Last week season 3 of the D&D Encounters organized play dealio came to an end. It was my first turn at DM’ing with any sense of regularity with people who weren’t people I had known for a very long time (aka. ‘friends’). DM’ing with strangers is very different from DM’ing for your friends. First off, you have to learn their names. Secondly, you have to learn and get used to their unique personalities and mannerisms and eventually their gameplay-style. If you’re lucky, and I have been, they turn out to be a cool group of people that you don’t mind hanging out with every few days (or even more often if you’re really lucky).
But that’s not what this post is about. I wanted to reflect on a few things that I saw and how they might apply in the next season, March of the Phantom Brigade.
Season 3 lasted 20 weeks. At the beginning we had a good range of experience at our table. We had people who’d never played D&D before. We had people who’d played back in the 80’s when it was called AD&D. And we had people who’d been playing 3rd Edition, Pathfinder and 4e for some time and were very capable at thwarting the DM’s tactics and wishes at the table.
The mostly-noobs weren’t part of the in-fighting that’s been happening in the D&D community about Essentials so they weren’t aware they’d been handed a side to choose. Essentials was the legal character for season 3. Having said that, when I started the game I didn’t want to turn anyone away so I allowed classic 4e classes and races. For me, it quickly became obvious that was becoming a problem. The Essentials characters (i.e. the pregens) didn’t have a lot to do while they waited for the classic 4e characters to do what seemed like 5 or 6 actions each turn. And heaven help them if they picked an attack, rolled then missed. That means they sat their and waiting for their turn to come back around. Meanwhile the 4e guys did minors, frees, standards and all kinds of stuff that kept hurting my monsters or thwarting their plans.
It was clear to me that the different editions weren’t playing as nicely together as I’d thought they were supposed to be able to do.
So once the first chapter (4 encounters) was done I started encouraging everyone to switch over to Essentials characters. By the end of chapter 2 I required everyone to run Essentials characters. And you know what? Even the guy who was begrudgingly rerolling his mage into an Essentials version was having just as much fun as before (if not more).
In fact, the guy mentioned above was able to pretty much powergame the system as much as he was before. So that bit of meta-gaming was still there for him.
By the end of Chapter 5 I don’t think people even remembered back that far where they were moaning about Essentials characters. They were just into the story and defeating the mean bad guy who’d played them back at the start.
So now, we’re starting Season 4 and we have a few newcomers to the organized play event joining us. We had a quick talk last week about legal characters and when I said “Essentials only” he audibly moaned.
But I think he’ll come around. I’ve seen this before.
(To be continued … I almost forgot about the Fortune Cards)