New D&D Game

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Personal, RPGs

Last week our group had a long extended discussion on the future of our gaming enterprises. For the last couple of months we’ve been doing one “game” — That is to say, we’ve been rolling up characters for three or four hours, then playing for an hour if at all — per week. This was obviously a situation that needed to stop. So we all sat down and had a discussion about what games we were going to run and when, and what we would do in case someone couldn’t attend. We all agreed to our schedule, and then we began discussing the games themselves.

So far we’ve got a Spycraft game, a game in a Warhammer-inspired world, and we had a new proposal — A gritty, low/no-magic campaign, played with all Human characters in an alternate-world version of the Roman era. This idea really appeals to me, as I’m a bit burnt out on the typical D&D paradigm of spellcasters being omnipresent and overpowering, magic items under every rock, and a proliferation of non-human races which are fundamentally the same as humans except for granting a +2 to whatever attribute you need. For our stats we rolled 3d6 for six attributes and created six sets, choosing the best of the six sets. This resulted in fairly mediocre abilities, but I was pleased with that: I prefer a game that’s more grounded in reality than the usual game with superhuman characters running around from level one and only getting worse with time.

So this week rolls around and I show up at our usual gaming location with another member of the group. Two hours later, we leave in disgust when no one else showed up. The next day I get a call and say that there’s a game — We’re going to play the pseudohistorical Rome game. I show up only to discover that one of our players is rolling up a Cleric. “What?!” I think. I thought this was going to be a low/no magic game. Now we’ve got a Cleric in the group. I suppose it’s understandable, but hardly what I was hoping for.

We sat down and the DM explained some of the history. Things sound interesting enough, and then we get to playing. I enjoyed the game overall but there are some serious issues that I need to bring up with the DM, as he seems to be playing loose with the rules and this is causing a bit of confusion:

First of all, he seems to be treating flanking as any attack on a character’s “flank.” However, D&D 3.5 doesn’t have facing, so this is pretty much impossible to determine unless characters are in an explicit formation. There were a few times during the session when characters received penalties for “being flanked” by one opponent.

Second, so far we haven’t been using an explicit representation of characters’ positions on a battlefield (via miniatures) but we have been using the tactical rules (AoOs, flanking, etc.). I feel unsatisfied with this, as it means the players aren’t able to make informed tactical decisions. There was one particular incident where I mentioned that my character was going to take a five foot step back, and then turn and run away. Even though this should not provoke an attack of opportunity he ruled that it did.

Third, the characters we were fighting had, according to the DM, “20 dex.” Since this is impossible for a human using a 3d6 x 6 method, and since the characters we were fighting were mooks, I am a bit worried about us being pitted against foes who are receiving a bit more leeway than we are.

Fourth, the DM seems to be using a rather random “critical fumble” assessment, and he also expressed a desire to use a “critical hit” chart from 2nd Edition. I’ve always hated critical fumble rules, even though it seems like everyone and their brother thinks this is a good idea. I just find it absurd that the more experienced a character gets the more likely it is for him to critically fumble (due to iterative attacks). It’s a stupid idea and it needs to be put down. One the note of the 2nd Edition critical hit chart, according to his description it contains plenty of nasty effects such as “Lose a limb” or “permanently disfigured.” Since critical hits are a much bigger problem for Player Characters than they are for NPCs I’m very, very wary of this attempt to change the rules. Crushing the skull of some mook and having his intelligence permanently reduced to 3 might be fun on the giving end, but seems to me to be a serious problem if applied to PCs.

Fifth and most problematic to me is the fact that there’s a serious deviation in how he’s awarding experience. I don’t recall what each character received but I do recall that one player, who I felt contibuted about as much as I did overall to the game, received 3300 XP. On the other hand, I received only 2650 XP. It’s rather irritating to me foremost because the difference in our performance was entirely psychological — My dice rolls toward the latter end of the game were all very poor, but earlier on in the game I was having much better luck than the other player. The most recent success seemed to take precedence. Either way, I think it’s very dangerous to award experience based on how well you rolled.

A nearly 700 experience gap is a serious difference and, not only do I feel it wasn’t warranted, but I see serious problems ahead if this continues. Particularly when the Cleric in the group gains access to spells such as Flamestrike, he is going to end up receiving much more experience than the rest of the characters in the group. Not only is the Cleric already the most powerful character in the group due to his access to a slew of versatile spells, but he will become even more and more powerful as the experience-awarding system gives him significantly more experience than the rest of us and hastens his trip up the exponential spellcaster power curve.

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