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

Greg K

Hero
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.
Gygax stated here on ENWorld that he did not consider Arthur and his knights to be Paladins. Several people have stated that the source was Poul Anderson's Holger Carlsen from Three Hearts and Three Lions. I don't recall if Gary was one of those people. However, according to Tim Kask in a post at Dragonsfoot , "The inspiration came from several sources he read, 3H & 3L would certainly be one, as would all the Scott and Lamb stuff" (note: he being Gary)
Thief was probably inspired by characters like the Grey Mouser and other roguish fantasy characters.
"Gary Gygax wrote in issue #2 of The Excellent Prismatic Spray (2001) that Jack Vance’s Cugel the Clever and Zelazny’s Shadowjack were the greatest influences on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons thief class as described in the The Players Handbook (1978)." appendixnbookclub.com

@talien in a post on Jack Vance's contributions cited Shannon Applecline who also stated that both Cudgel and Jack of Shadows were the influences for the Thief. However, Applecine and Jon Peterson both state that Gary's Thief was a "restructured version" of a thief class by Gary Switzer and influenced by Bilbo Baggins and Cudgel.

@talien's post also includes how Jack Vance's Dying Earth was the inspiration for the D&D Wizard.
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 best source we have is the preface to Oriental Adventures 1e in which Gygax stated that Brian Blume based the original Monk class on The Destroyer series of novels.

Tim Kask noted, on Dragonfoot, that Blume, whom was a fan of the TV series, Kung Fu, learned about a Monk class in Dave Arneson's Blackmoor campaign and became "infatuated" with it. However, he did not know how much the actual D&D class was influenced by Arneson or Blume.
 

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billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
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.
That is, literally, the point of Monte's ivory tower blog post - that, in hindsight, they should have had more information about this sort of thing.
 

Greg K

Hero
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 has been a long time since I read the article when it was, orignally, posted. From what i recall, it was not intentional in that they designed good feats and bad feats (despite what circulates around the internet). From what I recall, he wrote that some feats were good under certain conditions (e.g. one shots or a specific race/class combination to improve survivability at first level), but the designers did not call this out in the book for the players.

edit: I see @billd91 beat me to it)
 
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Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
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.
like alter self into a troglodyte to gain +6 AC? I used that a lot :D
 

Greg K

Hero
That is, literally, the point of Monte's ivory tower blog post - that, in hindsight, they should have had more information about this sort of thing.
Exactly. I don't know how people went from Monte stating that some feats were good in specific circumstances (e.g. one-shots or to improve the survivability of a specific race/class combination) and, in hindsight, the should have provided more information to the designers, intentionally, placed trap options. The latter, to me, implies that the designers approached feats with malice to screw over players which is not the same as failing to provide guidance under which conditions to take specific feats.
 
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payn

Legend
That is, literally, the point of Monte's ivory tower blog post - that, in hindsight, they should have had more information about this sort of thing.
It's interesting becasue I have long thought that background/skill stuff should be separated from combat stuff. Also, exploration stuff. I think the 3E/PF1 ranger is an example of great design. The ranger has class options that cover all three pillars of the game. That is before feat selection which can just bolster any particular area the player chooses.

PF2 kind of sort of tried to do this. What happened is they came up with skill feats which ended up with the same problem as combat feats. That is, some are really cool but likely to come up once a campaign, others less cool but likely to come up once a session, and then finally a totally uncool item that is useful in every single encounter. Guess which wins?
 


Right. I remember him specifically citing Toughness as an example of a feat which, for example, you'd never want for most characters in ongoing campaigns, but which could give a really nice survivability boost to a low-level character in a one shot.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Exactly. I don't know how people went from Monte stating that some feats were good in specific circumstances (e.g. one-shots or to improve the survivability of a specific race/class combination) and, in hindsight, the should have provided more information to the designers, intentionally, placed trap options. The latter, to me, implies that the designers approached feats with malice to screw over players which is not the same as failing to provide guidance under which conditions to take specific feats.
Yeah, "trap options" is a term that has connotations.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Right. I remember him specifically citing Toughness as an example of a feat which, for example, you'd never want for most characters in ongoing campaigns, but which could give a really nice survivability boost to a low-level character in a one shot.
Same with any of the skill booster feats - things that add directly to a value in the character's stats that a player never needs to worry about choosing to use. It's hard enough trying to understand the options available to a pre-gen PC in a convention game with a 4-5 hour time slot, piling on conditional feats largely guarantees they won't be used or maybe a small subset (like 1) will be used most of the time.
 

Willie the Duck

Adventurer
Same with any of the skill booster feats - things that add directly to a value in the character's stats that a player never needs to worry about choosing to use. It's hard enough trying to understand the options available to a pre-gen PC in a convention game with a 4-5 hour time slot, piling on conditional feats largely guarantees they won't be used or maybe a small subset (like 1) will be used most of the time.

I always thought that most* of the skill-booster feats worked best as world-building things you would select for your level 3 Expert NPC to max out the 1-2 skills for which they exist in the first place (whatever the _2 crafting feat was for the town smith, etc.). For that reason, I never really thought of them as trap options, so much as 'waste of page count because someone wanted NPCs and monsters to be buildable using the same engine as PCs.'
*alertness being an exception as I could see a reasonable PC taking it.
 

Orius

Hero
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."

Noted. I'm a little shaky on the SR stuff. Though if I'm not mistaken, the 1e bard had a bunch of changes to it. In any case, 3e's bard comes from the 2e version. I don't know how much the 2e version went back to the original SR class.

Another SR class IIRC was the illusionist, but I left that out because 2e merged MUs and illusionists into a single wizard class group that slowly morphed into the 3e wizard over the course of 2e.

Gygax stated here on ENWorld that he did not consider Arthur and his knights to be Paladins. Several people have stated that the source was Poul Anderson's Holger Carlsen from Three Hearts and Three Lions. I don't recall if Gary was one of those people. However, according to Tim Kask in a post at Dragonsfoot , "The inspiration came from several sources he read, 3H & 3L would certainly be one, as would all the Scott and Lamb stuff" (note: he being Gary)

"Gary Gygax wrote in issue #2 of The Excellent Prismatic Spray (2001) that Jack Vance’s Cugel the Clever and Zelazny’s Shadowjack were the greatest influences on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons thief class as described in the The Players Handbook (1978)." appendixnbookclub.com

@talien in a post on Jack Vance's contributions cited Shannon Applecline who also stated that both Cudgel and Jack of Shadows were the influences for the Thief. However, Applecine and Jon Peterson both state that Gary's Thief was a "restructured version" of a thief class by Gary Switzer and influenced by Bilbo Baggins and Cudgel.

@talien's post also includes how Jack Vance's Dying Earth was the inspiration for the D&D Wizard.

The best source we have is the preface to Oriental Adventures 1e in which Gygax stated that Brian Blume based the original Monk class on The Destroyer series of novels.

Tim Kask noted, on Dragonfoot, that Blume, whom was a fan of the TV series, Kung Fu, learned about a Monk class in Dave Arneson's Blackmoor campaign and became "infatuated" with it. However, he did not know how much the actual D&D class was influenced by Arneson or Blume.
Right, I was pretty sure Cugel was a thief inspiration but not entirely sure.

Blume might have been inspired by those books to create the monk, but Dave's game had them too. It's largely thought that Kung Fu, Bruce Lee and other such sources were part of the class's inspiration.

It's well known that the magic system comes from the Dying Earth, hence the term Vancian, but back in Chainmail fireballs and lightning bolts got their start as reskinned catapults and ballistas. Other MU spells had gotten their start as battlefield control spells.

The Ivory Tower essay is here:


My take on it is that D&D doesn't really need a lot of "Timmy" options or at least a good deal less than MtG relies upon. But the books were sold on stuff like "X new feats! Y new prestige classes! Z new spells!" and that just added more material that needed to be evaluated.
 

Voadam

Legend
Monte did not say there were trap options but he was saying explicitly that some choices were deliberately better than others in 3e.

It is not a far cry to trap options from him citing the inspirational example of "Timmy cards" that look cool but aren't actually that great in the game to reward people who really master the game and figure out to avoid them. He says that D&D does not exactly do that, but the design philosophy of some choices are deliberately better seems to be in that direction.


"Ivory Tower Game Design

When we designed 3rd Edition D&D, people around Wizards of the Coast joked about the "lessons" we could learn from Magic: The Gathering, like making the rulebooks -- or the rules themselves -- collectible. ("Darn, I got another Cleave, I'm still looking for the ultra-rare Great Cleave.")

But, in fact, we did take some cues from Magic. For example, Magic uses templating to great effect, and now D&D does too. (To be clear, in this instance, I don't mean templates like "half-dragon," so much as I mean the templating categories such as "fire spells" and "cold-using creatures," then setting up rules for how they interact, so that ever contradictory rules for those things don't arise again, as they did in previous editions.)

Magic also has a concept of "Timmy cards." These are cards that look cool, but aren't actually that great in the game. The purpose of such cards is to reward people for really mastering the game, and making players feel smart when they've figured out that one card is better than the other. While D&D doesn't exactly do that, it is true that certain game choices are deliberately better than others.

Toughness, for example, has its uses, but in most cases it's not the best choice of feat. If you can use martial weapons, a longsword is better than many other one-handed weapons. And so on -- there are many other, far more intricate examples. (Arguably, this kind of thing has always existed in D&D. Mostly, we just made sure that we didn't design it away -- we wanted to reward mastery of the game.)

There's a third concept that we took from Magic-style rules design, though. Only with six years of hindsight do I call the concept "Ivory Tower Game Design." (Perhaps a bit of misnomer, but it's got a ring to it.) This is the approach we took in 3rd Edition: basically just laying out the rules without a lot of advice or help. This strategy relates tangentially to the second point above. The idea here is that the game just gives the rules, and players figure out the ins and outs for themselves -- players are rewarded for achieving mastery of the rules and making good choices rather than poor ones.

Perhaps as is obvious from the name I've coined for this rules writing style, I no longer think this is entirely a good idea. I was just reading a passage from a recent book, and I found it rather obtuse. But it wasn't the writer's fault. He was just following the lead the core books offered him. Nevertheless, the whole thing would have been much better if the writer had just broken through the barrier this kind of design sets up between designer and player and just told the reader what the heck he was talking about.

To continue to use the simplistic example above, the Toughness feat could have been written to make it clear that it was for 1st-level elf wizards (where it is likely to give them a 100 percent increase in hit points). It's also handy when you know you're playing a one-shot session with 1st-level characters, like at a convention (you sure don't want to take item creation feats in such an instance, for example).
Ivory Tower Game Design requires a two-step process on the part of the reader. You read the rule, and then you think about how it fits in with the rest of the game. There's a moment of understanding, and then a moment of comprehension. That's not a terrible thing, but neither is just providing the reader with both steps, at least some of the time.

While there's something to be said for just giving gamers the rules to do with as they please, there's just as much to be said for simply giving it to the reader straight in a more honest, conversational approach. Perhaps that's what the upcoming D&D for Dummies book will be. I hope so."
 

Voadam

Legend
Noted. I'm a little shaky on the SR stuff. Though if I'm not mistaken, the 1e bard had a bunch of changes to it. In any case, 3e's bard comes from the 2e version. I don't know how much the 2e version went back to the original SR class.

2e was a lot like the SR one, reduced thief and MU spells, middle fighting a little charm ability.

The 1e one was a specific pseudo switch class/prestige class fighter thief druid without druid powers but does have druid spells.

Another SR class IIRC was the illusionist, but I left that out because 2e merged MUs and illusionists into a single wizard class group that slowly morphed into the 3e wizard over the course of 2e.

You do remember correctly.

The Ranger also started off in Strategic Review Volume 1 Issue 2 in 1975. So another 0e class. Had to be Lawful, got 2HD to start (same size as the fighter) and had tracking and giant class damage bonus and spells. Only restrictions were had to be lawful, could not have hirelings, and no more stuff than they could travel with. If you were going to be lawful and not personally hire henchmen it was just mechanically better than a fighter.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
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.
There is no "yes and no" about it. In AD&D 2nd, spells go against the "Save vs. Spells" save. You could not try to target worse saves.

Yes, there were spells that had no save or did half damage against saves. If your friend is complaining that it's harder to make saves in 3.0 than saves that do half - well, 3.,0 has plenty of spells that do half. And if your friend is complaining that it's harder under 3.0 to makes saves than against spells in AD&D 2nd with no saves, then I really don't know what to say besides he's just wrong because any chance is better than no chance. So really, I don't think that matters when comparing spells saves from AD&D 2nd vs. D&D 3.0.
 

Voadam

Legend
There is no "yes and no" about it. In AD&D 2nd, spells go against the "Save vs. Spells" save. You could not try to target worse saves.

Yes, there were spells that had no save or did half damage against saves. If your friend is complaining that it's harder to make saves in 3.0 than saves that do half - well, 3.,0 has plenty of spells that do half. And if your friend is complaining that it's harder under 3.0 to makes saves than against spells in AD&D 2nd with no saves, then I really don't know what to say besides he's just wrong because any chance is better than no chance. So really, I don't think that matters when comparing spells saves from AD&D 2nd vs. D&D 3.0.
Yes and no. ;)

Yes, Save vs. Spell was a save category in 2e:

"Save vs. Spell: This is used whenever a character attempts to resist the effects of a magical attack, either by a spellcaster or from a magical item, provided no other type of saving throw is specified. This save can also be used to resist an attack that defies any other classification."

But you only used it on spells if no other category was applicable.

There was a specific separate Save vs. Death Magic:

"Save vs. Paralyzation, Poison, and Death Magic: This is used whenever a character is affected by a paralyzing attack (regardless of source), poison (of any strength), or certain spells and magical items that otherwise kill the character outright (as listed in their descriptions). This saving throw can also be used in situations in which exceptional force of will or physical fortitude are needed."

And a Save vs. Petrification and Polymorph:

"Save vs. Petrification or Polymorph: This is used any time a character is turned to stone (petrified) or polymorphed by a monster, spell, or magical item (other than a wand). It can also be used when the character must withstand some massive physical alteration of his entire body."

There is even a saving throw priority section and Save vs. Spells is the last one applied.

"Saving Throw Priority
Sometimes the type of saving throw required by a situation or item isn’t clear, or more than one category of saving throw may seem appropriate. For this reason, the saving throw categories in Table 60 are listed in order of importance, beginning with paralyzation, poison, and death magic, and ending with spells.
Imagine that Rath is struck by the ray from a wand of polymorphing. Both a saving throw vs. wands and a saving throw vs. polymorph would be appropriate. But Rath must roll a saving throw vs. wands because that category has a higher priority than polymorph."

And the chart itself came with this asterisk notation on the spell save:

"*** Excluding those for which another saving throw type is specified, such as death, petrification, polymorph, etc."

Generally different classes were better against different types of saves. Clerics were good against death magic. Fighters were good at their bodies integrity. Wizards were good against general spells. Rogues were good at dodging rays from wands and staves.

You could target against different saves a little, but it was not as straightforward as in 3e.
 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
Some good answers here.

Just to add, I certainly don't think the intent was to unbalance or mess up the classes. But 3e had goals that pulled in different directions. For example, the desire to add flexibility without unbalancing the game created a fair number of traps options, as versatility almost always came at a power cost, and was sometimes just a bad idea in practice. On top of that was the system mastery issues raised above.

3E also sought to preserve a certain verisimilitude (a word heavily used at the time) or Gygaxian naturalism. So sneak attack was better then backstab, but it had restrictions that certainly nerfed the rogue class. Similarly, you could try all sorts of maneuvers in combat, but unless the character had special training, they would risk an opportunity attack.

But clearly the big issue was the boost to spell casters. Each change probably made sense on its own, but it left the game increasingly unbalanced at mid and higher levels, more so in past editions. Casters didn't have many low level spells, so they got more. Saves seemed wonky, and were changed in ways that benefited high level casters (and actually also nerfed non-casters at higher levels). Magic resistance and other kinds of monster invulnerability were toned down. Druids and clerics were buffed more.

But I don't think the intent was to skew the game. Rogues and fighters also got things, it just didn't balance out.
 

teitan

Legend
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.
Pathfinder was a handful of years after this and 4e was two years later. Pathfinder two after that.
 

There is no "yes and no" about it. In AD&D 2nd, spells go against the "Save vs. Spells" save. You could not try to target worse saves.
unless it was death magic...or paralyzation... there was a whole list of saves...
Yes, there were spells that had no save or did half damage against saves. If your friend is complaining that it's harder to make saves in 3.0 than saves that do half - well, 3.,0 has plenty of spells that do half.
she was complaining it went form "Fighters save more often then not" to "Fighters are good at 1/3 of saves and even then didn't make it as often" she also complained that MR% got turned into a SR level check so casters got better at breaking through anti magic defenses.


And if your friend is complaining that it's harder under 3.0 to makes saves than against spells in AD&D 2nd with no saves, then I really don't know what to say besides he's just wrong because any chance is better than no chance.

I don't understand this statement... the complaint was that in ALL editions there were ways to get around some saves, but in 3e (right out the gate) you didn't need to because saves favored casters... this complaint was made before any of us owned any but the core 3 books...
So really, I don't think that matters when comparing spells saves from AD&D 2nd vs. D&D 3.0.
what matters is the martial classes got WORSE at defending against spells, and so did monsters. So spell casting was worse for PC martial characters, and PC spell casters were made BETTER against all threats...

if you don't understand how 3/3.5/pf made the spellcaster supremacy worse then before or sense I don't know what to tell you.
 

nevin

Adventurer
That's because in every edition before 4th they expected the non spell casting classes to be buffed with lot's of magic items if they were high level. Even in 3rd edition by the time you were a high level wizard or Cleric most magic items weren't nearly as useful as your own magic. But for the other classes they were essential to maintain parity.
 

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