3.5 Opinions: PH Intro, Races, and Classes

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This article is a running commentary on some of the changes I've noticed between D&D 3.0 and 3.5, and what I feel about those changes. It is by no means a comprehensive list of changes. The purpose of this document is twofold:
Understand that I'm friends with the people that made the 3.0 and 3.5 rules. Just because I have strong opinions on some of the rules changes doesn't mean they're wrong or I'm right, it just means I'm opinionated. Hopefully the reasoning behind my opinion will help you understand the rules better and decide whether or not you decide to use those rules in your game.

This first article covers the title page, introduction, and first three chapters of the 3.5 Player's Handbook: Introduction, Races, and Classes.

Title Page
It's very sad that the first thing I need to comment about in the new 3.5 PH is the very second page, and it's a negative comment.
    You may not have noticed, but I did ... a lot of people credited in the 3.0 PH aren't credited here. For some reason, when the rules were revised, they chose to cut some people from the credits list ... people who rightfully deserve credit for their role in 3.0 and thus 3.5 (since 3.5 carries over at least 50% of 3.0). I noticed this because I'm one of the people whose name was cut, and the other people cut are all friends of mine.
    It may seem like I'm being petty, but there's a lot of stuff in 3.5 that was lifted almost verbatim from FR material ... stuff written by me. Like Stealthy and many other +2/+2 feats in the FRCS. Like Diehard (my revised version of Remain Conscious from Sword & Fist). Improved Counterspell feat from Magic of Faerûn. Greater Spell Focus and Greater Spell Penetration feats from the FRCS. Two-Weapon Defense feat which is just a variant of Twin Sword Style in the FRCS. Widen Spell feat from MoF. MoF spells acid splash, dimensional lock, and undeath to death. The Archmage, Hierophant, and Red Wizard prestige classes from the FRCS (yes, that belongs in the DMG 3.5 critique). And yet my name doesn't appear even once in the 3.5 PH.
    There are many other people taken out of the credits for the 3.5 book ... so many that I've turned that into an entirely separate article.

Character Creation: I have no idea why, but they took out the numbers from in front of these subsections. While most of them are there just for convenience, the real impact of this change is that there is no longer a "Rule Zero." The rule ("Check with your dungeon master") is still there, it just doesn't have an official-sounding name any more. I find this decision very strange, especially as "Rule Zero" is something that has entered the 3E gamer's lexicon.

Chapter 1: Abilities
The description of this ability calls out that you do get Strength damage with a sling. I don't think that should be the case. While I don't have a degree in physics (it's in chemistry, sorry), I believe that it takes a certain minimum amount of strength to get the sling rotating at the necessary speed, and any strength beyond that just lets you get it there faster (and since there isn't a game mechanic for the time needed to get a sling up to speed, the added strength has no effect). Any increase in rotational speed is really negligible because of the way you have to move your arm. I think I'll question a physicist on this, though, and post a followup. House rule: For now, no Str bonus to sling damage.

Chapter 2: Races
Notice that in the human racial description (and other creatures of this size), their size category is now just "Medium," not "Medium-size," which is nice because it means that all size categories are just one word. Malhavoc had been doing this for a while and other companies may have as well. It's a good change, since Medium-size sticks out like a sore thumb in a list of other size categories. And "-size" is implied in the definition of the category ("Size"), so there's no reason to repeat it.

Dwarves no longer have a speed reduction in heavy armor. As a guy who played a dwarf fighter for over a year in Chris Perkins' campaign, certainly I see the need for this ability. Any character restricted to a 15 ft. speed is going to show up last at the battle, and it's no fun having to spend an extra round or two just to get into the fight. Personal experience aside, it doesn't hurt the dwarf to give them this break, and doesn't unfairly disadvantage the other races -- dwarves are the only standard Medium race with a slower speed, and have the same speed as a Small race despite their larger size, so this just brings them up to par with the other Medium races.
    Weapon Familiarity is a nice touch for the race, and a cleaner solution than giving dwarves a bonus Exotic Weapon Proficiency feat with the weapon (which would introduce weirdness that dwarven wizards couldn't use normal axes but for some reason could use dwarven waraxes and urgroshes). Personally I think we should use this solution for elves as well ... it would be more consistent in terms of mechanics and theme/rationale.
    Dwarves have Stability, making it harder to Bull Rush or Trip them. It makes me wonder if short and/or fat characters should get this, too. I'd be tempted to suggest making this an available feat rather than a racial ability, but the benefits aren't great enough to merit taking it as a feat (Bull Rush and Trip don't come up often enough in a typical campaign to make such a feat worth the cost).

As I mentioned in the dwarf section, I think Weapon Familiarity with the four (!) elven weapons would be a better way to go than to just give them four free proficiencies. Of course, this would expand the meaning of Weapon Familiarity ... currently it means "the race treats this exotic weapon as a martial weapon" ... for elves it would mean "elves treat these martial weapons as simple weapons." House rule: Instead of four bonus weapon proficiencies, elves now get "Weapon Familiarity: Elves may treat longswords, rapiers, longbows (including composite longbows), and shortbows including composite shortbows) as simple weapons rather than martial weapons."

Weapon Familiarity is a nice touch for the gnomes, just like for the dwarves.
    Their DC increase for illusions is nice and makes gnomes a much stronger choice for a character who wants to play an illusion-specialist of any class (the favored class: illusionist didn't really do it). A nice touch, especially as it isn't just for sor/wiz illusion spells.
    The change of favored class to bard is a mixed bag. The good part is that it really play's into the gnomes archetypical prankster nature and even to their affinity with animals. The bad part is that it's a significant character change for 3.0 characters, and most DMs should grandfather in the old favored class rule for existing gnome illusionist characters. House rule: Gnomes treat bard or illusionist as their favored class, whichever is more advantageous.

At first glance they still seem a little weak compared to the other races, but mechanically they're actually OK. Compared to a human they're one feat behind but gain +1 to three skills (almost a feat right there), +2 to two skills (definitely a feat right there), low-light vision, and resistance to some spells. They're no longer the powerhouses they were in 2E (and they shouldn't be) but now they're a viable race. I think the bonuses to Diplomacy and Gather Information skills are the clincher for this race; without them (in 3.0) they're not quite good enough for me to want to play one, but with them it's enough of a boost that even your low-Charisma half-elf is decent at talking to people.

Unlike the other races with racial weapons, half-orcs don't get Weapon Familiarity with the orc double axe (nor do actual orcs). I guess you can explain it away as orcs still being somewhat primitive and not inclined to practice with such a weird weapon (and it's certainly weirder and harder to use than the comparable racial double weapons). Mechanically it wouldn't hurt if they got Weapon Familiarity, though, especially considering the race's other mechanical hindrances.
    The -2 penalty to Int and Charisma is still really strong. It means that you're going to see very few PC or NPC orc arcane spellcasters, and severely penalizes those kinds of characters once they get to higher levels (they have to work hard to make sure their ability scores outpace their gaining of higher-level spell slots or they're not able to fully utilize their class potential). This penalty also sorta contradicts the definition of Charisma in Chapter 1, which says, "This ability represents actual strength of personality, not merely how one is perceived by others in a social setting." Orcs and half-orcs may be "dull and crude," but they can have big egos just like any other race (and their leaders tend to have very high opinions of themselves, and keep rivals out of power through intimidation and force of will). House rule: Half-orcs do not have a Charisma penalty. Half-orcs get a -1 penalty to Diplomacy, Gather Information, and Handle Animal checks.

Chapter 3: Classes

General Comment
This isn't really a 3.5 vs. 3.0 issue, but I thought I'd mention it here since I'm doing an analysis of each chapter. Looking back over D&D in all its forms, it's weird that fighty classes (bbn, ftr, pal, rgr, war) are only barely ahead of non-fighty classes in terms of BAB. The 18-year-old who spend the last four years training in the local militia, army, or fighting academy is a 1st-level fighter with a +1 BAB and maybe Weapon Focus. His twin brother who went into the clergy at 14 has a +0 BAB and probably no Weapon Focus. His twin sisters went to the wizard school and thieves' guild, and they have a +0 BAB. So the guy who spent four years learning how to fight -- and nothing else -- is 10% more likely to hit than the guys who studied fighting as a sideline to their main career (barring ability score differences, which don't reflect training), and that's only in one weapon ... in all other weapons, he's probably only 5% better (again, barring differences in weapon proficiencies*). Isn't that strange? Maybe these non-fighty classes need a poorer attack progression.
* And weapon proficiency isn't really an issue here. After all, how often do you see characters of any level routinely fighting with weapons they're not trained in? So sure, the fighter can pick up almost any weapon and use it without penalty, but if the cleric never uses anything other than simple weapons, the fighter isn't seeing that much of an advantage for his extra proficiencies, particularly at low levels.

Now Improved Uncanny Dodge is a separate ability. This makes the barbarian class build a little cleaner, and you don't have to have big parenthetical statements in a stack block. Nice.
    Trap Sense: Same as Improved Uncanny Dodge.

This version of the class is greatly refined and cleaned up. I prefer it to the previous version.
     Skill Points: With the boost to 6 skill points per level, bards are second only to the rogue, which means not only can they function pretty well as a true rogue in a pinch, but they can still devote skill points to more than one Perform skill (since Perform in 3.5 changed to be more like Craft than the unique and weird skill it was in 3.0).
     Bards can now cast spells in light armor without spell failure; this is absolutely necessary because most of their AC-granting spells (such as mage armor) were taken off the bard spell list with the revision. In one 3.5 playtest I played a bard and nearly died because my AC was poor and I couldn't wear armor without risking spell failure. So I'm glad the spell failure issue was addressed (though it would have been nice if those spells stayed on the bard spell list, too).
    Spells: Bards can now swap out old Spells Known for new ones, meaning at high levels you won't be stuck with sleep and other weak-foes-only spells. Personally I think they could have let the bard swap a spell at every even level; it lets the bard have a little more variety and doesn't use an ungainly and non-intuitive "starting at 5th and every 3rd level after that" progression. House rule: Bards can swap out one spell each time they gain a bard level.
    Bardic music abilities (at least the more powerful ones) are now based on bard level instead of ranks in the Perform skill. This is nice because in 3.0 you could take 1 level of bard, multiclass into something else, keep inflating your Perform skill, and get all of the bardic music abilities. In other words, it keeps you from looting the 1st level of the class and never going back again. Plus, this means the bardic music abilities can go on the bard's level table instead of just being buried in a page of running text.
    Inspire Courage now explicitly includes the bard as well as his allies, ending a lot of silly debate about whether or not the bard counts himself as one of his allies (of course he does!).
    Unfortunately, Inspire Competence explicitly cannot be used on the bard. On one hand I can see the conflict of doing two things at once, but the game has many other examples of being able to do multiple things at once, and this shouldn't be any different (especially as the ability already points out contradictory uses like chanting to better your Move Silently check). I can see a bard singing Those Daring Young Men on the Flying Trapeze to himself as he makes Balance checks to cross a chasm on a rope, or the Spider-Man theme as he climbs a difficult wall, or whatever. House rule: Inspire Competence can be used on the bard.
    Inspire Greatness, like Inspire Courage, explicitly affects the bard. Yay!

In general, this class is too strong.
    House Rule: Clerics don't get Shield Proficiency or Armor Proficiency (Heavy). I'm strongly tempted to knock down one of their saves, too, but I don't have to worry about that just yet because there aren't any true clerics in my (ancient Greece) New Argonauts campaign.
    A cleric's aura, like a paladin's, affects their detection strength when others use detect good or similar spells. It's nice that they call out this ability in the body text of the class, though it needs to be listed on the cleric table as well.
    I'd be all for a different system for turning undead. As it is it's mainly good for eliminating numbers of very weak undead, and since you don't tend to encounter weak undead later in the game, it's an ability that becomes almost useless after a while (especially as the more powerful undead usually have turn resistance, which makes it difficult if not impossible to turn CR-appropriate undead). Perhaps something where you spontaneously convert spell slots to damage undead, then you could use weaker turn attempts against weaker undead. Something to think about. (FUTURE LINK: UNDEAD AND TURN RESISTANCE article)
    Now clerics get Knowledge (history) and Knowledge (the planes) as class skills, which makes sense to me.

    Weapon and Armor Proficiency: It's really nice that druids who take the appropriate armor or weapon proficiency feats are no longer penalized for it. Before, the druid could become proficient in "strange weapon X" by taking a feat but would lose class abilities for actually using it. It lets druids be a little more flexible in their build ... especially in the case of druids who worship a deity instead of nature itself (like clerics, they often want to use their deity's weapon, but if that weapon wasn't on the druid list then they were penalized by a loss of class abilities despite spending a feat for proficiency). Personally I think they should get proficiency in shortbow as well, because that's a pretty simple weapon to make and as "natural" as anything else on the druid list. House Rule: Druids get proficiency in shortbow.
    Spontaneous Casting for druids is very nice and gives them a nice flavor -- no matter what the druid prepared for spells that day, she always has the option to call some animal buddies.
    Animal Companions: This changed a lot in 3.5. The biggest change is that you can't get more than one animal companion at a time. This change is good because it's too easy for druids to end up surrounded by a zoo of animals, and in combat that means the druid takes far longer than other characters. This change is bad because it means 3.0 druid characters now need to be reworked, losing extra animal companions (which were often selected to fit a theme). The revised animal companion rules are nice in that they let you advance your companion similar to how a sorcerer or wizard advances a familiar, and spells out exactly how to do so. It even has a simple and efficient system for selecting tougher animal companions (though the choices on the table do mean that some 3.0 characters can't have the same companions any more because the old rules were based on HD and the new ones -- I'm guessing -- on overall power and utility). I'm a little grumpy about the odd-numbered bonuses to ability scores for the advanced animal companions (such bonuses mean that some creatures benefit from that ability and others don't). Overall I like the changes to animal companions and I think it's a good change.
    Nature Sense: The 3.0 version of this ability wasn't particularly useful (how often did you have to identify a plant or animal, or determine if water was safe to drink?). Now that such things are part of the Survival skill, they made this specific class ability the equivalent of a +2/+2 skill feat. Not only is that a nice gimmie, but it means a starting druid isn't forced to dump a lot of points into Knowledge (nature) and Survival to be able to use them.
    Wild Empathy: This new ability was necessary since the Animal Empathy skill no longer exists. Removing the skill and adding this ability is a nice feature, as it means there's one less skill that druids have to dump points into in order to be effective as a druid.
    Wild Shape changed a little bit, mostly because of the references to polymorph. Now that this ability is based on the druid's HD, you can actually assume dire rat form as soon as you get the ability (which, though it's a Small animal and thus in theory available as soon as you got the ability in 3.0, you couldn't actually take until you reached Drd12 because it's a dire animal). I like that they call out the loss of the ability to speak and the parrot as a non-exception to that rule. One other thing to point out is that instead of jumping from elemental form 1/day to 3/day, now there's a transition step of 2/day and 3/day was pushed back. However, they retained the 3.0 ability's 1 hour/level duration even though polymorph changed to 1 minute/level. This means a druid can spend (effectively) all day in wild shape at 7th-level or higher (3 uses/day, 7 hours/use), which is cool ... but the introduction of the Natural Spell feat into the PH means that any druid with half a brain is going to take that feat, which means that 99% of all druids are going to be able to cast spells in wild-shaped form all day (the only drawback to wild shape is that you can't cast spells in animal form). That means these druids have no reason to adventure in anything but animal form, gaining ability score bonuses, natural armor bonuses, better movement, natural attacks, and special attacks that their humanoid forms don't have, and they're able to do it all the livelong day. That's a problem combo (if it was too good for the wizard at 7th level, it's too good for the druid at 5th level, especially as the druid lost much less with the 3.5 polymorph changes than a wizard would). So if polymorph is 1 minute/level (and I have a few things to say about polymorph, which I'll get to in the eventual review of the Spells chapter), wild shape should be, too, especially when the druid has access to the Natural Spell feat. House Rule: Druid wild shape is 1 minute/level. This also opens the door for feats that extend a druid's wild shape duration.

    Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Look, it's the only class that starts with proficiency in tower shield! A very nice touch, well done.
    Fighters now have Intimidate as a class skill, which gets rid of a strange discrepancy (in 3.0 the warrior NPC class got it but the fighter didn't).

    Monks now get Knowledge (religion) which makes sense as many monk orders have some sort of religious or philosophical background. The also get Sense Motive, which I think is appropriate, and Spot, which I can see having a place though it's not a no-brainer choice.
    Flurry of Blows: The big change here is that the flurry and the old "unarmed attack bonus" are now the same thing. The most significant result of this change is that you stack your monk BAB with all other kinds of BAB, even when doing a flurry. In 3.0, you could either use your total BAB and use the -5 increment for iterative attacks or you could only use your monk class BAB but get the more advantageous -4 monk-rate BAB, which meant it was a weird and annoying exception to the rule that class abilities stack. I'm really glad they made this change.
    Unarmed Strike: The 3.5 rules say that a monk's unarmed strikes count as natural and manufactured weapons, which means your druid buddy can enhance them with magic fang and your wizard buddy can enhance them with magic weapon. The only thing I wish they had done with this ability is spell out what happens if you have a creature with natural weapons (claws, bite, etc.) that becomes a monk ... the general rule is that such a creature can use one of its natural weapons as an off-hand attack in addition to its regular attacks, but as soon as you bring in a monk's flurry it really confuses the issue (if the monk can use any part of its body as a weapon, why would having sharp claws or teeth mean you'd get extra attacks on top of that?). House Rule: For now, I'm saying that monster monks of this type can get the one extra attack if they're not flurrying (like the normal rule), but can use their appropriate natural attack damage when making unarmed attacks or even using a flurry (though they have to cycle through all of their natural weapons in a round before they can go back to a natural weapon they've already used ... this prevents such creatures from just using their biggest damage value over and over again). Monks whose unarmed strikes start to do more damage than their natural attack damages can use the unarmed strike damage and the natural attack type (so a lizardfolk Mnk8 does unarmed strikes for 1d10, and instead of doing the default bludgeoning damage he could do piercing damage from his bite or slashing damage from his claws).
    Bonus Feats: I believe these were first introduced in Oriental Adventures 3E (way to go, James!) and goes a long way toward making each monk less of a cookie-cutter. It does mean more work converting 3.0 monks to 3.5, but despite that I'm in favor of the ability to add variety.
    Evasion: Now that this is available at 2nd level, it means you can't just cherry-pick the 1st level of the monk class for some cool abilities. Nice touch. It means 3.0 monks get fiddled with, but any Mnk2 or higher doesn't notice this change at all so it's not too big a deal.
    Unarmed Strike Damage: This changed in the later levels from 1d12 to 2d6 and 1d20 to 2d8 or 2d10, probably to reflect a standardidation of damage increases (similar to how you increase damage as you increase a creature's size). It makes wide swings in monk damage at higher levels less likely, and I suppose that's a good thing (I'm sure the player of the Mnk20 feels really lame when he rolls a 1 on his unarmed strike damage).
    Ki Strike: Because DR changed in 3.5, this ability had to change. (Note that I haven't yet expressed my full opinion on the change in DR.) I like the addition of lawful and adamantine as later increments for this ability (especially as the change to DR means that some creature have DR/lawful). It's also nice that they moved the first instance of this ability from 10th level to 4th level. I know that the original idea was that a lower-level monk would have to choose between using magical monk weapons and using her non-ki unarmed strikes, but doing it the way it is in 3.5 means the monk really doesn't have to worry about weapons if she doesn't want to, which is nice.
    Leap of the Clouds: This ability went away in 3.5 because the Jump skill is no longer limited by your height, so this ability was no longer needed.
    Perfect Self: The problem with this ability is that it references outsiders, says they're extraplanar, yet gives the monk all the benefits of being a native outsider (can be raised from the dead). It's just confusing, and should have been worded better. Note also the DR value changed from 20/+1 to 10/magic ... a fairly standard change, as most DR values went down when they changed to the new system.
    Multiclassing: Why why why is this still here? It serves no mechanical purpose. I can think of many situations where the multiclassing restriction makes no sense. And the rule is something the original designers didn't want in the game but put in because playtesters thought it should be there. Since 3.0, I have heard nothing but complaints about the multiclassing restriction. It doesn't need to be here. House Rule: Monks do not have a multiclassing restriction.

    The paladin now has Knowledge (nobility & royalty) as a class skill, which makes sense.
    Aura of Good: This is now called out as as class feature rather than a quirk of the detect evil spell. Nice.
    Smite Evil: The paladin now gets additional smite evil uses per day, which should help motivate people to take higher levels in paladin (instead of slipping into fighter for the bonus feats, as high-level paladin spellcasting isn't really spectacular). Smite evil is also a 1st-level ability, possibly to make them more on the offense from the start rather than their slighter defensive skew at level 1 in the 3.0 version.
    Divine Grace: This is now a 2nd-level ability, probably to avoid people cherry-picking the class. Makes sense. I'm tempted to make this a sacred bonus rather than a typeless bonus.
    Lay on Hands: This is now a 2nd-level ability, probably to avoid the cherry-picking (though it doesn't get you much if you just take 1 level in it). It's also now a supernatural ability, which is a good change in terms of in-game utility (you no longer draw an AOO for using it) and game design (because before as a Sp ability you had no idea what level spell it emulated and thus didn't know how hard it was to make a Concentration check when you were trying to use it under duress).
    Divine Health: This ability moved to 3rd level from 1st level, again probably to avoid cherry-picking (take 1 level in paladin, immune to all diseases!). While a two-level jump would normally annoy me a significant amount, (1) disease doesn't really play a big role in D&D, so having those Pal1s and Pal2s not immune to disease isn't a big deal, and (2) the diseases you can run into at those low levels are insignificant enough that you can usually deal with them in other ways like Heal checks.
    Aura of Courage: This ability moved to 3rd level. I'm a little twitchy about this one because in 3.0 we deliberately introduced a low-level fear monster (the krenshar, created by yours truly) so that paladins and bards could use their abilities to resist fear (aura of courage and inspire courage, respectively) at earlier levels. Now that this is a 3rd-level ability it sorta defeats the purpose of tuning the game to reward having such creatures. It's not a really big change (the krenshar is CR1 so if you meet two of them it's CR3 and still an appropriate challenge for the Pal3 ready to test out his new aura), but it does have secondary effects.
    Special Mount: While many people complain about the "Pokepaladin" change in 3.5 that lets paladins summon and dismiss their mounts, the change does take care of the logistics problem of bringing the mount into dungeons (which is where most adventuring takes place) and thus gives the paladin more opportunities to use the mount and thus more of a reason to take mounted combat feats. I don't think it's a bad idea, though I can see the need for a mundane option like the 3.0 version. The special mount rules also have the odd-numbered bonuses to ability scores for advanced mounts (which I don't like), just like druid animal companions.
    Unfortunately, they still kept the playtesters-insisted multiclassing restriction. Oh, well. House Rule: Paladins do not have a multiclassing restriction.
    Note: There are some people who feel that paladin should be a prestige class, not a base class. While I can see a prestige class fulfilling the function of the holy knight, I can also see the need for a paladin base class. Joan of Arc was a paladin right from the start, she didn't go through a bunch of levels in other things before becoming a paladin.

    Hit Dice: Now rangers have d8 for hit dice. While that only amounts to 1 hit point per level difference, it's something they've taken away from existing rangers, and my big pet peeve about changing the rules is taking stuff away from existing characters (of course, I'm the guy proposing cutting back the cleric by two proficiencies...). I'm sure there were many things they could have done to balance the ranger without dropping the HD.
    Class Skills: Rangers now also have Knowledge (dungeoneering) as a class skill, which makes sense because this new skill covers three of the favored enemy types, and is a native environment for underground-native races.
    Skill Points: With the boost to 6 skill points per level, rangers (like bards) are second only to the rogue, which means they make excellent scouts and pretty good rogues in terms of sneaking and hiding.
    Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Rangers lost proficiency in medium armor. There really wasn't a reason for this; rangers already lost the benefits of their combat style in medium armor, but some rangers would be willing to make that sacrifice, and dropping that armor proficiency is just one more way that 3.5 rangers aren't compatible with 3.0 rangers. Plus, Aragorn wears chainmail at Helm's Deep, dagnabbit....
    Favored Enemy: The favored enemy bonus increased, though to compensate for it you chose one favored enemy to increase rather than all of them automatically. Mechanically that's interesting because you can keep some of your bonuses relatively even, or you can push one all the way up to +8. Plus, the favored enemy bonus now applies to constructs, oozes, and undead, so it makes sense for rangers to actually select those creatures as favored enemies. Unfortunately, now that shapechangers are no longer a valid type for favored enemies, it makes it harder for the ranger who wants to target a particularl group of shapechangers. In particular the rangers who fought lycanthropes take a hit here, as human-lycanthropes are a different type than elf-lycanthropes or dwarf-lycanthropes and they have to spread out their bonuses rather than focusing on one type.
    Wild Empathy: Same changes and explanation as for druid.
    Combat Style: This is interesting, and gives the ranger a little more variety. There's no reason they couldn't have just given the ranger a selection of bonus feats to choose from, similar to the monk, and not have them locked in a feat chain. I'm not really sure on the merits of either way (except the open bonus feat lets the ranger be even more versatile).
    Camouflage, Endurance, Evasion, Hide in Plain Sight, Swift Tracker, Woodland Stride: All of these are decent abilities that encourage the player to take more levels in the ranger class, rather than just taking the first couple of levels and never going back.
    Animal Companion: Same changes and explanation as for druid.
    House Rule: I have no idea what I'm going to house rule about the ranger just yet.

    Skills: Bluff is now a class skill, so sorcerers finally have a class skill that uses an ability score important to their class. FYI, for a while the design debate was to either add one or more Cha-based class skills or give the sorcerer more skill points so they could buy up any cross-class Cha-based skill they wanted. Personally, I think they ought to get Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Use Magic Device as class skills as well; they should be able to function almost as well as a bard when it comes to making people think what you want them to think, and as a creature with a natural attunement to magic they ought to be able to make magic do-dads function as well as the spell-less rogue. House Rule: Sorcerers get Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Use Magic Device as class skills.
    Spells: They can swap out known spells, just like the bard. House rule: Sorcerers can swap out one spell each time they gain a sorcerer level.
    Familiars: Now all familiars give +3 to a skill, much like Skill Focus; this tends to even out the power of the familiars. It looks like hit dice, hit points, attacks, saves, and skills all use the master's total class levels rather than just sorcerer levels, which is easier to figure out. The speak with master is clarified that it's a special verbal common language (in 3.0 it was confusing because you could already communicate with your familiar through your empathic link, so why would you need to actually speak to it?).
I like how the speak with animals of its kind ability is clarified so you know it includes dire varieties.
    Sorcerers still have a big problem in 3.5: if they multiclass into a spellcasting prestige class, the only thing they lose is familiar advancement. This means sorcerers have no incentive to remain sorcerers instead of advancing in a prestige class (unlike wizards, sorcerers don't have bonus feats to encourage them to stay in their base class). House rule: Sorcerers get a bonus metamagic feat at level 1, 5, 10, 15, and 20, just as wizards get a bonus item creation feat at those levels. Sorcerers are natural spellcasters and would have a better understanding of squeezing, twisting, and expanding their spells than any other spellcasting class. House rule: Sorcerers do not have a casting time increase when using metamagic feats. Same reason as the other house rule (the core rule just hoses sorcerers anyway, and they already got the short end of the stick).

    Bonus Languages: This isn't a 3.5 change, but doesn't the text for this ability not really make a lot of sense? "A wizard may substitute Draconic for one of the bonus languages avaliable to the character because of her race." Does that mean you have to cross off one of your racial bonus languages from the list, and you can't count it as a bonus language any more? Wouldn't it make more sense if it said "A wizard may also select Draconic as a bonus language in addition to her bonus languages available because of her race"?
    Arcane Spells and Armor sidebar: This section mentions light, medium, and heavy armor, and shields, but not tower shields. It should mention tower shields (a tower shield gives arcane spell failure, so clearly it applies). Must have missed it when updating the books.
    School Specialization: Now all specialists (except diviners) have to choose two prohibited schools (never including divination). This makes sense, as later sourcebooks have rounded out the spell selection so it's not so skewed in favor of evocation and transmutation, and the PH spell list was similarly added to and altered to take this into account, so you don't have to pay extra to be an invoker/transmuter, or pay less if you're a different kind of specialist and choose either of those schools. It sucks that this means 3.0 specialists often have to choose another school (and might lose a few spells they know in the process), but it's more balanced this way. I'd consider grandfathering in those "newly prohibited" spells for wizards who go through this change, or perhaps limit the grandfathering to one spell per spell level.
    House rule: A wizard can only use her bonus feats on item creation feats or Spell Mastery, not metamagic feats. This makes wizards the master crafters in the game and lets the sorcerer be the natural metamagicker.

Experience and Levels
    This section expanded a little bit in 3.5, reordering the step for increasing ability scores (if any) so you can apply the effects of the new score to your skill points, skills, and hit points.
    I like how this section is in the Classes chapter, as most people read the 3.0 Adventuring chapter only once and then forget about it, while the Classes chapter gets look at all the time. The only improvement I would make would be to add one phrase to the last sentence of the first paragraph of this section: "... make these changes in this order." That would 100% clear up the "When I reach 6th level, can I take feat X that I need for a prestige class, then choose level 1 of that prestige class as my 6th-level class level?" (Answer: No, because you choose your new class level before you choose your feat.)