I have run a second game with my regular in person group and after last weeks post I factored in some of the advice that I was given to my game. We continued the Lost Mines of Phandelver module that comes with the starter set as the players arrived in Phandalin.
We played for about an hour longer than we did the week previously, putting our session around about the three and a half hours. I mention this because in this module as the players arrive in town this is the section that is soooo modeled off a computer RPG that it is not funny. Even the players were joking about it in the end… “Oh, another NPC is talking to us, wait for the quest!”
That is not overly a bad thing though. The player that had really, really badly wanted to try DnD said that he was surprised at how non-linear they had made the plot in this module. The group loved the breadth of NPC’s and I did too as I tried to give most of them a distinctive personality and an identifiable voice.
That sounds like 101 GMing but I have found of late that it is not. I am normally more involved in knowing what each of the Feats and powers do so I do not under-utilize an NPC that I often miss the enjoyable details like this that add flavor. I have made a note to myself not to allow this to occur in future games of any system.
The flip side of this is that the new DnD system allows me the freedom to personalize this material. Honestly, the system in the Starter Set for 5E DnD is so easy that it is conducive to this type of gaming and it was not until one of the players actually complimented me on hamming it up with the NPC’s that I realized I had even really slipped into that mode. You know the one, the fun mode that you get to.
So last night I made the call. I am buying the DnD Player’s Handbook. To which my newest player advised me of a book store in the UK that has it in stock and posts to Australia for free. He got his at a better price than I did but last night when checking all the likely sites it was the site that was cheapest for me. So I have done it. I have paid the ferryman and he is taking me across the river Styx. DnD 5E is coming.
The main thing that I think has gotten to me is the swiftness of encounters and the fact that the players have just taken to the material without needing clarifications every five minutes. In Pathfinder if an encounter is expected I almost guarantee that it will take 30 – 60 minutes to resolve. I used to attribute this to the players not knowing their characters well enough. I am now thinking that I may have been a little uncharitable in this assessment because I realize that I have been under performing too.
I do like the rule set of Pathfinder better than the new DnD. I really do. It is thorough and expansive. But this is the problem with it too. Because it is so thorough and expansive you spend time looking for every little rule that can apply to a situation. The players are trained to ask for every little rule before proceeding and some players spend a good deal of time combing through rules and combinations of rules that the game becomes statistical in a way.
That is a fixable issue though. It simply takes me to admit that this is a problem and for me as the GM to just make quick decisions on the fly. There is a lot of adventuring still to do in Golarion and I intend to play Pathfinder well into the future. I just need to make it about the role playing again and not the statistics. I need to focus on bringing life to the NPC from the player perspective as opposed to studying Feats to make sure that I get the most out of them mechanically.
I am a firm believer that it is not the system that makes the game, it is the people that play it. Sure, there are a number of games that have broken that rule in the past but as a general saying it holds true. My players are enjoying DnD and Pathfinder so we can play both. Why not? I had one player that had the flu last night and could not attend. He hates learning new systems but he told me how disappointed he was that he could not make it this week as he enjoyed the last game so much. That is a win.
I will say one thing though. The new edition is not OSR. It is not like 2nd edition or first edition. It is familiar but it is its own edition, make no mistakes about that fact. Is it the best edition? Time will tell. I like it, but I need to house rule it in some circumstances. I have played every other version of the game with house rules though because they just did not suit my style playing the rules as they were. All I know is I am looking forward to next weeks game as the players further explore the Starter Set module and I am looking forward to the Postie bringing my new book all the way from the other side of the world! Keep rolling!