards, but 2e turned it into a full class and made it into an archetypical magical minstrel.

Barbarians first appeared in UA, but the 3e barbarian was an amalgam of several different berserker concepts that were in 2e.

Sorcerers were the first unique class in 3e, and their intent was as an easier to play alternative to the wizard.

I’m sorry, but I don’t agree. Nine swords was NOT a good solution, falling into the trap of making everyone a Wizard. Simply removing the glass ceiling from martials and giving them better, but not necessarily Wuxia options was what people like me wanted, and the designers failed to produce that. There was a d20 RPG that did this, but unfortunarely, I’m drawing a blank on the name (I have it in storage, one of its features was momentum - I want to say it was named something like “Iron Age”)

I have to agree. I've only really skimmed over Nine Swords but the big problem with that book was that it didn't do its job. That job was to fix known problems with existing martial classes and instead the bbok just added more martial classes that use a quasi-magic system. That was absolutely not what the game needed. The base mechanics in core that were the root of LWQW were bad enough, but then the game compounded things by adding hybrid base classes that made the traditional martials obsolete. Nor did it help that 3.5 just loved adding more and more complex magic systems onto a rule set that didn't need more magic options and which had jettisoned a lot of the limits that had kept casters in check.
 

In 2ed, saves were static based level of the character. Sooner or later, saves became pretty much a done deal that you would almost always make them. 3.0 had saves where both the caster and the defender counted in it, and it was possible to fail saves. Of course every non-caster coming from 2ed would feel like the saves were much worst, while every caster would be going "finally".
yes and no. even in 2e there were spells that had effects that did not have saves, and ones that had half for saves. You could still try to target worse saves. But you couldn't just count on a spell overriding HP. PCs/Monsters/NPC with high HP had almost auto saves for a reason.

in 3e a wizard 'playing the table' and makeing even just good guesses about goo/bad saves could make a spell land 70%+ of the time... and could almost ignore spell ressitance (where magic resistance in 2e meant it was a fighter and theif job to bash the thing most times.).

in 3.5 if a PC and and NPC(made like a PC) both had a 15,14,&13 to spread, and the PC was a fighter and the NPC was a wizard... the wizard puts the 15 in INT and is human so no mod. the fighter puts the 15 in str the 14 in con and the 13 in dex (cause fighter)he is an elf variant that gets +2 dex +1 str (Don't know for sure there is one but i bet there was) so 16 15 14 physicals... going to start with +2 fort and +0 ref and will.

so to make a save vs a 1st level spell we have DC 13 with Fort +5 (needs and 8 or better) Ref +2 (needs 11 or better) and will (I didn't stat wis but lets be nice give him a +1) +1 needs a 12...

add 12 levels to each... now we are in the endgame... 13th level. the fighter base is +8/+4/+4 and he got 3 +1 stat increases... all in con we will say (more hp and best chance to improve con save) he also got a ring of defense +2 in this time (+2 ac and saves unlike ring of prot that ws only +2 AC) he also has gloves of dex +2 and belt of giant str +4... pretty good for that level(also magic weapon and armor)

fighter 13 now has str 20 Dex 17 Con 17... but he also has really cool feats so I am giving him Iron will +2 will saves since he still only has a +1 wis... his saves are Fort +13 Ref +9 Will +7

wizard 13 now has a 20 int (I wont break down magic vs stat bump) and a single feat to enhance the save DC by 1... he can throw 6th level spells and the DC 22 then for lower levels it is 21,20,19,18,17...

against a big 5th level save or suck (or worse save or die) the fighter has to roll Fort an 8 (not bad), Ref a 12 (wow not even 50/50 good thing most of these are sve for half damage not SoD) and Will 14 (yikes...35% chance...about 1/3 of the time he makes it)

so at level 1 tasha laugh (1st level save or suck) the fighter needs to make a 12 to negate (45% chance) and that is the BIGGEST spell a wizard can throw. at level 13 against the same tasha laugh (now the weakest spell) he needs a 4... great news, but if there is a 5th level SoD will save...(not looking but I think hold monster and dominate person both fall in here, maybe polymorph) that would be needing a 14... and that STILL IS NOT THE HIGHEST LEVEL SLOT...

why did the fighter who took a feat, has a magic item to boost, and used to have the best saves in 2e now have a 1/3 pass rate against an equal level will save?

even a monk who rolls well (starts with 16 dex 16 con 17 wis after race) takes all 3 save feats and has the best base saves... we will give him a belt of magnificent +4 (awesome at level 13) and say his +3 aall went wis from levels... has a 20dex 20con 24wis +8 base all save +2 feats to all saves and we will give +2 magic to all saves...
Fort+17 Ref +17 Will +19... you know what that looks like? in 2e a 1,2or 3 always failed a save unless you where divine, and at level 13 with some magic help it was common for ffighters to have half of the saves at 4+ to make it...but the monk only got 4 feats (unless human or flaws) and he put 3 of them too defense saves to get there...
 


Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
wasn't it Monte Cook who said that 3e intentionally had bad options to "reward skilled play" (ie good players would take the good options).

I don't know if it was intentional, but the resulting power gulf between optimized and casual PCs was immense...
 


wasn't it Monte Cook who said that 3e intentionally had bad options to "reward skilled play" (ie good players would take the good options).

I don't know if it was intentional, but the resulting power gulf between optimized and casual PCs was immense...
I believe he did, but the impact of this has been exaggerated a bit. The immense power gap was more the result of the sheer volume of publications and plethora of options, which let folks dedicated to powergaming find and exploit a lot of synergies, including ones unforeseen by the designers. The pinnacle of powergaming often came from abusing Polymorph effects on oneself with relatively obscure race/monster combos.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
wasn't it Monte Cook who said that 3e intentionally had bad options to "reward skilled play" (ie good players would take the good options).

I don't know if it was intentional, but the resulting power gulf between optimized and casual PCs was immense...
And a lot of people misunderstand Monte Cook's blog post about ivory tower design. It's not as much about taking 'good' options vs trap options as much as it is knowing when options are good and picking the right ones for the use intended - whether by the DM for NPCs, for PCs in one-shot games, for PCs in ongoing hack and slash games, or for PCs in ongoing investigative or courtly romance games.
So yeah, with a lot of play in the system and many choices, it was entirely possible to generate a widening gulf of imbalance between PCs for any particular situation. Exactly how that imbalance might play out would vary by situation.
 

payn

Legend
I believe he did, but the impact of this has been exaggerated a bit. The immense power gap was more the result of the sheer volume of publications and plethora of options, which let folks dedicated to powergaming find and exploit a lot of synergies, including ones unforeseen by the designers. The pinnacle of powergaming often came from abusing Polymorph effects on oneself with relatively obscure race/monster combos.
IDK, people often say this, and supplements did contribute to the issue, but some of the biggest offenders can easily be shown in PHB only games.
 

wasn't it Monte Cook who said that 3e intentionally had bad options to "reward skilled play" (ie good players would take the good options).

I don't know if it was intentional, but the resulting power gulf between optimized and casual PCs was immense...
it was Intentional FROM COOK but I don't know if everyone on the team shared his idea of 'trap' options

Mario Maker is a video game where you can make levels like a Super Mario game. SOme people use this to make what are called Kizo (super hard) other to make troll (bad tricks that reward playing the game wrong) others make puzzles... 3e (and 3.5 and pathfinder 1e) character creation and leveling feel to me like playing mario maker... some things are trolls (trap options...ha looked good but doesn't help) some things are puzzles (hey this and this work well together) and somethings are just hard... but when I learn (okay not me I suck at video games) the kiazo tricks I can one shot a lot of kiazo levels, once I know the troll traps I can work my way around them, once I solve the same type of puzzle a few times I can fly through them....
Now imagine 5 people sitting at Switches turning on mario maker, one has 2+ years of playing all of the above, someone else just got the game 3 months ago and just skips the hard (kiazo or troll or puzzle) levels to get to the fun ones that are like a regular mario game. another one is an 8 year old that has never played any mario game before and the last two haven't played mario maker but have played different amounts of super mario/nintendo products... this was what every 3e and 3e adjacent game felt like to me... the game was not able to keep everyone on an even level at Character creation alone.,
 

payn

Legend
And a lot of people misunderstand Monte Cook's blog post about ivory tower design. It's not as much about taking 'good' options vs trap options as much as it is knowing when options are good and picking the right ones for the use intended - whether by the DM for NPCs, for PCs in one-shot games, for PCs in ongoing hack and slash games, or for PCs in ongoing investigative or courtly romance games.
So yeah, with a lot of play in the system and many choices, it was entirely possible to generate a widening gulf of imbalance between PCs for any particular situation. Exactly how that imbalance might play out would vary by situation.
The problem is there is almost zero guidance on this. There is no political intrigue, hack 'n' slash, diplomacy sections letting people know when to use them. It's just a large list of wildly variable options for people to choose.
 

The problem is there is almost zero guidance on this. There is no political intrigue, hack 'n' slash, diplomacy sections letting people know when to use them. It's just a large list of wildly variable options for people to choose.
and again once you puzzle out what is best for each, you could go to the character op board post it and everyone would tell you how to make it better still... as such it wasn't just 1 set of eyes but an out sourced hundreds of minds working on it... then you went back to people who did NOT do that and you had such a HUGE gulf...

that is before accidents
 

Voadam

Legend
What was the original intended function of the core base classes? Honestly, to answer that question, we have to go way back to the mid 70s long before 3e since with the exception of the barbarian, bard, and sorcerer, all the classes go that far back.
The bard started in The Strategic Review (predecessor to Dragon Magazine) Vol. II, Issue 1 February 1976.

It was a full 0e class that got MU spells starting at 2nd level, thief skills at 1/2 level, attacking and saves as clerics, and Dwarves, Elves, and Hobbits can be them up to 8th level. I prefer it to the 1e PH version.

"A Bard is a jack-of-all-trades in Dungeons and Dragons, he is both an amateur thief and magic user as well as a good fighter."
 

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