Friday, 18 February 2011

Dungeons and Dragons 3.0

I never really enjoyed D&D after the 2nd Edition came out. I felt it was convoluted, overly complicated and uneccessarily detailed. I didn't really enjoy playing in the games I was invited to and I never even considered DMing it. In 1989 I gave up on D&D and lost myself in D6 Star Wars, WFRP and MERP.

So the whole 2nd edition explosion and subsequent collapse of TSR, the WotC D&D 3.0 and 3.5 passed me by, but in 2009 I was invited to play D&D 4th. I hadn't played D&D for 20 years so I figured what the hell - it won't kill me. It was fun, but once again I felt like there were lots of details in the game system that weren't needed. The cards and powers were just annoying and games felt like tactical simulations rather than roleplaying encounters. It just wasn't for me.

Last year I was asked to take part in a Pathfinder game. That was good, certainly better than D&D 4th, and I enjoyed it (all the way up to the TPK - damned electric iguanas!) and really liked the system. Then I was invited to another group to play D&D 3.5, which was very good. The DM stripped down the rules to her requirements and the game was less about the mechanics and more about the story she was trying to tell and the adventures she wanted us to have. That was my kind of game - rules light with plenty of roleplaying opportunities.

So, I figured, what could I do with it, a guy who hasn't touched D&D for twenty years? In fact, the last time I DM'd a D&D game must have been 1988 or thereabouts, just before Star Wars D6 took up most of my time. That's 23 years out of the D&D DM loop. I figured I'd start at the beginning and carry on from where I left off. I didn't want to get involved with 2nd edition again so I picked up the three core D&D 3.0 books and I've spent the last day going through them.

Honestly, it's a really good little game, much better than I figured it was going to be. It was highly adaptable and easy to absorb, and I can drop or change rules willy-nilly with very little effort. I'm even considering a gaming world now - my own Stormland from my free SKETCH system games on my website I'll make a few changes and add some monsters and races but the premise can remain the same and the players (and me!) can map as they travel. A solid, dark fantasy setting.

I know there were some changes made to the system in 3.5 and then Pathfinder but these mean little to me, to be honest, as I can make relevant changes myself. If they do spoil the gameplay then I might consider another purchase (probably Pathfinder and not the currently £40 a book 3.5) but right now I'm enjoying the system and the sense of nostalgia that D&D 3.0 is giving me. I'm looking forward to giving it a go.

I know a lot of gamers saw problems in 3.0 and, from what I understand, there is a sense that the books were rushed out before they were properly polished which contributed to these problems, but I'm not really seeing it. It's a pretty solid game and right now D&D 3.0 suits my approach to roleplaying well, primarily because I can modify the rules to suit me and especially now that I'm looking for more simplicity in a game.

Yeah, 'D&D' and 'simplicity'. Never thought I'd use those two words in the same sentence.


  1. If you do want to, you can pick the 3.5 core books up on eBay for much less than £40 a shot - just look at the covers carefully to make sure you're getting a 3.5 rather than a 3.0.

  2. Wise choice! Most of the changes in 3.5 were solutions to mostly inexistent problems. The 3.5 revision increases the rules bloat for little or no return, for example: more (and useless) feats, more tactically oriented (counting diagonal squares, yeah!), nerfing of spells, stupid paladin warmount which appears out of thin air, incredibly complex system of weapon sizes; I could go on. Overall, the 3.5 revision is just a money grab, and it shows; it has been poorly playtested (as admitted by the authors themselves) whereas 3.0 is a labour of love (and it shows).