Thursday, January 23, 2014

What D&D 3.5 Needed

What Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 needed.  A lot of this is stuff 4e did correctly.

Skill List needs to be consolidated

Sleight of Hand, Open Lock and Disable Device were consolidated into Thievery.  Balance and Tumble were consolidated into Acrobatics.  Spot, Listen and Search were consolidated into Perception.  Jump, Swim and Climb were consolidated into Athletics.  Spellcraft and Knowledge: Arcana were consolidated into Arcana. 

Magic needed to be separated into Utility, Tactical and High Magic

4e did this half-right by instituting the Rituals feat.  But they took a good idea and screwed it up by only taking a half step. (Granted, the wargaming style templates they utilized were an even bigger mistake, but still)

Utility magics, like Unseen Servant and Tenser's Floating Disc should be more or less flavor.  The sort of minor things that make life easier but aren't usually capable of turning a tide in battle (minus a really clever player, of course).  Headache cures, obvious illusions for entertainment, lights and the like.  They should have low material costs and take less than fifteen minutes to cast and available to anybody of any level.  The Ritualist feat from 4e accomplished this...sort of...but made the casting of these rituals require prohibitively expensive materials cost for even minor flavor type effects.  Utility magics should be relatively easy to acquire and cast.

Tactical magic would be things like magic missile, obscuring mist and fireball.  Tactical magic should be able to be used repetitively and be able to make the spellcaster the match for non-spellcasters in combat but not their superior.  One of the problems that 1st through 3.5e magic had was that the balancing factor was that spellcasters could use a limited number of spells per day and when that spell list reached its end, they weren't as able to affect the battles.  The result was that the developers felt justified in giving players powers of vast destructive or manipulative ability based on that idea that they'd only be able to use one or two per day.  Instead, they should have had a selection of reusable powers that kept them adding to the combat encounter after encounter without overshadowing the entire party. 

High magic is the stuff like wide-scale curses, magical plagues, long-lasting wards, the creation of powerful magical artifacts, powerful scrying, permanent magical traps, summonings of major planar entities, the building of extraplanar refuges and things like that.  These should take quite a long time to cast, proportionate to their impact, and also cost a significant amount of materials.  I like the concept of these falling under the Ritual feat in 4e because that meant that anybody of any class could conceivably cast and create these sorts of High Magic.  This meant that the master blacksmith could statistically be able to create a magical weapon without having any other magic connected to them and a bunch of cultists that have no other spell casters could summon a major demon.  The fiction of D&D has non-mages and non-clerics creating near-artifact level weapons and rangers summoning major Demons in an attempt to distract them for a few hours.

High Magic should be difficult to acquire, cost a lot to cast and take a long time to cast.  These should be things that take a lot of research and or searching to find even one High Magic ritual. 

Which is a way of explaining why a guy who spends his entire time in a library or tower matches up as a threat for someone who's been traveling around collecting experience left, right and center.

Basically, the idea of ANYBODY of ANY class being able to use the High and Utility magics is a good one, with tactical magic being the province of caster classes.

Normalize attack methods.

This is another thing that 4e did right.  In 3.5 you have two sorts of attack: in one case the attacker rolls a die and tries to beat a defense or AC to hit the target; in the other case, the defender rolls a die to see if they defeat the attack. 

In 4e, they normalized things so that the attacker made the roll in all cases.  Instead of having saving throws, they had defenses that the spellcaster had to beat.  Some spells targeted Reflex, others attacked Will, others attacked Fortitude.  This also allowed them to create attack styles with the non-casters for attacking these other defenses.

Dead Levels

This is one of the reasons that people multiclass, because the next level of their current class gives them nothing particularly exciting.  Pathfinder and 4e both addressed this issue.  Pathfinder did it better because they modified the existent system rather than reworking the system as a whole.

Skill Points are a poor system

I like the way 4e did it: skills were either trained or not.  Training in skills gave access to some abilities the untrained didn't have, also Trained skills had an extra +5 bonus to rolls.  Aside from that, however, skill rolls scaled with level and you didn't have to put any points into them.

Hit Points needs to be matched with a wound system

Making hit points represent morale, fatigue and the like similar to the way Lord of the Rings Online game defines it is a good idea.  In which case, wounds such as broken limbs or bleeding wounds would not be directly treatable by spell casters.  Death by hit points would be due to general shock, pain, mystical attacks and exhaustion rather than any specific injury.  Magic to heal the wounds would be in the High category and thus be rare, while many casters could heal the hit point damage.  People could suffer wounds that give them penalties and take days to recover from without being low on hit points and explain why suffering an injury is still a thing.

Alignment needs to die

Seriously.  Just.  End it.  Out of the alignment system come numerous headache inducing situations that could otherwise be avoided.  You can use different triggers for the holy/unholy anarchic/axiomatic weapons.

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