This is not intended as a redress against A Paladin in Citadel, who wondered in a comment on my last post if books would give players “some skill, level or ability boost.”
That, right there, is the video game market talking.
It’s all part of ‘Mario D&D’ ... eat a mushroom, crush the monster, move on to find more mushrooms. Paladin only asks the question, how is a book a mushroom?
That is not the way I look at it. I am the sort of person who must patiently deconstruct and pull apart the guts of the thing to try and understand it – to perform an autopsy, if you will. All for the purpose of identifying just what went wrong, and how to avoid it going wrong again.
In both the campaign I ran last spring and in this one that has crumbled in the last three weeks, I have principally encountered caution (described as ‘sitting hen’ by one player). An unwillingness on the part of players to take action ... usually explained by the players themselves with such phrases as, “ ... he didn't really want to make himself too obvious in his interest and possibly draw unwanted attention ...” This describing the player’s unwillingness to risk a 1st level character with zero X.P.
I’m baffled. What, exactly, does the player have to lose? Maybe someone out there in Mario land can explain why first level characters aren’t expendable. Are DMs giving out electric shocks to players who die at first level?
Sorry. Lost it there for a moment.
I was saying, no one investigated. Which is fair, which is fine, it’s a sandbox game, no one has to search the body or grill the NPCs with question after question if they don’t want to. That’s what I tell myself. I say it over and over until I begin to realize that no matter how accepting I am, I’m bored.
Bringing me back to the autopsy, trying to gather together some kind of theme regarding this rambling, ranting, shotgun-like post. Bringing me back to the question that has haunted me all day, and which led to this post ultimately inspired by Paladin’s question. I want to thank you, Paladin; you got my brain going, even if it is in every direction. Give me your email, we’ll go get coffee some time.
Why did the three people in the campaign all want to play mages?
My first instinct is to assume that there’s something appealing about the way I’ve talked about mages on my blog. Or that there’s some unknown prejudice against players playing mages in other campaigns. Or that this is some enormous coincidence (remembering always that the fourth person, who’d had a chance to see three mages playing in the campaign, still wants to play another mage with them). And of course, there’s the argument that mages are fairly powerful.
In my offline campaign, the party is engaged in a massive fight against an intelligent foe that is manipulating goblins and dire wolves against them. Although the tools are fairly weak, the unidentified foe clearly has magic use; that and the tactics I’m using has already killed party members (2 first levels) and has come very close to killing others.
The deciding factor on the player’s side has been the influence of two spellcasters, the 8th level mage and the 6th level illusionist. The 9th level druid has just conjured up a treant, so the balance is shifting. Spellcasters are powerful.
They are also, at low level, very weak. The aforementioned mage, Garalzapan by name, spent most of his first three levels throwing daggers at the enemy when his spells ran out by round four. The aforementioned illusionist, Pen by name, was the party joke until he reached fifth level ... the first thing Pen always did was ‘run away’. And the aforementioned druid, Pikel by name, was bailed out so often at low levels by the rest of the party that they still feel Pikel owes them protection money. These are common stories, they pretty much fit into any campaign.
So, are the players so entranced by their dreams of great power someday that they forgot they have to run low-level characters first? Low-level mages who, reasonably, can expect to live by their wits, their cunning and their guts?
Since they don’t have any guts (cautious), they don’t trust their wits (they might offend people), and I’ve seen no signs of cunning, what the hell are any of these people doing running magic users?
Oh, I forgot. They have cool spells.
As DM, I presume, my job is to set up targets for them to knock down with their cool spells - targets who never quite get close enough to, you know, threaten them. Can’t expect them to take enormous risks like asking strangers questions or searching nearby bodies – at least, not until they get that terrific mushroom which allows them to stomp hell out of their enemies.
Now listen ... I’m being pretty nasty here, and I know it. I’m not sure if this post is going to kill the campaign, or get people’s heads in the right place. One way or the other, I can’t let myself be affected by the outcome. I feel from time to time that I have to defend this game, and at this particular time that means being a mean little bugger.