Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Almost EPIC weekend!

Well, what a long weekend!

This May long weekend the Pirates of the Plains held their "Almost Epic" weekend of gaming. Yours truly was there of course with my level 18 Wizard (D&D 4th), Terron Elanese. The weekend started right away for us with a "double round" adventure (8 hours) broken into 2, 4 hour "slots" Friday night and concluding Saturday Morning. It was a really well written adventure with some very challenging fights. In the end our table sided with the Frost Giant Jarl instead of an insane god fighting NPC (non-player Character). The other table did decide to work with her so each table had different encounters and rewards at the end of the adventure.

I love adventures where there are different avenues to go and 2 tables can have completely different experiences. It makes for some interesting table chat later in the day! I find with the Living Forgotten Realms adventures that authors fall into 2 categories- storytellers with good direction and "no nonsense" writers that like a basic story to get the players where they need to go quickly (we refer to this as an "A to B to C" adventure).

The only problem with LFR adventures is they are built on a time restraint train of thought. We have 4 hours to complete an adventure (8 for a double round) with a 30 minute time period for getting all the paperwork completed. Yes, there is some tracking involved with RPGA campaigns. Gold and XP as well as the items adventurers collect need to be tracked.

So some authors decide to make the story very simple (go rescue person X from location Y) and make the combats very challenging. My largest "gripe" is when authors are not well versed on rules and they "box text" rules that are illegal or incorrect. Our DMs are usually very good at spotting them and adjusting the adventure accordingly.

Back to the weekend. When I noticed how busy the store may get over the weekend I called in my Minion, Dayna, to run the store on Saturday. This helped my tables keep on pace with the games. Sunday was a bit slower so I pulled double duty running the shop and playing D&D (sometimes it's good to be the boss!). Our next adventure was the conclusion to the story arc started in the previous adventure. We swapped players around so some of the players had a "major reward" for completing the main plot while a couple of us did not (this ended up being beneficial for my girlfriend, Gwen). My wizard was now 19th level and had a couple more fun powers to toss around the battlefield! The game ended just before midnight and we had to be back Sunday morning at 9:30am to get the next adventures running!

So we got back to it bright and early Sunday morning with another double round adventure. Our table had once again changed players around (the beauty of LFR) so we got to play with some of the guys from Edmonton that came down for the EPIC weekend. What a grind! The combats were very complex for the DM and very frustrating for the players (well, not me, I take this stuff in stride!) with many of the monsters Dominating, blinding and otherwise making combat slow to a halt. This again is not the DMs fault and I do understand from an authors POV that players are now 19th to 20th level and need a challenge, but there is a difference between a challenge and frustrating the players until the literally let out a scream in frustration (true story!).

Again, this adventure was a very well written story, but the author was not the best at rules (you can tell) and had some really crappy interpretations written in the adventure for the DM. But we all survived and Terron hit 20th level.

Now you may be thinking, one level in a single adventure? Not really. It's just the way my XP was working as to where my character flipped. And remember we are talking about 12 hours of adventuring to get this level. That is pretty average in LFR. 3 adventures and you should level. So by Sunday evening we had already played through an equivalent to 6 regular adventures.

Sunday night was by far my favourite adventure in the lot, CORM2-4 Fury of the Queen of Thorns. This adventure was the final piece in the Queen of Thorns trilogy which I had already played. My Wizard is a "War Wizard of Cormyr" and ever since Forgotten Realms came out I've always wanted a character to become a War Wizard. So when the new LFR came out and that Paragon Path was announced I was in. I made Terron my focus as much as possible.

So this set of adventures has been very well written, both in story and challenge of combats. This one was no exception and by far the best adventure I've played in recent memory. The whole plot of this story Arc is that the "Queen of Thorns" has been prophesized about returning and will destroy Cormyr if the current King or any of his line sit in power when she returns. So the heroes have been asked to help with the preparations of the coming invasion of undead, beasts and plant creatures when the King calls us into his private chambers.

He explains that there is a law on the books that if the current King is killed in battle that there is a 1 day "mourning" ritual and at that time, there is no king or leader in Cormyr. So his plan is simple. He must die in combat!

Now, I'm not a huge role-player, but there are some adventures that really can throw me into the the story and if the DM is really into the story then so am I. Well, our DM, JP, is a big story and RP kind of DM. I've also known him for 12 years and he is a great friend. So I really let my role-playing go with this one.

Players around the table were really taken aback by this and I in particular as Cormyr has a "special" place in my heart when it comes to D&D. I was appalled and came up with a multitude of arguments (nearly calling the king an idiot!) and trying desperately to figure out better options. But as all things, the King had made up his mind, but he also had a way out. His plan was to fight and have us beside him on the battlefield. We were to make the combat "look good" and let him die a heroic death. He had a ritual cast on an amulet that would allow him to be raised later, but this would leave the Kingdom without him or his lineage on the throne for 24 hours. This would give us the time we needed to defeat the Queen of Thorns.

The combat was very well written but had very special rules with it. Basically there were points to be scored for making the battle "look good" and convincing. JP determined that for added challenge we needed a score of 20+. There were very specific things we needed to do and more importantly things we had to avoid (such as blooding or killing any of the monsters until the King died). Well, we put on a show! We scored points for using Action Points and Daily Powers and we unleashed hell!

The best part of the combat was the King attacking a mutated Treant and scoring a Critical Hit. This bloodied the creature and the next time it went, down went the King! We mopped up the creatures and then it was on to the Queen! Again another well written combat with really unique creatures and the Queen was no pushover.

For me the "coolest" part of the adventure was the Reward. Terron is already a "Knight of Cormyr" from previous adventures and was granted an "Advisor to the King" and a seat on the "Council of War Wizards". Now that may seem really geeky, but after playing Terron for 4 years this was the best reward he could have received and I am personally proud of the accomplishment.

Now Terron is 21st level and we are getting ready to play the 1st EPIC adventure at CampCon 11 in July (the Pirates rent out a group camping site and play D&D all weekend out in the wilderness of Sibald Flats!). I'm looking forward to this as well. It should be a blast!

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