Things I've learned as a 3E "grognard"

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Things I've learned as a 3E "grognard"

Postby willpell » Fri Apr 21, 2017 8:26 pm

As someone who's put a good bit of time and effort into developing a high degree of system mastery in 3E (I know far from everything, but I've studied significant parts of the ruleset to great extent), I thought I'd create a thread for collecting miscellaneous observations and conclusions that I've derived from studying these books. These are things that aren't worth devoting a full thread to the subject, but just little details I've figured out.

#1 - Free Level Adjustment
If you're building a character at 9th level or above, you can effectively take a +1 Level Adjustment template, or a race with a built in +1 LA and no racial Hit Dice, for "Free" (assuming the DM agrees, of course). This is because, if you apply the Buying Off Level Adjustment system from Unearthed Arcana, your character ends up with a lower Effective Character Level than the rest of the party, and thus gains more XP from every encounter than the rest of the party. This "river of XP" results in the character "catching up" within about six levels of operating at such a deficit; I did the math a while back, and while I don't remember the exact numbers, I'm pretty sure the extra XP worked out to a full level after about that long. (Someone who's bored can double-check my numbers.) Note that this system doesn't allow you to remove 1 point of LA from a character who starts with more than +1 in total; Drow for example are +2, which means that they take until 9th level just to buy off their LA, leaving them as a Level 7 character. While this gives them a fair amount of extra XP, I don't know exactly how long it takes for them to fully "catch up", if they ever do; I would guess that it's not until close to level 20 that they might achieve full parity with the characters who started with LA +1 or lower.

Example: I build a level 1 psion who's a Dromite (a race from the Expanded Psionics Handbook, who has no RHD but an LA of +1). When created, he has one character level, 1000 XP, and joins a party full of Level 2 characters who also have 1000 XP. When this entire party has gained another 2000 XP, each of them levels up; the Dromite Psion now has two character levels, and the other characters have three, with all of them having a total of 3000 XP. After they gain that much again, the normal characters reach level 4, where they have 6000 total XP; the Dromite, however, uses LA Buyoff to remove his +1 ECL, paying 3000 XP to do so. He is thusly a perfectly normal Level 3 character with 3000 XP remaining. The next time his party fights a bunch of monsters, he will get more XP out of the same fight than all of them would, and as he continues playing "catch-up", he achieves his 4th character level shortly after the others all reach level 5, and he becomes level 5 a little after they attain 6th, and so forth. By level 9, the gap has disappeared or very nearly so. Thusly, if the GM starts a new campaign with level 9 characters, I can build a level 9 Dromite and he won't be significantly different in power level from a level 9 Human. I could instead build a level 9 Human with the Draconic template, but if I wanted to be a Draconic Dromite, I would still have to start at level 7, although I could be treated as having my LA fully bought off, and gain more XP from every encounter as I continue to fight alongside my more powerful compatriots.
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Re: Things I've learned as a 3E "grognard"

Postby Boddynock » Thu Jun 22, 2017 4:54 am

So, if you don't mind, I figure I'd use this thread to sort of pick your brain about. 3.5 was actually the first system I began with in D&D (I was a late bloomer to the party. Which sometimes feels a bit odd, given this a forum about older settings that I discovered later on in life). So, I can recall a lot, but I also admit 3.5 sort of faded into a big kick into Pathfinder. I still have a fondness for 3.5 though.

My question I'd like to get your opinion on: What did you think of Warlocks? Were you, as a GM, annoyed they got their eldritch shots off? Or did you just kind of shrug and let them be the sort of one-trick pony that they were? Two GM's I knew wouldn't let anyone play a Warlock. I never had a problem with them.
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Re: Things I've learned as a 3E "grognard"

Postby willpell » Sat Jun 24, 2017 12:46 am

Boddynock wrote:My question I'd like to get your opinion on: What did you think of Warlocks? Were you, as a GM, annoyed they got their eldritch shots off? Or did you just kind of shrug and let them be the sort of one-trick pony that they were? Two GM's I knew wouldn't let anyone play a Warlock. I never had a problem with them.


I'm not super-fond of them, but I wouldn't ban them. They're generally considered underpowered; if a player wanted to try one, I certainly wouldn't refuse. I might, but only might, even allow some of the homebrew "fixes" for them, if they seemed to be lagging in power level.

However, if a player really wanted to play a Warlock, I'd probably steer them toward 5E over 3E, as that added Warlock to the 11 base classes, and does a much better job with pretty much all twelve of those. To me the point of playing 3E is to use all the other classes, prestige classes, unusual character options within the base classes (eg clerics with unconventional pairs of domains that haven't been translated even into a single domain, let alone being combinable), and various subsystems (such as Skill Tricks and Legacy Weapons), all of which 5E simplified out of existence. I mean, they've only barely even ported psionics!

My 3E campaigns from now on (with the possible exception of the established CW I've been working on for years) will barely include the base classes, since nearly all of them are either OP or UP, and most of them can be replaced with a later-published class that fixes the problem (eg replacing you Linear Fighter with a Warblade, and your Quadratic Wizard with a Beguiler or Warmage).
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Re: Things I've learned as a 3E "grognard"

Postby Boddynock » Sat Jun 24, 2017 1:10 am

I also loved Spell Compendium (except for the parts that needed to have errata to fix them). When it came to campaigns, the thing I learned as a more-or-less 3e "grognard" myself, was the top books beloved at our table was PHB and Spell Compendium. Continuing with this sort of thread: Could you name a couple of books (I try not to put someone on the spot by saying 'What is your favorite book?) but name a couple you really liked for 3e). Mine, besides the Core, would include:

Spell Compendium - I'm big fan of casters. Never played a Beguiler or War Mage (though I liked the look of the latter). But I played a lot Wizards and Sorcerers. Compendium was one I loved. Favorite character: Dwarven Abjurer.

Complete Arcane - Even though I've yet to play a Warmage (I won't say never, after all, I might stumble onto a 3e game). Anyway. I still read a lot out of Complete Arcane. It was one of my favorite splat books.

Savage Species: I'm a big sucker for races. The more the better. I would say one thing I wasn't the biggest fan of sometimes was the high ECL's for playing stuff like Svirfneblin. As you pointed out, by 9th level, you could play any race you wanted. I liked reading Savage Species and coming up with Monster 'Classes'. Maybe one day I'll get a chance to run a 1st level Svirfneblin, take his first class, and push onward.

Revised Psionics Rulebook: Or whatever it was called. Hated by my other GM's and viewed as OP. I didn't think that was the case, especially if you used the rules where stuff like Spell Resistance and Dispel Magic also worked against Psionics (making it just another branch of magic like Arcane or Divine powers). Still, I love the concept of Blue Goblins and was glad to see that Psionics Unleashed in Pathfinder offered a version of the Blue.
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Re: Things I've learned as a 3E "grognard"

Postby willpell » Sat Jun 24, 2017 11:30 pm

Boddynock wrote:I also loved Spell Compendium (except for the parts that needed to have errata to fix them). When it came to campaigns, the thing I learned as a more-or-less 3e "grognard" myself, was the top books beloved at our table was PHB and Spell Compendium. Continuing with this sort of thread: Could you name a couple of books (I try not to put someone on the spot by saying 'What is your favorite book?) but name a couple you really liked for 3e).


I've pretty much already given this answer, and it hasn't really changed since that post:

viewtopic.php?f=30&t=16198&p=181739&hilit=weapons+of+legacy#p181739

Except I probably would add Savage Species to the list, having put more effort into comprehending it. Players' Handbook 2 and Magic Item Compendium are also pretty decent, though I wouldn't rank them above "okay" overall, a category that also includes most of the Complete series. (Within that series, Complete Adventurer and Complete Scoundrel are the best, Complete Psionic is the worst, and pretty much everything else is equal.)

As you pointed out, by 9th level, you could play any race you wanted.


Correction: you can play a race with exactly +1 LA and no Racial HD. Tiefling, for instance, is okay, but Drow is not. A Drow PC takes until 9th level just to remove all of her LA, and has a huge XP debt to work off; the Tiefling by that point is completely caught up with the Humans and Elves. I haven't done the math to prove whether the Drow ever catches up, but if it does happen, it's pretty close to level 20 by then. (And at a VERY loose guess, +3 LA races like Half-Dragons probably catch up somewhere in the vicinity of level 30, while +4s are in epic levels before they even buy their LA down for the second time.) Racial Hit Dice further ruin the math, and nearly all the creatures in Savage Species have them. The only races that are in the clear are those who have +1 or maybe +2 LA with no RHD; I'm currently mostly building Psionic characters, so this applies to Dromites and Half-Giants but not to Thri-Kreen.

Revised Psionics Rulebook: Or whatever it was called. Hated by my other GM's and viewed as OP.


Corebook spells are more OP than the Psionics system can ever dream of being. The only really insane thing in psionics is the Psychic Reformation power; you can mitigate this by NOT being generous with the XP system, but in the process you nerf several other things that didn't need nerfing. Other books contain other things that further break psionics, but they also contain unnecessary nerfs for some of the better psychic powers, so picking and choosing produces distorted results compared to allowing everything. But ultimately, spells got more extra support than powers ever did.

I didn't think that was the case, especially if you used the rules where stuff like Spell Resistance and Dispel Magic also worked against Psionics (making it just another branch of magic like Arcane or Divine powers).


I really hate that rule myself. I treat the two as entirely separate. However, I did merge the Use Magic Device and Use Psionic Device skills into a single skill, because it makes no sense to me that you would make Magic and Psionics the same thing, but have two different and incompatible ways of cheating to activate an item that you're not supposed to be able to use, depending on whether it's randomly studded with crystals or not.

Still, I love the concept of Blue Goblins and was glad to see that Psionics Unleashed in Pathfinder offered a version of the Blue.


Deep Gnomes and Blues are your favorite things? You definitely have rather different tastes than me, so take everything I said with a grain of salt.
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Re: Things I've learned as a 3E "grognard"

Postby Big Mac » Fri Jul 07, 2017 9:40 am

willpell wrote:However, if a player really wanted to play a Warlock, I'd probably steer them toward 5E over 3E, as that added Warlock to the 11 base classes, and does a much better job with pretty much all twelve of those.


If you would run a 5e game, instead of a 3e game, just because one player wants to play a Warlock...

...you are not a 3e grognard! :P
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Re: Things I've learned as a 3E "grognard"

Postby willpell » Sun Jul 09, 2017 2:00 am

Big Mac wrote:
willpell wrote:However, if a player really wanted to play a Warlock, I'd probably steer them toward 5E over 3E, as that added Warlock to the 11 base classes, and does a much better job with pretty much all twelve of those.


If you would run a 5e game, instead of a 3e game, just because one player wants to play a Warlock...

...you are not a 3e grognard! :P


Well, if I was running "a 3E game", I would discourage that player from using the mechanically-awkward Warlock class, in favor of Sorcerer or Binder or something. But if I was running "a game for Alice, Bob, and Charlie", and Bob wanted to be a Warlock, I'd probably use 5E for the game. It does have advantages compared to 3E, mostly in terms of being easier, although most of the classes in 5E are better-executed than their 3E counterparts (Warlock is the most extreme example along with Fighter and Monk, since all of these are garbage classes in 3E rules; spellcasting classes are more negotiable, and Barbarian kind of sucks in either edition, although 3E offers a few alternatives).
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