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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