Wednesday, September 15, 2010

D&D 3rd Edition Epiphanies: Kobolds, Charisma, and Sorcerers

It just occurred to me that me that it's the 10th anniversary of the launch of D&D 3rd Edition (the core rulebooks - Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual - were released between August and October 2000). For a year I had been grooving on the interesting revamps of a game that I dearly loved, eagerly reading the preview tidbits published in Dragon magazine. The d20 mechanic - "one rule to rule them all" - replaced pretty much every system and gave the game a universal structure for just about everything - combat, saving throws, and skill checks. The concept was simple - roll high.

There was a lot more done to the game than that, some of it seemingly cosmetic, some of it simply interesting evolutions all their own or derived from the flow of the literally game-changing d20 system. Spell systems took a big change and even monsters became codified by type. It was revolutionary in many ways.

For me, the it comes down to kobolds, Charisma, and sorcerers. These items embody the core concepts of how the game had changed for the better in my mind. I suppose I should explain...

The 3rd edition of the game actually made Charisma a useful ability to have. It played a stronger role in certain classes - especially the sorcerer, bard, and paladin - but also the cleric. For too long it was the dump ability for too many players - the place to put a low score. It did not readily lend itself to quantifiable benefits - especially in combat. With 3e, Charisma powered a lot of  skills and, er, powers.

The sorcerer was a new alternate to the studious wizard, an arcane spellcaster who based his powers on Charisma instead of Intelligence. For years I had read articles and letters to the editor that wanted an alternate magic system in place. In some ways, this was a good answer to that kind of thinking. As far as that goes, the bard received some much-needed focus that put the class squarely in the spellcaster realm; it used a spell acquisition system very similar to the one used by the sorcerer.

And, finally, there's the lowly kobold, who might happen to be a sorcerer! The kobolds in past editions were such weenies that even 1st-level heroes didn't have much problem with them. Now the little nuisances could be quite nasty, especially with leaders and champions that had class levels like any player character. 

That's it for game design appreciation class today!

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