the same reason a lot of you haven't. I'm an introvert. People who go to public
play are probably those types of people who aren't welcome in groups. You'll be
playing in front of people you don't know.
combination of 5th edition and a return to my Pool of Radiance roots by jamming
around Phlan, and a gaming store run by a good friend, and another friend
(Raphael!) being at the game were enough to draw me out.
I've killed Tyranthraxus. I'd like to see what Phlan looked like in person
after I saved it.
So into the
building I go. It's smoke-free and packed with people. I don't see anyone I
recognize anywhere. There's lots of tables laden with Pathfinder volumes. I
walk around on automatic, trying simultaneously not to
be seen and find the table for my game. I'm early, right?
No one will be here yet.
me, she's my friend who owns the store. She points me in the right direction. I
see that I'm the last player to arrive, besides the Dungeon Master. Yet isn't early enough, everyone is
here. I see a plush chair sitting empty and wonder who's it
reserved for. All others are sitting in metal folding chairs. Is this a trick?
it's a trick. The chair is empty because it has no wheels and is unstable. I
sit and wobble wildly, across from the stark orange wall. I keep the chair.
My character is finished. I am one of a few that have complete characters. Another player, Rob
informs me with a sly smile, that his barbarian is prepared. It's not really a
barbarian though—it's a
D&D basic fighter with the outlander background skinned as a barbarian.
This makes me happy.
are furiously scribbling. I'm introduced to a bunch of people. I remember no
ones name moments after being told them, but I'm writing them down. Raphel my friend is busy finishing his
illusionist, Nerbler Fundangler. Everything about this screams risk. An
Illusionist with an unknown Dungeon Master? Naming your character Nerbler
Fundangler? I look at the name on my character sheet. Vengance Godmourner
the Zhentarim Paladin of Lathander. I keep my thoughts to myself.
player walks up to the table. It's someone I know! What's he doing at a public
play event? What am I doing at a public play event? I ask about his group. He
broke up with them. He is seeing other games. He says he's a D&D slut,
doesn't want to settle down, he's been with the same group too long. I tell him
I can't invite him to my already too full Sunday group. It's a good thing for
him, considering how many people caught the stomach bug when I got sick while
running the game this week. A player later texted me after the game in response
to my query, "You sick?"
d&d was worth it)
We talk about
our kids. Because we love our kids. I'll spare you the agony. The
Dungeon Master arrives: chops, hipster glasses, carrying a case full of gaming
supplies, doesn't look like a jerk. Explains that we'll be going on five
missions, taking an hour each. There's five hours scheduled for these missions.
We complete only four.
each persons character sheet, making notes and asking questions. Group has two
paladins, two barbarians (one faux), a ranger, a rogue, and an illusionist. I'm
simultaneously smiling and shaking my head. I'm already entertained. Tomas,
the player of the actual barbarian says his character is now a doctor and
doesn't like to rage or get angry. The character's name? Killdrac.
the Dungeon Master is great. I wouldn't even
bother critiquing him if he didn't do such a good job running the game. It's not like I'm
running events for seven strangers one or more times a week. The Dungeon Master
(and several of the other players) are part of a local gaming organization. Raphael
my friend has been telling me for weeks that they are insular and don't like
outsiders. I'm at this table for about five minutes before I realize that was
sarcasm. I had a great time and Chris is a good Dungeon Master.
teahouse of adventure. Madam Freona has five daughters, one for each
adventure. The first mission is a barnburner, literally. Is there ever a barn that
encounters an adventuring party that doesn't get set on fire? The answer is yes, the ones that get knocked down first.
We get fake diamonds to trade
for a fake dragon egg. We don't know the egg is fake, and really we're not
convinced that the fake diamonds will do the job. The Dungeon Master lets us
know they will, all we need to do is plant a pin on the person selling the egg
so the Harpers can scry on them later. I think encounters encourages using a lot of Quantum Ogre advice for simple expedience reasons. Necessity is the mother I guess.
We head to
the exchange. It goes without trouble, but after the buyers leave the thieves
guild shows up and wants the egg. Again, we don't know the egg is fake, so to
hell with the thieves. We draw steel. Some of the members of the party are
outside the barn. I'm confused because in the five rounds of combat everyone
makes it inside except for the Wood Elf Birdle run by Rebecca. I
don't recall her mentioning that she was hiding outside on the moon. We start
killing people. There's people on the loft. The ground floor is clear and the
stairs are blocked. It's actually a ladder, but we continue to call them stairs, long after the illusionist sets them on fire. It's 10 feet up to the loft. I say I jump up there. The Dungeon Master
gives me the eyeball.
I say. "I've got a strength of 16!"
"What armor are you wearing?"
I narrow my
eyes at him. "Chain."
to decide between that being a DC 15 or DC 20 task"
I hold my
tongue. I can jump up to a 10 foot platform. It's a matter of technique. If you
can grab it with your hands, and do a pull-up, it's trivial to do, even if
you're carrying fifty or sixty pounds. I know from experience.
I think pass.
Although I still am wondering where the wood elf is.
calls, I mute the call with a text that says "Playing organized play at
mission is invading and killing some goblins that inhabit an abandoned dragon's
lair. Lucky for us goblins are Birdle's favored enemy. We track them
quickly and overhear a conversation with a magically disappearing non-player
I am a bold
Paladin of Vengance. I loudly announce that they should lay down their arms and
face the light. Two bolts from arrow slits drop my Paladin. Killdrac
true to his description stabilizes me. Both the illusionist and the rogue
attempt illusions to block the arrow slits.
illusionists get to have fun? The goblins ignore the illusion without it even
requiring an action. My first level abjurer with thunderwave can do 70
damage in a round. The bard in my game can set of 10 foot radius shatterballs doing
3d8 damage time and time again. But an illusionist wants to create a static image
blocking vision? way OP.
Always a bad
idea to take an illusionist to an event with an unknown Dungeon Master. We brought up the whole "It takes an action to interact with an illusion." Well, apparently goblins can take this action and still fire their bows. This is
not the problem it appears to be, because when the illusionist runs forward, he
is killed because rocks fall. Or maybe it was after that with arrows. Whatever,
Raphael died a lot. Once he's dead, who really cares about illusion rules? Well, probably the rogue headed arcane trickster, but it'll be a while before he as to worry about that. It was customer appreciation day and I was eating some of the offered food while my character rested as his group killed the bugbear.
bad, but the rest of the group pulled it out in the end. Back at town, we
short-rested it up. A new character was created. This time a bard. The table
behind us yelled. Someone built their Mathfinder character correctly, loudly
announcing that they had one-shot the boss of the module. Jubilation and applause from everyone rang out.
Back at the
teahouse we were conscripted to head off to a crypt. There was the possibility a lady who was long dead might have been a dragon and there was a risk someone might be trying to raise her as a dracolich. Another daughter, another time of day, things certainly designed to help us distinguish one adventure from another, but the noise and chaos caused them all to blend together.
A small crypt, a small puzzle with a hit point tax, a strange cauldron with instructions on a mystic formula. Of course it said, "do not drink". A few minutes later after drinking, the bard was rolling up a new bard.
There were some zombies to kill. We began to function better as a team. The Dungeon Master used an interesting variation of Over/Under initiative, except in this case, play moved clockwise from the high roll. Sadly, all the high dexterity players were to my left. What's odd is that one of them moved places to the right of the Dungeon Master, clearly aware of this rule. Were they intentionally anti-metagaming? Was their a social subtext I was missing?
There's always a social subtext I'm missing.
We took a break, before our fourth and final mission, and I leveled Vengeance Godmourner to level 2. Several other players also leveled their characters. We were conscripted again to rescue a girl from the clutches of some evil cult. There was a fair amount of realms flavor by this point. Another daughter, descriptions of food, feathers in a hat. People more knowledgeable about the realms than I explained it as it happened.
The final confrontation was with a grick. I used one of these last week. I couldn't help relaying the very crucial information that they are resistant to all weapons. Was that a terrible thing? Being the player that says the monster statistics out loud at the table? It is, I'm afraid. I'm that player. I may be good at running games, but I'm the worst at playing them.
Weapons were all we had. Six of us fought the grick. When I say fought, I mean I charged in the room and the grick dropped me. The barbarian seeing that we had the situation not at all in hand, singlehandedly held off four thugs and a wolf at the doorway all by himself for five rounds. He almost didn't survive. Killdrac was MVP for sure.
The grick eventually fell. I had a chance for a mighty smite—advantage from inspiration, 2d6 for weapon, 2d8 for smite, 1d4 for searing. I roll a 1 and a 4 on my attack roll. Sometimes the bear gets you. The rogue took it down the very next action.
I would say there are a lot of convenient circumstances of people teleporting away and treasures disintegrating. I might think this might cause problems when players begin to have options to deal with those things. But organized play seems to want to hand out about one hundred experience or so an hour. At those rates, it's a grind. Sure a fifth or sixth level character might have some options. I think you'd have to play five times a month for six to eight months to reach that.
I got to go to the realms. It was a good time, friendly and welcoming, like a party where everyone happens to be role-playing. I didn't hear any negative banter, there were children and a solid mix of people. One Pathfinder table was being run by someone in high school. Gamers to be sure, but more variety then you might expect. There were adventures, danger, laughs, and heroics. If this is the public play experience, then the support Wizards of the Coast is giving game stores is doing them a favor.