So I bee-lined it to the D&D Encounters section at this year’s Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC). Being a huge RPG fan, and 5e especially, I thought this would be my chance to meet fellow RPG lovers for a 1-2 hour game of D&D. I sat down at the table, pre-generated character sheet -in-hand, ready to help my party overcome whatever dangers that awaited us. You see, Core Rockseeker, my disillusioned Dwarf Cleric who’s seen some shit, man after a tour as a mercenary soldier, was hoping to find a cause worth fighting for: friendship.
I had a dream. See, the accessibility of 5th edition and content like The Adventure Zone podcast or The West Marches series made me think a lot of new people would be joining the fold. I naively expected a lot of people would be interested in trying out/playing D&D conventions and I was going Catcher in the Rye these dough-eyed DnD players from bad times with Grognards and Munchkins. I hoped to share with new blood what makes RPGs fun.
Knowing what I know now, Core should have just passed on the offer to adventure and drunk himself to oblivion.
I started my DnD time introducing myself and filling out the blanks of my pregenerated dwarf. I spent a good 20 minutes before the session working out my character’s backstory. Internal discussions abounded about why he’s in this adventurer's town, what he looks like and how he perceives the world. His fatherly outlook on his friends-to-be reflected my own player desires. I retooled my spells so they focus on healing and buffing my friends... whoever they may be. Having recently learned about the Adventurer's League factions, I deliberated which one makes the most sense. Core would probably work with the Lords Alliance since he’s very lawful, however he chafe’s under their individual countries and cities doing what's best for each of them instead of all of them.
This is gonna be a good game!
While I sat there reviewing my sheet, I listened to the only other seated player and GM converse. So far it was the GM and a kid about 16 or 17. He chose a bard and was focusing on abusing the "actor" feat which grants a lot of advantages on social rolls. My instinct was to think Cool! I bet he has a ton of ideas for roleplaying. WRONG.
The first words out of his mouth were with the GM about other characters. Oh man my other character is level 6 and has a +20 passive perception. Raves my fellow player. The GM promptly gives respects and one-ups the kid, yeah I have a wizard with a 20 passive perception and +10 investigation just because I can. This kid took this as a chance to talk about his druid with +25 passive perception and how much the DM HATED him for it. It was easy to label this kid a munchkin: someone who focuses entirely on the stats and interrelating mechanics of the game instead of the holistic game itself. The two's mechanical brinkmanship continued until the other two joined our table: A husband and wife.
I breathed a sigh of relief as the couple introduced themselves to everyone. Oh hey!They’re new to DnD 5e! This will be great. The wife took a noble human fighter and the husband took the same pregenerated cleric as me. (Normally it’s always weird when a party has overlapping skillsets, but I didn’t care.) I thought Wow! Here’s the perfect character to tag along with! Another disillusioned dwarf cleric!
For those keeping track at home we have:
So I began one of my favorite parts of RPGs: Collaborating backstories. The 4 of us get to bullshit and make up fun ideas why we’d know each other. Using other player’s descriptions and faction choices and my connection to this fellow pregenerated cleric, I come up with a suitable idea how we all know each other:
Both of us Clerics were from the same large mercenary group and both got disillusioned around the same time, but chose different paths to walk. We both met up again and he told me about a chance in this town (of adventure). Being both short on coin and eager to meet new friends, we go off to meet his fellow Harper (another faction) friends (The munchkin and Noble woman fighter) about a job.
I tell my fellow players and ask if that sounds good or if anyone else had cool ideas.
Literally crickets. No one cared.
I quickly learned why. The adventure began with a seedy party for a noblewoman. She's gathering prestige and we're invited and doing menial tasks. I quickly chose to work in the first - aid tent, thinking I'll be an standby medic. The noblewoman would be a socialite and..........fellow dwarf proceeded to instigate fights with people at the party? WHAT? Apparently that's what you do. Fortunately, the GM reeled them in with a scene of us getting employed by a shadowy, dangerous noble to get his son out of a rut before my pugilist pals could get some real action.
There was nothing wrong with the scripted plot of the adventure, but this delivery and constant warmongering by my fellow NEUTRAL GOOD “I TREAT EVERYONE WITH RESPECT” dwarf left me on the back foot.
While the party bickers about how much gold they can squeeze out of this noble quest giver, I step up and ask this man actual investigative questions and try to hunt down his dirtbag son. You see, this noble’s son is in love with a lowclass woman and his father wants none of this. I struggle to feel compelled to do this mission, but whatever. Apparently there’s no discussion on how the 4 of us know each other anyways. I guess motivations don’t matter at conventions either.
Over and over I kept asking myself, Why is there no roleplaying? Where is the spirit of the game? Did I miss my perception check?
The entire format of my sessions seemed to be that we have 4 parties working together instead of 4 adventurers in one party. Everyone kind of did their own thing in scenes and the GM just handwaved us all together when appropriate. It just wasn't fun.
Anyways, we breeze through the preset encounters with me and crazy-dwarf’s wife being the voices of reason until the final battle. In the climax of our 2 hour slog, in the firey chapel of some warehouse, our Munckin bard decides to run off alone to chase down this evil guy while the rest of us do battle with these dwarf guards. (There’s a lot of dwarfs in this game.)
We all get out in one piece (miraculously that bard doesn't have to keep rolling death saves?) and get rewarded.
At the end of the day, apparently only members of the Lord’s Alliance faction got “renown” for this adventure. While I was extremely dissatisfied with my game experience, I’ll leave with my head held high along with my fictional consolation prize.
In short, nobody was outright rude or anything in the game. I thought everyone was more than fine as a people, but if my experience is normal, then this is not for me. I'll try again somewhere down the line only with a more skeptical mindset. I really hope my experience was just a bad hand.
I hide in a cubicle all day until the night time where I play RPGs and other games and stuff.