Comments on What's Wrong With Third Edition Anyway

Hehe. You know I’ve written about this, too. [1] Here’s my comments on your points, and my work-arounds.

The basic grapple rules are easy. The exceptions and conditions suck. If you ignore them, the system works and I like it.
Attacks of Opportunity
The rule “any standard action that is not an attack provokes an attack of opportunity” seems to work really well. Getting up should definitely not provoke an attack of opportunity, though. What I’ll change in the next campaign is that there will be no special maneuvers while executing attacks of opportunity.
Dead Levels
What’s wrong with dead levels? In the old days, every level was a dead level! Well, I guess I’m different than a lot of people in this respect. Certainly my group absolutely loves levelling up. At the moment this is not something I intend to fix.
Prep Time
If you really wanted to make it easy again, why not ignore the monster creation rules? That seems like an easy fix to me. I don’t understand why people are so relieved by this change in 4E. If they had renamed “Monster Creation Rules” to “Optional Monster Creation Rules” I would have been just as happy.
Well, I usually use CR as “HD with playtesting”. Works for me.
You’re right. The only reason I’m using the rules as written is that this saves me some discussion with my players. When I offered them “you level when I feel like it” they declined. “Adverserial” is the word!

So, to make a long story short, I’ll be looking at the fun to be had with those 98% for a while longer. :)

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-26 12:36 UTC

Great minds think alike, Alex :)

To my mind, a lot of 3rd Edition D&D’s cracks can be fixed by simplifying the rules, rather than re-writing them. Grappling and Attacks of Opportunity both fall into that bit bucket. The problem, as you say, is all the dumbass exceptions that serve only to confuse and confound. Much better to keep it simple and trust the DM to make the call.

Dead levels are less of a problem than they used to be in 3.0, but they’re still around. It’s just not fun for the poor player who gets a few more skill point and hp when the other guys are celebrating getting Wildshape or Yet More Rage. It’s a small fix, but a significant one, and it’ll help cut down on the Desire to Multi-Class too.

The problem with the monster creation rules is that I want monster creation rules, but I want them to be as quick and simple as possible. I want to be able together a 6HD critter who can fly and sneak attack (picking an example for a game I’m planning) without having to look like I’m studying for an exam. Gimme that, and I’m a happy bunny.

GreyWulf 2008-04-26 13:02 UTC

Well, if those are the only flaws you see with 3e, then they should be easy enough to fix with the patches you describe.

I few there as being many more flaws which are in the core of the system. (The math being off especially at high levels, not enough interesting decisions, save or die/save or not play for 30 minutes, combat taking too long, not enough interesting decisions for each class… I could go on and on.) That’s why I’m glad we’re getting a full fledged new version that is radically different instead of, say, a 3.75. Of course as you know, that’s coming out too.

Dave T. Game 2008-04-26 21:41 UTC

I’m unconvinced.

A lot of the “problems” just weren’t perceived as issues until 4th Edition was announced and the Wizards Marketing Golems got to work. A lack of “interesting decisions”? Save or die effects a problem? Nope, sorry, I don’t see those as faults with 3rd edition D&D myself.

I agree about combat taking too long though; getting rid of game-derailing rules like AoO goes a long way toward speeding things up, and I do like how iterative attacks are disappearing. That’s a Good Thing, in my book. Mind you, I don’t play using miniatures and concentrate on keeping the action as fast paced as possible during combat. Having some Minions rules (to take a leaf out of M&M) will be welcome too.

Maybe the Pathfinder RPG will be the solution, maybe it won’t. We’ll see.

Interesting times, indeed.

GreyWulf 2008-04-27 00:36 UTC

“A lot of the “problems” just weren’t perceived as issues until 4th Edition was announced and the Wizards Marketing Golems got to work. A lack of “interesting decisions”? Save or die effects a problem? Nope, sorry, I don’t see those as faults with 3rd edition D&D myself.”

Maybe not in your game, but they’ve certainly been recognized issues in most every gaming group I’ve played with since, oh, about a year after 3.0 came out. I even had an Epic level campaign I tried to run three times with different groups. Every single crack in the system shows up in Epic play.

I’ll admit I adopted the terminology that’s out there now and had different names for it. (I never referred to “the math” for instance, just “way unbalanced attack bonus, AC, and saves.”) But I can assure you that Marketing had nothing to do with recognizing problems in the games I was running.

Dave T. Game 2008-04-27 02:54 UTC


    Never had a problem with it, either. We have grappling on a regular basis
    in our games and it's no more complex than Bull Rush or Total Defense. Of
    course, if you're not using it much, then I can see you needing to go back
    to the book to figure out how it works.

Attacks of Opportunity

    You assert that DM fiat is basically how it works, but you're wrong. The
    rules are simple and logical. And an AoO when someone is standing makes a
    heck of a lot of sense to me, but only if you're adjacent to them.

Dead Levels

    As a player, I don't like Dead Levels, either. But, let's be honest: it's
    not nearly as big a deal as people have made it out to be. You still get
    hit points, if nothing else. I'll concede the point, though. It's more fun
    to get something new with each level, even if it isn't anything big.

Preparation Time

    I run the vast majority of my D&D 3.x games on the fly. I cannot prepare too
    much in advance, because I never know what my players are going to do. I've
    heard this complaint a lot, but I think it's a matter of truly grokking the
    rules rather than having basic competency with them. Granted, if you don't
    truly comprehend the rules on a significant level, then a simpler version
    of the game is probably necessary.


    CR isn't perfect -- it's an art and not a science, and many times the
    WOTC people didn't get it right. A few times, they got it embarrassingly
    wrong. However, it's way better than the BECMI monster listings you mention
    with the extra asterisks. It wasn't until the Master's Rules that TSR even
    tried to come up with a formula for designing an encounter for your group,
    and it was (*shock*) an art, and not a science. You may never have DMed
    a BECMI game, because it wasn't possible to just glance at the Hit Dice of
    a monster and take its asterisks into account in order to determine if it
    was a fair encounter for the group. A better metric would be nice, but when
    you're dealing with critters that have multiple different abilities, it's
    hard to perfectly quantify each adn every one. Plus, I've seen DMs run
    super-lame dragons, and DMs run unbelievably challenging kobolds. If you're
    just plopping a CR 5 monster into a game against your 5th-level party,
    you could be in for a surprise. See "grokking the rules" above.


    The original plan was 13.33 encounters at your CR for one level. Why 13.33?
    Who knows... It's a stupid number. Maybe they thought it would feel more
    organic than making just enough XP to level after a given fight. I ended
    up going with the alternate suggestion:
        (75xp) * (average PC level) * (number of hours played in session)
    In some cases, when I wanted slower advancement, I went for 50xp instead
    of 75xp. Much like the "Dead Levels" argument you make, dead XP is a bad
    thing in players' minds. They want to feel successful for progress. I feel
    that by smoothing out the XP over various sessions, players are willing to
    spend more time role-playing or problem-solving rather than just trying to
    move on to the next encounter.
    There's probably no XP mechanic that's perfect for everyone, and I've read
    some game journals that were amazing works, during which I discovered that
    player advancement was by DM fiat ("OK, you gain a level, now.").

Your gripes about 3.x are pretty common ones, but I’ve been reading the 4th Edition Rules, and I have to say that all I see is the old problems being replaced with new ones. The 4th Edition Rules aren’t better than 3.x, they’re just different. The 3rd Edition set was semi-revolutionary, but 4th Edition is only evolutionary, with many changes being made for apparently arbitrary reasons.

Ultimately, I’ll be sticking with the 3rd Edition Rules because the game feels better and suits my group’s tendencies. The 4th Edition focus on balance has made the game so vanilla in flavor that there’s not really anything compelling. It’s like switching from Windows XP to Vista – there’s no real value in it for the end-user that I can see. Sure, it’s a bit flashier, but fun games aren’t any more likely than with the previous edition.

I’ll be holding out for 5th Edition in 5 – 8 years. Maybe it’ll have changes that make me want to migrate.

– cas 2008-06-11 20:46 UTC

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