D&D Encounters: the Keep on the Borderlands
Last night (when I write this) Donald, Eunice and I got together at Bert’s for the D&D Encounters thing. Carla and Vero were working. D&D Encounters is this quasi-organized play (at least it’s quasi- here) where you have short sessions with pregenerated characters; it’s meant to be done in gaming stores as a promotional thing for D&D, people can learn the game, et cetera. I can’t say I’m a huge fan, as I’d rather run my own homebrew game, but it’s a low-key, low-pressure excuse to meet up and have a little bit of fun. I think of most gaming as 80% social; Encounters is 95% social for me.
We blew through about three nights’ worth of short combat scenes. Bert was running, I was playing, and when I started to make assertions like “this NPC we’re dealing with now is a talking bear” no one called me on it, so I ran with that and the game became about a gang of juvenile delinquents. When the first fight started in a grotto just outside of town, smelling of a wood fire, I said out loud that surely this was the local teenage makeout spot, and one thing led to another… culminating in burning down the Hot Topic. Anachronistic, I know, but it was getting laughs and Encounters is a beer-and-pretzels kind of game (at least the way we do it).
Besides, my character’s tactical options were 1) attack, or 2) charge, so I had to amuse myself somehow. I got to confess, I am getting mad at WotC; every decision they’ve made since Dark Sun has annoyed me. I liked the old character builder, I don’t like the Essentials rules changes, I really dislike these card things they’ve got coming down the pipe… I enjoy the Dark Sun game, and D&D appears to be pretty much the only game that Vero and I can play with Bert, Carla, and Donald without our stylistic differences and expectation mismatches making everything go cockeyed, so, yeah, go go D&D 4e, but I’ve cancelled my DDI subscription and I don’t know that I’ll be buying any more books any time soon. Maybe if a Book of Themes ever comes out.
It got me thinking that I might start buying the Pathfinder adventure path books, because while D&D 3.5 is dead to me as a system — I could imagine playing in it, just barely, but I’m sure I’ll never run it again — I really enjoyed reading Dungeon magazine way back when.
I have to agree with you on the direction of 4e in the past 6 months or so. I’m particularly disappointed that all new products appear to be using the Essentials class model, which yeah there were way too many options before and there was bloat and horrors beyond reckoning but Essentials classes are too much at the other end of the spectrum for me. I like some of the mechanics of them but overall they leave me unexcited.
I’m starting to lose my thrill with 4e in general, even if I draw a line in the sand at everything in the old builder only. Still, this is the longest I’ve been system monogamous since my pre- high school days. I don’t think I’ve played or run a game that wasn’t 4e in well over 2 years – Steam Wars was probably the last one. I’ve run 2 campaigns and a large handful of one-shots and played in 3 or 4 campaigns. It gave me great mileage and a lot of fun. But I’ve definitely been feeling lately that I need to do something different, maybe move as far away from sword and sorcery as possible for a bit.