I have been batting around running a Pathfinder game lately. Lots of playtesting D&D Next and playing lots of 4th Edition before that had kind of occupied a lot of the fantasy role-playing time with my regular gaming group. My group had been floundering a bit lately in our gaming. We have been playing a variety of shorter lived games for a variety of reasons. The majority of the players longed for the epic campaigns that we played when we first banded together to throw dice and consume snack foods eleven years ago.
One night a few of our members were unable to show for our game. We used the night to talk about what games we might play this year. I started writing on the whiteboard attempting to put together a little schedule of what we would be playing which weeks coming up over the next few months. My players were still itching to play a long term campaign, for some reason I am still unable to hear their pleas.
My group likes to debate each other, a bit heatedly sometimes on the finer points of rpg systems, settings, styles, builds, races, spells, equipment, color of dice, choice of beverage or pretty much anything else. My mental fortitude was worn down by what seemed to me a huge waste of time because there was no right answer for the group. Role-playing games are a group activity which lends itself to individuals with strong personality, intelligence, and problem solving abilities. This is good in a game, but in between games it will have you believing that nobody is satisfied with their favorite hobby anymore. I was still not running a long term campaign although I knew that would renew interest, I didn’t want the headache.
It is hard to run a great game when you can’t even get your players to agree on a system. We could use the D&D Next rules but they were in constant flux and we were looking for continuity in our game. A lot of our gaming sessions had been doing the Open Playtest for the last year and the group needed a break from the system for a bit. I ran some Hero Fantasy before the D&D Next, but I know a few of my players are burnt out on the Hero System because we had been playing a lot of different games using the system in the last few years a well. Mix in all the 4th Edition, and the opposition that some of my group had with 4E, and that is a few systems to run a great fantasy campaign with eliminated. Did some Dungeon Crawl Classics a few months back but that won't work for the kind of game my group needs. Savage Worlds is not in-depth enough to hold most of my players’ interest for a long campaign. It didn’t matter I wasn’t running a long term fantasy campaign for the rest of my group, even though I knew it could work wonders for our groups camaraderie. I had better uses of my role-playing time.
I found myself at first thinking to myself, then commenting in one on one situation with my players, then complaining that we did not seem to function well as a group anymore. Perhaps are play styles have changed over the years. We might not enjoy the same things in games anymore. I wanted to fix the problem but I wasn’t being a leader and that is what our group seemed to lack. We are a large group and everybody would have to give something to get a game going. That included me if I wanted to run a campaign for my long-time group again. I needed to run a campaign, an epic campaign (in scope as well as level), and inspire instead of complain.
So now I have my players interested in something because I listened to what they were looking for. If asked, most players that I have played with in three decades would say that running long term campaigns are one of my DM strengths. I just had to listen to my players and get out of my own head.
Now I have to make sure that my campaign, which is set in my homebrew world will have something to satisfy each of my players. I also have to make my players understand that not every part of every session is going to be their favorite. Role-playing is really cooperative storytelling and you have to give and take each session and trust that your DM has something for your play style and character coming up soon. I will be updating the progress of the game and what trials that my group faced to attempt to reach high levels playing by the experience point rules in a long term campaign. I would really be interested in hearing how you get a game together for your group. Do you play what the DM is running or does group input shape the next game? Should group input shape the game or should the DM run the game he wants? That is what the comments section is for so feel free to use it. Until next time, Roll Hard!
I have grown up with Dungeons & Dragons. Now three decades later I want to grow out with D&DNext, or 5th Edition, or whatever we are calling it today. What I mean by that is I want my game to grant my players the ability to deal with more situations effectively, rather than just slapping on plusses, to Armor Class, Base Attack, Damage, and Saves. I know that some gamers may enjoy that but since the threat level scales with your character I never felt all that much more powerful or competent. When a PC has the abilities to deal with a variety of encounters, challenges, and situations and not just bonuses to reflect power you will end up with longevity in your system. Perhaps if powers and feats would have been built with this in mind 4th Edition would have had more traction, and a new edition wouldn’t be on the way. I will explain what I mean by all this in greater detail now.
Receiving static bonuses across the board that add to my ability to hit and damage have rarely made my characters feel more powerful. This is probably because the monster that I was battling always had scaling hit points and defenses. This is true of D & D historically and Pathfinder as well. It probably applies to many other systems as well. I hope the designers and playtesters cure it with the 5th Edition. I always tried to think about why my higher level character never crossed paths with lower level opponents. I justified that the intelligent beings could tell just how powerful I was from the sight of me and knew better. The unintelligent beings were just lucky to have not crossed my path. I always questioned why a higher level adventurer wouldn’t just follow up on plot hooks from when they were lower level and go and loot dungeons, crypts, and abandoned keeps. Sure the gold and magic would be less but so would the threats. Just a boring way to go about things and stories of legend are rarely boring.
I felt that D&D was on to something in 4th Edition with utility powers and skill utility powers. These allowed PC’s to select from a variety of powers to help them overcome the problems in front of them. Unfortunately the really cool ones fell to the way side and the ones that affected your character in combat were the only ones selected the majority of the time. I think if you look up the skill utility City Rat and the class utility Invigorating Stride you will see how this was a good theory but did not implement as successfully as the designers would have liked. Both are encounter powers but they are not equal whatsoever. City Rat allows you to use a Streetwise check in place of a Stealth check against any enemies you have cover against at the end of a move as a free action. That is a nice little extra ability for a warlock perhaps. Invigorating Stride allows you to shift you Wisdom modifier as a move action as long as you don’t shift adjacent to an enemy and second wind at the same time. Sure Invigorating Stride is a Ranger Class Utility and not available to other classes but the other classes all have their own version of clear cut choices. Why on Oerth would you take anything else if you were a ranger?
The same sort of theory applies to feats. There are many amazing feats but some of them will keep your character alive longer than others in most circumstances. I never saw a player at first level select Camouflage in place of Weapon Focus or Expertise. I never saw any player take Camouflage. It is a +5 Stealth Bonus when you are outdoors and have any cover or concealment. This is a situational bonus as you have to be out of doors and have cover. The weapon feats on the other hand are used in nearly every round of every encounter of your characters career. Feats that stack bonuses for attacks, damages, saves, and AC build your character up but don’t necessarily make your character any more interesting. Camouflage would build your character out and Weapon Focus and Expertise feats build your character up.
The upward build with piles of crunch seem to shorten edition life. 3rd Edition D&D was the first edition to introduce true player options from the start of the edition with feats and open multi-classing. 4th Edition came closer behind third than any previous edition had come to its predecessor. 4th Edition is filled with crunch, feats, powers, backgrounds, themes, paragon paths, epic destinies, etc. The shelf life between 4E and the 5E is the shortest shelf life yet. When you build characters up instead of out you handcuff the DM to challenge the party as much. Encounters that should require some thought, cunning, and bravery to overcome become watered down into hitting the enemy as hard and as fast as you can.
I have had hundreds and hundreds of hours of fun playing 4th Edition D&D and am excited about the playtest for DDNext. We need to take the positive from each edition and polish it like a gnome jeweler and then use those mechanics, concepts, and ideas to build a new edition of the most beloved rpg of all time. If monsters and threats don’t scale then characters don’t need to scale and can grow outwards and possibly only slightly upward during a whole adventuring career. My favorite heroes could always handle any situation but not always by superior firepower and defenses. Do you like your characters to grow up or out? Let me know what you think. Until next time, Roll Hard!
I like to think that when it comes to playing rpg’s I as a player tend to focus on what elements a DM wants to bring to the forefront in his game. I also as a DM tend to enjoy writing for a party of well-rounded characters, capable of handling a wide range of encounters and challenges. However as my regular gaming group prepares for a game of 4E Neverwinter Campaign, that I am a player in I began to think of the character that I wanted to play.
I hadn’t really thought about what the other players were bringing to the table outside of their roles. I chose the leader role for this character since I have the least amount of experience playing that role. I came up with a human warlord with the noble theme and then talked to the other players in my group via our Facebook Page for our gaming group to see what characters they were building. It happened that my warlord worked particularly well with the two strikers by pure chance. We then discussed a couple of feat selections to take over the next few levels to really blow holes in the bad guys with some massive damage.
When building a party, should you take a look and see what optimizes and build from there, or should you just bring a PC to the table and hope that they all mesh? When I am the DM I prefer a party to be tough but not so focused on one thing that they lack necessary skills and abilities in other areas. As a player I want to be tough because tough equates to not dead and not dead equates to I get to play the game more. If a party is optimized they will probably be able to handle more encounters before an extended rest which can help the pace and open up more storytelling opportunities. We are optimized to allow the essential build characters to take maximum advantage that nearly anything they do is a basic attack. My warlord will hand out basic attacks and they will crush with their damage and effects.
Do other groups sit down and make their characters together? I know it sure is fun to construct an optimized juggernaut when you are a player. Do other DM’s encouraged parties to be built this way? I know that as long as everybody is having fun then the game is a success in my book. Building a party that works well together is a blast, and I can’t wait to decide new powers and feats as we level our characters as a group. So If you are optimizing your group I would love to hear what you are doing so that I can use it when we sit down to build our next party. Until next time, Roll Hard.