Sunday, September 20, 2009

D&D Game Day 2009

This weekend to celebrate this year's D&D Game Day I will have gamed a total of 12 hours: 3 hours Friday night and 2 hours Saturday morning (DMing Team Beta in the Back to D&D Basics campaign), 4 hours Saturday afternoon (playing in a D&D 4E sanctioned event), and 3 hours Sunday evening (DMing Team Alpha in B2B). For me, especially these days, that is a lot of gaming.

The happenings regarding the B2B Campaign can be found here. It was a lot of fun to play so much D&D with my boys and their friends. Friday night's group encountered a magical trap which put one of their party to sleep. An attempt to wake him led to an entire room in the ruined castle of Mistamere being set aflame. Eventually the sleeping member was wakened from his slumber with the casting of a Dispel Magic spell by a high level magic-user (which also depleted the party's funds).

What I found amazing was that simple encounter was the talk of the night and went into the next day when we sat down again to play a couple more rooms before having to return boys to their respective homes. This glimpse into their sense of wonder at the event was enlightening and encouraging that the time spent playing was truly appreciated by all.

As a counterpoint my experience with the Game Day event at a local game store was...interesting. My expectation was that this would be a scripted beginning adventure for 1st level pre-gen characters. The adventure was not scripted. In fact it was more of an adventure toolkit than actual adventure. And the pre-gen characters were not 1st level.

Each table of participants first gathered to create the adventure. This included selecting the creatures to be used in each of the two encounters and providing tactics and background story to get the party of characters involved in the action. This sounds like a great idea, but I would imagine this would seem very unusual to a person who had never played D&D before and was participating in the event to see what all the fuss was about.

Once the adventure was created the DM from our table went to a different table to run the adventure that was just created. Likewise, another DM came to our table to run his adventure for us. Now this seems odd to me because his adventure used all or most of the same pieces-parts (i.e., monsters) that our adventure had used. We had all read over the monster stats as we were putting together our adventure. Somehow there was little room for wonder once we got into play.

I will admit that the way that the monsters were implemented and the background to the adventure were unique in each case, but, I don't know, it didn't really sing to me. I knew that we would be facing minotaurs and dark dwarves, probably a scarecrow and demon priest. I guess it's no different than going to see a Bruce Willis movie and knowing he'll save the day, but not knowing how he'll get there.

The characters that we had to pick from were all 6th level, which in 4E means they have a laundry list of abilities as long as my arm (and I was playing a human fighter). In fact, some basic abilities were left off the sheets due to space limitations. I have played 4E on two other occasions and I've been playing RPGs long enough to stumble my way through. But if I had been a new-comer to the hobby, I think I would have walked away thinking this is way too complicated to be fun.

Another thing that rubbed me the wrong way was that once we arrived there were seats for us to join, but we each had to go to different tables. I didn't get to see how my son played. That left me a little sad and may have colored my overall appreciation of the event. I did enjoy gaming with the players at my table - most of whom I'd have no problem inviting to one of my games. This exposure to other players was refreshing.

In hindsight the event was not to get new players into the hobby. It was an event for experienced players. This too makes me sad. I was likening Game Day to Free Comic Book Day, in which people who did not read comics or had stopped reading comics could see what today's comic books were all about.

Participating in the event did introduce me to new players and got me into a store that I seldom visit (I was disappointed that a store closer to my home had not planned ahead and had not Game Day events). I now have the opportunity to join a local gaming group with ties to Bash Con, a local gaming convention. So maybe the event did what it was supposed to do, even it was not what I was expecting.

I hope players that enjoy D&D were able to participate in a Game Day event or celebrated D&D in some form or fashion.

Follow Your Bliss,


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