d20 update (and a bit of a rant at the end)

I feel weird using ‘d20’ to refer to a game of Dungeons and Dragons 4.0, as the game is fundamentally different than the versatile-but-expensive set of lego bricks that made up the 3.5, 3.0, and d20 systems of old.
But anyway.
We played a little more of the Keep on the Shadowfells on Saturday, and by ‘a little bit’ I mean ‘just that one fight that notoriously kills entire parties, followed by some handwaving in the direction of roleplay’.
Man that’s a vicious fight. I’m only playing with one house rule to the 4.0 system, and it is this: “You can trade in Healing Surges for Action Points on a 1:1 basis, and use the resulting action points as indicated within the rules.”
If there a limit to one Action Point per encounter? If so, we ignored that one too. If not, and it’s just ‘on AP per round’, we were fine.
Anyway, I think it’s fair to say that without that little house rule most everyone would have died. (And don’t anyone blame the halfling wandering off, because the fight is tuned to five players, and you had five even not counting the halfling.) As it was, Irontooth dropped the Paladin and Warlord about a round before he himself fell, but some first aid rolls got them standing again.
A few thoughts on the system, scenario, and our general gameplay:


Scenario
Good: In brief, it’s a fine story, with some interesting npcs and a some pretty interesting battles.
Bad: We’re not doing a thing in terms of interacting with the NPCs, really, but I think that’s a combination of (a) too many people at the table and (b) too many distractions both at the table and around it — it feels like I have to shout the simplest of replies several times to be heard by whomever I’m speaking to. Also (c) pregen characters, the ‘motivation’ of which very few of us are really trying to get into very far. One hopes that ‘proper’ characters with background would fare better.
System
There is nothing about this system I don’t like, provided that this is the kind of game I want to run. If I was in the mood for a bit more soul-searching and personal issue-delving… yeah, I would hate this game for that… but for what we’re DOING with it, it’s really really excellent.
Regarding my little house-rule: I do like being able to trade in Healing Surges for Action Points (and oh yeah, we added that you could use APs to re-roll OR take a second action, but still only one per round). The problem is that I feel like that the ratio is too cheap right now: I want the trade in to feel a little more risky; right now, one Healing Surge isn’t really much of anything to anyone (even the mage), so I think “2 Healing Surges for an Action Point” might have the kind of weight I’m aiming for. We’ll try that out next time.
Our Play
Good: I always enjoy time spent with this group of folks.
Meh: Too many distractions. Too little focus. Most of that is child-borne, so I’m not sure how to fix it.
Bad: Not to put too fine a point on it, but we have, as a group, developed one glaringly bad habit. A really Bad. Fucking. Habit.
We never let anyone take their own action. Ever.
In all seriousness, this is what the game was like on Saturday:

GM: Okay, Player1, your turn.
Player1: Okay… I’m going to go here… and do this.
Player3: [Makes the obvious joke before anyone else can.]
Player2: Hmm. Do you want to go here…. or there?
Player5: [Makes the obvious movie quote before anyone else can.]
Player1: Hmm. Yeah… maybe.
Player3: Or you could go here, but then hold your action until *I* do THIS, which would help your THAT.
Player2: [Starts the obvious TV quote before anyone else can…]
GM: [… finishes the quote] Now what are you doing?
Player1: Hmm. That… wait… that means I won’t be doing X in time for Y.
Player2: But do you need to worry about Y?
Player4: Well, I’m worried about Y!
Player1: [Snark.]
Player3; [Pun.]
Player2: Well, what’s your Daily Power? Have you used your Encounter Power?

It takes a village to run a character? No, no it doesn’t.
We need to let people just do what they’re doing to do, and LET it be less than fucking perfectly optimal every. single. time…
We also need to let a few jokes go by. No pandas will die if we don’t zing another quip into the ether.
In thinking about it, this is not a problem specific to a tactical game like DnD.
Example from some high-drama, roleplaying scene in another game:

GM: He says, “What’s it going to be, my dear? Your mother or the Knife of Ashara?”
Player1: I glare at —
Player3: [Makes the obvious “your money or your life” joke before anyone else can.]
Player1: I glare at him and say —
Player4: [Makes the exact same quote as Player3, but with an accent.]
Player 1: I glare at him and say, “Let her go.”
Player2: Ooh, bad choice of words, are you sure you want to say that?
Player5: [Makes the obvious Batman Returns movie reference before anyone else can.]
Player1: Okay… “Give me the knife”, you think? Or —
Player3: Or you could bluff him and say she’s not that important to you. Give the rest of us time to get there.
Player2: [Starts the obvious TV quote before anyone else can…]
GM: [… finishes the quote] What are you actually saying to him?
Player1: But my character really loves my mom.
Player2: But do you need to tell him that?
Player4: Well, I wouldn’t mind knowing it!
Player1: [Snark.]
Player3; [Pun.]
Player2: Well, what’s your Bluff? Just in case you decide to…

This isn’t the exception to the rule. Somehow, this has become what we do, on every person’s turn.
Honestly, I think it’s because we don’t play that much, so it seems as though, when we do play, every single move anyone makes needs to be perfect, or we’ve wasted what time we have. ((The irony being that if we all just shushed up and let the player RUN THEIR GUY, we’d get more done.))
But regardless of the whys and wherefores, we need to stop.
It’s not fun.


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3 Replies to “d20 update (and a bit of a rant at the end)”

  1. I get the need to be funny, I totally do. it’s what makes the game enjoyable and fun to play if we’re laughing throughout. But what it can feel like, sometimes, is that other players at the table want to play my character for me. Or think they can do so.
    Now, this is a personal pet peeve of mine — someone else telling me what I’m feeling. I hate that. With the burning fire of a thousand suns, give or take. I don’t like the feeling of that happening with my character either.
    What I want with my character — whether it’s pregened or not — is the ability to make it mine, to make the decisions I’m going to make, and if they’re wrong, or they don’t maybe put me in the optimal location for someone else to do their thing two initiatives later, then that’s ok. Our characters are not psychic. They don’t know what each other can do, or wants to do.
    I don’t know. I want the feeling of a fight to be quick and deadly, and not a two-hour slog through every possible option. I like playing — and the more we can get done, the more we can play.
    I’d like that.

  2. As it was, Irontooth dropped the Paladin and Warlord about a round before he himself fell, but some first aid rolls got them standing again.

    Aside from feeling like my Warlord didn’t contribute a whole heck of a lot, there was an amazing ebb and flow of the fortunes of battle. Just when I thought we were golden, *wham*, down we went, which I thought was going to cascade into a TPK. I’m impressed it didn’t.

    I think “2 Healing Surges for an Action Point” might have the kind of weight I’m aiming for.

    I think that’s a good thing to try. They do feel too cheap right now.

    We need to let people just do what they’re doing to do, and LET it be less than fucking perfectly optimal every. single. time…

    It’s funny — isn’t that exactly what we were doing with Katherine the first go-around? We’re still doing it to each other.
    That said, I think part of it is still (a) a lack of character ownership, (b) folks still feeling their way through the rules and what their characters can actually do. Both of which make much more likely that we’ll kibbitz other folks’ actions.
    Oddly enough, Katherine was the most determined that we should let her do what she wanted, and, as a result, we let her.

    We also need to let a few jokes go by. No pandas will die if we don’t zing another quip into the ether.

    Now that’s just crazy talk.
    No, it’s true. Though your bit of dialog (both) were some of the funniest stuff I’ve read in a long time.
    But you’re right. We need to stop it. Or ratchet it back. Or something.
    Ktbuffy speaks sooth — and she is vesting a lot more in her character than I think most of us are in ours. Fact is, aside from a (very well designed to explain what things do, but very poorly designed to realize what your options are) character sheet, there’s not much *there* there to the characters. I *think* the sooner we get off the pre-gens, the better. I’ll be a lot less likely to tell the Paladin what his motivation is, or suggest to the Rogue what she would likely be doing, if they actually came up with their characters. Bonus: we’ll be selecting the powers, and thus know what they are.
    I will try to be better about staying on-task. 🙂

  3. The last long-term campaign I played in, the GM had a moratorium on Monty Python or Buffy references. It helped, I suppose, but even without the media tie-in, there’s the social competition aspect of being the zingmeister. There’s a little mating-related colour display in it, a little friendly “who’s the alpha?” in it, and a lot of shared catharsis. But I know many groups who have said, “There’s playing the game and there’s socializing. Choose.” Heck, I know of one group who paid for the pizza by instituting a quote tax, let along a pun tax.
    I’ll also note, um, I’m not IN that group for a reason.

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