D&D Third Edition Month here at The Word of Stelios is almost over.
And after reading some of posts here this month, maybe you’ve gotten the itch to revisit Third Edition or perhaps even play it for the first time.
I say: go for it. Play it. Run it. You might like it.
But here’s some advice, gleaned from the experience of running Third Editon regularly for a decade.
1. Don’t rely on what you know from previous or later editions of the game.
Well, that’s a bit hyperbole depending on which edition you’re coming from. You’ll see plenty that’s familiar, but just don’t expect the game to run exactly like the edition you’re more familiar with.
For example, Pathfinder may have been based on D&D 3rd Edition, but D&D 3rd Edition really is a different game. Same d20, different rules. If you get my meaning.
2. Choose either D&D 3.0 or D&D 3.5.
In my opinion, 3.5e is the better choice–if only just for the layout; the rulebooks are easier to read. The core rulebooks for 3.0 had those annoying horizontal lines mixed in with the text.
The rules are upgraded in 3.5e, too. The Ranger is a little more rounded out. Certain spells have been adjusted for balance.
There are other differences, far too many to detail here. So just pick a version and go with it.
3. Limit which rule books you will use.
You only need the core books to run the game. Really, that’s enough.
More rules and options don’t necessarily make a better game.
Think long and hard before you incorporate rules from the multitudes of other rulebooks out there. If you’re the DM, you’ll have enough rules to remember from the corebooks alone.
4. Play only through levels 1-12.
Combat can slow to a crawl beyond levels 10-12. The players have a plethora of options for their characters to use.
And if you’re the DM, every monster and NPC also has a plethora of options to use. Keeping track of things can be really difficult and time-consuming.
5. Run Published adventures.
Building stat-blocks for monsters and NPCs will get old really fast, as will designing encounters around the Challenge Rating and Encounter level system.
Save yourself some time and just run published adventures. There’s plenty of great ones out there: Rappan Athuk, The Forge of Fury, The Red Hand of Doom, and others.
6. Play the game “as is.”
3rd Edition doesn’t lend itself well to house rules. The d20 system is so unified that one change can have a “ripple effect” across the system.
For example, a low-magic campaign will work when the characters are low-level. But at higher levels, the Challenge Rating and Encounter Level system break down because it relies on characters having certain magic items at certain levels.
Besides, there’s a lot of rules to (re)learn first before you start changing things.
If it helps you run the game smoother, use it.
Make a list of all the actions that may provoke an attack of opportunity. Make a list of important rules.
Photocopy those NPC and monster stat-blocks from those published adventures and recycle them elsewhere. Each monster in the D&D Miniatures line for 3.5e came with a stat card, use those.
Utilize the 3.5e system reference document.
Use that battlemat for combat encounters. Use Dungeon Tiles with caution.
Conversely, if it slows your game down, don’t use it.
Ban rules lawyers.
Otherwise, have fun.