So for a number of years I have been running a 3.5 D&D campaign setting. For the last four years it has been a particular campaign. Sadly of late I feel like the game is getting out of control and beyond my ability of manage. That has brought several issue to the fore concerning 3.5 and how much I have come to loath certain aspects of the system.
1) Wizard’s Wal-mart
The variation of D&D that i learned, knew best, and enjoyed the most, A D&D had now rules for the buying or selling of magical items or spells. You found them as loot. 3.5 introduced crafting rules, selling rules, and buying rules. In my opinion that has horribly damaged the tone of the game. Where once magical items were things of power, rare and unusual, now they are consumer goods. When players obtain treasure the motivation is to sell it so they can go shopping and buy the magical items that they really want. The whole concept of item being tied to story is trashed. In addition to devaluing the emotional impact of magical items, this has the larger effect of transforming settings from quasi-medieval to sort of a pre-industrial consumerist culture. Magic isn’t rare and strange power, it’s just a skill set like programming or drafting.
2) Mundane Magic
I can recall clearly looking around at my players and noticing that everybody save one cast spells. The proliferation of new and unusual classes and prestige classes has so greatly inflated the number of potential spell casters that being a spell caster is nothing of note. The use of magic in such a situation quickly becomes no more interesting than the use of any tool. Magic has been demystified from arcane and unknown lore to a set of Ikea instructions.
3) There’s a rule and an exception for everything
Once upon a time I ran long running campaigns with only three books. The DMs guide, the Players Handbook, and the Monster Manual. That was it. The entire library needed to play my campaign. Currently on my shelf there are 31 rule books. Every single one introduces new character classes, new spells, new feats, new items and new ways of doing things that have to be integrated into the existing system. It makes StarFleet Battles look positively straight-forward. Of all the players in my game both active and those on a temporary hiatus, very few come from just the core books. Running a game is often derailed into not only looking up a rule, but trying to find which cursed tome holds the information.
4) Complexity Curses Spontaneity
Back in my days of running an A D&D games I often rans for hours with very few notes, flying by the seat of pants through the encounters and storyline of the game. 3.5, just the core books, introduces a level of complexity that make spontaneous encounters quite difficult. Once the ‘splat’ books are added it becomes an impossibility. (At least for me.) Every encounter must be pre-generated, the numerous statistics documented, and the paperwork prepared. All this is doubly true if your players are of the sort who challenge rulings causing the game to stop so the 31 rulebooks can be consulted, If the player group diverges significantly from the expected play line the games usually has to stop because the system impedes ‘winging it.’
5) Behold the Mighty Munchkin
Start with a system that from its complexity rewards detailed attention, add in 31 books of exceptions to rules and interesting abilities, mix on top of that the ability to pick and choose your magic items at Wizard’s Wal-mart and you have the ideal recipe for Munchkin Mayhem. A player with even a modicum on intelligence and the will to do the research can craft characters that engines of efficiency, molded from the right classes, the right feats, the right spells, the right items to be far more powerful than a ‘standard’ character of that level. Worse yet such players tend to drag the entire campaign down the rabbit hole of combat calculations. No one wants a weak link in the team and the advice on builds end up guiding everyone down the ideological paths.
That’s my rant, my course of action?
I don’t know.