jaune_chat: My cat Timothy, a cream-and-tan mackrel tabby (Critical Failure)
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And now for a random rant about play-by-post D&D gaming.



For my amusement, I joined several play-by-post (PbP) Dungeons and Dragons games on a website dedicated to such things. Finding a good PbP game is always somewhat of a crapshoot, whether you're playing or running. Sometimes you get a player who wants to hog the spotlight, or who throws tantrums when things don't go his or her way, or who can't spell to save his or her life. Othertimes you find dedicated players or game masters who are committed to telling an interested collaborative story.

This can lead to having to try a LOT of games before you find a good combination of game master and players.

However, sometimes trying to deal with people in two capacities can be hard.

I know several PbP players who tend to get tight-knit. If they know someone is a good player, they might join games they're running also, because at least they don't have to go through a long discovery process. I thought I might have found some luck in that regard. I was running a 3.5 Eberron D&D game (a particular iteration of the rules with a specific campaign style), a type I like very much. One of my most dedicated players in my game had been running a game in the same style for some time and was in need of new players. As he was a good player, I requested to join, and after some back-and-forth to establish a good character concept, I started.

Now, D&D is a game that is mean to be played by multiple players. A single player is less likely to have the resources and skills to reasonably overcome a challenge every time. A character who is good at combat may be less good at diplomacy. Someone good at balancing on window ledges and picking locks can't solve arcane mysteries. A mystic-minded wizard could throw a lot of destructive spellpower around, but if anyone gets past their defenses, can be killed easily by a guy with a sword.

The DM (dungeon master, the person who runs the game) started my character, an agile wilderness scout-type who was focused on stealth and ambush, on her own recognizance.

Personally, I bloody HATE that as a player. It's one thing to have a character that has goals. It's another to have your players just be able to go willy-nilly wherever they want. Look, if Bilbo had had his way, he would have never left Bag End. He was tasked by Galdalf to be a burglar, and thusly started his great adventure.

Now, I wouldn't have minded being able to go my own way if the DM had then swiftly set things up so that I intersected with the other players and we got down to business. Nope! Instead I decided my character wanted to look up an old war buddy. To do that, she needed to buy some powerful magic, and since she had no money, she had to offer her services instead. (This being D&D, money comes through adventuring, so when I made my character I didn't give her much of a cash reserve because I thought, silly me, that she would be joining a group who would be working together.) My character was wilderness-focused, and so didn't have much in the way of reserves to bargain with.

Thusly began my long solo trek. While I could tell the DM was throwing out some potential plot threads during the journey, the ones he put in front of her would have required her to go deep into the territory of her hated enemies, alone, and possibly confront an unknown amount of people with unknown resources on their home ground, for reasons she could not discern. Also? The source of this information was inherently unreliable (a con man and thief). Figuring my character wasn't stupid, and she was trying to fulfill a longtime character goal that was a promise she'd made to find this old friend, she moved on.

Then she had to deal with murderous frog-men and winter wolves, which was at least in the wilderness, but again, nowhere near any other player characters (PCs).

She finally manages to bargain for a spell to find this friend, and in order to pay for it, is given a task. She expected this, but then discovers the person who took on her service is an Archmage. Very powerful dude, so obviously she doesn't want to disappoint him. What she was asked to do, which she was not told until she had agreed to do it, was to stop a diplomatic incident from happening between a country she hated and a local noble, in a large city.

Note, my character is a wilderness scout with little diplomatic skill.

To help her in her goal, she was given a bag full of items that she was not allowed to open until she'd started on her way. The contents of that bag were, to my character's eyes, a random assortment of objects. A ring, a small statue, a few crystals, a map, some ink, a key. There was no explanation given as to what any of the objects were for or what they did. My character has no knowledge of the arcane and no ability to appraise anything.

Heading towards this large city, not feeling particularly sanguine, my character FINALLY meets a few other PCs in a slow-moving caravan. While my character was trying to move fast, I decided to slow down a bit and find some justification for talking to other PCs, hopeful that the DM was finally making an effort to bring us together.

The arcane-trained PC did identify one useful magic item for me, but that was it, and everyone dispersed once they hit the city (after spending probably a few days longer on the road than I would have otherwise).

Well, that was useful. (This being a PbP game, this has taken place over months of real time. It's a slow-paced medium.)

Through some very lucky rolls, I was able to follow one of the two parties I was tasked to keep from each other's throats, only to discover this diplomatic incident was already underway. The noble and a high-ranking priest of the hated enemy country, along with his entourage of warriors, were inside a fortified manor. It was broad daylight.

My wilderness scout got in mostly by luck and some good Acrobatics rolls. And she was met inside by a murderous paladin, and then a powerful priest and his assistant apparently trying to exorcise a noblewoman and killing her in the process. Figuring this was the thing my character was sent to stop, I've been trying to get to this poor noblewoman to protect her, while being thwarted by four guards and a paladin. My character doesn't have a lot of hit points, nothing she says can seem to make any of these guys pause for a second, and there is absolutely no alternative route to get to this victim other than going through five fighter-types.

My character has no magical ability to teleport, transport, go invisible, intangible, or anything else. Other than a hat of disguise (which doesn't do much good in this situation), all of her resources are in her armor and weapons. She doesn't want to kill anyone, because there is a lot of trickery going on here, and probably everyone is being duped.

So. She can't kill her "enemies." But they're trying to kill her (she's already grievously wounded). She can't talk her enemies into pausing or considering an alternative viewpoint. Eeling past them isn't very possible as it would take four extraordinary rolls in a row to do so, and it took her three tries and half her hit points just to get past them once. She can't just run away because the Archmage who hired her is probably watching her, and if she runs, she will not only have gained a terrible enemy in the form of this priest, but also never find her old war friend. Also she'd probably gain the Archmage as an enemy. There is no window nearby to jump out of, and no place to hide that would hold off her enemies for more than half a second.

I've told the DM how frustrated I am at this situation (though I've been trying to play it off as much as possible, because I don't want to scream at him), and he's just responded with something about, "Well, those are the choices you've made."

At this point I've just decided to die a noble death for the sake of the friend she was trying to find, because there is literally no way out of this. I'll try to get past my enemies, but because they've been willing to get past me even though I have never struck at them, I assume they'll just try to kill me and probably succeed. I don't have enough hit points to survive more than two rounds.

You see, THIS is why D&D isn't mean to be a damn solo game! Either get me in with the rest of the party, or find someone who made a more rounded character!

Why the hell would an Archmage send a wilderness scout (who, BTW, clearly billed herself as such when offering her services) with a random assortment of magical objects she couldn't possibly identify to stop a diplomatic incident in a big city? It's asinine!

I'll let the DM know again that I'm unhappy with how things are going, but I don't know how much of a difference that's going to make. :(

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jaune_chat: My cat Timothy, a cream-and-tan mackrel tabby (Default)
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