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Author Topic: [D20 Arcana Evolved] Great game starting to wrap up  (Read 4326 times)
ffilz
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« on: October 24, 2005, 09:04:56 AM »

I've talked about this game before in:

[D20 Arcana Evolved] How do I improve my reward cycle{/url]
[url=http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=16642.0][D20 Arcana Evolved] The reward/hero point discussion{/url]
[url=http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=16590.0]Engaging learning disabled players


I've also touched on it some in my blog, particularly this post:
Challenging the assumption that death of character must be at stake in D&D{/url]

First off, I want to thank Chris Chinn (Bankuei) for his blog: [url=http://bankuei.blogspot.com/]Deep in the Game
. His recent set of posts on gamism have helped me acknowledge that gamism is what this campaign has been all about. And I've got to say, it's been a lot of fun once we got past the reward cycle issues.

Somewhat sadly, it's reaching the point where I find the D&D mechanics frustrating. Arcana Evolved really is just a variant of D&D, keeping most of the core assumptions of 3e D&D. Prep is starting to take too long, it's getting difficult to challenge both the fighters and the spell casters.

On the other hand, last week we had a really fun encounter, one that I almost discarded because I thought it would be too trivial. Thank god I didn't. The encounter was 12 CR 5 creatures, with the party having 5 10th level characters, so by the EL math, it's about a CR 11-12, though conventional wisdom is that an encounter with more than 8 creatures usually isn't effective. The trick was that the creatures were flying (so were all the PCs), and had an effective ranged attack. They were able to concentrate on the only spell caster who could affect them with area damage (they were immune to the air damage the other spell caster uses). 7 of them knocked the spell caster out and then the other 5 concentrated on one of the fighters, giving him quite a scare. The PCs pulled out. They then tried shooting a blast from long range, found it worked. The flyers then flew up where they couldn't be hit by a blast coming through the doorway. Then they came up with an idea to make the spell caster invisible (improved so it wouldn't drop when he cast). The player (the learning disabled husband) was the one who came up with the idea of moving into the room on one round, then waiting one round so he could cast and retreat in the same round. He dropped several of them. The creatures targeted the square he cast from and did nothing of course. Then he went in again. This time, the creatures readied an action so they could blast him as soon as they saw the spell so they got him before he retreated (of course they took damage from the spell first, and several more dropped). By now, the damage was done, they were reduced in numbers enough that the fighters went in, and quickly mopped up.

Wow! That was really fun, and the players seemed to enjoy it. And Ron is right on about learning disabled people being able to pull it off if they try, and the bar is not lowered for them. This player has really improved over the course of the game.

Oh, and I should also mention that I was not feeling well that day, and was very concerned about my energy level. Once things got rolling, oh boy, my energy level shot up.

When I think about this campaign, and the discussions I had on Deep in the Game, I have been thinking a lot about some of my previous experiences.

In my Tekumel Cold Iron campaign, I was having serious energy level problems. I think the issue there was really mudled agenda, simulationism and gamism mixed, probably combined with one or two players looking for narativism. No wonder I was falling asleep in some sessions.

I also realize why way back in the beginning here, I said I didn't like gamism. The problem is that most of the times I've played in a gamist game, I wound up with a character who was not effective. In a D&D style game, a character with poor attributes is in a real tough spot. If you can't succeed at anything you attempt, how can gamism possibly work?

But it really leaves me with a mystery as to what was going on in the Rune Quest game I ran several years ago. I have no doubt that the combats were gamist. But there also seemed to be some simulationism. I'm wondering if it succeeded because the players were all interested in both, and able to shift between modes.

Frank
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Frank Filz
ScottM
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« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2005, 10:07:48 AM »

After all of the hard work of the previous threads, it sounds like you've found what you were looking for.

Instead of quitting now that the game is hitting its stride, have you considered a slower/alternating weeks schedule to increase your prep time?  Is there something other than the extensive prep that's advising you to wrap things up?

Scott
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Hey, I'm Scott Martin. I sometimes scribble over on my blog, llamafodder. Some good threads are here: RPG styles.
ffilz
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« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2005, 10:18:00 AM »

I start to get frustrated when prep time exceeds play time.

But the real problem is that I'm seeing what I have always seen in the past when D&D gets to a certain level: The spellcasters start to really dominate. Even in that really fun battle with the flying creatures, the spellcaster took out 7 of the 12 creatures, and left the rest needing only a little more damage to be taken out.

The characters are getting so complex, and their resources are getting less and less likely to be used up during a game session, that I just find it really frustrating to play. Two weeks ago, we had another encounter that the spell caster basically blasted the opponents so badly, the fighters just mopped up. And it didn't take any real talent. In other words, I'm seeing challenge become real hit or miss.

Basically the game is giving me less fun per unit of time than before.

Frank
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Frank Filz
MetalBard
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« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2005, 10:40:26 AM »

I see two options available to you:

1)  Campaign reset - Make new characters and play a fun level of challenges again.

2)  Find an RPG that maintains the gamist mode of fun from D&D without the diminishing level of fun challenges later on in character advancement.

I think #1 may be the easier way out (I don't want to just say "easy" because that implies it's somehow lesser).  And I'll be honest that I have no idea on what RPGs fulfill the criteria I set down in #2, but hey, that's what we've got messageboards and the internet for!
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"If you've ever told someone how your day went, you can narrate." - Andrew Norris at the Forge on player narration

My name is also Andrew and I have a  blog
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2005, 10:40:55 AM »

Hi Frank,

First of all, congratulations on an incredible success story with your game and your group.

While I was looking for Gamism in action or why I hate arts and crafts, just in case you hadn't seen it, I also found:
The long-term campaign and the myth of d20 (before the thread became annoying)
[D&D] Campaign analysis
Preventing Gamism from being 'solved'?
XP/Reward based on actual challenge vs intended challenge?

Enjoy,
Ron
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Bankuei
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« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2005, 12:14:02 PM »

Hi Frank,

One of the hardest parts of D&D prep has to do with those crazy special abilities, magic items and spells that players start racking up.  As you point out- encounters become possible for players to "one-shot" through easily if they have the right abilities, and a lot of time the difficulty comes in trying to figure out exactly how to balance against those special abilities. 

One thing that usually works good though, is a single tough monster with special abilities rather than a bunch with fewer abilities.  Generally, the higher CR creatures start picking up more weird resistances and abilities to fight back with that make the players have to think harder.  It also lessens your prep time considerably.

For me, I flip through my monster books, pick a couple that I like and figure out how to finangle them into the session.  My last IH session was basically, "When Animals Attack!"- and the prep time was something like an hour or so done before play- and most of that time was just sketching out quick maps for the encounter areas.

Chris
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ffilz
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« Reply #6 on: October 24, 2005, 12:29:34 PM »

Ron,

Thanks for the thread links. What I get from them is that I am not alone in feeling like the character of D&D changes somewhere near 10th level.

I'm not disappointed that the game may be coming to a close. It's lasted more than 6 months, which is right in there with my typical campaign survival time (I've had a couple campaigns last longer). And I've never really bought into the idea of the endless campaign. Oh, I know it appears as an ideal, but I usually am ready for a change of pace after 6-12 months of gaming (in fact, I used to get complaints from my players because I always wanted to try out new systems with them).

And on top of that, I've learned some good stuff from this campaign.

The big question campaign raises for me is what really happened in that Rune Quest campaign? It's now clear to me that almost all of my gaming has been gamist, and even the RQ campaign had a heavy dose of gamism in the combats, but there was something else going on. There was celebration and exploration of setting at some level. Was that simulationism, or was that just color for the gamism?

And to answer Chris who posted while I was crafting this response...

I've tended to have problems with the single big monster. One problem is that Arcana Evolved allows a spell caster to add a 1 round stun effect to any damage spell. And if the damage is electricity, it's two rounds of stun. Of course something immune to electric damage (which the flyers were) doesn't risk this problem. If I was allowed to eliminate one template from AE, it would be the electric template. We've also had issues with the fact that Sorcerous Blast (the AE version of Fireball - except it's better) can be any element (and few D&D creatures are immune to air, earth, or water - except for various elemental creatures which have an element sub-type, which AE defines includes immunity) or any energy as a heightened spell (and few D&D creatures are immune to acid or sonic).

I do suspect the relevance of Sorcerous Blast diminishes at higher levels, but it starts to make things a bummer somewhere around 8th level, and I suspect continues to be a pain up through at least 12th level, if not 15th. I've yet to find a good answer to Sorcerous Blast that I can use on a regular basis. This single spell really breaks AE for me (I've considered just removing the spel...).

But another issue is that the PCs tend to have enough resources to last more than one game session. I've been running their "per day" stuff as "per session" (to counter the fact that in my Arcana Unearthed game, the Magister would burn his spells as fast as he could, usually burning two slots at once to heighten or maximize a spell, and then the PCs would run and hide to rest up).

I'm getting more and more inclined to give IH a try the next time I play D20 (one of the players has already requested that if we don't continue the AE campaign that we do something non-D20 - something I'm quite inclined to go along with).

Frank
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Frank Filz
Sean
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« Reply #7 on: October 24, 2005, 12:36:35 PM »

Frank,

Iron Heroes looks like it has a lot of neat gimmicks. Will it be less prep? If the players are fighting monsters then there will certainly be less in the way of spells and magic items, so that's good news for you. On the other hand, if you're running lots of your own warriors and keeping track of the bonus dots and stuff, you'll still have some work to do.

Prep time killed 3e for me too, a couple years back. If I were to run a D&D game again now I'd look to BECMI/RC or Castles & Crusades, or AD&D1 if I absolutely had to.

But converting back directly often doesn't really work that well - after your players have mastered all those tactical options they may be disappointed to lighten up so much.

So I think your player is spot on. Bring this campaign to a satisfying conclusion (are you still in Dark Tower? Any chance they're ready to get those gnomes and that paladin together for a big final raid on the Tower of Set? If not, what about taking out Haffrung Helleyes and escaping from Mitra's Fist with their lives?) and then play something completely different.
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ffilz
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« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2005, 12:48:25 PM »

Mastering Iron Heroes has some villain classes that make it easier to prep high level NPCs. I'm not sure I'd use them all the time, but they are an interesting idea.

Yea, they're still in Dark Tower. They've killed Haffrung once, but of course his Magic Jar kicked in...(Because it's sort of critical to the module, I'm allowing it even though Magic Jar doesn't exist in Arcana Evolved). It took 3 tries at Haffrung's forces to get him. Now that he's had some time to react, he's animated some of the fallen as undead, and all of the forces of Set from the upper levels have banded together to defend their temple. There are some serious encounters waiting for the PCs at each way up.

Hmm, those gnomes won't be of much use unless I give them a lot of levels...

There has been some disappointment expressed at not getting to play the higher levels. I offered them a possibility of jumping their characters forward to 20th level or so, in which case I wouldn't have to tone down Pnessut...

Frank
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Frank Filz
John Harper
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« Reply #9 on: October 24, 2005, 01:29:09 PM »

Frank, I think I mentioned this on Chris's blog, but for anyone else out there who is reading along and nodding:

I can't recommend Savage Worlds highly enough. It delivers the bang/pow action of the best D&D combats, but it is super easy to prep and run, even with lots of bodies on the battlefield. It's a somewhat muddled sim/gam-facilitating hybrid like D&D, but since it's a simpler system, it's a lot easier to see the effective Gamist-supporting bits and sidestep any "bunk choices."

It does straight-up, square-by-square dungeon adventure better than anything else I've played.
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