In Favor of 3.5, With One Reservation.

I'll give you another focus change I see in 3.0/3.5 from the traditional 1E/2E rule sets: 3.0/3.5 prefers a GM that inhabits more of a role that interprets and implements the rules, rather than the all powerful CREATOR of 1E/2E, whose word is law, written in stone, and carried down to replace the pages in the rulebook.

3.0/3.5 encourages a weak GM (find a way to make the rules work), where as 1E/2E encourage a strong GM (just make up a new rule).

Sure, you can use either GMing style with either game, but I do think one is encouraged over the other depending on which rule set you're using.


I find myself on the horns of dilemma here:

On one hand, when you have a strong GM, who knows his storyline, knows the PCs, and knows the players; then it can be a truly magical interaction.
On the other hand when you had a tinpot dictator (we all were at age 14-15) and started out the DM duties, it could be godawful.
The brilliance of 3.5 (I rarely say that) is that it did prevent the tinpot dictator syndrome with its numerous rolls. After all, your standard locking mechanism will always have a DC check of 15 or so, so you know what you can pull off.

At the same time the rule wizards really made it like studying for the Bar exam in terms of the sheer amount you have to know. It is incredibly difficult to be a GM in 3.5 because you could easily stop play for 20 minutes while read a rule, cross refernce it with skill, stats, feats, and other rules that can modify it. That has to be one of the toughest jobs there is.

There was some simplicity to the DM as god.
You have surely noticed that surprise is barely dealt with in the PHB; a player should only know the effect of surprise, not how surprise is handled.
This is the province of the DM, and as such surprise is described in the DMG. The problem is that the description is fuzzy, and for someone coming from previous versions of the game, it can be a bit of a headache.
Only after careful reading you realise how close is 3e initiative to AD&D 1e.
- Spot and Listen opposed by Hide and Move Silently simply replace the mutual surprise rolls of previous editions.
- AD&D 1e already had mechanics similar to the flat-footed condition, in fact if you had an high dexterity you could avoid losing segments of action. If not, there was a pretty high chance that you lost one segment of action.
- Also, surprise in AD&D didn't necessarily imply the start of combat:
1e DMG p.62 said:
Avoiding, parleying, awaiting the action of the surprised, missile discharge, and setting of weapons (typically spears or spearing types of pole arms) are possible.
That's not much different from 3e where you roll for initiative, and then you see what happens.