At the beginning of what would turn out to be a very busy week thanks to the PHB2, we were able to ask about what Power Source you most wanted to see one year hence in the rumored tome of the PHB3. (Well, not so rumored anymore). Psionic ego whipped and id insinuated its way to the top with 38% of the vote, so maybe a separate Psionic Handbook wouldn’t be out of order either? The first D&D book I ever owned was the 2e Psionics Handbook and I’ve always had a fondness for them (even while seeing the difficulties in making the flavor match the D&D world). Second place is my second choice, Ki, with 28%, which hopefully won’t overlap with the Real Ultimate Power Source.
Last Saturday was Worldwide D&D Game Day, showcasing four of the classes of PHB2 (but only one of the races for some reason) as Paragon PCs sliced their way through One Dark Night in Weeping Briar. I was there, how about you?
Overall, I enjoyed myself, though several factors made it very difficult. I stopped by my LGS on the way back from work on Friday to inquire about details since their website was completely lacking in any information about it whatsoever. What I received from the guy at the counter was a sob story about how they only received their materials the day before, and how they were limited to 3 tables, and it was going to be first come, first serve, so I should show up early.
So the next day, that’s what I did, eschewing coffee to arrive 15 minutes early. I stood around the back, not knowing if they were going to seat us, or if we should just pick a table. While standing around, I overheard one of the DMs consulting with the store employee managing the event:
“Save ends? It doesn’t list what kind of save it uses. What does that mean?”
“It’s a Reflex trap, so you roll it on Reflex.”
“But all these characters have Reflex saves in the twenties, how do they fail?”
“I guess they don’t.”
At that point I had to interject, asking if they knew how saving throws worked in 4e, and how they were always 10+ and had no type. I received a look and a comment from them that made it clear that they didn’t need my help (even though they obviously didn’t know one of the most core rules about 4e). Fortunately, another gamer who would end up sitting at my table exchanged a knowing glance with me, so I wasn’t alone in my frustration.
Soon after they took charge, and I was seated with several other gamers. The other players started to divvy out characters, and upon coming to the gnome, said “Oh, a Gnome Bard, that’ll be last picked!” but I volunteered to try it out (especially since there was no Sorcerer).
As we prepared to start, the DM and one of the players began to discuss how much they didn’t like 4e, and how 3.5e was better, and how it was too soon for a new edition (“3e was great because 2e sucked” was one comment), and how WotC was just rolling in the money now. Then two of the other players fired back and talked about how much easier it was to run and play, and how that made a huge difference. Great. An edition war at my table. Somehow, they follow me around, even offline.
Now, even if we are OK with the fact that I had an anti-4e DM running a game of 4e at an event for people who wanted to play 4e, it quickly became apparent that this DM did not know the rules to 4e. He seemed to be making up his own rules to conditions like prone, didn’t really get difficult terrain, and clearly didn’t know how his monsters worked (falling back on the same attacks over and over again without variety). The description was similarly bland: “Yeah, you hit him. He dies.” Of course, when there was a lack of description in the module, that was a complaint from the DM too…
The adventure itself was about what I’d expected, though last year’s Into the Shadowhaunt was way better. This year’s was the typical delve format of three encounters close together, with some vaguely interesting terrain. The first fight in particular took a long time, probably because of all the brutes, and I think we were the only table to go through all three fights because of how long the whole session took. (As has been pointed out elsewhere, 2-3 hours my ass).
What did I like? First, after the edition war was out of the way, all the players seemed to get really into it. The Avenger lived up to all my expectations, and did all kinds of crazy “move my target around” maneuvers, and was able to stick it out even when ganged up on. The Invoker was more badass than I was expecting, and got tons of use out of the “Coordinated Explosions” feat. The Barbarian and Paladin were par for the course (none of the new Divine Power-ed abilities for the Paladin stood out to me as all that interesting or game-changing).
Then there was my little Bard. I started the first encounter up on a roof, and stayed there. Since she was built as an entirely ranged character, I was able to rain down all kinds of effects from above, and was never put in harms way. In all three encounters, I was never attacked or hurt once. That’s certainly Gnomish although not particularly fun by itself. I didn’t bring a pencil or pen, and it turned out I never even needed one. That said, the variety of effects the Bard was able to do was awesome and had the other players thanking me when I turned them invisible, gave them concealment, or made a mark appear elsewhere (though the DM’s ignorance about marks made that not a very good strategy). Being able to Thunderwave and Eyebite once per encounter was great. Plus, it reinforced my thought that the Bard is now the best healing class in the game.
So overall? The organization could have been better, the adventure could have been better, and the DM certainly could have been better, but playing fun, new classes with players who were into it saved it for me. For the store and for WotC, it was clearly a success: they sold out of their huge stack of PHB2s that day.
Afterward, I gave my business card to the guy who seemed to be in charge, but he didn’t seem to be impressed that I ran this site, or that I was an experienced 4e DM offering to help their store for nothing. There’s still hope that I’ll be tapped for the next D&D Game Day in May to throw some Monster Manual 2 baddies at the party!