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
- For me to spout off my opinions on the new rules, and
- To keep notes for myself and my present and future players about
what rules from 3.5 I'll be using in my 3.0 game.
This first article covers the title page, introduction, and first three
chapters of the 3.5 Player's
Handbook: Introduction, Races, and Classes.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
- Compared to a fighter, a cleric has slightly worse attacks,
weapons, and hit dice, and no stockpile of bonus feats; in exchange he
gets turn undead, one more good saving throw, and full spellcasting
ability! With that turn undead he can outright kill low-level undead
that even the toughest fighter has to spend time chopping through, even
with Cleave and/or Great Cleave. With that full spellcasting ability he
can increase his attack value or weapon (to make up for the worse
attack value), Con (to make up for the hit dice), and attack or defend
with powerful magic (which more than makes up for the loss of the bonus
- Compared to a wizard, a cleric has no bonus metamagic/item
creation feats, no familiar, and overall slightly weaker attack spells;
in exchange he gets better attacks, better weapons, better armor,
better hit dice, one more good saving throw, turn undead, the ability
to heal, great defensive spells, and great miscellaneous spells.
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.)