Genre: role-playing game
Number of players:typical size 5 (four players and one gamemaster), but can vary
Objective: play the role of a hero (or villain) within a fantastical setting

After Wizards of the Coast purchased TSR, they decided to release the third edition of the popular and famous role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons.  While the game seemed like a success, it was not without its flaws.  As such, they released a revised edition that proved to be instantly superior: 3.5 Edition (that was the name Wizards went with, by the way).

In terms of role-playing games, DnD 3.5 is a level-based role-playing game, meaning that characters develop in stages refered to as levels.  In most level-based RPGs, there is a level cap, a maximum to which characters can advance.  In DnD 3.5, the initial cap was 20th level, but with supplementary books, the cap was removed altogether and rules were created for Epic level play (i.e. playing a character above 20th level).  In terms of a level-based RPG, DnD 3.5 actually does a good job of allowing players to customize their characters; everyone can be truly unique in comparison to other characters based on their game mechanics alone.  This affords players a great sense of freedom when creating their characters, designing their characters more on concept, thematics, and iconography.  Also, as the characters gain levels, the player can develop the character as they see fit, deciding where to dedicate certain skills and choosing which abilities (in the form of Feats) to select all in an attempt to make their own character.

Unfortunately, the game is VERY combat heavy and is rare for sessions to not have at least a single battle of some sort.  It is also rules heavy, especially in terms of combat.  Also, spellcasters have to learn a whole chapter of available spells in addition to the normal rules.  Also, even after the changes from third edition, the physics/reality presented in DnD 3.5 can strain one’s suspension of disbelief.  For example, a character of significantly high level can survive a fall of half a mile without too much loss; any character can become fluent in a language practically overnight, no matter how alien it is to their own native tongue; or characters of the same experience and equivalent level can withstand the same amount of physical punishment and damage even if one is human-sized and the other is smaller than a poodle.

Beyond the normal benefits of other role-playing games (e.g. learning to adopt alternative perspectives, developing research skills, fostering social skills), DnD 3.5 is also adept at teaching players how to plan for the long-term.  Certain level-based features of the game require the players to think far ahead in order to acquire the abilities for their characters.  Also, players learn what abilities and modifiers stack best with one another in order to come out ahead of others (preferably enemies).  In effect, this teaches a rudimentary form of statistical analysis.  Also, for the players who are more than proficient at rules design and game balance, customizing games and campaigns for DnD 3.5 is a breeze.  Developing house rules for games can be difficult as it can interfere with the game balance already in place by the game developers, but the design for DnD 3.5 is simple enough (relative to other games) where it is easy to see how broken a mechanic is versus how under-powered a mechanic is.

Next Week:  Dungeon and Dragons 4th Edition!