With 4th edition just around the corner, I thought I’d give my impression of 3rd Edition and the d20 system.
The d20 system has several good ideas that make it easier to understand and more easy to play.
- Positive AC. A larger AC being better than a smaller AC makes more sense.
- Magic. I like the idea of the effectiveness of saving throws being based on spell level. This makes more powerful magic inherently harder to avoid than less powerful magic, and it makes a lot of sense. I never liked the way a sixth level spell like Death could be simply shrugged off by a Save vs Death Ray, the easiest saving throw to make.
- Saving Throws. Having saving throws based on “reflex” or other descriptions of how a character may actually avoid a situation is clearer.
Unfortunately, the d20 system sometimes made things “too logical” and went a little overboard on the complexity of certain areas.
- Every class can be mixed with every race. I don’t like this idea, however it is easy enough for a DM to decide in his game world to restrict certain race/class combinations.
- Sorcerers. It’s not a bad idea as far as game mechanics go (which is why I think they used it) but a “sorcerer” isn’t conceptually different enough from a “wizard” which I think makes it confusing. I think they should have come up with a more unique name/panache for this class. Kind of reminds me of how they used to make a big deal out of “Illusionists” in AD&D 1st edition.
- Combat. Where should I start? Combat in the d20 system is basically a mess. It’s overly complicated with game mechanics that detract from enjoyment. Complicated combat rules are good for video games sometimes because you don’t see them and a computer can make calculations way faster than you can, but they aren’t good for tabletop games. Combat in the game should be fun but quick. A drawn-out combat sequence might be good once in an adventure against a particularly important enemy, but who really wants to spend 30 minutes dispatching a group of goblins?
- Spell Feats. I think this just makes the game more complex. I asked a friend if you could just rule out spell feats as a DM, but he said that it would unbalance the classes.