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[Editor's note: The opinions expressed on this page are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CompanyLongName or its agents.  The author takes full responsibility for his own words, and we encourage you to contact him if you have any comments about this posting.]

by Musab Abdulla (wolf305@hotmail.com).
Web posted March 7, 2001

We're all excited about the 3rd Edition of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), but what makes it so different from previous Editions? Is it still AD&D or is it a totally new game. Well for those of you who still did not purchase a copy of the new edition (shame on you), we'll take a look at the differences between the 2nd and 3rd Editions of this popular game. If you want to know the differences between the current edition and the first, I'm sorry to say you're looking to the wrong source, since I wasn't even around when they brought that one out.

So is it indeed AD&D or a totally different game? Well, you can put your minds at rest, for it is both. It has totally different rules and mechanics but it is still true to the spirit of AD&D and is probably much better (we're always going to get people pining for 'good old days').

To be able to better show the changes made to the new system, we will break everything down into several sections:

1. Ability Scores

"So what's so new about ability scores?" I hear people ask. Well, unlike the previous edition where each ability had its own table to cross-reference bonuses and penalties, the new edition has a single table that reflects this for all abilities. For example, under the old rules the number of extra languages a character would know could be found on the Intelligence table, while hit point and health related bonuses could be found on the Constitution table. All that has been done away with.

Each pair of numbers has a certain penalty or bonus attributed to it, regardless of which ability score it represents. So for example if you had a score of 16 in an ability it would confer a bonus of +3 to whatever skills are tied into that ability. Carrying on from the previous example, if you had it in Intelligence this would represent the number of extra languages you could speak as well as how many extra skill points you receive each level (more on these in a bit). If this was in Constitution, however, it would show how many extra hit points you would get each level, and so on. Obviously this helps cut down on the amount of book-keeping and referring needed just to see who gets what benefits from a high ability score.

2. Player Characters

Probably the most important thing people are going to want to know about is how their characters will have changed. All the classic races, (humans, elves, half-elves, halflings, gnomes and dwarves) have all survived intact and are present in the current system. They are also joined by a large new hairy player race, the half-Orc. This big and brutal fellow is probably ideal for anyone who wants to add a new flavor to their role-playing experience ... well, either that or they just want to bash some brains together.

Each race, except for humans and half-elves, have some bonuses and penalties to certain ability scores, to reflect that particular race's strengths and weaknesses. For examples, elves are very dexterous but not very bulky, so they get a bonus to Dexterity and a penalty to Constitution. Half-Orcs on the other hand are immensely strong but are not very intelligent or likeable, so they get penalties to Intelligence and Charisma, and a bonus to Strength. As veterans of the game will know, all the demi-human races (i.e. all races except for humans) have certain abilities or characteristics that reflect their racial tendencies and abilities. Many of the characteristics are the same as the older edition, although they have been tweaked to fit into the new system. So dwarves can still tell good masonry from bad and halflings are still as sneaky and light-fingered as ever.

One of the more unusual changes is the loss of infravision. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, infravision was an ability available to Elves, Half-Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes and some Halflings. This represented the fact that they could see in low-light to pitch black conditions by switching their vision to see in the infrared range; i.e. they would see everything according to how much heat it radiated. Under 3rd Edition rules this has been split into two different abilities Low-Light Vision, available to Elves, Half-Elves and Gnomes, and Darkvision, usable by Dwarves and Half-Orcs. Low-light vision allows the user to see by extremely dim light, such as starlight, as if it were brightly lit. It does not however allow the user to see in pitch black conditions. Darkvision, on the other hand, allows the user to see in conditions of absolutely no illumination, albeit in shades of black and white only, unlike Low-Light Vision which shows colors.

Now that we know what players can expect from their racial choices let's take a look at the other half, classes. All the old classes have been switched over, including those that were considered optional, such as bards and druids. There are also three completely new classes available, the barbarian, the monk, and the sorcerer. The barbarian as you can imagine specializes in chaotic fighting, while the monk is the closest thing available to a martial artist in the D&D world, a cool deadly fighter. The sorcerer, unlike the wizard, does not study magic to cast spells. Rather he is 'in tune' with magic so to speak and casts intuitively and from himself. While he is a slightly better fighter than the wizard his selection of spells is much more limited. In total there are 13 different classes, all of which are balanced and fun to play, and more importantly different from each other. There is no single dominant class. Each and every one can provide a challenge to play, as well as being memorable to boot.

3. Experience

Experience! This is what player characters strive to earn so that they can advance in level from lowly nobodies to heroes who can take on the world and win. The new experience system is totally different from the old one and relies on Challenge Ratings (CR) instead of having experience points assigned to each and every monster. This part of the experience equation is for Dungeon Masters (DMs) and players should not concern themselves with it.

The second part however does concern them. In 2nd Edition AD&D each class had a separate table that showed how many experience points the character would need to advance in that class. In the current edition this has been done away with. All classes now follow a single table and they all need the same amount of experience points to advance to any given level. Another change that has been made is that the amount of experience needed is MUCH lower. While older characters that wanted to reach level 20 would need to amass anything from 2,200,000 xp for thieves to 3,750,000 xp for mages, all classes only need 190,000 points of experience to hit level 20 under the new system. Before anyone starts to party, keep in mind that experience awards are likewise reduced so on average if the party is facing relatively challenging encounters on a regular basis they can probably expect to level up every five sessions or so, depending on what happens. While some people will complain about the fact that all classes will tend to level up together, this is not strictly true, due to a number of in-game and DM options. To make a long story short, it isn't as clear- cut as some would think.

4. Multiclassing

Multiclassing is the option of advancing in two or more classes instead of only one. So you could effectively have combinations such as warrior wizards or thieving barbarians or so on. Under the old rules multiclassing was hopelessly complicated -- so much so that it isn't feasibly to try and explain it here. Suffice to say that it wasn't a pleasant option.

Under the new rules, multiclassing is not only a viable option but proves to be a fun one too. Throwing all the previous limitation out the window, characters can now, upon leveling up, choose whether they want to level up in their current class or add one level in a new class. The benefit of this is that you will have access to a wider variety of skills. The downside however is that you wont be as good at those skills as you would be if you had specialized in one class. Another thing players will have to keep in mind is that some combinations simply do not work, due to wildly differing methods. For example the barbarian class (a chaotic one), will not mix with a paladin class (a lawful one), well not effectively anyways. Some classes, such as the monk, also have penalties if you multi-class, regardless of what class you take.

There is also one other detail players will need to take into account. Should a player character have any two class levels that are more than two levels apart, then they take a 20 per cent penalty on all experience for each class that is below their highest by more than two levels. One way this can be circumvented is by favored classes. Each race has a favored class to represent that races class tendencies. Should a multiclassed character have as one of his classes his racial favored class then that class is not counted toward this penalty. Humans and half-elves have the benefit of being able to choose their favored class. In effect their highest class is their favored class, an impressive ability for anyone who wishes to mix and match abilities.

5. Saving Throws

Well, before we go into how saving throws are different lets take a brief look at what they are. Saving throws are basically life-savers for the characters. They represent the character's chance of shrugging off magic effects, damage, or other unfavorable conditions. Under 2nd Edition there were five different saving throws that improved according to a character's class level. The old saving throws were versus Paralyzation, Poison or Death Magic; Rod, Staff or Wand; Petrification or Polymorph; Breath Weapon; and Spell, in order of descending priority and importance. The problem with these was that they did not cover all possibilities, and sometimes they would overlap (such as a paralyzing spell), which would cause headaches all around. Under the new rules these have been simplified into three different saving throws: Fortitude, Reflex and Will.

Each saving throw depends on an ability. The stronger the character is in that ability the better their chances of making the saving throw. Fortitude depends on Constitution and represents the characters ability to survive shocks to their system and shrug off effects such as poison. Reflex on the other hand depends on Dexterity and as the name suggests reflects how able the character is to respond to things quickly. The last of the three is Will, which depends on Wisdom. This saving throw shows how able the character is to avoid mental controlling and similar effects, and shows how strong their force of will is.

Each saving throw is also affected by the player characters class. Each class will add bonuses to each saving throw, depending on which is dominant for that class. For example the rogue (thief basically) class favors the reflex saving throw, while a barbarian would favor fortitude.

6. Feats and Skills

This is probably going to be one of the things that players of 2nd Edition AD&D are going to find a bit confusing. In 2nd Edition, players could choose weapon and non-weapon proficiencies. These added some flavor to a character and represented the characters skill with weapons (weapon proficiencies) and other various skills as diverse as weapon-making, tracking, astrology, swimming and juggling (non-weapon proficiencies). These have been changes to Feats and Skills.

Feats are the new weapon proficiencies. Under the old rules a character would use their weapon-proficiencies to be able to use a weapon without killing himself. Each proficiency slot would be used to choose a single weapon. The new system is radically different. Each class gets a selection of weapons they are proficient with, depending on how martial they are. So what are the Feats used for then?

Well, Feats are combat abilities. Examples are blind fighting, various archery techniques, and mounted combat abilities, as well as metamagic feats that improve a spellcaster's spells. There are also a few that can or should be used out of combat, such as endurance, feats that improve each of the three different saving throws, and item creation feats (used by wizards and other spellcasters). Feats can also be used to gain proficiency in a weapon that the character does not have available initially to his or her class, reminiscent of the older weapon proficiencies.

Skills, on the other hand, are non-weapon proficiencies. Some can be used in combat but the vast majority are mainly useful out of combat. While Feats represent abilities that you either do or do not have (i.e. they cannot be improved), a character can improve his skills as he goes up in level. Each level, a character gets a number of skill points (depending on his class and Intelligence modifier) which he or she can allocate to the various skills available. Each class has a certain set of skills available to it, representing the classes interests.

So how does this scaling help? Well each time you try to use a certain skill you roll a dice and add the modifier, which is composed of all bonuses to that skill and the number of points you have in that skill. If the total meets or exceeds a certain number, known as the Difficulty Class or DC (allocated by the DM), then the skill succeeds. If it falls short, then predictably it fails. So as a character advances in level not only are they able to attempt super-human feats of skill but they are also much less likely to fail at moderately difficult ones as well.

Well, that's a rough overview of the most important things that have changed in the new system. There are of course other things that have differed, particularly when it comes to combat, but you will just have to purchase the new books and give the system a go to check out everything. Overall the new rules are much better than the old ones. The 2nd Edition rules tended to be very clunky and didn't cover everything, while the 3rd Edition does a much better job and is much more streamlined to boot. So now that I am finally done with explaining why you should go out and get the new edition I think it's time I went and carried on DMing my sessions. Happy gaming, everyone!

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