Today’s #RPGaDAY question: which RPG have I played the most this past year? Well, that’s Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. We’ve been playing through the Princes of the Apocalypse campaign setting most weeks, a few hours at a time for over a year now, but the cracks are starting to show in the product (and game system) and, well, I’m just hoping we’ll finish soon and move onto something else.
Before the new edition of D&D came out, I was done with the fantasy genre. I hated the complexity of third edition D&D (and 3.5 and Pathfinder) and fourth edition just wasn’t anything that I would have considered “fun”. The only option I was looking at for fantasy role-playing was the Dragon Age RPG, which seemed to take forever to publish set 3, the upper-level ruleset, but I know that was a significant delay due to licensing approvals. We would have been playing that if the licensor would have approved the game in a more speedy fashion. I am confident in thinking the delays in the approval process was what prompted Green Ronin to develop the IP-stripped Fantasy AGE game. However, 5th Edition came out before Dragon Age‘s last book was released and, unlike the previous iterations of the game, 5e played quickly and was actually good for what it tried to do!
But this campaign is just going on for so long. It’s my fault for choosing it, too. I saw how the first half was basically a campaign setting book in itself and overlooked the whole dungeon aspect.
Hold on. Let’s talk about what Princes of the Apocalypse is.1 See, all of the 5e campaign books are really just contemporary takes on the popular D&D campaigns of past editions. Storm King’s Thunder is this edition’s Against the Giants. Curse of Strahd is 5e’s Ravenloft. And Princes of the Apocalypse is the new edition’s Temple of Elemental Evil. In ToEE, there’s a massive dungeon where adventurers are supposed to delve into and then retreat to safety to gear up to go back in. It’s from an era in roleplaying games where we’re really looking at the wargaming heritage: enter room, defeat monsters, solve trap, go to next room, repeat. And I should have realized that with Princes of the Apocalypse.
Sure, there are several things above ground to do with lots of sites to explore and cool people and places to interact with, but once you get to the underground dungeon, we’re back in wargaming mode. Yeah, the players are having fun, trying to defeat the challenge in this room or part of the caverns or whatnot; my fun was pretty much up there on the surface where the towns are, where the “haunted keeps” are, where the strange riverboat sails. But then we’re underground going against one evil cult, then another, and I’m wondering what’s going on back in Red Larch where they had an election for the town’s first mayor and there’s a priestess who is in love with the group’s cleric and the cousin of the disgraced and executed mine owner has come in to take over the quarry and there’s the dottering scholar who is lovingly cared for by a brutal half-orc… and that’s all pushed aside as we’re now really going room to room, killing the creatures one by one.
Spoilers, here: Do you know what they did? They allied with the Feathergale Knights and attacked Rivergard Keep with the Knights, even joining in on an air burial for two fallen Knights, not realizing that their allies were corrupted by forces of Elemental Evil. Then they uncovered the evil cult within that group, murdered the majority of them, and turned the survivors over to an order of knights that followed the deity of Justice. And there, the Knights were found guilty, sentenced to die in ten day’s time. And after they theorized that the Knights were corrupted by one of the Princes of Elemental Evil, and after they removed that Prince from our mortal realm, they…just forgot to tell the Justice people what they did. And they forgot to go back and send word that the Knights’s corruption may be removed and they may not be truly guilty at all. And they forgot to do this because we’re all in a dungeon now and we’re going room to room because there are bad guys to fight and, well, we just forgot about these people that were sentenced to death in a few days.
So the campaign turned to a dungeon slog. And they’re good with that. But I’m ready for it to finish up, even though I love these characters they’re playing. They’re actually really clever, using tactics and abilities against the opposition the designers of the campaign didn’t think of. I’m using all the villains’ abilities against them to no avail. They’re level 9 heroes going into areas rated for a group of level 12, 13, and 14 adventurers and they’re wiping the Temple of Elemental Evil clean.
But I’m ready to move to something else.
Previously on #RPGaDAY…
Last year, I wrote about my future convention plans. “I’m only going to attend Gen Con [next year] if I’m doing booth duty,” I wrote. Well, this year, I’m doing booth duty. I’ll be at the John Wick Presents booth (#2338) almost all day Thursday, midday Friday, and in the mornings the last two days. I said I was going to attend PAX East, but could probably only get in if I went with a company, which is what happened. Origins? I was 99% there, but the 1% won out, mainly due to other work-related and convention-going that happened this year. Likewise, Metatopia didn’t happen for me last year.
Included in that was NewMexiCon, my newest favorite little game convention. Held in Albuquerque, it pulled in 70-75 people, much more than half of those from outside of ABQ. The John Wick Presents summit was held the week prior, and that brought seven out-of-towners to NewMexiCon. A crazy fun show.
I also attended two half-days at local anime convention with a gaming room somewhat semi-attached to it but you’ve got to walk quite a ways away to get there, PortMainCon. There, I played The Sprawl with one of the creators of the game (with the Shadowrun-like setting expansion) and Tales from the Loop. Both were very fine games.
Plans for this coming year: Gen Con ’17, yes. PAX Unplugged, possibly. Metatopia, somewhat likely. NewMexiCon ’18, only if JWP has another retreat. PAX East, possibly (depends on if JWP thinks it’s worth doing again). PortConMaine ’18, yes — I’ll even run games. Origins ’18, maybe. Gen Con ’18, again, only with a company.
In 2015, the topic was “Most Surprising Game”. Last time, I switched from Buffy, the Vampire Slayer to Apocalypse World. This year, I am going to switch again, but not too far off: The Sprawl. Mainly because it does Shadowrun without the hour or two of planning that just falls apart in the first few minutes. The two moves that are made each mission about getting the job and getting paid are fantastic, bringing the fun straight off. You get [intel] and [gear] to help out on the mission, which are defined in the mission so your criminal looks like they knew what the hell they are doing. They were professionals and planned for these things right off. Basically, The Sprawl takes Shadowrun and removes hours of suck from it.
In 2014, I wrote about my most recent RPG purchase. This is a bit difficult to answer because I am not sure what to consider for that. A physical book I have? The most recent RPG Kickstarter campaign I backed, which technically I paid for but realistically don’t have because it’s still being written? Maybe these large 16mm dice I picked up because the guy running Tales from the Loop had this set and they looked super cool but I haven’t actually played a roleplaying game using them? You know, I’m going to go with the most recent thing that is definitely a roleplaying game where I purchased a thing and got a thing and have it now. Humble Bundle recently had Cubicle 7’s Doctor Who Roleplaying Game up for offer and you could get nearly everything in the line for $15. So I’ve got that. And it is amazing.
Remember that post I did last month about Modiphius’ Star Trek Adventures? I’m going to do another one like that, but about the Doctor Who RPG and trade dress, sometime soon.