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    King Tithian Sucks Nectar From a Kank's Butt and Other Constructive Criticism

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    dhlevine
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    The Waste Character
    Name: Jarrol
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    King Tithian Sucks Nectar From a Kank's Butt and Other Constructive Criticism

    Post by dhlevine on 2010-08-15, 21:45

    This is the thread where you can:

    1. Tell the DMs that things suck and need to be changed.
    2. Tell the DMs about stuff you'd like to see that we don't have yet.

    Questions/clarifications on rules issues should go in the Rules sub-forum in the thread for the appropriate chunk of rules.
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    Adam Dray
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    The Waste Character
    Name: Redcap
    Race: Kenku
    Class: Sorcerer

    Character Levels

    Post by Adam Dray on 2010-08-16, 13:17

    Yay, a thread for me to whine in. Wink


    I don't even know if this is relevant anymore, with Eastern Expanse being replaced with The Wastes, which has character tree rules, so take this with a grain of salt.

    Playing a 1st level character in a group of 2nd-4th level characters sucked. The game itself was fine. The DM (Daniel) did a great job. But my 1st level sorcerer was constantly overshadowed (or outshined) by more effective characters. At best, I felt like I had little to add to the party. At worst, I felt like I was in the way and troublesome for the party.


    The good:

    I was the only character with decent social skills, so I was able to be useful in a couple social encounters. Unfortunately, I rolled a 1 on one of them, but that's just luck of the dice.

    My sorcerer's range 10, damage + slide effect kept me out of harm's way and let me reposition some bad guys when it counted. This was about the only time I felt useful to the party, and it happened exactly two times.


    The bad:

    Skill challenges were particularly tough for me. I felt like my skills weren't up to par for the challenge. In a combat encounter, I can plink away at monsters and at least help a little. In skill challenges, a failure counts against the whole group. I don't know if the DC was scaled for a 3rd level party or a 1st level party or what, but I felt my attempts to take part in the skill challenges were pretty lame. I know I cost the party at least three failures.

    At one point, it was made clear to me that my lower (but trained!) Arcana score wasn't useful. Other people had better Arcana and I should just stay out of the way. While Intelligence isn't my sorcerer's best stat, it's still relatively high (14, I think). I'm not sure if my lower Arcana is that much lower (4 points maybe), but it sucked being pushed to the side.


    It's just simply not fun playing a character who is three levels junior. I think the rules are poorly suited to parties of diverse power levels. It's hard enough to keep a character alive as it is, and if I'm stuck playing with higher level characters, the threats will likely be larger, too. That just makes it harder for me to avoid dying and it creates a drain on the rest of the party, who have to protect my sorry ass.

    I guess the justification for the Eastern Expanse rules is "you have to earn your levels." There's a lot to be said for that. On the other hand, it's saying (to me, anyway), "you have to earn the right to have fun." The people who play more get to level more. The people who can't play as often are already missing out on the fun, then they lag behind, and then it's even less fun to play. When I whined about this when the EE campaign started up, the solution proffered was to join a party of like-leveled characters. Since my gaming schedule is fairly tight, this is rarely an option for me, though I admit I haven't tried to schedule something on my own.

    I'm pretty confident that Daniel's character trees house rule will help this problem a lot, though if you die a lot, then you're gonna be back at square one. Maybe the increased lethality of Dark Sun will keep everyone from leveling too much.

    Or maybe Western Marches-style games just aren't ideal for people who can't play very often.
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    dhlevine
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    The Waste Character
    Name: Jarrol
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    Class: Ardent

    Re: King Tithian Sucks Nectar From a Kank's Butt and Other Constructive Criticism

    Post by dhlevine on 2010-08-16, 13:31

    A couple quick thoughts. Yes, bringing in 2E-style character trees is part of trying to address this sort of problem. Since it fixes it by effectively letting everyone come *down* to the level of the weakest character, I doubt it will be a full solution - hence why I left open the possibility that as the average level of active characters rises, the campaign might allow folks to start above level 1.

    I think there are two separate issues, though, that you're describing. One is the combat effectiveness one. In that case, in my experience, there is actually a lot that a lower-level character can do, though, yeah, they won't be the big gun - we had a level 1 monk in a party that mostly ran 3-4 and she played a smaller but meaningful role in the big combat against a level 5 dragon. Now, granted, she was clearly having a harder time and it was the subject of some good-natured amusement that she kept running in and getting dropped, but she *seemed* to find stuff to do to have fun.

    Skill Challenges are different. The whole SC system can, I fear, tend to suffer from a bit of a "Wilt Chamberlain" syndrome (to steal from Nozick). If someone has a maxed out Arcana (say) and the fiction doesn't clearly prevent them from making all the Arcana rolls, either everyone else's has been rendered totally useless, or the DM has got to find ways to make other people roll it (group checks, etc). This is *especially* crummy in the case of skills like Arcana, which is a) very popular and b) tends to really be about getting a bit of information that only one person needs to know, making it less amenable to things like group checks (whereas, e.g., making the whole party make a group Stealth check or risk sending in the Rogue alone is a more obvious option). The problem persists even aside from party levels - in the home game I play in, we're all the same level, but *still* the only way to make my Warlord skill-relevant was to decide I was going to become the ultimate History badass and not worry about rolling almost anything else.

    Anyway, TL;DR - character trees are (I hope) part of the solution, and SC are something DM's need to work to make inclusive at the best of times. I welcome any suggestions, of course, on what *might* work to deal with this, consistent with, yes, the principle that you must earn your levels (in some sense).

    I suppose one way to handle it might be some version of the way that MMORPGs do it - aren't there some where you gain, like, 2x experience if you've been offline for a while?

    And, The Waste is not necessarily the death of EE. I just plan to - really, hope to, since it's player-driven scheduling - spend my time DMing for The Waste instead of EE. If there are other DMs who want to step in to keep EE running, and players that want to see it keep going, by all means they should talk to Chris or James.
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    Adam Dray
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    The Waste Character
    Name: Redcap
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    Class: Sorcerer

    Re: King Tithian Sucks Nectar From a Kank's Butt and Other Constructive Criticism

    Post by Adam Dray on 2010-08-16, 14:12

    Yeah, combat effectiveness wasn't too bad being a ranged striker. I wasn't inflicting the same kind of damage that the others were, but I was able to keep whacking at the enemy. I just worry that I'm taking up a seat at the table that the party would rather fill with someone more effective.

    Skill challenges sucked ass. Have you seen Stalker0's Obsidian Skill Challenge System? It solves the "Wilt Chamberlain" problem pretty neatly. In a nutshell, it's "can you earn N successes in three segments?"


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    dhlevine
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    The Waste Character
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    Class: Ardent

    Re: King Tithian Sucks Nectar From a Kank's Butt and Other Constructive Criticism

    Post by dhlevine on 2010-08-16, 14:53

    Huh. I do like that system and, no, I hadn't known about it before.

    The general meta-rule about DM houserules in TW (once we get other DMs onboard) is going to be "nothing that means players need to adjust their character build between tables," but since this builds off normal notions of being "good at" a skill, I think I may try it at my table. Thanks.

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