Sunday, February 26, 2012

What's important in D&D3 - what I (apparently) thought back then

I took out my D&D3 books yesterday, since I made a new character. I also found that I had put small coloured tabs on some sections of the book, like you can see below:

What was it that I found crucial to find when I played this edition every week? Let's take a look.

This is nothing odd. This is the go to list once you get back from the dungeon and want to stock up on something. I also clearly remember that I often used it as a gauge to invent costs for oddities the characters wanted to get

Miscellaneous Actions
Beyond that innocuous phrase lies the biggest turd of the 3rd ed. The tables lists which actions are a Standard Action, Full-Round and Free Actions. While you can see where they came from when designing that, the fact that you had a table covering a whole page delineating which was was indicates it quickly got unwieldy. I've been told the revised edition even added a few classes of actions. I think there are two good ways to design things like that. Either roll a die, or say that you can each turn do three things like attack, dodge or Something Else(tm). Another thing this table was used for, was to list which of these actions provoked Attacks of Opportunity. Oh, how I hate those. In theory a great idea, but it forces you to use a battlemap and slows down play as there are constant interrupts from AoO. Can you do them well? I'm not sure. If you, e.g., let everyone take a "parting shot", you discourage a fluid field of combat, even if you can Dodge out of it. I'm not sure it's a good idea at all.

When 3rd ed was released, they did like TSR did for 1st ed. they released the books in different years, and there was a small summary in the back of the PHB of magic items and monsters so you could play with just the PHB. In theory, a good idea. That do sound like a often repeated phrase when talking about 3rd ed, doesn't it? I had a tab on the page where the index started, since you could just start flipping from the back cover. Always include an index in your rule book, and if you have an appendix, but if before the index. Ok?

This is the tables for generating treasure. You can roll to find how much is coins, magic items, jewels and how many tapestries sewn with gold thread. I used this a few times, more than once, actually. But, I have a vague recollection of the numbers being screwy in some way. Also, on this page is the big brain fart, expected wealth per level. Bollocks, I say!

Quick reference tables for just about everything. In theory this was a good idea (ahem), but I don't think I ever looked at this, since I was always flipping through the books to find something else and then the tables was always nearby anyway.

This is one part where I felt 3rd ed. was inventive in a way I could appreciate. You match up the party average level against a rating for the encounter and see how much of a hindrance it is for that party, and you get XP accordingly. I liked the idea of a measly bunch of 2nd level dudes killing a dragon and scoring big, while the name level knight got nothing for killing kobolds. It felt like a more elegant solution than having different amount of XP per monster and it did take into account the mixed party levels. Neat math, simply. Nothing said you had to match party level and monster rating...

Encounter Levels and Challenge Ratings. This is another thing which in some circles have caught a lot of flak. I like it. Even if you think that the dangers are there, and not scaled to you, I still think it's good to know as a DM of what to expect. I have no idea wiping out a party with a jumbo monster if they are too stupid to run, but I'd like it to happen because I planned it, not because I had no idea of what I was doing! I'm not very good at crunching the math and understanding what happens if I add another gnoll, or decide to reinforce them with a hill giant. Just look at a table and you have some idea. Nothing forces you to scale things to the party level...

Slime molds & fungi
So why did I put a label here? Because those monsters/threats are icky, gooey and very classic? Nothings screams dungeon as a patch of mould. Interestingly enough, there's also a table with spells found in magic traps on that page. I'm not sure if I ever used that. Quite a difference if you roll on that table and get a 2 or a 63. The chest wasn't trapped with an Alarm, it was Power word, Kill. Great!

NPC traits
In theory... well. This is a table I never used. I think I just made it up on the spot, or had NPCs be dispensers of information or there to be killed. Advanced, eh? I like the idea of tables like that, though.

I think in all that it's clear that I like random tables, and that the big EL, CR, XP scheme talked to me. Frankly, it's one of the things I think T&T is missing. I am not happy to be reminded of AoO, but who is?


  1. Great article!
    I never played 3rd (although I got the books) but I'm on Pathfinder and your tabs can work the same.


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