Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dungeons & Dragons Gameday: Gates of Neverdeath

I was really looking forward to playing the Gates of Neverdeath adventure on D&D's Neverwinter Gameday this past Saturday and returning to the Forgotten Realms after a long, long, long absence from the richly detailed and supremely engrossing campaign setting (hadn't played there since my AD&D days waaaaay back, basically).

But...instead of a fun and entertaining session, all I got after nearly 5 hours of frustrating play was a Wipe/TPK.  

Well that doesn't sound so bad, you might say. Or you might ask, what IS a Wipe/TPK anyway?

So, without further adieu (and courtesy of the folks over at Wikipedia): 
Wipe/TPK - Total Party Kill (TPK) or Wipe is the colloquial term for the demise of the entire party of player characters in a single encounter during the course of a role-playing game adventure. While many games permit other player characters to resurrect deceased comrades in some fashion, a TPK often results in all of the players making new characters (or the end of the campaign if the group is less cohesive).

That's right. An adventure session that was supposed to take 2-3 hours and end in a hard earned victory or at least in an entertaining defeat instead took nearly 5 hours, and ended in an unsatisfying Wipe/TPK. The PCs couldn't even make the TPK interesting. It was me playing an Eladrin Wizard Bladesinger, an experienced player playing a Human Harper Monk, another experienced player playing a Human Cleric Warpriest, and 3 newbies playing a Dragonborn Paladin, a Warforged Barbarian (ugh, don't even get me started on how this thing from Eberron was even allowed into a Forgotten Realms game), and a Human Mage Necromancer.

I'm all for being newbie friendly and having patience for folks just getting their feet wet in the D&D pool, but seriously, if you're gonna play weird out-of-canon s**t like a Warforged Barbarian, or if you're gonna play a power card intensive class like a Necromancer Mage, then show up knowing your character's role and abilities and ready to play, instead of struggling through every combat encounter with figuring what kewl power to use, or what you should be doing. 

Heck, I'd have been satisfied if they even knew how to play their roles properly - i.e. the out-of-canon Warforged Barbarian better damn well man up and take on the heavy hitter enemies even if one of them has a damaging Area of Effect aura up, and the Dragonborn Paladin better draw fire and do everything to keep the one Cleric (the only PC with the ability to heal the rest of the party!) alive for the duration of the session. But no, instead I was treated to a comedy of blunders where the Barbarian was afraid of taking ongoing damage and getting into the scrum to take out the boss's heavy hitting Gravehound minions, and the Paladin could neither keep our Cleric from wiping, nor strategically take on the Boss villain necromancer.

Needless to say, after the Cleric wiped (even though my Bladesinger managed to pull him out of the initial fray, at the cost of my character's own life), it soon became TPK-city for everyone else. I didn't have the patience to stay and watch the remaining party members wipe since I had another social engagement for which I was running late (and these clowns weren't even making the wipe fun, it was all confusion and tediousness, thanks, but NO THANKS). Enduring nearly 5 hours newbieness was more than enough. I mean, I was playing a class that had just been released THE DAY OF, and it took me all of 30 minutes or so to absorb and internalize my character's abilities and role, and figure out what to do in battle and how to do it. D&D ISN'T rocket science (not anymore, anyways), and there just wasn't any excuse, especially since we had a know-it-all micro-manager of a Monk that would also slow down the flow by telling everybody (newbie and knowledgeable alike) how to execute their characters and then pestering the DM to allow retroactive decisions.

The one bright spot was that the DM did a great and entertaining job of running the game materials despite the hot mess at the table, but it just wasn't enough to save it from feeling like a wasted Saturday afternoon. Hopefully I'll get to play under the DM with a better organized group, I think it would be fun. Until then, maybe some people are better off sticking to single player online RPGs than pencil and paper tabletop. It's too bad, really, as the latest D&D Gameday adventure was well written and full of potential. At least theres the new Encounters season launch next week!

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