Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dungeons and Dragons

Now.

Before I tell you the story of my latest D&D session, let me preface with...
  1. I do not feel bad about this.
  2. This is mostly an intellectual exercise to sort out what "went wrong."
  3. I have spoken on the phone with three different people (asking their advice) about this and I've received pretty much the same response each time.
  4. I am not judging anyone and I do owe Chris an apology/explanation.
  5. If I'm wrong. I'm wrong.
Recently, I walked out on a D&D game, with the intention of getting lunch and coming back to the game... only I never came back. Now. Somewhere in my brain, I knew I wasn't coming back to the game, but it would have been rude to make a stink at the game about how much fun I wasn't having... it would have been rude to handle the situation any other way... in my opinion. Other people may have chosen to do things differently, but this is just my style when it comes to someone else DMing.

Presently, the game is split into two groups many miles away from one another. I am two session in, sort of "attached" to the smaller group. My character is born with a birthmark that attunes him to others of the same mark, all of whom are destined to rid the world of the shadow. Beyond that I have no reason to be with them (but I'm a seasoned player, I can make it work... give me time).

The larger group is about to go to war with the an army of orcs.

I arrived late on Saturday to what was to be another 10-hour session, and the GM was already engaged with the larger group. I waited my turn and in no time I was roleplaying with the GM (but none of the other PCs yet, because I don't know any of the players who showed up this week). After 40-minutes of some roleplaying and some action (involving myself, some acoltyes and two other PC's), the play shifted again to the group to the north.

The game proceeded for another 90-120 minutes of me flipping through books on the table, writing notes about Coil, and doodling in my book (I also ate two cookies). And this is where the fun stopped for me and I chose to extricate myself from the game.

Normally, I have no problem sitting back and waiting my turn. I'm not a fan of this in D&D (it's one of the symptoms of the turn-based-initiative table top gaming that isn't found in a lot of indie games), but I put up with it when the game is good or the action is high. And I'm gaming with friends who believe in a robust campaign/epic/story.

Heck, if there's something exciting to watch on the other side of the table, I'm all over it.

Now. Bear in mind, that I also left an hour early last week, because the game was grinding and I knew that at 10pm there was little likelihood of the action getting back to my character. I wasn't upset on the previous week, but it did take me an hour to come to that realization that I wasn't doing anything.

So. When it happened again, I realized that this was endemic of something that I could not control. Worse yet, the people I was watching roleplay, were not exciting and at the very least, not doing anything.

After 13-hours of the game play that I have witnessed over two sessions, the PCs in the north did nothing but talk, all the while they supposedly were preparing for an invasion. And when I say talk, what I really mean is.
  1. Arguing about movement rates (this went on for 20 minutes last session).
  2. Talking about mead. Mmm... mead.
  3. Leaving the room to "work on a map."
  4. Talking over and over again about a character's pregnant wife.
  5. Make were-bear jokes.
  6. Staring at the table waiting for the GM to tell them what to do.
  7. And so on.
Now. Tangents are a normal part of game play. I hate them, but I've never seen a group that doesn't do them. So. I endure it. But. In this instance, you have one-half of the table wasting time, while the other half sits there and does nothing.

Bear in mind that two of the players have characters from a previous era of the campaign that can pop in periodically, giving them the opportunity to play twice as much. Which means, neither of them has to "hurry up" because they get to play no matter what.

I think the story for this campaign is pretty cool, but the amount of time spent listening to the players (and not the GM) talk about nothing or just stare at the table and DO nothing was more than I could stand.

I shouldn't have to explain that my "fun-time" is precious and the last thing I want to do with it watched someone pretend to be talking in character, when really they are just smashing the table and talking loud... because that's the only way to play a dwarf... right?

I've gamed with this GM before. He's an exception player. He knows exactly how to keep a game moving. He does not deserve these kinds of players and I don't deserve to have my time wasted, driving 30 miles to a game that isn't engaging... or engaged by the players.

I'd like someone to give me some perspective on why my gaming experience has been waning for the past 5 years... and why having low expectations seems to be the norm among more and more table-top gamers...?!?

ADDENDUM: Someone asked me to amend my comments to read, "When did the passion go out of gaming?" I was trying to avoid anything that sounded remotely judgmental or mean. But I thought it fair to ask this question now, because it might actually be an important question for consideration/debate/hate mail.