Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Make mine insivible please.

Well, interesting things afoot at the Circle-K these days boys and girls. Within the last month, I've had two 4E sessions that I actually enjoyed more than agonized over. And here's why: We stayed away from the RAW (rules as written) and just gamed. Yes that's right, the "rules" were transparent, or invisible if you will.

The first session was w/ a group of guys that I infrequently game with, many that I've known since I was 12 (and that's a long long time). We've gone through all the versions since AD@D together and are now playing 4E. We don't meet all that often, maybe once-a-month, if we're lucky. And we're not much into continuity, story, plot, character development, etc. We just don't meet often enough to care.

Escape was the major premise of the scenario and the DM wasn't interested in utilizing 4E's skill challenge mechanic. Traps and obstacles were encountered the entire way and the navigation of each was laid at the player's feet. There was only one combat the entire session, and that happened at the very end. The memorable part was the escape though. We rolled dice only a few times and rarely relied upon PC skills or feats. It was refreshing to say the least.

Well, last night was a replay of the experience, and again, it was refreshing. Granted, I'm a big fan of puzzles and scenarios that make the player think. Falling back on using the mechanics to escape fate is a cop-out in my opinion. I love it when a group of people put their heads together to figure something out and the DM never once rolls dice. Don't get me wrong, I like combat as much as the next guy. But a game that's completely focussed on combat eventually dulls the excitement of the encounter due to repetition.

Anyway, last night's scenario (only 4 of 6 players could make it) had the players enter a town at the end of an adventure. Once there, the PCs were immediately identified as "adventurers" and as such, were invited to take part in a competition put on by the local "Adventurer's Guild".

Consisting of 10 separate challenges, the competition was scored on a points basis, with the highest scoring team taking the pot. (which was a load of gold and access to some of the Guild's maps and resources) So we started the thing and to be honest, it turned out to be a gas. I loved it. I realize that you can't run a campaign simply on puzzles and cerebral challenges, but they sure help as contrast to those nitty-gritty combat sequences.

Our DM has said that he's going to attempt to subsume the rules in order to focus more on the adventure itself. This is a superb idea and in truth, is one that I've secretly wished for all along. I'll be interested to see how the rest of the game proceeds. I might be a bit skeptical to start out with, due to my 7 month tenure with the game, but I'm hopeful. I'd like nothing more than to really get into a game that's running 4E under the hood.

I'll keep you up to date w/ the progress. Stay tuned...


Banesfinger said...

Sounds like two fun sessions.

You mentioned things like "...relied upon PC skills or feats..." or "...using the mechanics to escape fate is a cop-out..."

These sound like Old School ideas. Sure I could say 'why not just play an old school version', but instead I would like to ask what your group(s) gain from the 4e rules played along side the old school mentality?

K. Bailey said...

I'd love to hear more about what those actual events were and what challenges they presented, they sound like a blast.

I think the "subsuming" thing is the way to go. I had a DM who did all the dicing; players NEVER rolled dice for anything, and didn't know the underlying mechanisms. It was a great thing for suspension of disbelief.

Gamer Dude said...

Unfortunately the "group" isn't of like mind in this regard. The DM, while he has played older version games in the past (specifically a 7-yr. long Rules Cyclopedia campaign), has moved on with each new iteration. So, while he quite likely understands the mentality required for the type of approach many old-schoolers prefer, I'm not sure that he's keen on that style of play.

So how does that answer your question? Well, to be truthful, the jury's still out. Three of the 6 (players) are like-minded in regards to old school traditions but the others are well entrenched in the newer sensibilities. In a nutshell I would say that our DM is trying hard to meet some very divergent group needs. Some of the guys want that super tactical, high rules influenced game, where the others want a low rules, adventure centric game.

Personally, I don't know if it's going to be possible. If you're interested in reading more about 4E and attempts to "old-schoolify" it then head out to the Necromancer Games forums.(Link

@ K. Bailey

I'm sure that I wont do justice to ALL of the challenges, but a many of them involved things like:

- Climbing out of, or crossing over pits armed w/ only a few items (sometimes a rod of immovability, sometimes a rope, sometimes a spider climb potion, etc.)

- Figuring out word puzzles. (Mirror messages, alliteration puzzles, phonetic puzzles, etc.)

- Overcoming tactical obstacles. (communicating while "deaf", time limits (all challenges), using only what's supplied, etc.)

I think that the challenges are in one of the old print Dungeon magazines. If you're interested I could hit the DM up and ask him what issue number.

K. Bailey said...

That does sound like a lot more fun than a skill challenge and quite a workout for you players..