Top 10 Most Broken Features of Dungeons & Dragons Version 3.5
Ah, D&D. The mother of all RPG's. Without it, there would be no Dragon Quest, no Final Fantasy, no Earthbound, perhaps not even Fire Emblem. And yet to many, even RPG fans, the mere mention of Dungeons & Dragons is enough to warrant laughter and ridicule. Are D&D players really that much nerdier than video gamers? Perhaps. But at least we know our roots! And as it happens, even glitches and exploits date back to the original source. DM's, take note! Here is a list of the most broken features of the latest version of D&D.
10. Shielded Casting
From the Races of Stone handbook, Shielded Casting is a general feat that should've been a metamagic feat. The ability allows magic users to cast in the thick of a battle without provoking any attacks of opportunity, as long as they're holding a shield. This feature wasn't ranked any higher because to be really effective, a wizard/sorcerer will additionally need the Still Spell feat in order to cast like this without any interruptions. This feat, however, seems more built for Clerics, who will more easily reach the Shield Proficiency requirement, etc. Regardless, Shielded Casting can and will change the tide of the DM's planned combat.
9. Dragon Disciple Strength Increases
From the Dungeon Master's Guide, the Dragon Disciple is one of the more famous prestige classes in D&D. Fair and balanced, it gives spontaneous arcane spellcasters a boost in melee combat, ability scores and a slowly growing breath weapon in exchange for sacrificing their spell advancement. So what's the problem here? As far as the arcane requirements, you only need to be able to cast spells spontaneously; there is no level requirement. If this isn't a red flag to you, let me spell it out for you. A Level 4 Fighter / Level 1 Sorcerer qualifies for this class. So would a Level 2 Fighter / Level 1 Barbarian / Level 2 Bard. If your plan all along is to become a Dragon Disciple in order to become the strongest character ever, there's nothing stopping you from attaining an above average overall Base Attack Bonus and upwards of 30 Strength with the right build. So much for this being a "spellcaster's prestige class."
8. Dragon Shaman
From the Player's Handbook II, Dragon Shaman is one class that almost any knowledgeable D&D player will look at and salivate. Medium BAB progression, medium armor and shield proficiency, a breath weapon exceeding in power that of the Dragon Disciple, and most of all, the Draconic Aura ability. What's so good about it? It's "balanced" such that as the character levels up, his Aura can add a number to his Attack Bonus that more times than not makes him equal in accuracy to a Fighter. What's better? The Aura affects the entire party. What else? Instead of that, he can alternately provide Damage Reduction, Fast Healing, Energy Resistance, Skill Bonuses, or the equivalent of a Diablo II Paladin's Thorns aura. When you're a formidable melee combatant and you can still deal 10d6 damage from 120 feet away, you know you're not built from the core handbooks.
Oh, the Soulknife. Just another attempt to create a "balanced" class by taking a Fighter, slapping its BAB progression on the wrists, and giving it a boatload of ridiculous additional abilities. The Soulknife class is particularly bad because it's Psionic. Like its brother the Psychic Warrior, the Soulknife has medium BAB progression but the ability to more than make up for it with its inherent psychic abilities. The character also gains the benefits of many powerful feats without the hassle of needing to take them. Take Whirlwind Attack. Requirements: Dex 13, Int 13, Combat Expertise, Dodge, Mobility, Spring Attack, Base Attack Bonus +4. Orrrrr just be a Soulknife. Not to mention you can "enhance" your weapon - AKA give it different magical abilities whenever you feel like, based on your current situation. Keen? Mighty Cleaving? Sundering? SOULBREAKER? The Soulknife's versatility transcends all reason.
6. Ambush Feats
The Complete Scoundrel handbook is the latest of the "Complete" series of books, following Complete Warrior, Complete Adventurer, et al. This book is well-written, intriguing and filled with tons of new material, much of which can significantly enhance gameplay. And then there are the Ambush Feats. Got a rogue? Why not sacrifice some Sneak Attack damage to ensure you automatically win any battle you're ever in? How about a feat that lets you trade some damage for the ability to impose a penalty to the victim's Str and Dex checks? How about rendering that pesky palace guard mute for 3 rounds so you can finish him off in silence? Or might you want to deal some Con damage? How about rendering a target Confused for one round? It's all there in the book that decided Rogues just weren't quite versatile enough.
5. Tasha's Hideous Laughter
Huh? A level 2 arcane spell? What's this doing on a list of things that are broken? Hold the phone - if you're a Bard, this is a level 1 spell, meaning you can cast it as a Level 2 character. Okay, so what's so good about it? As a standard action, cause the subject to fall prone for 1 round per level if they fail their Will save. Got a barbarian problem? Tell him a joke, and he'll fall down at your feet. One round is six seconds; do you really need more than 12 seconds to grapple him, tie him up, slit his throat or what have you? The answer, more often than not, is no. A Level 2 bard is capable of taking down the fiercest warrior imaginable virtually effortlessly, if you have the charisma for it.
4. Monkey Grip
From Complete Warrior, Monkey Grip has been the subject of much discussion and debate since its inception. Does it allow my Ranger to dual-wield large-sized Bastard Swords? Does it stack with the Goliath's Powerful Build ability? Put your rulebooks and slide rules away. The answers are no and no. But Monkey Grip remains a thorn in the side of DM's looking for balanced melee combat; it allows a character to wield a weapon one size category larger than he ordinarily could. In a world where the longsword deals 1d8 damage, do we really need a character who can swing a large-sized greatsword that deals 3d6? Sure, he takes a penalty, but any player crazy enough to take this overpowered feat has undoubtedly pumped his character with more than enough strength to counter this and make him as good or better at swinging this Buster Sword around as a typical dwarf warrior is at using his battleaxe. Now imagine what would happen if a wizard came along and cast Enlarge Person and Permanency on this overpowered ape? Monkey Grip, plain and simple, destroys balanced combat.
Yes, a psychic class has already been on this list. But in reality, the Soulknife is probably among the least flagrant offenders of game balance in the Psionics Handbook. Psionics in general was a fun idea that just didn't work out in a game already dominated by spellcasting. Psionic powers were supposed to be an alternative to the Arcane or Divine schools, but instead they exceeded them in power by a landslide. A level one power deals 1d10 damage. Another causes all nearby creatures to fall prone and take nonlethal damage. A level two power gives damage reduction 2/-. There's a reason most DM's don't allow Psionics in their campaigns; it's just not fair for the other characters.
2. Unearthed Arcana
The entire book. It sucks. It's for metagaming and min/maxing. It's terrible. There is nothing useful in it. I hate it. If you like it, I hate you. Not a single feature in its pages is useful or necessary unless you want to make your character completely and irrevocably better than anything in the core handbooks. In these pages are class variants, races with bizarre ability bonuses to suit any build imaginable, and feats that will customize your character so completely that you might as well tear up the rules and write your own damn abilities, spells and attacks. This book, if used "appropriately", almost single-handedly takes the challenge - and fun - out of D&D.
1. Loyal Beyond Death
Ahhhh, the Knight class. Because apparently, Fighter isn't tanky enough. The Knight is the most ridiculous tank you will ever see in D&D this side of the Dwarven Defender. Best BAB Progression? Check. d12 Hit Die? Check. Heavy Armor and Shield Proficiency? Check. The ability to gradually ignore nearly all rules of D&D? Check. Huh?! Yeah, that's about right. As Knights level up, they begin to possess the supernatural ability to just sort of ignore anything the DM says or does. "I'm in full plate armor, but I'm gonna run at full speed, k?" "I have the toughest Armor Class in the party right now, but everyone's going to attack me. Oh, that guy just attacked the person next to me? No he didn't, I step in front of him." "Oh, a boulder just fell on me, reducing me to negative 650 HP? Okay, I'll use my next turn to walk around and say 'Hey guyz, I'm okay.' Then I'll chug some potions and go back to fighting." That last ability describes the Knight's most mind-numbing ability, Loyal Beyond Death. A Knight can expend a charge from his Knight's Challenge pool to remain conscious at ANY amount of negative HP, effectively giving him the gift of immortality as long as he can manage to be healed appropriately before he runs out of time. The Knight LAUGHS at Diehard. That's why Loyal Beyond Death - and the Knight class in general - is the single most broken feature of D&D 3.5.
Dungeons & Dragons is one of the greatest games ever created, and it is remarkable how it continues to expand and revise even today. Version 3.5 upon release was perhaps one of the most balanced versions to date, and it is in fact the version that I both play and recommend to all newbies. There is a huge problem, however, with supplemental rulebooks written by neophytes who have not been around since the creation of D&D and who want to make the game more appealing to "power players" who are only vaguely interested in tabletop RPG's because ZOMG WORLD OF WARCRAFT IS 1337. The new generation of gamers wants fireballs, mind control and overpowered characters because this has become the focus of modern RPG's. This is why supplemental rulebooks are ruining the subtlety, teamwork and challenge of traditional D&D. Give me a poorly built character anyday, and I'll work with what I'm given and take down the evil empire with roleplaying, a little bit of luck, and sheer ingenuity. There is comparatively little satisfaction in slaughtering the world with a single thought.