We’re back with another episode of Just Dumb Things, where i tell you a gaming horror story and attempt to show some errors in games so that you can in fact avoid making similar mistakes in your own games. You can learn from our examples, or you can make them yourself. It’s entirely up to you and how you want to run your life. Today we’re going to start with another fine example of things that you probably shouldn’t do when you set up your game. We’re playing 3.5 edition Dungeons and Dragons, near the end of its life. We’ve got access to most of the books and we’re running an assortment of crazy dumb things.
Well, let’s start with object 1. We’re playing Red Hand of Doom, a wonderful 3.5 campaign featuring Tiamat’s bag of jerk minions including Drakes, Dragons, Half Dragons and a host of other really shitty things to run into. Now for the tricky part, we have 7 players.
But i can hear you right now, why’s that a problem?
D & D can accommodate that many players?
D & D can accommodate that many players?
And you’re probably right, but that require a little bit of work to make it work right, and we have a pretty lazy Dungeon Master this time. So his bright idea is that rather than expand the game to accommodate 7 players, he’ll just run two sessions with one party of 4 and one party of 3. That’ll be way less work, right? Right?
So Party 1 consists of
Half Orc Barbarian
Half Elf Cleric
Human Dragon Shaman
High Elf Duskblade
We’ve got some basic food groups covered, sort of. (This is not my party)
Party 2 consists of
Halfling Rogue X 3 (We keep having to remind the Rogue that every time he plays a chaotic evil rogue, it ends up face down in a pile of its viscera. This occurs twice during this game until the player finally throws a tizzy and decides we’re all a bag of dicks that he doesn’t want to play with, despite continuing to host the game.)
Gnome Cleric of St. Cuthbert (Made because the player has overheard that i see little use in gnomes, and absolutely hate St.Cuthbert as a god).
As you can tell so far, we’re hitting on all of the “Let’s push all the Buttons” Cylinders.
The DM notes that we’re underpowered, and offers me the “Chance of a lifetime.” I can make and run TWO Characters to fill in our party’s missing needs. I glare are the DM for about five minutes, and twenty minutes later i make my two characters, an Elven Invoker and a Human Warblade. (That’s right, we’ve got the book of Nine Swords baby, Tell me how bad Martials are now).
About Two sessions in, we have a player join our party, and the DM just gives him the second character i’m playing because “that’s faster than having him make his own.” (We’re 3rd level, making a character at that level is easy as cake.
Two sessions after that, the DM and rogue in our party manage to antagonize each other to the point that Roguelsby quits because he can. The DM then turns to me and offers me “The chance of a lifetime” again (Wow, i must have been living right). I make a replacement rogue, and the party basically splits up between the nimble fighter/rogue, and the slow moving (like 15 feet a round gnome in plate mail and the squishy wizard).
We’re playing through the campaign and working back and forth to complete our being hero objectives and we keep hearing that there are major disagreements between their party and the DM. I have a couple of issues because our DM decided to be lazy about a couple of critical things early and then started screwing us around on resources. This finally comes to the fury of enraged nerds, a character sheet is set on fire, and both campaigns are ended over a fairly minor rules disagreement.
The disagreement in question is whether or not a frenzied berserker can drink a potion (they have a fairly limited pool of actions available in 3.5, and honestly, i think it could have gone either way). However, a civil discussion is not had because this DM has some passive aggressive tendencies and tends to rule by fiat when pushed. Well, that half of our gaming group doesn’t handle fiat well unless it’s a car. The Duskblade set his character sheet on fire UNDER PROTEST, and the rest of the characters in that group bailed. The Protesting Duskblade’s brother was the invoker in our game, and while i would have been happy to have the “Opportunity of a Lifetime” a third time in the same campaign, the gnome turned into a pumpkin and disappeared.
I still have no idea how this campaign ends, and i haven’t gone back to read it out of some lingering spite.
So, what could we have done to fix this problem?
Well, Our DM could have cowboyed up, adjusted challenges and let the entire group play together. Would this have fixed things? Maybe. The larger group was either going to aggravate each other into the ground, or we could have enforced order and played like good children. The odds are about 70-30, i think.
The other problem is that this particular edition of D & D rewards system mastery, and when rules lawyers get into disagreements, our experience is that they are hostile exchanges rather than civil discourses. This particular group of D & D players is superbly aware of their own system mastery, and we all interpret rules a little differently. Out of game disputes frequently flared in game, and like i said, a character sheet was set on fire UNDER PROTEST. These socially maladaptive children continued to be asshats, and it destroyed another game. I wish this was the only time this ever happened, but it’s really not, and there are a bunch of these stories.
Game On, Game Fans.