Sunday, September 6, 2009

Decent Into Madness

I've played three sessions now as a PC in a 3.5 game. We've been playing back and forth between a 3.5 game and the 1e game I DM. I'm working backwards here and will go back to the first session I played with them.

Being the first session, I had to make a character after the group met; I don't even have dice let alone 3.5 books. Great side note, Kathy has a big bag of dice she uses to teach probability to her Algebra class, so after a month of borrowing dice, I have a nice set of dice of my own. That are actually readable. Why the hell are gamers buying these dice with numbers that are practically illegible?

I started at level 3. I'm not sure if the campaign started at level 1, but either way, I jumped in at 3. I went for a character that I knew would have a damn good chance of surviving, so I picked a Cleric/Fighter. Only, I have to gain levels one at a time, so I am a 2 Cleric/1 Fighter, named Gorthak, lovingly stolen from the PBP game at Old School University.

The DM basically gives you uber stats. You roll 5d6 and drop the lowest 2 dice. Then you roll an entire set of 7 stats and drop the lowest one. Then do all that 2 more times. You get 3 sets of uber stats that you can distribute anyway you want. I had a character with 18s in Wisdom and Strength, and a 17 Con with 14 Dex. Just ridiculously powerful, as evident as we steamrolled so many damn encounters.

Then the skill system. Ugh. I need to train my damn ears to hear noises? Or my eyes to spot baddies on the horizon? There is a damn skill check for every action in the game, and it slows the action down to a crawl. What's that, you want to listen? Everyone has to roll a die, look up stats and skill ranks, then do math on their fingers (ugh), announce their results all at once, then slowly repeat everything since a DM can't handle 5 numbers being thrown in their face at once. All of that time just to say, "You hear something from the other room. It opens the door..." What was the damn point? "Is there anyone else in the library?" "Make a search check." What. The. Fuck. I look and I see anyone in the room. If they are hiding under a table, I don't see them.

Bluff, Sense Motive, Diplomacy. So much for role playing. What is the point, we are all just rolling dice now to move an adventure along. It's straight forward, if you capture a prisoner and you question him, no dice roll should ever tell you if he is lying or not. You hear what he has to say, decide if it is a lie or not, and go from there. There is no mystery to the game, just dice rolls.

Now throw in Feats. More hogwash. Let's see, Weapon Focus for my weapon of choice. Cleave or Power Attack to open up the Feat trees, and maybe a Feat for an extra turn or extra saving throw bonus. Nothing remotely interesting and completely predictable. Or throw in hordes of sourcebooks and you get Unearth Arcana-fuck (1e), Skills and Powers-fuck (2e), or pretty much all of 3e and 4e.

Equipment. Ah, something fun. Well, except that all you really need is a weapon, since it seems that most aspects of adventuring have disappeared. I mean, light sources are laid by the wayside and there are batman-esque utility belts that enable the classes to just roll their skill checks and magically know where traps are and how to disarm them. You come across a corridor with a trip wire strung across. You don't need remove traps to walk over the damn thing. Skilled players (not characters), will spring the wire with a ten foot pole and move on with their life. No super thief kits or a stupid dice roll to just make the trap poof into thin air.

That's really the big sticker, 3e and its mentality are about characters and not players. The characters are just scribbles on paper, the players are real people. Players provide the fun with their unique personalities and persona and responses to the game world. 3e is about character building, 1e is about building players.

That's the dividing point. A game focused on characters is FF7, focused on players is improvisational theater. I want to play with people. I don't want a computer game where I play against an AI: predictable, unchanging, a system to be gamed.

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