This is my Rambling Thoughts page, where I will be occasionally adding anything that creeps into my foggy little brain about 3e.
Here are my thoughts on the 3rd edition D&D system.
First off, let me say that it's really a big improvement over previous versions. This is what 2nd edition should have been. Combat, for the most part, is streamlined. The skills system is fairly flexible, the feat system allows for real differentiation between characters of the same class, and the unified game-mechanic is a welcome (and long-awaited) upgrade to an aging system.
Now for the things I don't like about it.
Armor, unlike virtually every other RPG system on the market, still makes you harder to hit rather than absorbing damage. A man encumbered by heavy plate armor should be an *easier* target than one dancing around in normal clothing. The 3rd edition makes a concession to this logic by restricting the dexterity of someone wearing heavy armor, so if you have a high dex you're actually better off with lighter armor. However, it's still a poor mechanic.
I understand that the D&D system has always assumed that a roll that misses due to armor (yet would have hit the target otherwise) was, in effect, a hit that got absorbed. That's not much of a system, though, since a dagger has the same chance to have it's attack blunted as a massive morning star or a dragon's claw.
I also understand that they didn't want to upgrade TOO much of the 3rd edition, for fear of alienating many die-hard players. *scoff* Given a little time, even the most adamant die-hard old-school player would have come to the conclusion that a better system is worth the time to learn. I think the game designers underestimated the perception of the modern RPG audience.
Again, almost every other RPG on the market take the assumption that a PC's body doesn't change very much except in extreme situations (such as a lot of exercise to improve a weak body). PCs in most games have a set amount of damage their body can withstand, modified by their attributes. What makes them tougher as they progress is they get better at avoiding damage.
I understand that D&D's system assumes that advanced hit points represent the PC's ability to avoid damage, "grit and bear it", or even a mystical ability to avoid damage. This is a feeble rationalization for a system that was originally meant to simulate miniature wargames, not fantasy heroic roleplaying.
If the above explanation were true, then why do clerical spells have so little effect on a higher level PC? A 12th level fighter with 90hp who has taken 15hp damage is only very slightly hurt, yet a 1st level fighter who has taken the same damage is probably on death's door. Give a few "Cure Light Wounds" to the 1st level fighter and he receives massive healing, bringing him from death's door up to perfect health, yet the 12th level fighter only receives enough healing to close up a few annoying wounds.
Another problem... what about damage that can't be avoided? The fighter is in a narrow passage as a Fireball spell explodes nearby. He naturally gets no saving throw because the explosion can't be dodged. The 12th level fighter takes 40hp damage... he's hurt, but not even down to half hp. The 1st level fighter turns into a raisin. How does the advanced skill of the 12th level fighter allow him to be moderately hurt from flames that incinerate a less-skilled warrior? Remember, there was no cover.
Ok, they made an effort to offer a choice in the 3rd edition magic system. You can play a sorcerer who does not need to memorize his spells. Instead he has a very limited number of spells he intuitively knows and can cast a certain number of times a day. It's an improvement, but it's still clinging to a very poor magic system.
They also offer a better rationalization for the funky "Fire and Forget" spellcasting system. The mage is actually casting his spells in the morning as he goes over his spellbook. He casts them, leaving out the last few words... the final trigger. Thus as he gains in power he can maintain more "unfinished" spells. Not bad, although this explanations does bring up a few logical difficulties, such as a mage using his spellbook to cast spells the "long way", and thus not counting them against his daily limit.
I was really hoping they would come up with a better magic system for 3rd edition. See the third paragraph under AC for why they did not.
I have some ideas for possible solutions to the above problems, which I will go into in the "House Rules" section of this site. However, since I run most of my games online and I am often DMing for different people from one game to the next, any house rules must be kept to a minimum, especially as everyone is still learning the new system as it stands.
Ok, on to a new topic...
I've got to say again, I really love the new Feat system. Not only does it allow you to make Fighter A substantially different from Fighter B, it allows you to tweak a character out of his class's restrictions.
Want to play a character like Gandalf, a mage who swung a longsword? Sure thing, just take the proper Feat. (Of course, you miss out on taking mage-specific or other feats when you do that, but it's a trade-off.)
What's more, the whole feat system is designed to be modular. It's very easy to add your own feats, and you've got dozens of examples there to guide you as to appropriate power and restrictions. Want your acrobatic rogue to be able to strike at opponents while in mid-air leap? Design "Acrobatic Fighting", with the prerequisites of Dex 15+, Dodge, Mobility, Spring Attack, and the Acrobatics skill.
I think I'll start collecting my own feats, and keep them in their own section on the "House Rules" section of this site. Even before I started this website I was thinking about a special "Parry" feat, to resolve some of the problems I see with the AC system. Feel free to send me your own feats, and maybe I'll include yours on the page here.
Sorcerers really interest me.
I mean, many times in fantasy fiction we've read about the kid who could do magic without training. The intuitive approach to magic. Yet there's never really been a way to do that in D&D until now.
The disapointment comes when you realise that outside of the mechanics of memorization, a sorcerer isn't really that much different from a wizard. Sure, he doesn't have to prepare his spells ahead of time, but he uses the same spells as his wizardly friend. I don't care for that, myself.
I haven't really worked out the details of my idea yet, but I think a sorcerer should have a common "theme" or "paradigm" (to borrow a term from "Mage: The Acsension") to his magic. All his spells should revolve around the unique way he uses his power. Wizards follow the teachings of their masters, using pre-defined spells and rituals handed down for ages, but sorcerers are wild cards, using magic without that structured approach.
For example, one sorcerer may be attuned to animals - an animal paradigm. All the spells he cast must relate to the animal kingdom in some way. His "Magic Missile" spell is really a sudden bee attack. When he casts "Endure Elements", he's growing beastial fur to protect him from the frezing cold. When he casts "Jump" his legs seem to grow and take on the appearance of a great cat's.
This would limit the sorcerer, though. Not all spells can be explained in terms of his magic. How could the above fellow cast "Identify", "Erase", or "Ray of Enfeeblement"? He wouldn't be able to, thus this is a limiting factor. In exchange for this greater limit on his spells, there are several possibilities:
Perhaps he gets more "known" spells (although his spells per day remain the same.) This would increase his versatility, a neat balance against the restricted options as shown above.
Another, more extreme possibility is that the sorcerer is free to "invent" his magical effects, within the limits of his level and his paradigm. This requires more flexability on the part of the DM, since the player may think of effects that don't match anything given in the standard spell list. However, for the most part a magical effect is pretty easy to pinpoint in terms of spell level by using existing spells as a guide.
Some example sorcerer paradigms:
There may be side-effects to a paradigm. A fire-based sorcerer would be great in combat, as all his attack spells would also ignite clothing and fur in addition to their standard damage. He'd be in trouble trying to levitate a book or an ally, since his version of Telekinesis would involve a flaming hand, or a blazing whirlwind. He also wouldn't be very subtle. The sorcerer who relies on Spirits for his magic may get the ability to talk to and perceive spirits without the use of spells, but on the other hand, he may find the spirits reluctant to help unless he does things in return.
Anyway, it's an idea. It would certainly make sorcerers interesting to play and dangerous to face, since they wouldn't follow the predictable patterns of wizards.