D&D Archives07/15/2003

D&D Version 3.5 Chat Transcript

Andy Collins, Ed Stark, Mary Elizabeth Allen got together to answer several questions that fans of the D&D roleplaying game had about version 3.5. Take a look at what questions got asked and how they were answered!

ladyislay: Do you have an actual release date yet? I've heard some people say the books are coming out at Gen Con. My book supplier says July 1st. My gaming shop says probably just before Gen Con. What say you and your marketing gurus?

Mary Elizabeth: We've targeted mid-month for everything to hit store shelves, both book and hobby. We estimate around July 14-17th.

tankus: Andy mentioned somewhere that psionics would not be forgotten in 3.5. Does that mean a revised Psionics Handbook in 2004?

WotC_Ed: All we can talk about is what's in the current catalog. I will say that we are taking psionics more into account in future product.

atmatoo: Can you briefly discuss the changes to the bard spell list, like what sort of spells were added, and whether the changes were primarily to add new material from existing sources (like Magic of Faerûn), or if it consisted of an overall addition of more.

WotC_Andy: The bard picked up a lot of spells that improve his proficiency with charms, illusions, and general trickery. Some were brand new spells, others were spells from other classes, and others were picked up from other sources. Examples of spells new to the bard list include deep slumber (a more powerful sleep spell), fox's cunning (Int-booster), and greater shout.

newtfeet: How is the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting going to be updated for version 3.5?

WotC_Ed: The Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, as-is, works great with v.3.5. However, since we do want to make Forgotten Realms as useful and fun with the 3.5 rules as we can, we are working on providing updated material where necessary. We don't want people to have to go buy a whole new Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting when a vast majority of the material inside doesn't need any modification, though. We'll be providing some updated material and all future Forgotten Realms product will be designed from 3.5 specs.

birched: What revisions will not be included in the updated SRD?

WotC_Andy: There are a few examples of product identity that won't be in the SRD, but it's nothing you'd expect to be in the SRD now.

starlightst: Aside from the spell list, what has been changed about the v.3.5 cleric?

WotC_Andy: We tweaked a couple of domain abilities, but I can't think of much of anything that needed work. Anything else would be minor.

arcand: I've heard that all specialist wizards will be prohibited from learning any two schools of magic. Won't that weaken wizards that specialize in smaller schools (e.g., diviners) when compared to larger school specialists (e.g., transmuters)?

WotC_Andy: Specialization will require giving up 2 schools (except diviners, who give up only one). You can't give up Divination. That seems harsh, but it makes much more sense when you see how much help many of the schools of magic have received and how a couple of schools have been ratcheted down a bit. Necromancers, for instance, have picked up a bunch of cool new spells making necromancy a much better specialization than before.

pockets42: Not all feats are created equal. What were some of the design considerations that went into re-working and re-balancing feats against each other?

WotC_Andy: We really didn't rework many feats. For the most part, the feats in 3.0 were pretty darn solid. There were a few places where some feats got beefed up (Power Attack; Weapon Finesse applies to all light weapons, and so on) and a few where feats that were too potent got ratcheted down (Spell Focus is only +1, but Greater Spell Focus is now in the Player's Handbook, which stacks another +1 on top). But by and large, the feats your characters have will do what you expect them to do.

mayadeva: Why was the toad downgraded so much? Given that half the normal familiar abilities are useless with a toad (no attacks, next to no movement), it went from Most Interesting to Absolutely Not Interesting.

WotC_Andy: I'd say it went from Insanely Too Good to Roughly As Good As The Others. I can't believe that most wizards pick their familiars based on their attacks and +2 Con was simply way too good an ability to be handing out for a mere 100 gp. Now, each familiar's granted ability replicates the effect of a feat, hence the +3 hp for the toad. As someone who has played a sorcerer from 1st level, I'll go on record saying that +3 hp at low levels is really handy.

cdw22: Can you share some of the racial weapon familiarities we don't know about?

WotC_Ed: I don't know which weapon familiarities you don't know about, but it's not too hard to fill in the blanks. First, it's important to remember that if a character gains weapon familiarity, that means the character is proficient with the weapon only if he or she can use martial weapons, so a dwarven wizard doesn't gain proficiency in the dwarven waraxe or urgrosh. If he picks up a level of fighter, however, he does. Humans gain no weapon familiarity, and neither do the half-races. Dwarves gain dwarven waraxe and dwarven urgrosh. Nothing for halflings, though they still get their bonus with thrown weapons and slings.

WotC_Andy: Gnomes get hooked hammer as a martial weapon, but it's still a double weapon so not every gnome'll be walking around with it. Elves still get longsword, rapier, shortbow, and longbow as free proficiencies, to show that it's okay to have two mechanics that accomplish similar tactics in different ways. Orcs get orcish double axe.

dragon_child: How come we hear about spells such as haste, harm, and heal being fixed so that they may be balanced in some games, but we don't hear that spells such as simulacrum and shades (which are not balanced at all) are being fixed? Are they being left alone?

WotC_Andy: We had to prioritize our efforts. Some spells were simply more abusive than others, and those were the ones that got the attention. Remember that this project had nowhere near the time or resources that 3.0 had, so we had to pick and choose what we spent time on and what we left for the next edition.

isil_ancalima: Hi! I was just wondering if there will be any changes to the paladin class. It seems to me that the paladin's abilities progression really stops after about 5th level.

WotC_Andy: The paladin got some boosts -- some subtle and some overt. An extra smite every 5th level (2 at 5th, 3 at 10th, and so on), the new paladin warhorse (summon once per day for 2 hours per paladin level, so no more dragging it down the stairs to the dungeon to have it when you need it), and of course a few new spells on the list (lesser restoration at 1st, bull's strength at 2nd, remove curse at 3rd, and restoration at 4th, to name a few) add up to a tougher paladin at just about every level.

amarin: Will the sorcerer be getting any Charisma-based class skills in 3.5?

WotC_Andy: We talked about that at length, even to the point of running an R&D poll on what he should get. The winner was Bluff, so that's the sorcerer's new class skill. I was lobbying for Use Magic Device, too, but that didn't make the cut. I advise adding UMD as a house rule for all DMs with sorcerers.

john_sugden: Reports indicate that the new polymorph grants extraordinary attacks, but not other extraordinary qualities. If this is so, do druids gain no plant extraordinary abilities (beyond attacks) when they gain the ability to take plant form?

WotC_Andy: That's correct. There are simply too many game-breaking special qualities held by even simple monsters (plants and animals) to give those out to any druid with wild shape. That tells me that some great feats are waiting to be written, granting one or more special qualities to characters who wild shape or polymorph into the appropriate forms.

imagicka: How were you three involved in the making of 3.5?

WotC_Andy: I guess each of us can take this one. Something like 2 years ago, I was tasked with evaluating the 3.0 Dungeon Master's Guide to see if there were places where the rules could stand any improvement or upgrades. At the time, there were no plans for anything specific -- it was more like a thought experiment for R&D. By the winter of 2001, however, we were realizing that the game was evolving faster than any of us could have guessed in 1999 or 2000. Thus, that thought experiment quickly became a reality. I was put in charge of developing the 3.5 Player's Handbook,and I worked alongside Rich Redman (Dungeon Master's Guide) and Skip Williams (Monster Manual), along with everyone else in R&D who had insight to share. Over the next 16 months, I spent long hours going through the Player's Handbook targeting places that needed revision or attention. Everyone in R&D (and then some) chimed in as well throughout the process, making it a real team effort. The result is the book that y'all will see in about 4 weeks. Ed?

WotC_Ed: I'm the Design Manager [DM ;-) ] for D&D, so I oversee the design of any D&D product. I oversaw the team -- which included Andy, Rich Baker, Rich Redman, Dave Noonan, and Skip Williams and the rest of the R&D group, and I helped set the goals for the revision. Since we didn't want to do a 4th Edition already, it was important not to go too far, but to go far enough in the revision so that you folks would find the changes worthwhile and -- most importantly -- improvements to the game. I helped keep the project on track and on deadline. I coordinated with other parts of the company, including production and art and, I like to think, kept the process moving. Go ahead, Mary Elizabeth.

WotC_Andy: Ed was a big consensus builder, helping to solve conflicts between me and all the people who didn't agree with my genius. :)

Mary Elizabeth: For the actual books, I was involved in consistency of cover look and feel between 3.0 and 3.5, but my primary focus has been on how to get all the new information out to all of you and to all of our retailers. That includes press releases, web info, ads, presentations to retailers and distributors, and the cool stuff like posters, Gen Con, and so on.

WotC_Ed: Mary Elizabeth was also an avid playtester. [Check out her Special Thanks credit and ask her about her character ;-) ]

Mary Elizabeth: Oh, yeah, and playtesting. Extra bonus for working here!

dorgin_malgard: Facing: How is this going to work for longer creatures like horses, behir, and the like?

WotC_Andy: All creatures now have a square space on the battle grid. "Space" in this case refers to the creature's fighting space -- the area it needs in battle to fight properly. Horses and other Large creatures will take up a 10x10 space, mimicking the fact that they wheel around in a fight, rather than standing in a rectangle. The Player's Handbook will include rules for big creatures to fit into smaller spaces, so that 15x15 cloud giant can still pursue you down the 10-foot corridor. :)

ampherion: It was said that the new 3.5 revision would have many more tools for DMs and players alike to make the game easier to manage. What new tools are included in the books, other than the spell effect templates?

WotC_Andy: Simply standardizing a lot of effects is a powerful tool -- it makes the game easier to run because you don't have to remember as many tiny little variables. Just like 3.0 standardized a lot of ranges (Personal, Close, Medium, Long), we standardized a lot of areas, making the spell effect templates possible and useful. The magic item construction guidelines are also more robust than ever (though still as much art as science). Magic item descriptions include strength of magic and school of effect, making detect magic much easier to adjudicate on the fly.

WotC_Ed: The Monster Manual has a lot of tools for creating new monsters, advancing monsters, and using monsters as player characters and cohorts. We reviewed each monster, for example, and if we thought there was a good chance it might be used as a PC, we gave it a level adjustment. If it was a monster that someone would like as a cohort, we gave it an LA (cohort) notation. We also included read aloud text describing every monster so that you don't have to wing it whenever you introduce a new monster.

newtfeet: When will the SRD be updated for v.3.5?

WotC_Ed: We're planning on having it release for all three core books the same day the books hit the shelves. Obviously, we may be a day or two off, but Andy Smith, the guy who does all our SRD work, has been working right alongside us. I don't anticipate any serious delay.

cdw22: Is there a section on how to go about making a proper CR rating for monsters in the Monster Manual, or is it still judgmental?

WotC_Ed: Yes, as much as it can be done. There's a section on setting target Challenge Ratings for new monsters and material on how to consider CRs for advanced monsters. We talk about how to playtest a CR and we also talk about how adding a class level to your monster affects its CR. This is more detailed than we've published before but, remember, setting CRs isn't a complete formula; you have to playtest and use your judgment.

WotC_Andy: As always, it's a combination of numbers and judgment. The game is not cut-and-dried enough for a simple system to cover all the variables.

elephant6: Is Wizards exploring any new marketing means to increase the popularity of D&D?

Mary Elizabeth: Two part answer: First, we're finding that D&D's popularity is growing a lot on its own. We've had a lot of recent mentions in the media as the "new cool" thing to play. Also, D&D is just becoming more well-known as more people play computer games that are branded D&D. Two, yes, we are always working on ways to introduce more people to D&D, particularly through working with folks such as Atari/Infogrames, new partners like DKP (who are doing a new interactive DVD), and working with retailers, distributors, PR, and the RPGA to provide more play opportunities to folks who are interested.

sumerianwarlord: Why, as mentioned in Dragon Magazine, is flurry of blows "slightly better and much easier to understand"?

WotC_Andy: I assume you mean "how has it changed to make it better and easier" and that's the question I'll answer. We found that it was too frustrating for monks in melee combat. When they got to flurry, they simply never hit anything thanks to a lower BAB than the fighters and the -2 penalty. We made it better by reducing the penalty from -2 to -1 at 5th, and to -0 at 9th. Also, the monk gains an extra flurry attack at -5 from BAB at 11th level. The fact that flurry isn't a separate BAB category means it'll stack with other classes' BAB, which makes it easier to use in game.

WotC_Ed: The monk also has only one BAB line, just like everybody else.

WotC_Andy: The monk can now "keep up" much better with other melee characters, though she's still not the equal of the fighter or barbarian but that's okay, since she has plenty of other shticks that they don't.

zaknafein47: What do you think the single biggest change is?

WotC_Ed: How about each of us taking one of these?

WotC_Andy: That's tough to answer, because when I think of "big change," I think of something systemic, and we really didn't make many systemic changes. I suppose that maybe the new "weapon size" rules -- really, it's just clarifying what's been hiding in the game already -- are reasonably big. All creatures will now have a full set of weapons available to them sized appropriately for them. Halflings don't use human-sized short swords as one-handed weapons, they use Small short swords as light weapons or Small longswords as one-handed weapons. A halfling barbarian can wield a Small greatsword that deals 1d10 points of damage! Even that's not a "Big Change" the way changing THAC0 to BAB is a "Big Change," but there you go.

WotC_Ed: For me, the biggest change is a sweeping one. I find that the three core books speak much more closely to each other. The 3.0 designers took D&D a great leap forward, and I see 3.5 as really solidifying all those elements. The Monster Manual, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Player's Handbook talk to each other so much better than they did before, and all the rules now interact so much better throughout.

Mary Elizabeth: For me, it's the acknowledgment of use of miniatures in the game. There's an understanding in these revisions that minis are a common part of playing D&D. That to me is a big positive.

thedos: Do you feel that 3.5 will hinder other companies releasing d20 material or further help them release better products?

WotC_Ed: I certainly hope it won't hinder them. We talked to a great number of d20 companies and provided them with the 3.5 revision material several months ago and set up a mailing list where they could answer questions and provide feedback. For the most part, the feedback we received on the rules from other companies was very positive -- and where it wasn't, we sometimes made changes based on their suggestions. At the very least, they did a good job of making us defend our changes. I think that 3.5, being a cleaner version of 3.0 but not a new edition, will make it easier for d20 publishers to design innovative and exciting products.

WotC_Andy: Hopefully 3.5 will push everyone to publish better stuff, the same way that the top d20 companies have pushed us to publish better stuff.

advntrguy: Why a specific list for druid familiars instead of HD or size limitations? Seems like this would take up more space and place more restrictions, not give more options.

WotC_Andy: Because it is impossible to predict a monster's real combat ability purely by HD. That's why we have a CR system instead of giving out XP by monster HD. A system like you describe creates something called "designer constraint" where a writer has to take into account many subrules whenever he creates a new game element. In this case, anybody designing a new animal would have to ask "is this monster too tough for its HD to use as an animal companion" and that's just an ugly situation to get into.

WotC_Ed: I'll tell you, I've had extensive experience playing my druid character, and I really like what's been done to the druid and her animal companion for 3.5.

zaknafein47: About the 3.0 to 3.5 conversion guide: What kind of "general advice" will be given?

WotC_Ed: Andy's breaking out a copy right now. For the core books, it's mostly nomenclatural (is that a word?) in its approach -- showing you where names have changed or where things have gone away or been folded into other elements.

WotC_Andy: For the other books covered in the guide (Deities and Demigods, Epic Level Handbook, Manual of the Planes, Monster Manual II, Fiend Folio) the guide goes into a bit more detail, but it's hardly a "revision" of those books. Overall, the booklet is about 30-something pages of pretty dense text, and it is designed to help DMs adapt their games from 3.0 to 3.5. Most savvy DMs may well not even need the booklet, since most of the material is common-sense types of changes.

WotC_Ed: Mostly, there are about 36 pages of direct application and insight in the booklet. Much of the advice will be comparative in nature, but we aren't shy about saying why you do something. That makes extrapolating for other material fairly easy.

advntrguy: Why base wild shape, a divine ability, on polymorph, an arcane spell? Shouldn't the class ability section be the place to spend some space on being specific? Also, why isn't wild shape "better" than polymorph. Clearly I'm a druid player.

WotC_Ed: Me, too. Andy has a great answer for both of us . . .

WotC_Andy: Because there's something to be said about making similar effects work in the same way. In this case, wild shape and polymorph can work in very much the same way (though not identically, mind you), which saves the DMs and players from having to remember variant rules for similar effects. The two effects are complicated enough that it is well worth making them similar in effect. And the druid's is better -- it lasts longer.

xxloopyxx: Are we going to be able to buy the new books at Gen Con? If so, will we have a chance to get them signed?

WotC_Andy: Yes and yes.

WotC_Ed: Yes and yes, too. ;-) Right now, I know that Bill Slavicsek, Andy Collins, David Noonan, James Wyatt, Rich Baker, and Chris Perkins will definitely be there. I expect other designers will be there, too -- I don't have my final list in front of me.

WotC_Andy: Find us at the D&D Q&A seminar, if not elsewhere during the convention.

WotC_Ed: I don't know if we're planning a signing event, but we'll be available to sign throughout the convention. Oh, I'll be there, too.

clockworkman: When will the next revision be, if there is one?

WotC_Ed: October.

WotC_Andy: 4th edition in October, 5th in January, and right to 7th at Gen Con 2004.

WotC_Ed: No, seriously, it'd kill us if we had to do this too often. We can't possibly do another revision for several more years, no matter how much you ask for one. ;-) Really, we've got to spend a lot of time going over what you folks like and don't like about THESE books before we can even think about that.


WotC_Ed: Erk!

slagmoth: I was wondering if there will finally be comprehensive defining of the types and subtypes of monsters?

WotC_Andy: Those definitions get better with the new revision. We've reduced the number of types to maintain stronger differences between them. No more beast (move to animal or magical beast) and no more shapechanger (now a subtype). More subtypes, and clearer use of subtypes (reptilian is a subtype for humanoids only and we've added the extraplanar subtype to clarify which creatures are treated as "foreign" to the plane you're on). And a really good glossary in the Monster Manual, too.

tundra: How much stuff in D&D 3.5 is new material and not reprinted from errata/clarified/Dragon Magazine (some of the prestige classes) and so on and so forth?

WotC_Andy: I don't know if I could put a percentage figure on it. I'd say that "a lot" is new material, from new spells to new feats to simply new words in the Dungeon Master's Guide. The Dungeon Master's Guide has the most "new" material, in that it's the book that was most heavily reorganized.

WotC_Ed: Well, we added 32 pages to the Player's Handbook, 64 to the Dungeon Master's Guide, and 96 to the Monster Manual. Much of that is clarification and inclusion from other sources, but some of it is brand new. I'm not sure I could put a tag on it, either. I think of the three books, the Monster Manual has the most "new" material, the Dungeon Master's Guide has the second most, and the Player's Handbook has the least completely new material but a lot of revision. The Player's Handbook still looks like the Player's Handbook. The Dungeon Master's Guide and Monster Manual have more noticeable changes, but they did get proportionally larger.

aldymnor: In the v.3.5 printing, will there be a system implemented for making nonepic spells in a similar way that epic spells are made now (in other words, using factors and seeds?)?

WotC_Andy: No. There simply isn't enough room to put in a system like that in these books. That's what support products are for. :) Speaking of epic, there is some significant epic support in the Dungeon Master's Guide, taken from Epic Level Handbook.

kajal_the_southern_oracle: Do the monsters in the Monster Manual still have round-by-round tactics outlined as was first proposed oh-so-long-ago?

WotC_Andy: Several of the monsters do, yes. You've seen some of these.

WotC_Ed: Yes. I wrote a few myself. We didn't do it for every monster, of course -- only the ones we thought it was most important for sometimes, and that meant the more complicated monsters, like demons and evils; sometimes it meant for "simple" monsters who could get more interesting.

greatfunkyhope: What were the main problems perceived with the bard class that required changing?

WotC_Andy: The bard is a tough class to evaluate, because it's not intended to be "the best" at anything. Instead, it's a support character, intended to make the whole party better. That said, it didn't quite accomplish the jack-of-all-trades aspect that we aimed for. Thus, it picked up 2 more skill points per level, and a bushel of new spells. It's still not going to be a character who kicks ass and takes names on the battlefield, but it never will be. (That's what barbarians and fighters are for.)

WotC_Ed: The songs and the spells REALLY buff other party members (and the bard). You'll be happy to have a bard in your party, and plenty of players like being support personnel -- I just played a support character in a game Friday and had a real ball.

WotC_Andy The bard's the best fifth character you can get for your party. We retained those restrictions, and I'll tell you the secret reason why: to give DMs a chance to make players happy by taking them out. :)

imagicka: So, Mary-Elizabeth, tell us about your playtesting character.

WotC_Andy: That can't be the last one! Give us a really meaty question to end on after Mary Elizabeth finishes.

WotC_Ed: Yeah, but only after Mary Elizabeth finishes. ;-)

Mary Elizabeth: Well, she's a drow cleric of Eilistraee, epic-level, and she wields a mean silver bastard sword. And I'm finished so that Ed and Andy can have their meaty question! ;-)

jlxc2: It seems many people are worried that the hour-long "buff" spells, such as bull's strength, will be too weak at 1 minute per level. Can you give us any feedback on that?

WotC_Andy: I think they were way too overused at 1 hour/level, to the point where they crowded out not only other 2nd-level spells, but also the stat-boosting items. When we see no-brainers like that, we tend to target them, because a lack of interesting choices is bad for the game. As a DM, I was tired of the players taking a half-hour before every dungeon to argue over who got what stat-boosters and with three more of them being added, the problem was only going to get worse. If people want long-term stat boosting, we want them to shell out gp to buy the items rather than arm-twisting the sorcerer or cleric into using up all his spells. And if high-level characters stop relying on these spells, that's FINE -- they're only 2nd level, after all.

WotC_Ed: We've been finding in our playtests that a lot of casters initially stopped using those spells, but then they started working their way in. It became the hallmark of a climactic encounter that the spellcaster will buff as many party members as could benefit and then the game really rocked for that one encounter. It made the climactic encounter feel that much more special, since people got a boost then and not for the entire scenario. Oh, one more thing about that. It also took care of the other thing we found in playtesting; everyone walks into the room buffed, the not-an-idiot-enemy-spellcaster would then throw dispel magic. Nearly all the buffs went away. Now the DM doesn't feel his actions proscribed anymore, either.

WotC_Andy: Good final question -- it points to a significant issue that comes up again and again in design: Is this new element so good that it becomes the best one in its category, crowding all others out? If so, it's probably too good. (Same issue for haste -- it made Quicken Spell uninteresting.)

Wizards of the Coast: I would like to thank you all for coming on behalf of everyone here. It was certainly informative.

WotC_Andy: Thanks for all the great questions, everyone. I'm sorry we couldn't get to all of them, but you can read more about the revisions on various websites and in Dragon Magazine until you get the books next month.

WotC_Ed: Yes -- thanks to everyone in the audience. I'd also like to thank Andy and Mary Elizabeth. Great job, all 'round!

Wizards of the Coast: Plus, some of the unanswered questions may find their way onto the new message boards ;o)

Mary Elizabeth: Thanks to all of you for showing up! And thanks to my co-answerers.

WotC_Ed: Oh, and for everyone in the audience, please check out the credits pages in the books. I'd really like to make sure everyone who worked on 3.5 AND 3.0 gets credit, which is why the credits pages will have everyone.

WotC_Andy: Yep. As much work as Rich, Rich, Skip, Dave, and I (and the rest of R&D) put into these books, we couldn't have made them without the hard work of the original 3rd Edition Design Team -- Jonathan, Monte, Skip, Rich, and Peter. They deserve as much credit as anyone for these books.

WotC_Ed: It was a big effort: designers, editors, support staff -- and, of course, playtesters and folks like you who take the time to let us know what you like and don't like. Take care, and good gaming! Good night, all.

Recent News
Recent Articles

About Us Jobs New to the Game? Inside Wizards Find a Store Press Help Sitemap

©1995- Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use-Privacy Statement

Home > Games > D&D > Articles 
You have found a Secret Door!
Printer Friendly Printer Friendly
Email A Friend Email A Friend
Discuss This ArticleDiscuss This Article