Sunday, January 10, 2010

Amateur Theatrics vs. Shut Up and Roll the Dice

Last night we had yet another session of Josh's 3E campaign. He's been studying up on the 3E rules, so he was using more of them and less 2E/whatever he felt like in the session. I was having a good time, and I think Pat was as well, but Dave was still grumbling about not really having the right sort of character for the campaign, and Alex stared out fine, but by the end got drunk and belligerent.

So we're still going through these caves, trying to find an exit. It's the third session of that, and Josh had thought we'd spend maybe 1.5-2 sessions at most on it. He's still learning how to DM, and while he's getting much better at it, not everything went smoothly.

First of all, he totally misunderstood the 3E Challenge Rating system. He thought the CR for a monster was the CR for an 'average number appearing' of that monster. So a few encounters he thought would be soft balls were near TPKs. He's pretty liberal with the magical loot, but he's also not shy about taking it away. And he pulls no punches in encounters. He's also got a stubborn determination that if he prepped it, we're gonna go through it, and we're gonna go through his story or die trying.

Dave and Alex both have problems stemming from the way Josh pitched the campaign. They both thought from the description that it would be a RP heavy, combat light campaign. Dave made a Paladin based off of Solomon Kane, with high Dex, light armor and rapier, with no Charisma bonus. So he's suffering from playing his concept in the wrong sort of campaign.

Alex, on the other hand, is playing a Rogue. Last time, he was finally getting to do all sorts of Roguish things--sneaking, disarming traps, etc. But he wasn't having fun because he apparently hates dungeon crawls "because there's no role play." And he kept going on about how he specifically designed a Rogue because "they're the best at role play." And even though we emerged from the dungeon by the end of the session, it was half-way through the 'boss' battle that he got up, said he'd had enough, and was quitting the game.

Well, we managed to kill the way too high for our level monster (a Delver, which is CR9 or 10 or something, and we're only level 4 with no arcane caster and only a Paly3/Cleric1 for divine casting) thanks to the sweet magical loot we got. My melee fighter finally got his hands on a sweet magical bastard sword (+3 to hit, with no magical damage bonus to normal damage, but with automatic 8 lightning damage and a chance to stun opponents for a few rounds), and luckily stunned the Delver for a few rounds, allowing us to pound on it without losing our weapons or armor to its acid attack or whatever it was that could destroy our gear. We got out of the dungeon, and had one of those 'cut scene' moments. We emerge on a high plateau with absolutely no way down, then this airship comes out of no where, zaps us all with a paralyzing ray, and they arrest us and knock us unconscious. So we'll start next session prisoners on their way to the capital where we're supposed to incite revolution or something.

Alex didn't care, because a) for him, RPGs are about the amateur theatrics (and here I thought it was all about the fiddly mechanics for him, since he refuses to play Classic anymore, and wants to play stuff like RIFTS or other heavy systems), and b) Josh is an adversarial DM.

Now, Pat and I seem to be enjoying the adversarial DMing, especially in 3E. No cakewalk 13.5 encounters of appropriate challenge rating then level in this game! We're working for those XP, and getting a lot less than we should (Josh is still using 2E style XP rewards for monsters), but we've got all kinds of crazy magic items that break the 'rules' and cost a lot less than they would by the book.

Josh is interesting. He's bound and determined that if he prepped it, we're gonna play it! He refused to cut his dungeon short even though he kept complaining that we were taking a lot longer than he expected. But he's also bound and determined to try to 'punish' us for any decision which he thinks is illogical or whatever. And he's not afraid to end it all with a TPK, but until all our characters die we're gonna ride the Josh railroad (and to be fair, it does have lots of stops where we can do pretty much whatever we want, but once we reach a certain point, it's 'all aboard!').

Anyway, it looks like Alex will stick around for at least 1 more session (unless he was still pissed off when he sobered up this morning, not sure about that). But he's really pushing for someone to run something else, as long as it's not me and my Classic game.

The really funny thing is, if he were playing in my Classic game, I'd be much more open to just letting him run around town doing RP stuff to his heart's content than Josh has been. Well, maybe I'll suggest one of those Forge type story systems that are fairly light on rules, like The Pool. For me, if I'm gonna play a 'story' centric RP heavy game, I'd rather not do it in a system like RIFTS or WotC D&D where there's more crunch than a bowl of breakfast cereal without the milk.

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