Stuffed Crocodile

Mazes, Martians, Mead

What 3rd Edition did right

Book cover, Monster Manual (revised edition fo...

Well, it's the MM, and the 3.5 version to boot, but bear with me here...

I did play 3rd edition when it came out. Actually it was the game I played the longest, all in all. Despite all the complications it brought it was easy to grasp as a game, it was engaging for the players, it was easy to build adventures with.
It was a definite improvement to the late 2nd edition. That one seemed so convoluted that it just needed something new and spry.
Nowadays of course one can scare me away with 3rd edition, and even more so with 3.5 or 4th, but back then it was a definite improvement in my games. Because there were a few things which 3rd edition actually did right.
I of course get a bit more interested now that I decided to homebrew my own system. My system is basically based on the Moldvay version of D&D, via Labyrinth Lord, but I am taking all the things from AD&D I like as well. And then of course there is the psionics system, which I took from 3.5.
That actually got me thinking. I liked 3rd edition back in the day. What parts of 3rd edition were there which were so good back then?

Unified Experience Table: hmm, that one was neat. There was exactly one experience table and everyone needed the same amount of XP to advance. This of course was intended to simplify things.
Is that usable for me?
God no!
The whole unified table concept sounded nifty, but ended up breaking the classes badly. For them to be able to use one single table they had to tweak the classes as as well, increasing the power of clerics and the likes badly while nerfing others. And of course it never really worked, so even after all this tweaking we still were left with quadratic wizards.
No, no unified table for me.
No Racial Limits: oh, that was a big one. or it would have been if we hadn’t played like that years before 3rd ed. came out. But 3rd edition neatly codified it and made pretty much every race equal in all terms. Humans had a bonus feat instead of the special abilities most races had, but otherwise it worked out well. Of course people were rather slow in taking to some ideas, like half-orc bards and dwarven wizards, but I guess in the end it more or less mellowed out.
Can I use it?
Actually yes. I always felt the racial limits in the old editions were kind of stupid and nonsensical. They did fit the early years of the game, when nearly no game went over tenth level, but they made no sense afterwards. Why would only humans be allowed to level up over a certain level?
I guess it would be easy enough to implement, with level tables going up as far as the player wants to go. Also I already added a “Human” class just for the hell of it.
Dual/Multi Classing: neatly integrated into the class system this system allowed for endless variation in character concepts. Is it usable for me?
It just doesn’t fit the system. It would need a complete restructuring of the level/experience/class system. Which in the end would end up being pretty much 3rd edition’s system anyway. Which would make this exercise in simplification quite pointless.
 Feats: a wonderful way of customizing characters, this might work with an old edition style game, but would add a layer of complexity that I don’t like. Besides, in my game players consequently ignored feats, so I never got into them as more than a nice design quirk. On the other hand, at least one person actually did something with that idea.
Prestige Classes: the whole reason why I got the idea of writing this. prestige classes were classes that one only could take when one already had fulfilled certain requirements. The basic idea which I always found very fitting was that of a knight: knighthood would only be available to someone who 1. managed to have the right set of requirements mechanically and 2. managed to gain the knighthood during play. Then the character would be able to gain levels in this additional class, which would give special abilities the further one advanced in it. In the example with the knight one could for example gain the ability to joust, to write poetry, or to keep additional retainers.
The concept is a neat one actually, and I already tried to put this into a few of the classes I put in my document. Nevertheless it actually might be nice to have a set of prestige or “advanced” classes, that characters can aspire to.
Actually, in hindsight… maybe Paladins would be better as a prestige class?
Wasn’t it already like that in the Rules Cyclopedia version of D&D?
Have to look that up.


2 responses to “What 3rd Edition did right

  1. Matt March 15, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    Yeah, the paladin and avenger were prestige-like in the RC, but paladins were also “prestige classes” in their original supplements. I think a 6th level lawful fighter who had the proper ability scores could become a paladin. Something like that.


  2. Pingback: Wuxia for the OSR « Stuffed Crocodile

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