Home » Ancient Posts » Unwelcome Side Effects — or Why Do Old School Players Reject So Many “Obvious” Improvements to D&D?    
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Philo Pharynx

*slips into his devil's advocate robes*

Of course some of the points that you consider "unwelcome side effects" are things that new school games think of as "fixing other problems." For example, I do think that a spell from a master wizard should be more likely to affect somebody than a spell from his 12-year old apprentice.

Some of the unintended effects you mention aren't inherent in the rules, they are part of poor game management on the part of the game master. As you mentioned, you can have monty haul games in the old school. Likewise, if a new school GM allows his players to be munchkins, then he is causing his own problems.

Another issue is that all of the problems that you mention are based on assumptions that aren't tied to the changes you mention. As you said, Microlite74 has ascending AC without unlimited bonuses. I can easily see fortitude, reflex and will saves without allowing the caster to affect the save DC. You can still design a class organically and figure out where those benefits would go on a unified xp table.

*Goes back into normal clothes*

Naturally, I don't see all of the old school movement as having the same reasons. There's a wide variety of reasons, and a lot of them are well thought out. Over the last year or so, I've learned a lot more about why old-schoolers like what they like. I may not prefer the same things, but I see why others made their choices. But I hope you see that some of the new school players have thought out their reasons too.


@JB: I'm not trying to convince "new school" players that "old school" is better, just that there are reasons other than blind stubbornness or nostalgia for refusing to adopt what appear at first glance to be obvious improvements to the game.


Good post, very well presented, sir. I agree completely, and touched on a similar thought in my blog. LBB D&D was very well balanced and internally consistent. It wasn't until "improvements", which incidentally almost always take the form of some sort of power creep, that D&D started having problems, as a system. I don't even like to house rule too much anymore. I mainly do it for campaign specific flavor or to smooth over some rough spot.

But, I digress. Thanks for articulating so well what can be a misunderstood aspect of being true old school.


@JB, even if new school players don't think those side effects are unwelcome, they'll understand that the resistance isn't to the ascending AC itself.


A good post, but you may simply be preaching to the choir. Not sure any "new school believers" will buy in.


I remember all my friends and I being excited about changing from 1e to 3e. "Higher armor class is better? That just make sense!" was something we all said. Then we played 3e for awhile and the classes weren't properly balanced against each other; they were a mish-mash of the organic class design you speak of versus the new design method of balancing classes against each other level-to-level. So when 3.5 came out, we thought it would fix those issues, however it just exacerbated them. Eventually I got tired of it for the reasons pretty much laid out in this post while they all moved on to Pathfinder, a game I just can't get seem to enjoy and am therefore left without a gaming group!

Black Vulmea

Well said.


This is a good point, and I think it reflects those who were originally excited about 3e and then went back to pre-d20 after realising what those unwelcome side effects were. I had so much to complain about with AD&D 2e that I was completely excited for 3e, and all the changes made sense. But then those changes came along, particularly with 3.5. 3e was at least basically AD&D 2e with the different mechanics, but roughly working the same way and roughly being designed to convert from 2e to 3e. It still had organic class design, and the power creep wasn't that obvious with the 3 core books. 3.5e made it more about balance and less about concept, and power creep became a much more real thing, so the unwelcome side effects became much more prominent.

And if anyone needs proof of these unwelcome side effects, just look at all the fixing that 4e did for them, to only introduce some of its own unwelcome side effects.


Good post, Randall. An important point, well stated. I think your three examples are representative of the issue and therefore well chosen.


Great post! Excellent summary! Thank you!


The 4e "improvement" of spells becoming powers per day and the rise of many standard spells becoming 30-minute rituals also killed creative casting.