I’m very grateful that my company gives me Presidents’ Day off work, as I’m exhausted after my weekend at Genghis Con! Don’t get me wrong – it was a ton of fun – but I’m appreciating the day to recuperate.
On Saturday, I spent the entire day playing in a D&D 4th Edition Living Forgotten Realms event – a Battle Interactive called The Paladins’ Plague. I believe they ran this same event at PAX or some other convention a few months back. There were about 12 tables of players, all running the same adventure at various levels. I wanted to play in a level 7-10 table with my 8th-level paladin character, Rhogar, but there were only three players who wanted to play at that level – and all of us had defenders! In the end, someone handed me a character sheet for an 8th-level invoker and I ran two characters all morning. Later in the day some other players showed up, so I was back to running just Rhogar.
The adventure itself was fun, and the convention folks went the extra mile by having people doing some acting for the plot between battles. The encounters were fun to play, and I even liked the one skill challenge.
My only complaint was with the last battle, and the problem with it dated back to an interlude between the second and third battles. During that interlude, the players in the room had to decide whether to donate healing surges to a ritual that would make everyone more effective in the climactic third battle. We agreed to do so, and the benefit was a +1 to all of our rolls in the battle… but if we could get 30 more healing surges donated we could push that to a +2. In the end, Rhogar donated 4 of his 13 daily surges and the invoker donated 3 of his 9. The third battle went well with those +2 bonuses.
Then, during the interlude between the 5th and 6th battle, the big twist was revealed – the NPC who had proposed this surge-donating ritual betrayed the group, and his bad guys came into the room, including a dragon. Okay, that’s cool and exciting – no complaints here. But the kicker was that the NPC canceled the ritual – and every PC who had donated surges lost 10 hit points per donated surge at the beginning of this final showdown. This meant that both of my characters (one of which was now run by another player) started the climactic encounter bloodied.
It became clear that we were heading for a total party kill, at which point our table invoked the Battle Interactive rule that let us raise a red flag to call for help from another table. A 14th-level cleric (multiclassed to Avenger) joined us. The player explained that his party had waltzed through their dragon battle without him using his action point or his daily powers. When his turn came up, he used a sequence of powers that let him deal 183 damage to the dragon, killing it outright. On his second turn, he basically healed the whole party, including the two PCs who were dying. From there, we were fine.
So, huzzah, I guess. This felt very unsatisfying to me. I’m glad a 14th-level super-powered character was available to bail us out, but I’m bummed that we needed to be bailed out. Starting the battle bloodied was not fun, especially when we actually had no healer in our party (at this point we had the three defenders, the invoker and two strikers who had joined later). It felt like an unfair twist. I get that we made the decision to donate the surges and all, but it seemed like we had all the information we needed to make that choice – you get a benefit, but you’re down some surges. In fact, there was a huge hidden extra cost that sucked.
It’s a shame that this was the last encounter of the adventure, because it left a bad taste in my mouth. The rest of the day was fun, but this encounter was not. Oh well.
On Sunday, I finally got to DM. I ran two sessions using my laptop / projector setup. The first was a low-level game and the second was for characters of level 4-7. I’m happy to say that both games went tremendously well. The projector was a hit, as it consistently has been in past convention games, and I had some great players at the table. I was using the bonus point mechanic for good role-playing and creativity, and the players really responded to it. Everyone gave me the maximum scores on the DM review sheet at the end of the session – cool!
I realized in the end that I think I had more fun when I was DMing than when I was playing, at least for my D&D 4e games. I’m considering the possibility of trying to Iron Man TactiCon in September – DMing for all nine sessions of the convention. It’s probably nuts, but with MapTool it’s not that hard – especially if I’m running games that I’ve run before. It’s just food for thought right now, but it might be the most fun way for me to spend the con.