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23 June 2005 @ 09:48 am
Problems with D&D  
The Wednesday game has always been fraught with problems. The middle of the week is a bad time slot for a game, but people's work and school schedules are just complicated enough that this has been the only window. People seem to burn out fast (probably because a game going to 11 when they have to work the next morning is hard), and generally staying on target is more an exercise in frustration for all involved.

To alleviate these problems, the game has been run sort of round robin style. Each person who wants to run a game has a slot or a ticket (effectively though not in actuality). A DM gets approximately 12 to 16 sessions, finishes their arc, and then passes the torch to the next person who wants to run. That way we get to try different systems and game styles. It works relatively well.

RhymesWithTaco finished his arc last night in a session that brought to mind some of the problems I have been seeing with D&D (and with certain games in particular).

  1. Encounter levels. Please be mindful of the party, their actual hit points, equipment and strength before setting your encounters up.1

  2. The Impossible Encounter. I know you love your NPC and don't want us to catch him/her, but if you are counting on simple speed or relatively simple magic then there is a decent chance that we can and will find the enemy. Face it; level 12 is not that much higher a level. We are not always fooled by invisibility potions anymore.2

  3. The Similarly Impossible DCs. Is it really necessary to assign an arbitrarily high DC of greater than 40? I don't believe that anyone, including my character who has the highest spot, can make a DC 40+ without either magical assistance or the natural 20 (if you are using that rule today).

  4. Showering us with items doesn't necessarily make the group more powerful or effective. Especially when the two characters with vow of poverty will either have their share sold and the money donated or specific items donated to a local good-aligned church.

  5. Stat checks. In 3.0/3.5 the rule is roll above your stat on stat-related checks. Yes, it means the range is a lot lower. So? Effectively giving those of us with 20s a nearly always free win doesn't make your game better.

  6. Initiative. We don't need to roll initiative every round. When combat starts at 11:08 p.m. I would prefer to keep my same initiative even though it was a 7.

  7. Consistency 1. Please use it. Either make the bad ruling and keep it even when it now adversely affects your NPC, make a ruling and then make a corrected ruling over email during the week between games, or take the time in game to look up the ruling.

  8. Consistency 2. So, the level 10 monk has a spot DC of 25 to see the evil ninja monk. Now, my character starts off with a DC 30 (because I am inside a building), which never goes below 27 even though I move faster and am right behind the guy? The DCs shouldn't be arbitrarily (see that word again) for one character versus another.3

  9. The Capture protocol. Now this isn't the only game that this has happened, but it has now happened 3 times in this game that my character (our characters) have been captured either by use of excessive force or GM fiat and thrown into a cell or what not. There are other ways of both getting a group together and moving the direction of plot. Umm, I'd like to feel like I have some control over my character's destiny.4

1A Blighter who can cast two Horrid Wiltings (level 8 Blighter spell) is a minimum character level of 15 (level 6 druid/level 9 blighter). However, if your level 6 Finger of Death has a save DC of 23 (we did a lot of math last night), your appropriate stat is no higher than 25 (+7), which means you must be level 10 to get 2 of those spells. Now, the highest character level is either 10 or 11 in the party. The highest spell level is 5 (I get 2 a day because of bonus spells). When you add the Blighter and a minimum-level 12 monk, and then randomly throw in an "Avatar of Bane" who has spell resistance of 31?? then who knows what the encounter level is other than too much.
2So, I am a druid shape changed into a Pegasus. The last time we encountered and chased this guy, I wasn't as high a level and could only transform into an Eagle (which I still think should have been fast enough). Now, this guy is apparently running at something between 280 and 350 a round. As a Pegasus, my flight 'running' is 480. It shouldn't be impossible to catch up. If he drinks a potion, then that is a standard action. I don't think he can move as far and we might be able to catch up to him then. So, we wasted resources (that we probably would have wasted on this regardless), but the end result was still an encounter that we were told at the end was impossible. Thanks.
3Same encounter as above. Fine. The round I am getting out of the house my DC is 30. I can make that. Heck, I only have to roll a 13 to make it in the form. Our monk is ahead of me and has a DC 25, that's also OK. The next round I am moving pretty much all out and catch up to at least our monk but my DC doesn't go down to 25? What gives? Note the issue here isn't that I did or did not make the rolls at these DCs but that these DCs shouldn't have been higher in the first place.
4I created Lazuli to use the mounted combat shtuff under the Ride skill. I had taken the $ values of stuff that you said we could use and made my character with relatively basic armor and weapon. Not nearly as good as what the fighter had. One, maybe two, sessions in we were ambushed by a large number of orcs and four of us were captured. I never fully recovered my equipment. Fyona was escorting her brother with a random thief back to a temple with a large amount of treasure. We were 'ambushed' and had Hold Person cast on us and our throats then slit with no saving throw. If you are going to do something like that then at least don't use a favored save. At the end of last night, we were not dead but we were captured without some of our equipment and in two separate areas. Dead horse. Use a new trick next time.

Now that I have spewed out vitriol, I think I will go back to work. Oh, and no Wednesday games for me (of any variety) until after the Mikado is over, because I want to do that in the fall.
Feeling like: pissed offpissed off
crow112101crow112101 on June 23rd, 2005 02:08 pm (UTC)
Like I told your hubby, I designed the baddie to have you guys hate him, but it seems that I made you guys more pissed at HWMNBOT than anything...

I know it may be a moot point, but he was just trying to prep the next arc and bring in the baddies that you would all be facing come the fall and he wasn't trying to screw anyone over...we may have been overzealous, but it wasn't malicious...:(
Qarylla Windragarqarylla on June 23rd, 2005 02:38 pm (UTC)
You may have designed the baddie, but I am not blaming you at all.

RhymesWithTaco in the first arc I was in decided that we needed at level 9 characters to see a Meteor Swarm at ground zero (I believe a level 9 spell).

In this game, with our levels not really being much if any higher it was 2 level 8 spells. I don't really need to fight impossible odds all the time. Heck, to end on a high note, we could have found out about what this guy was doing (aka, we thought he was going to attack this town, but instead he attacked this one 20 or 30 miles away and did this horrible thing to them decimating the populace). We could have then spent the next three or four levels chasing after this guy and took on eventually from a seat of more or equal power rather than significantly lesser.

These weren't the only beefs I have had about this game (and I don't want you to feel upset about this). Heck, I don't really enjoy the idea that one character can say something (and not need either a diplomacy or an intimidate roll) and get results, but I have diplomacy and can't even get a roll half the time. There are inconsistencies in how he is treating the individual players and their characters that have had me very upset probably 3 out of the last 4 sessions. Think straw, camel, back.
the name of dogenochs_fable on June 23rd, 2005 02:19 pm (UTC)
Yikes. What time do you start playing?

In my Tues group, we rarely go past 10:30pm.
the name of dogenochs_fable on June 23rd, 2005 02:23 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a particularly horrible collision of Consistency and Impossible Foe problems. Yech.
Jigglius Caesarjiggliusceasar on June 23rd, 2005 02:44 pm (UTC)
The good news is that RWT won't get another turn for at least 9 months (my game, Kirbymeister's and Harry Potter part II).
The Darkermindways on June 23rd, 2005 03:02 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that sounds unfortunate - particularly in aggregate.

Most of the problems sound like issues with the GM, though there's one exception:

Especially when the two characters with vow of poverty will either have their share sold and the money donated or specific items donated to a local good-aligned church.

D&D 3.0/3.5 suffers from the assumption that, as a PC advances, that they will accumulate Vast Amounts of Magical Crap. It's built into the power curve in a pretty major way, especially at higher levels. This makes things difficult for GMs who want to run a game more focused on the characters' abilities, or on players who want to play ascetics.

I've started working around this in Fairweather by often giving PCs abilities - sometimes for magical reasons, sometimes just as "tricks they've figured out how to do" - instead of magical items or money. They range the gamut from intrinsic bonuses to stats, to feats or combat options, to spell-like abilities, to enhancement bonuses to skills.
Jigglius Caesar: the princejiggliusceasar on June 23rd, 2005 03:12 pm (UTC)
Well, the Vow of Poverty effectively gives you lots of power in exchange for not having gear. I'm going to figure out at some point just how much gear it would take to have the same powers, but I think it's somewhere not too far below what the DMG says a character of that level should have.

However, to call this a Monty Haul campaign is underestimating it. Our monk has multiple sets of magical gloves to switch between. And this actually happened (with only slightly more dialogue):

Fighter: "Look, 25 scrolls with spells of all levels!"

Sorcerer (w/Vow): "Okay, donate the divine ones and sell the arcane ones."
thastygliax on June 23rd, 2005 06:22 pm (UTC)
Every time I hear about RWT's game, I'm surprised that you two have put up with this crap for so long. I'm very glad, for your sake, that you finally decided you had reached your limit, and let people know had better things to do with your time. (Ditto with regard to the game we both recently dropped out of.) Even if RWT is one of jiggliusceasar's friends Since Before Time Began, there are some sacrifices you shouldn't have to make.