Thursday, April 18, 2013

Revenge Of The Mysterons From Mars Vs. Cosmic Princess

There was a ‘to do’ over the internets this week for me with a few of my D&D Players. It wasn’t a full blown donnybrook, but it certainly wasn’t what I’d call pleasant. It hasn’t been a fun few months, hell it hasn’t been a fun few years, but one of the bright spots has been D&D. Last Saturday was one of those sessions where everything that could have turned to poo did. I had an angry player, I had to over improvise because I lost my monster blocks, a PC died, and it was a ‘middle’ section in the narrative.

There is nothing wrong with ‘middle’ sections. They are there to let the players explore, build in events that tell the tale of their ‘lives’, and give them accomplishments. Usually I feel like I do alright with this, most like a ‘B’ grade, Saturday night was a massive FAIL. What made it sting a million times worse was the message I received regarding it. To say my initial reaction was poor would be giving me far too much credit. I was actually mad. Think about that, I was mad over a game built around your imagination that is supposed to be and has been one of the most enjoyable things in my life.

I think that is what hurt more than the critical nature of the exchange; it was the idea that this thing that has been a haven for me ‘sucked’. As the day went on and I had some time to reflect, mull it over, and look at things objectively the two players had some really fantastic points. Let’s get one thing straight before I continue, this wasn’t feedback from just two players, it was feedback from two players whose opinions I really value and who make the game more fun just by being involved in it. So although I was stung, I wasn’t stung without reason.

The fact is the 2nd D&D Group has to change. So since I’m staving off the soul crushing of a Thursday I decided to make a few Top 5 Lists. I hope if you are reading this and play in any of my games you take it to heart and don’t get ‘Butt Hurt’ like I did at first. Let it sink in, see if it applies to you, and see if you can make adjustments. Together WE can make an ok game into something truly spectacular.  So first off…


5) Know what you can do and know what you want to do every turn. There is a LOT of down time at a table with 8 folks, too much in fact. If it isn’t your turn you should be figuring out what you want to do next, and be prepared to do it. Normally I don’t get to ‘Grrr’ about this, however when folks are too far into a digital device to know when it’s their turn and then take 10 minutes to figure out what they should have already have figured out it makes the game a slog. The beauty of this is it is an EASY fix. Players just need to interact with each other tactically more and I need to spur that activity. Together we can make this a non-factor.

4) Don’t be over zealous and don’t be timid, find your balance and place in the party. In the last Encounter of the last session two PC’s split off from the group and found themselves in a situation that put them in serious peril. Some of that falls on my head for giving them a bit more than they could handle, but some of it falls on them. Zack and I have played together now for a few years, I have learned that for the most part he is a rush in player with a plan. I know this when I build traps and Encouters. Whether it was Kam Clovertail running all the way across the board to attack a group of Borni alone, Uwain marching headlong into the unknown, or Gleb’s nude form sprinting into an overwhelming situation with bloodlust in his eyes I know that Zack has a plan and he’s going to come at me full steam ahead. This usually works out pretty well because he rolls decently, is tactically smart, and does a good job of having the group in tow. Saturday he did his thing, the difference was everyone wasn’t on the same page, and by the time there was a realization how bad things were getting it was too late, on all of our parts. It is an 8 PC party, so it’s like a small army. This army needs a ‘General’ tactically. I know that Zack has no desire to be that ‘general’ in this campaign and with Gleb was putting that towards Cassandra. I like that she has tried to do that, and I know that she feels responsible for Gleb becoming a pin cushion, but there needs to be a forceful voice in the party. Someone needs to step up and grab that role.  By nature the Avenger is a ‘seek and destroy’ loner so Chad chasing after his ‘enemy’ in a battle is going to happen. The same could be said about Gleb to a degree as well. The rest of the group though is full of ranged ‘nukers’, a ‘buffBard, and a Dwarven killing machine it needs to operate as a cohesive unit in a smoother fashion. What I’m saying is don’t be afraid to toss out tactics or ideas. Find what you do well and do it.

3) You guys bring the ‘Funny’ now WE just have to bring the FUN to the combat. I’ll talk more about my role in this later, but to you the PC’s get into the combat like you do the Role Playing. It’s funny; I never thought I’d type that in a D&D blog. Don’t feel like you just have to roll the dice and tell me you hit, tell me what you did. If you killed a guy tell me how you did it, make it part of the tale. If Samir wants to decapitate enemies and punt their heads then he should tell me, “Crit, I swing my axe in a crisp arc and take the Goblin at the neck. As his head falls I punt it 20 feet across the battle field screaming ‘FOR BLOOD AND BEER!’” You guys are one of the most fun groups of people to play with I've had the privilage to roll dice with.  Now we just need to have fun with it. Fun is infectious.

2) When things aren’t going your way realize that it is just a game and it’ll turn around. You aren’t going to roll bad forever, and I certainly not going to roll good forever. If it isn’t your night, work hard to make it someone else’s. I want, NAY, need your feedback. The game is as much yours as it is mine. If it isn’t fun for you than we have let each other down, I have let you down. No one wants to spend their Saturday night once a month feeling like they are doing math and listening to people be irritated. I know I don’t. So if you notice that it’s happening to you take the time to think about what you want out of the night. Remember this is a social game; it is about all of us enjoying ourselves and telling a tale, not just about the success or failure of one or two individuals.

1) Keep giving each other and myself feedback and ideas. Whether it is during the game or post game let each other know when things are going well or when someone does something cool. After the game I almost always ask Zack and sometimes Bob, “How was it?” Most of the time I get fantastic feedback and this information directly affects the game. If you like something and want more of that, let me know and you WILL see more of it. If Tiffany’s use of Chain Lightening was bad ass, tell her! Communication, and its effective use, is the lynchpin in something, hell anything, being successful and fun. D&D is no different.

Ok, now that I gave my thoughts on the Group, let’s rip me a new one.


5) “I didn’t want Game Of Thrones”. This isn’t just accurate, it’s PAINFULLY accurate. Somehow I went from the idea of High Adventure to a gritty; nasty set of Encounters where death wasn’t a possibility it became inevitability. That is unfair and not fun for the Players, and if we are honest for me either. Some of it was losing my prep work, which I found Sunday morning. Some of it was just over thinking the whole thing. High Adventure doesn’t need to have epic struggles every Encounter, hell Legolas didn’t kill any of the Witch Kings he just slaughtered Orcs, by the score! So expect to see WAY more Minions, and expect to see them in mass. I won’t dumb down the tactics, but I will be looking at how I design these encounters.

4) The world needs to be more than just a series of Encounters. I COMPLETELY dropped the ball on this Sunday. At one point Chad wanted to use Greek Oil as an improvised bomb. As Zack, Cassandra, Bob, & Cordell would tell you most of the time I would have been like HELL YES, good idea”, but for some strange reason I did not on Sunday. By doing this I screwed the Players. It was unfair, arbitrary, and stole from them a perfect moment for an improvised moment and a great ‘tale’ to tell. “Hey remember that time I NUKED those Goblins with oil?” I took that moment away. I won’t do that again. This type of thinking should be rewarded and lauded not shut down. In doing that I stifled possibilities like a PC possibly trying to make a behemoth a mount, using behemoth scat as a fuel source, or any number of other crazy ideas that may have been had. I need to encourage that, and encourage the PC’s to see the world they play in as a place where anything is possible.

3) High Adventure should be just that. There needs to be more moments built into the game where the players get a chance to do things that are memorable, fun, and heroic. There should have been trees butted right up against that three story ruin for people to climb up in stealth mode. The ‘Terror Birds’ should have been an optional fight. I needed to give the PC’s an option to make them either non-combatants or even possibly a tool against the Goblins in the ruins. I spent all that time constructing a really cool set of three story ruins and we never got to go inside, and that is a damn shame. There should have been a reason to get them inside, in fact a reason to go there in the first place. I’m not saying that it needed to be a room by room Goblin kill fest, but the PC’s had no reason to be invested in dealing with that situation. When that happens it feels like it is an Encounter for the sake of having one. High Adventure isn’t a meat grinder. Sure in the Lord Of The Rings they travelled a lot, but they didn’t have to fight every mile to get where they were going. Sometimes more becomes less; I have got to get back to that.

2) Maximize what the PC’s do well, and give them a chance to work as a group on what they don’t. Those two Encounters on Saturday became FAR to ‘samey’. They served the same purpose of highlighting the splitting of the party being a bad idea. After doing it the first time there was NO reason to do it the second time in an even MORE difficult way. It served no purpose. It wasn’t fun, it didn’t give the PC’s a chance to do anything new or cool, and in hindsight was not really ‘winnable’. That can’t occur. In the other Group there has almost always been an opening where one if not a few of the PC’s can step up and shine. That person is rarely the same. THAT is the key. It brings all the players in, helps them invest, increases the fun factor exponentially, and makes me constantly re-examine how I’m building encounters in an enjoyable way. This is an easy fix for me.

1) Make it FUN for all of us. The last game felt way too much like work, I felt like Bill Lumberg telling you all you were going to have to work on a Saturday. In addition I don’t need to show how I can make a nasty Encounter; I do need to show that I can make an inventive Encounter that is steeped in fun. And while I don’t feel the need to defend a monster’s stat block to anyone at any time I do need to remember that stepping on the gas doesn’t serve any purpose. I could have given those Goblin archers less hit points, less damage, made them minions, or just put them out in smaller numbers and had just as dangerous situation. I think that this was perhaps some slight ‘push back’ to constantly hearing, ‘Oh hey it is just a bunch of Mooks so let’s get our kill on.’ I wanted to do it differently and I did. However by doing that I did it SO differently I lost the reason for doing it at all. I have the most fun when the PC’s have fun, sometimes I have to remind myself of that.

The next session will be better. It has to be, because it certainly couldn’t be any worse.

How ‘bout we wrap this bad boy up with some…


- I got to listen to new Waves Of Mercury today in the car. My heart went pitter patter. Seriously though David I loved it.
- The DCM Kickstarter ended. In November I should be getting my Kraken, and you can bet your sweet asses I’ll be RELEASING IT!
- I’m actually excited about the new Superman flick, and I’m not sure why.
- M.I.W. Wrestling show on Saturday Night in Chanhassen should be a blast, I’m hoping we get to see Peter, aka PJ Thorn, bust out some high flying moves. If you read this Peter I’m requesting a Top Rope Frankensteiner.
- All you can eat Sushi tonight. I am going to gorge.
- I miss ‘The Koala’ at work.
- My two miniatures from Hardwood Hobbies came the other day and they look amazing. Although, and I mean this in the best way possible, the woman has some SERIOUS junk in her trunk.
- Super nasty lingering, dull roar headaches are the shits.
- If I somehow became wealthy I’d back this Kickstarter in a heartbeat. The best part is Cassandra agreed.
- Still no sign of my Reaper Bones Kickstarter swag yet. I’m thinking early May now. I can’t wait.
- How does someone make it through life with no ability to write, spell, or follow simple instructions?
- Diamond Dave Wheeler’s ass has to get back to Minnesota soon ‘cause I need someone to watch ‘Rasslin’ with.
- Only one lot left on E-Bay for sale, and three awaiting payment. I’m happy to almost have this done.

Good enough for today.

“Standing on some dotted line
Reacting to the hands of time
A circumstance that I've been fed
Leaving questions in my head

Find the space that was left bare
An empty space I'd gladly share

One must live while one must die

Combined paired up for so many years
Unsure if I really want to shed a tear
Signing off is always so clearly done
A number 2 is now reduced to one

Find the space that was left bare
An empty space I'd gladly share

When your clock is up
And you rest for good
I will cut off my arm piece
Just like we agreed we would

One must live while one must die

While the other argues that
The world ain't fair
But then who ever promised
Anybody equal share
You might as well forget
What you gambled on
'Cause plans never go by the way they're drawn

When your clock is up
And you rest for good
I will cut off my arm piece
Just like we agreed we would

One must live while one must die

I can't say goodbye
It's all I can do to get up every morning
And when all else fails I try
To face myself and everything else
But mostly I wonder why”

* = I wish work was more like this...

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