D&D - The Return

September 08, 2012

My D&D group went defunct a few months back. It wasn't anybody's fault, just 2 of the principle players went out of state, and we didn't really have anybody to fill their shoes. So it went away, but the desire to play never did.

I thought a lot about joining another group in the area. There are some groups that play at local bookstores and game stores on Monday nights, but I didn't want to just show up without prior notice, and it was difficult getting in touch with the organizers beforehand. But eventually I made my way to a game last week, and, well, it was horrible to say the least.

Horrible.

So beforehand, I had gotten in touch with the game organizer to get a better idea about what to prepare, though the only real information I got out of him was that the group was 16th level and there were about 8 player characters. Now, 8 players is a red flag. Because that is just way too many people. Even in a solid group, if there are 8 people, that means enough monsters to challenge 8 people, and that's just too much going on in a single encounter. It will take forever to get through the encounter, and it will just take a damn long time in between any one person's turn. But they were 16th level and that seemed good. Assuming it had started at some point back at level 1, it meant the group had some amount of focus, despite its size. I mean, meeting every other week for about 2 years only got my group to around level 7 or 8 by the end.

So I decided to at least give it a try. Knowing it was a large group, I figured a warlord would be a safe bet as a class to make, with a focus on granting as many attacks to other players as possible. I mean, with 8 other people, surely some of them had good melee basic attacks? And if they all had to wait forever between their turns, I figured the best way to ingratiate myself with the group was to make that wait time sort, not longer. Plus, with all the buffs a warlord doles out, the larger the party, the more effective his buffs are.

So I spent a lot of time making the ultimate lazylord (a warlord who doesn't bother increasing his primary stat and never makes a physical attack himself, instead using all his actions and ability points to give powerful actions to others). I had a good time figuring out the greatest possible synergy between powers, feats, equipment and paragon paths. Character creation, especially high-level character creation, is highly enjoyable to me. There is just so much information and interaction between all the various facets, character optimization is just a wonderful mental exercise.

So naturally I just kept making characters after I was done with my warlord. I mean, maybe they didn't need another leader? I mean, I should probably just make a character of each type (leader, defender, striker and controller) just in case they are hurting for one in particular, right?

So I took my invoker and leveled him up to 16, which was nice because I got to play around with paragon paths. Then, I thought, what if they don't have anyone with good melee basic attacks for my warlord to use? Well, then I should make one! So made an avenger who focused on melee basic attacks, and getting crits to get more melee basics. That character in particular was pretty ridiculous.

And then there was a goliath warden, where any enemy within his reach 3 was pretty much completely shut down. But, anyway, the point is that it didn't even matter.

Not at all.

I got there totally prepared. There were indeed 8 other player characters. Of the 2 that actually talked to me when I addressed the question for the third time of what role they wanted to the group, they really didn't care. "Does anybody have good melee basic attacks?" Silence... I decided to go for the warlord anyway.

Did I mention that, apart from the DM, who was totally cool, only 2 people at the table acknowledged my presence? Yeah...

Okay, so the first 45 minutes the DM stopped everything to help some other new guy create his level 16 character from scratch, because apparently he had never played 4th edition before and just decided to show up. Which is fine, except you should just get the materials for character creation and then sit back and watch everybody else play for that session and then go home and do it in your own time. Creating a level 16 character from scratch at the table while everyone else is just twiddling their fingers waiting for you is completely insane. I'm surprised it only took him 45 minutes. While that was going on, the talkative nerd sitting next to me (every group has one - the guy who dominates the conversation so that he can feel important) made a constant stream of jokes with such diverse topics as Hitler and women's anatomies. Classy stuff.

And then, only once other new dude was totally squared away did the DM turn his attention to finishing an encounter held over from the previous session. He kept assuring us that we would be able to jump in once the encounter was over, which wouldn't take very long at all, as the monsters were almost dead. He assured us this through the unabated stream of talkative dude's bad jokes. Yes, he was finally able to play, but that didn't mean he was going to stop talking.

And then, of course, the encounter took another hour to finish. The new characters were briefly introduced.

And then it was over. Apparently this group only plays for 2 hours every other week. Doing a little math, that appears to boil down to a single solitary hour of D&D per week. And our time was up. I didn't even get to roll a single die.

Wooooooooo.

I guess, as a consolation, it at least felt like I was sitting there for more than 2 hours.

So, yeah, thus ended the worst gaming experience of my life. Obviously that wouldn't work out, but I had had such a good time actually creating the characters and thinking about playing them, I realized I needed to get back into D&D. I really just wanted to play and not DM, but I figured the only option in front of me was to form a new group. So I asked on the message boards of the board game group I frequent, and reached out to the old players of the defunct group, and found myself at the helm of a new D&D group in a matter of days.

And I was done with 4th edition DMing 101, where all we did was encounter after encounter. I needed to graduate to the next level and inject some actual story and creativity into the game.

So that's what I'm working on now. I have grand plans, of course. Plans that involve not making any plans. But that will be a story for another time.


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