Things I learned at my last gaming convention: Don’t have fun at the expense of the party

Alright, so in my last post I covered what happened in my Sunday morning game. Now we are going back a little earlier, to Saturday Afternoon. Due to a cancellation we wound up playing D&D 4th edition, which I’ve not played in several years. It isn’t my favourite game, and I know the person I was playing with isn’t found of it, but hey, we decided to make the best of it.

So the DM hands us out characters, and I grab a half-orc ranger, and the guy I’m playing with gets an old, knight (Paladin) at the end of his career. Now, each character has a secret mission: Mine is the simplest: I have to either slay or bloody the head orc, or a certain number of other orcs…or betray the party, embrace the orcs and slay or bloody at least one PC. An interesting choice, I think, and carefully watch how the rest of the party treats me as we roleplay. My buddy had the mission to refuse all healing (Note: The DM pointed out that if he was unconscious he couldn’t refuse healing) and then die in battle, and being the only one to die in the adventure. Someone else’s mission was to reveal to my mentor (a half-elf) that she was the Elven mother he had never met, and I don’t know the rest of them.

Now, it being a 4 hour con game the DM cuts out a lot of the roleplaying to fit it in, which makes a lot of the missions pointless, since we have no time to get to know one another.

Then comes the first fight: It turns out there this is the fight with the leader of the orc army: I don’t have any reason to betray the party; no one has treated me badly, so I don’t have any animosity towards them, and we are winning, so why would I switch to fighting on the losing side?. So I stay with the party, and we easily win the fight. Not even many tense moments. Cool, lots of healing left, the Paladin is in rough shape though, but whatever. We go into the next fight, with a red dragon. A big red dragon.

I go nuclear and do 84 points of damage in the first round, but that taps me out of my daily and encounter powers, and I don’t really have much other then sit there and whale on the dragon after that. The fighter works his way around to flank the dragon with me and the paladin, so it takes a penalty if it breaths on us. None the less, it does, killing the paladin outright. Now, we’ve still got 5 people, and our tank is pretty much unharmed, and the cleric has all her daily and encounter healing abilities.

Now earlier in the adventure the fighter tried to leap through a window, as he liked to do odd and unexpected things. So, at this moment, when the best thing he could do was stay there and distract the dragon and try and draw fire, he decides that isn’t what he is going to do. What does he do instead? He leaps through a nearby window (gets a 20 on acrobatics) then runs past the dragon towards the party, leaps through another window (another 20) then as we all hold our breath and wait to see what he does….he runs off to safety, abandoning the rest of the party to die. So he did his odd, unexpected thing, which I’m sure he greatly enjoyed by leaping through two windows as a full-plate fighter, and abandoning the rest of the party.

Was surviving so he could see his wife and kids part of his mission? NOPE. He was an exiled knight whom hadn’t been back to the capital for years. A knight who was sent out to this monastery to learn humility due to his overwhelming arrogance and pride. A knight who was mentioned on all our character sheets as having grown into a brave and noble knight in his time here. So yeah, the DM is confused, the party is confused and now we have no tank (Defender in 4e parlance). I’ve got the most hitpoints, so I try, but I don’t have any abilities to draw fire or anything, just to hit the dragon harder. Meanwhile the dragon is breathing on us, everyone else is tapped out, and there are only 4 of us, so our damage output is way down.

We lose. At the end the dragon had 7 hit point left. If that guy had played his character at all like he was supposed to, or even stayed around to hit the dragon ONCE more, we would have won.

What makes this more of a demonstration of this principle is the game he did it in: 4th edition D&D, a game that, love it or hate it, is all built around teamwork. This is true in most D&D games, but 4e just plain doesn’t work if people don’t work together. As Penny Arcade and Weregeek point out, D&D is surprisingly like sports; everyone has to work together to win. He didn’t play as a team, we lost as a result, and it was really, really boring and frustrating.

My stance is always that you shouldn’t have fun at the expense of the group. This one guy decided to have fun, and as a result, 5 people were bored and frustrated. This leaves me conflicted: Would it have been OK to betray the group if they’d treated me badly? I think it may have been, if the adventure had been set up better. If I’d had the oppertinity to betray them in the final fight, and had motivation to do so (they’d treated me badly) I think it would have been a cool story we could have all enjoyed. Also, I get to keep playing, instead of having to sit out the rolelpaying between fights and the final battle with the dragon. As it was, they’d treated me well, so me betraying them, killing one PC and then running away in the middle of the adventure, leaving them to die against the dragon would have been really boring, as we saw.

So yeah, long story short: Think about others when you decide your characters actions. Is what you are about to do going to ruin the game for everyone else? Are we going to walk away from the table thinking “What a dick!”? Or will you’re betrayal read like an epic tale, spun by bards?

Anyway, I hope I didn’t meander about this too much.
Until next time, stay geeky
–Canageek

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The issue is not that he ran off. The issue is that losing in D&D is boring. If there had been an interesting way to lose that encounter, then the only person who is going to be bored is the fighter (and possibly the paladin).

    • Losing is never interesting, except possibly in an ongoing campaign where it is a temporary setback. In a 4 hour convention game, when you are 3 hours and 30 minutes into a game session…losing is always boring. You don’t have time for revenge, or a comeback or whatever. You’ve lost. End of story, as you don’t have TIME for more.


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