It’s been a moment since the last update. There’s a variety of reasons, but the topmost is that first nothing happened and then I wasn’t at the computer long enough to formulate anything coherent. I’ve been gaming a lot, too, with a total of four sessions in the last week.
On Friday, RPGA posted up the first real set of campaign documentation for the Living Forgotten Realms campaign.
It is somewhat comforting to know that even in my refusal to play 4E, I’m not missing anything. That’s the beautiful thing about hating the game – everything related to it comes with its own reasons to be hated, and the 4E thing is just bonus. H1 Keep on the Shadowfell isn’t bad because it’s a 4E module, it’s bad because it’s piss-poor writing that makes Castle Caldwell look like a logical and cohesive whole.
Similarly, Living Forgotten Realms will not suck because it’s 4E, or even because it’s 4E Realms. It will suck because the campaign rules really go that extra mile to dilute any atmosphere the setting might have, drastically limit the style of adventures you can have, encourage illogical module writing and generally kill any interest except the morbid I might have had for the campaign.
So, how about warforged in the Forgotten Realms? Artificers? You’ve got ’em! See, the character creation rules state that all rules items except rituals and magic items published in the online Dragon are open access. The warforged was released last month, the artificer was out this month. Still don’t believe me? Chris Tulach, the campaign’s head honcho, confirms it.
This is stupid, because it takes one setting’s signature character race and class and transplants them in another. This dilutes the flavour of both Eberron and Forgotten Realms. It seems to be a continuing trend to reduce the setting to irrelevance.
They’re allowing drow, too, by the way. See here, how they managed to put off both people who hate Eberron and its “robot people” and people who hate drow because of the Drizzt fanboys.
Another thing that harms atmosphere is how they handled the regional system. While they have a similar system going like Living Greyhawk had, with real-world regions corresponding to certain areas in the game world, it’s a purely administrative thing. The Dalelands adminstrators must all be from Northern Europe and Russia, but the players in the region can play anything they want, with characters hailing from wherever. This, coupled with the lack of admin-created content and the release of only two books and a module for the setting, will ruin any chance of the strong atmosphere and flavour we had in Living Greyhawk forming.
Yeah, they will release more material for the setting in their online Dragon. However, while I’m not opposed to paying for pdfs, their asking price is exorbitant, their implementation user hostile and their quality dismal. The Backdrops article on Cormyr wasn’t bad, though.
Adventure in Failure
Then there are the module writing guidelines. I actually asked them to release these to the public a little over a week ago, and the reply I got from Shawn Merwin, one of the global admins, was “no”.
I don’t know why they changed their mind, but if I was them, I would’ve kept this baby hidden as well. Preferably locked in the attic.
Here’s an excerpt:
One RPGA adventure round is a 3.5 – 4 hour play experience. It takes approximately 45 minutes – 1 hour to DM one combat encounter, so you should try to keep combat encounters at about 3-4 per adventure round.
And another a few pages later:
Make sure you include at least 2 combat encounters in every adventure.
While I realise they think 4E does fighting particularly well, some of the finest adventure modules I’ve played in Living Greyhawk have included the option of avoiding combat altogether if you were smart. Well, it’s good bye to those now. To top it off, I heard a rumour in the EN World chat that “some Danish LFR admin called Sampo Harla” was responsible for this rule. Considering the Finnish LFR admin Sampo Haarlaa wrote some of those fine modules, I call bullshit. So does he, actually.
There’s also this gem:
Most treasure found is not being used by enemies; it’s hoarded by them or found incidentally as a result of exploring places unknown. Enemies should only rarely have a magic item on their person, and if it’s being used against the PCs, it should be figured into the EL of the adventure (using the rules on pages 174-175 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide).
“You have come for the blade of annihilation? Fools! First you must face me and my butter knife!”
But then we’ve got the jackpot, the Big Kahuna of stupid campaign rules.
You can play a module more than once. Moreover, you may play a module even after you’ve run it as a DM and learned all its secrets and surprises. Not only is the system open to seven sorts of abuse (A fact the campaign admins acknowledge but figure that it won’t happen. Naivety like that is kinda touching in this cynical age.), but it also discourages the authors from putting in interesting plot twists, riddles, puzzles and mysteries. Especially in online play, which the campaign encourages via the DDI, there’s going to be a fairly strong likelihood of a player sitting there on their own computer with the module open next to them.
Of course, the same risk also exists in LG, but from what I’ve seen, modules aren’t usually available via less official channels while still in play use and online play is less prevalent. Even in LG, though, the module reporting system doesn’t appear to have an alert in place if the same module is reported twice for a player or if someone is reported as a player for a module after running it.
The Little Things
LFR is going to have some sort of online character tracker, too. After the abject failures that were the previous three or four trackers, it is heartening they have not lost faith for this misbegotten abortion of an application and keep striving to make it popular despite its multiple shortcomings in both concept and implementation.
In addition to the online character tracker, they’ve provided us with printable adventure log and advancement tracker sheets. With gray gradient backgrounds in the text fields. It’s great how, while concentrating on the big, sweeping mistakes that affect the whole of the campaign they still haven’t neglected to include the little things to increase player frustration.
Finally, we come to the preview file for FR campaign rules, which includes the stats for drow and genasi characters and three levels of the spellsword class. I’m not going to go into the rules, because they’re boring, but I will note that instead of the traditional fire, water, air and earth genasi, we now have firesoul, windsoul, watersoul, stormsoul and earthsoul genasi. I used to name stuff like that when I was 14. Then I grew up and realised how stupid it looks.
I feel the whole of Living Forgotten Realms is crystallised in that one thought, and it is soon time to go and play better games, so I will end here.