Y’know, I should point something out that seems kind of obvious in retrospect, but nonetheless hit me upside the head when I first realized it:
Organized Play is not supposed to be as fun as a home game.
You’re probably rolling your eyes right now. “Of COURSE it isn’t as fun! It’s modules! It’s strangers! It’s a cruel, hacked-down imitation of “Real” roleplaying!
But re-read what I just wrote. I contend that it’s not SUPPOSED to be good. See, look at it from WotC’s perspective. What’s more profitable, a bunch of people running and playing in free modules based on free rules forever and ever and ever, or people playing the free modules, getting sick of ’em, going out and buying all the books, and running their own damn game?
Clever girl, WotC. Clever girl.
Also, I should point out that I am having a BLAST so far with “Adventurer’s League.” I genuinely had a good time the first time I played, and I had even more fun when I went back this week for Round 2. Now, with that being said, I’m gonna sh%$ all over AL for it’s manifold crimes.
First up, the difficulty-pendulum swung back around and knocked me right on my ass. My character was knocked unconcious three times over the course of the night, though I’m more inclined to blame that on being a squishy Level-1 Spellcaster in a party composed almost exclusively of Level-2 characters (and just bad dice luck).
In my first near-character-death experience, we were up against a flurry of magical swords that popped out of some dead warrior’s tomb. I, being the genius that I am, decided to try and attack the skeleton to see if that would do anything. The GM granted advantage because it was technically “prone”, and I proceeded to throw down TWO. FUCKING. CRITS. Two twenties. On the same roll.
GM: “Okay. You basically obliterate the guy’s skeleton. It is nothing but dust and wind.”
Me: “Cool. Does it effect the swords in any way? Do they stop fighting?”
Me: “Did… did I just waste the single greatest roll of my gaming career on some straight-up bullshit?”
GM: “Weeeeeeeell… You REALLY smashed that skeleton good.”
And then the magical sword I was fighting proceeded to stab me to near-death. Twice.
Now, I know for some players, nearly dying three times in the same night, especially in the first round or so of combat might be a cause for frustration, but I personally just thought it was awesome. See, I’ve always heard stories about how much it sucks to be a low-level spellcaster in AD&D, but since it was before my time, I never got to experience that… until last night. There’s something cathartic about putting a character through the wringer like that, that sense of squishiness and vulnerability… It’ll make it all the more rewarding when I can start nuking entire cities with magical energy and whatnot.
Anywho, moving right along, I’m getting zero fuckin’ inspiration in this game so far. Which isn’t to say my DM doesn’t use Inspiration (which would be a valid call, imho). Oh no. He’s handing the stuff out like candy. Just not to me. However, I think this is mostly on me rather than him.
See, I come from the FATE school of character design, where you design yourself using “Aspects.” In FATE, you want these aspects to be broad enough so that you can invoke them in a variety of situations, and the GM can use them to offer compels. However, DnD ain’t FATE, and AL isn’t a home game.
See, in AL, the DM doesn’t know me from Adam, so I have to give him something a little easier to work with. So instead of giving short, broad “Aspects” for my character’s Personality, Bonds, Ideals, and Flaws, I’m going to define specific things that I notice my character tends to do a lot of. So instead of just saying for personality my character is a “Bit of a Comedian”, I’m going to change it to “You First” and put in a note about my character often “encourages” others to be the first one to go through the door, cross the pit, or open the chest.
Hopefully, giving more ‘actionable’ traits to my character will give my DM something to glom onto and remember about my character. Or maybe I’m just a huge jackass. Whichever.
Lastly, I bitched a bit in my last post about the XP caps on the adventures, which left my comrades basically playing for the “fun” of it rather than a tangible XP reward, since their characters had already hit Level 2 thanks to “Session 0” fuckery. They still took a share of the gold though, so. Eh.
Anyway, I figured out that what this allowed for is everybody gets a chance to ‘catch up’ even if they weren’t there on Day 1. We had a new player start last night, and he was Level 2 by the end of the encounter thanks to these rules. What this prevents is a significant ‘level gap’ forming, where players who come in late start off sucking a lot harder then their more eexperienced companions. Also, as the DM pointed out, the other players could just as easily roll up a new character and have them gain XP once their current character hit the cap. This seemed reasonable to me, as AL seems primarily designed as a “sampler course,” and encouraging people to try new builds is a neat idea.
Look, I’m not saying “Adventurer’s League” is for everybody. If you’ve already got a home game, or have a burning hatred for 5E, or you’re some sort of anti-social hermit, it’s probably not your best bet. But, like everything else, you’ve got to take the good with the bad. I’m having a great time so far with it, despite my whining. So why not give it a shot?
I desperately need more meatshields to put between me and fuck-off magical swords.