Friday, January 27, 2017

3.5 is da fuckin best

I love all (well, okay most) of the ways that 3.5 is broken.  It's like a busted-ass old car that leans to the left and skids if you don't handle the breaks just so but you know backwards and forwards.

I love that Wizards are the most powerful class, but you have to be sort of an obsessive anorak IRL to use it to its fullest potential.

I love that Paladins aren't even good at dungeoncrawling because they're designed for completely different types of adventures (one of their major powers is "has a horse") so consequently just by existing the Paladin is pushing the group in a "wrong" direction.

I love that Clerics are the all-arounder, beginner-friendly, easymode class because they're the gods' representatives on earth of course they'd be

I love that everybody underestimates Rogues until the Rogue does something incredibly obvious and easy that breaks the game (burns something down, pushes a boulder down a hill, smooth-talks the mayor, leaves a trap unsprung, whatever) and then everyone screams about how Rogues are cheap bullshit.

I love that you have to realize that sometimes professional game designers can make bad choices and that you need to ignore those choices in order for Monk to even be a class.  Like, I've never met anybody who enforced that flurry-on-full-attack-only rule, ever.  I think a lot of people I play with don't even know that's how it's supposed to be because it would so obviously be a horrible idea.

I love that Druids are a weird, non-beginner friendly class who don't have much in the way of offensive abilities for their first five levels (depending on how liberally your DM lets things catch on fire I guess) that eventually get to Godmode as spellcasting bears.

I love that magic is finally, indisputably, more powerful than hitting shit with your sword.  Like, sorry dudes, but at a certain point being the best at sword isn't gonna compete with "teleport away, fly 1,000 ft high, trigger earthquake."  Anime bullshit can't beat Merlin even if you beliiiiieeeve.

Beliiiieeeeve

I love that everything can multiclass with anything, that there are no ability caps or hard limits on what kind of character you want to make.  Everything's part of a toolbox and (this to me is the big difference from 4E---OH NOES EDITION WARRING) the game invites you to look under the hood, to make stuff and break stuff and try new combinations.  Take somebody's good idea that was poorly done---say, the Hexblade---and build it better yourself.  Once you've played 3.5 with your group for a while you're gonna know what target numbers you want to hit, how to exploit the system, and building a Hexblade who can stand next to the Frenzied Berzerker and the Duskblade without blushing. 

I love that you have a wealth of options to radically change the way the game is played (if you can talk your players into it).  Do you like called shots?  Throw 'em in, now archers are good.  Combat facing?  Fuck yeah Samurai-style free backstabs for everybody.   Sick of debating about what hitpoints meeean?  Fuck 'em, toss 'em for a wound system that keeps combat short and to the point. 

 Notice how they are constantly jockying to get on each others' flank 
the whole time.  A staple of samurai movie combat.

3.5 is less a discrete, monolithic system and more of a series of options for you and the group to consider.  If you absolutely, positively, must have balance, it can sort of do that with a few tweaks.  If like me you really don't give a fuck and are okay with having Hawkeye and Thor on the same team, it's even easier.  The strength is that it can be as simple as OD&D combat (just, you know, ignore all that fiddly bullshit about elevation and terrain) or so complex that every turn is mulled over with wargamer-like intensity and an hour is needed to resolve a few seconds of INTENSE, CINEMATIC action, all based on the strength of the simple and flexible core mechanic.   At the end of the day if you don't know what else to do, pick a number that feels right and ask the player to roll over it.  Holy shit

I spent my first decade of D&D running 3.5 for a group who were open and flexible to whatever tweaks and changes I wanted to make to the system.  While I won't say what I ended up with was perfect, it was pretty close to that verisimilitudinous-but-cinematic, impactful-dangerous-tactical-but fast-paced Holy Grail I've been chasing.  And I scared one of my players enough once that he hid behind cover for three sessions.  I'm equally proud and weirded the fuck out by that. 

Being a 6th-level hired gun won't save you if you lose Init and get caught
flatfooted by a called shot TO THE FACE.