Monday, August 9, 2010

Status Report: 8/9/10

Without any ado, here's my latest roleplaying status report:

Me as Player: So, I had my second Pathfinder session this weekend (you can read about my first session here). And suffice to say I had a lot of the wind knocked out of my sails, and found myself enjoying things much less than I did in my first session. I think during my first session I was just so happy to be gaming at all, after a long hiatus.

So, what happened to make my interest flag so dramatically? Well, there were several things that conspired to sap my enthusiasm:
  • I had no experience whatsoever with Pathfinder going into the game
  • My character started at 8th level, probably not a good idea for a Pathfinder newb like me
  • The Council of Thieves adventure path is for high-level characters and fairly complex with all its intrigues, complex plots, and high-level/difficult opponents

Now, I know that given more time I could probably over come all these obstacles. But I think I should have probably started out at first level, or maybe I am just too steeped in the old D&D/1st Edition AD&D editions that the more recent rules don't compute. And throw into the fact that I am 34, almost 35. Not to say that an old guy can learn new rules, but I have so little time to study up in the midst of all my adult life junk.

But I don't think I will stick around long enough to overcome my rules deficiency.

Now, I want to tread carefully from here on out. I haven't addressed a big factor yet: the people in the group themselves. Now, I've read the recent Gamer vs Gamer post at Mr. Raggi's LotFP blog. And I read the Catpissmen? post over at Underdark Gazette. And I don't think I can be categorized as the "diva-like" players described in these posts.

I just want to say that I don't judge gamers harshly when I don't mesh with them (unless they are being blatant dicks that are attacking me/someone else personally or just being purposefully disruptive during a game), nor do I cry out and beat my chest and claim that there are no good gamers out in the world. I feel that if you don't mesh with a group, that's OK, no harm no foul. Just go find another group. And there are plenty of other games and gamers out there, both at physical table-tops and on the Internet.

So with that disclaimer in mind, let me discuss the people. I feel that the GM has a lot on his plate, because he runs three campaigns and plays several times a week. I think he has a lot to juggle, and therefore some things slip through the cracks. I think that due to the load he carries (voluntarily, of course) he, inadvertently or not, dropped me into a high-level game with a high-level character and didn't see the need for mentoring me a bit more. Nor did he relay to his other players that, while I have experience roleplaying, it's been years since I played at a table-top and I am used to much older rules. I think there was some miscommunication between me, the GM, and the group with regard to how to merge me/my character with the game.

There were several players in the group that seemed to get exasperated with my lack of facility with the Pathfinder rules. Again, I think they weren't warned beforehand that I didn't know the rules very well. There were some other players who were very helpful, however.

As for the GMs style and the theme of his campaign, I think that I just don't sync up with either. The GM seems to be a somewhat "killer GM." I don't really judge someone for running their games that way, I just don't like to be in those types of games. For instance, I've played in two sessions now and in both I nearly died (dropped to negative hit points and just barely saved by a cleric). In the most recent game, I was disintegrated and the cleric had to gather up my ashes and resurrect me. I just don't feel that I want to be in a game where characters are dying every game, and where the resurrection is done in a very mechanical way with no drama. Death is just a blip, where you are raised easily and just sort of shrug it off. There's no tension. Death is too cheap that way. But the GM seemed to be very gleeful when he mutilates the characters.

I also felt that the game is too combat-intensive for my tastes. I prefer some more interaction with NPCs, intrigues, puzzle solving, etc. In addition, combats are very time consuming in this game, apparently, with all sorts of player feats and powers and skill checks and all that rigamarole. I thought I would be able to get over the learning curve of Pathfinder and at least be a player, but perhaps this isn't the case. There are just so many rules that I don't feel comfortable with. I like fast combats, the type you have with older D&D rules sets.

For instance, I despise attacks of opportunity. I think it's just another way for more "striking" in a game. Every time I tried to move past the major creature we fought during the session, for some reason it got an attack of opportunity against me. I know it has multiple arms, but come on!

(Tangent: I was in a gaming store this weekend and overheard some guys talking about a table-top game they were going to that day, and I kept hearing characters described as "striker," etc. Makes me cringe...)

And don't get me started on magic resistance. You have to bypass the creature's magic resistance and then it also gets a saving throw? Why not just make the creature's saving throws really good? Why have this double layer of protection against magic?!

Also, I felt like I tried to do what I thought was creative thinking during the session's big combat with the giant, multi-armed creature, rather than just try to cast offensive spells and fireball it to death. At one point, the monster was walking on air and I decided to use dispel magic on it and make it plummet to the ground. Instead of throwing me a bone (like I would have done if I were GM) for doing something creative, the GM had someone check the rules and determined that when the airwalk spell is dispelled, the creature gently floats to the ground. Maybe he didn't think I was that creative (maybe it wasn't, I don't know). And of course, the creature turned on me and kicked my ass. But if it had been me GMing, I would have ignored the rules of the spell and let the character's action succeed, because he was trying to do something other than "strike" the opponent.

I felt that the players were constantly being barraged with dangers and most of the time our ideas were to no avail. It was a constant stream of thwarted plans and failed attempts. You have to let the players have some accomplishments, or the game becomes stagnant and the players demoralized. Or that's just me, I guess.

Bottom line: at about two-thirds of the way through the session, I was no longer having fun. And the point is to have fun, right? I mean, this is supposed to be an enjoyable pastime, right?

Suffice to say that I want to talk to the GM and let him know my misgivings. I think it's likely that I won't continue in the game. I just don't mesh with that they are doing with their game, and that's perfectly OK. It happens. I just have a different style and different tastes, and you can only learn what you don't like by playing. I just hope that the GM will agree to disagree and we can have an amicable parting. Wish me luck.

Me as Gamemaster: I recently got my copy of Lamentations of the Flame Princess roleplaying game from James Raggi, and I am delving into that now! I will put up a review sometime in the near future (I hope!). What I've seen in the box and what I've read so far is very entertaining, and I like Mr. Raggi's style. I think I will definitely use these rules (with some house rules included) for my return to GMing. I think it will be a good idea to start with something more straightforward with regard to rules sets. Once I get a campaign using LotFP under my belt, I may then move onto the other game system that I seem to have an affinity for: Castles & Crusades. I wonder how Mr. Raggi would react if he knew his game has supplanted that of Troll Lord Games in my gaming world?!

That's all for now. As always, have a good one, and happy gaming!


  1. While I'm no expert on Pathfinder, I'm pretty sure that the whole "Gently Descending" thing, only applies when the spell ends normally. According to the Pathfinder SRD:

    For the last minute of the spell's duration, a wind walker in cloud form automatically descends 60 feet per round (for a total of 600 feet), though it may descend faster if it wishes. This descent serves as a warning that the spell is about to end.

    If the magic was dispelled, he should have plummeted like a stone. From everything you've said, the DM sounds like he's taking an Adversarial stance, towards the players.

    I DM'ed 3e for 7 years and while the d20 system can be fun, I just no longer find it worth the trouble. Too many rules, too much power-tripping and overall, too much crap, getting in the way of imagination and playing the game.

    Pathfinder is available in HTML for free, here:

  2. Actually, the spell was Air Walk, and according to the SRD it does indeed gently lower you to the ground if dispelled (only encountering an anti-magic field apparently causes someone to plummet ;-)

    Whatever, like I said, if it were me GMing, I would have given the player a bone for being at least somewhat creative and made the creature drop to the ground. And it was only a 15-foot drop to boot. Give a guy a break!

  3. It is hard getting back into the gaming community, isn't it. I feel your pain, despite being told that I was a returning player with no 4E experience, a group I played with for a short while earlier this year were fit to be tied because I was "doing it wrong" and not 100% up to speed on the "proper way" to play 4E.

  4. You did look incredibly miserable during that last game. I can’t say I blame you since that was the worst session since I started playing Pathfinder with Kevin and crew in December. That combat was torturously boring and frustrating.

    No one is upset with you for not knowing all the rules. You have to play the game to really get the hang of it. They’ve patiently taught me everything since I’d only skimmed the book before starting the game and I still need reminders even now. Of course I had the benefit of coming in at 1st level, which was my only requirement when I decided to try gaming again. Also, Braden is being a prick because Braden IS a prick, it’s nothing personal. He’s not a bad guy, so don’t worry about it.

    What kind of mentoring did you expect? I agree coming in at a high level while still learning the ropes isn’t ideal. Not that I’m the best person for it, but I’ll try to help if you for decide to stay after all.

    While Kevin does enjoy a little mayhem and destruction (seriously, watch his face, it’s hysterical!) I don’t think he goes out of his way to be the harbinger of death. I think the Council of Thieves is a hard adventure path (much more so than Legacy of Fire, and much less interesting too) and I think the group is pretty “hack and slash” so solving most problems with combat is going to bring about more character death. We also have some poor tactics in battle which doesn’t help. (Maybe if we’d remembered to lock the door of the vault in which we’d found the vampires they wouldn’t have taken off with our previous sorcerer, not that anyone misses Tsarex.)

    We could use more creative thinking in CoT. I thought dispelling the air walk would have been a good idea if the spell was different (and the only reason I knew the spell ended that way was because my character can use it and I made a mental note if someone tried to use it against me!), and wouldn’t have minded one bit if Kevin decided to by-pass the written rules. In our second ever adventure our previous cleric stuck a rapier into a wheel of an armored wagon causing the entire thing to flip and kill most of the guards, while miraculously our prisoner we were to rescue barely survived. It was a stretch, but no one was complaining.

    It’s definitely not my perfect game either. There’s a lot to remember and combat does take up a lot of time and effort. I’d prefer more intrigue and puzzle solving myself, but I enjoy the group (they started as strangers and now I enjoy hanging out with them outside gaming too) and it’s easing me back into gaming again.

    The main thing is that it’s a game and supposed to be fun. If you think you’d be happier elsewhere I wish you luck in your search. Thanks for gaming with us!


  5. Carly:

    Was it that noticable that I was miserable? I guess it was, eh?!

    It really was a tough session, and I think I would have benefitted if I came in at a more "stable" point in the game. It seemed like your characters were embroiled in some serious stuff.

    It was a whole host of factors that contributed to me feeling the way I do.

    And Braden wasn't really my problem. Sure, he was a bit caustic but there were plenty of moments where I found myself relating to him more than others in the group. There just were other glimpses I got from other people that made me feel like an idiot. Probably just my perception, never knows.

    As for what kind of mentoring I expected, well, I sort of expected Kevin to be more of a guide. I was really looking to him for advice. For instance, once I told him I was thinking of being a sorcerer, he could have maybe guided me through the character process a bit more closely, helping me with his knowledge of the campaign and the other characters to guide me in selecting complimentary skills, spells, equipment. Not too much, but just enough to point me in the right directions. I think this is critical when starting at such a high level. I had eight levels of stuff to play with, it was a lot to digest and I could have used the help during creation.

    And during the game session, I felt that he could have been more helpful in pointing out moments here and there where my abilities would be helpful. Again, not holding my hand like a baby, but just a couple hints here and there would have been nice, if it was so apparent that I was clueless and not having a good time.

    I just think there was a lot of miscommunication. I told Kevin going in that I'd had a lot of gaming experience, but I think both he and I overestimated that experience. And I think that more could have been done to better coordinate my character with the rest of the characters.

    Look, I hope it was clear in my original post that I wasn't bashing anyone, even though it might have seemed like it. As I said, I'm pretty much the problem. I am not a good fit. I thought I could overcome the learning curve, but I think it will be too much of a committment for me to really get into the nitty gritty of the rules, to really become effective. I guess it's part of being an "old guy." I'm much more attuned to the older versions of D&D. More than I had originally thought. I thought I could be a player in a Pathfinder/D&D "3.75" game, but even that seems beyond me.

    Plus, I didn't realize how much I was itching to get back into the GM's chair. Most of my gaming experience has been as GM, so that's what I tend towards.

    I still need to call Kevin and tell him of my reservations, and I'm interested to see how he'll react.

    Thanks for checking in, and good luck to you as well!