So tonight some guys I game with wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons v3.5, which, as most of you know, is not really my thing. But I figured, what the heck, it's a one-shot. All I asked was that they not create unbalanced, game-breaking characters. I figured, at 7th level, what kind of damage could they really do?
Well, I found out... hoo-boy, I found out. First thing I had to do was outlaw all Diplomacy checks. How a 7th level character can get a 20+ in Diplomacy is beyond me, but I guess there are the classes and feats to do it. Biggest rule I hate in v3.5 is Diplomacy (and that whole social-interaction rule chain). I know that the rules are that it isn't supposed to run roughshod over the campaign, but so many DMs just let it do so that when you don't let it do so, it just ruins a campaign. So I simply had to outlaw them, and rule that social interaction had to go classic -- play it out, no rules-lawyering character builds allowed.
Then I found out that most of the fighter-style feats being used were from rule books that came out after I gave up on v3.5... and they apparently made some incredibly broken stuff officially, as it was all from official books. 7th level super-multi-class Captain Cuisinart rolling four times to hit with swords that were acid/cold/lightning based and healing allies two points for every successful hit. Holy cats, where did that come from?
So anyway, broken stuff aside, it was still pretty fun. I started them in media res after a fashion, with them waking up after a two-week bender to find the city half-deserted and the massive Horde of Thuum almost at the gates, with the gates all locked, the port empty of ships, boats, and even fishing scows, and nowhere left to run or hide. The flower of the kingdom's chivalry and most of the army had been defeated at the furthest forts, and now the smoke and fires of the outriders were seen from the city parapets.
The Horde of Thuum consisted mostly of goblins and hobgoblins, with girallon-steeds (two goblin archers and a driver); manticores and serpenticores (wingless draco-serpent-manticores); and ogres and hill giants. The four characters (one elf and three humans, though one was dragon-blooded for no apparent reason and all were multi-classed to the hilt) woke up in the most expensive brothel in town to find everyone gone, then sought shelter in the great citadel, where the remaining citizens of the city were cooped up elbow to elbow. They were told to buzz off, unless they brought the guards the heads of some of the horde members... so off they went to find some scouts to scalp.
They encountered a girallon with goblin archers along the road to the High Dell; battle ensued. Here's where I found out that scouts are apparently one of the most broken classes in the game, able to add a bunch of damage to an attack Simply. By. Moving. yikes! But one hit by the Girallon caused the scout to run away and up a tree, which the girallon then shook vigorously, sending the scout flying. But Captain Cuisinart and friends made short work of the Girallon and crew, bringing back heads and two live goblins for questioning.
They then bluffed their way in to the King, where they got themselves appointed to the war council (their history being one of well-known mercenary sort). They came up with a few very bad, very deadly ideas for the poor militia, numbering in the scores, to face off against hundreds of goblins, scores of ogres, girallons, manticores, and serpenticores, and a dozen hill giants, all as a feint for their own escape. Then the Priest of the Sky God came by and told them that the Sky God had sent him a cloud to take four heroes into the Heart of Darkness...
They followed the mysterious priest, who took them to a cloud in his open-air temple and flew them into the air. They flew over the Horde of Thuum and past the fires and smoke, into a devastated land covered in darkness. There they found a colossal stone wagon-temple being drawn by titanic spiders, the whole surrounded by thousands of goblins and fouler things. They were met in mid-air by a bat-winged dire shark, which nearly swallowed one of the characters. After slaughtering him, they flew down to the temple and entered via a work door in the tall dome. They went down several flights of stairs to the dark main temple floor, where they found a large pool filled with glittering rainbow water... which turned out to be a giant ooze, the eponymous Thuum of the Horde!
This cosmic entity sought to overthrow Man and his Gods, and offered the characters their heart's desire should they turn from their god-decreed path to follow him. After severe temptations of wealth, power, and concubines (these last for the elf, who was sly and lascivious), they rejected all the offers and attacked...
And here's where Captain Cuisinart really shone, slicing and dicing with his acid-resistant magic blades, slicing the ooze into ever smaller bits, cleaned up by the other characters. One of them did die, after being pounded one too many times in a row by the remaining large oozes. But slay Thuum they did, or at least, his immediate earthy avatar...
And thus ended the session.
They want to play again, also using v3.5. I told them that if I am to run, they need to start out with 1st level characters and limit themselves to the choices available in the Players Handbook (I, not II or III or XVII). From there, anything they might want to branch out into must be found in-game and earned in-game, not merely added as a build option out of the blue. Plus, no Diplomacy or Super-Bluff stuff. So we will see how it goes.
I'll be running them in the sandbox I'm working on, Castle Adlerstein and Environs, as opportunity permits. We're not really fully moved in here yet, so it needs to coordinate between my work schedule and available locations... so it will be an irregular campaign. And now I need to re-acquire the v3.5 books again.
So this should be interesting...