On The Sublimity of Third Edition
What's good about this? Not much. What's good about third edition though?
More than one or two things.
Reprinting just the 3.5 core books is a special kind of idea, the terrible kind. Anyone who wants those books is just going to buy Pathfinder. They would do better with Expanded Psionic, Spell Compendium, and other series of 'collection' books. Why? Because 3.5 books are available new at a lower price then the reprints. They lost the core rulebook sales to Paizo, and re-releasing the core rulebooks isn't going to change that. Have you seen the Pathfinder core books? It's a better engine then 3.5.
That's not what we're going to talk about today. What are we going to talk about?
Well, I'm pretty negative about 3.X in general, so here I'm going to talk about what 3.X did right. What elements of brilliance it contained that should propagate throughout the OSR. Here we go!
1. Touch Armor Class - Why is this not freaking standard? When writing for D&D writing, "must make a touch attack" is so much easier then writing "Must make an attack that bypasses armor, only allowing a dexterity bonus to armor class". One is simple way of stating what must be done. The other requires re-iteration every time it is mentioned.
2. Standardizing the terms of the action economy - In general, the action economy sucks a literal pile of moist monkey poop through pursed lips while making a 'swwwwwwwuuuuuuuuuup' sound. However, it is much simpler and more clear to say, "This takes a full round action," rather than saying, "The character must use the item for a full round in order to gain the benefit". Similarly, saying "The character cannot attack and can only move and make non-offensive actions" is much more unclear and complicated then saying "The character can only take move actions."
3. Spell descriptors - Let me be clear. I love item saving throws. I can even wrap my head around spells creating 'normal fire' and 'magical fire'. But categorizing energy types and having spells tagged with descriptors and then having clear-cut categories for what the spell is doing, helps me as a DM to make judgement calls as needed. I still can't parse the 2e version of Alter Self.
4. Conditions - I think having general condition descriptors is a good idea. As long as you don't create a new condition for every little variant, and have a short list of perhaps 15 different conditions and general effects that other game effects can use or modify.
5. Bonus Types - Finally, there is an awful awful lot I hate about the magic item/spell bonus system. The one part I don't is having explicit bonus types with explicit rules for how they stack.
6. Templates - I thought they were a good idea when I first saw them, and I still think they are a good idea. Why shouldn't anything be a ghost? or a skeleton? Obviously some intelligence should be applied, but this is a good idea.