As I continue to run more D&D 3.5 (modern games be damned!) and revel in the notion that 3.5 is, like all other editions, a dead system supported only by spectral fans, I am reminded of some things I had forgotten entirely about. Here's the Top Five List so far....
#5. The 3.0 stuff can be wonky, especially those monster books!
--Noticed when using a Coffer Corpse against the level 2 party from the original Tome of Horrors. Luckily I could reference the Revised Tome of Horrors in PDF, but that original 3.0 one with 10 resistance against everything except +1 weapons??? Damn! My group at level 2 is still dreaming of magical weapons. I have observed this with mostly 3rd party content, which is likely due to the early development being something of a wild west back then.
#4. Some of those Legend & Lairs books are kinda handy.
--I'm thinking of Sorcery & Steam, Portals & Planes and Darkness & Dread specifically, but these books have some good stuff in them. Darkness & Dread specifically was one of my favorite tomes back in the day, a way of running distinctly more low-key horror-themed dark fantasy with a special batch of classes designed for that style of play. I once ran a campaign set in medieval France with the actual mytho-historical Tarrasque as the secret horror!
#3. The Skill System Was Sorely Missed.
--Back in the day it didn't bother me beyond the half rank deal for non-classed skills, and I was on the fence with how both D&D 4E and Pathfinder 1E revised the 3rd edition skill mechanics, but ultimately accepted them as some sort of progress. Now, after years of that progress to diluted, vanilla, "everyone must be able to make a skill check" mechanics from D&D 5E and PF2E I am really enjoying playing an iteration of D&D again where a wide variety skills are taken seriously, and niche protection is a thing; not everyone can roll on every skill.
#2. Encounter Design is Robust.
--Without commenting on current iterations, I will say only that it's nice to eyeball an encounter and get it right, and also notice that the range of encounter options (and size) can be suitably diverse without feeling a little artificial (e.g. 5E has this less than PF2E, admittedly). It's fun to be playing an edition where encountering a lair with 3D12 orcs in it is a legitimate thing that can happen again and not a sign of player abuse.
#1. Character Design is Fun.
--I'll first state that by 2008 when D&D 4E arrived I was fairly burned out on the character/monster design process, so this revelation comes with that caveat. But having said it, now that it's been some years since I las played PF1E, and a good 12+ years since the last time I ran D&D 3.5, getting back to it has revealed to me that not only is my recollection of the rules pretty intact, but my enjoyment of the robust character design mechanics are still in place. In fact, I've had more fun rolling PCs for 3.5 than I really feel is normal.
Bonus: Damage is Interesting Again
--I really miss the idea that damage is a thing with different types and effects, some of which may (especially at low level) require holing up to heal for a few days. Being able to design scenarios with a pace that expects people to need to rest and recover on occasion fits my gaming style as it existed from 1980 right on up to 2008 when D&D 4E shat the bed.
Maybe next: a Top Five list of the things I went "Ohhhh crap" when I remembered them about 3.5!