Category Archives: Living Forgotten Realms

Gen Con 2013 recap and the D&D Championship visits the Lost City

I’m back from Gen Con and four days of terrific gaming.

For this year, Wizards of the Coast elected to focus its attention on exposing as many as possible to Dungeons & Dragons Next, and so they dropped all Living Forgotten Realms events from the convention. Pushing D&D Next seemed to work. Players new to D&D Next filled my tables and I met a lot of Pathfinder devotees willing to sample the new D&D system.

The lack of LFR disappointed some players and judges, but I appreciated the chance to run D&D Next for the first time. The absence of LFR at this convention doesn’t signal the end of fourth edition or of Living Forgotten Realms. New LFR adventures are coming. The Winter Fantasy convention will feature a slate of LFR events, including a new, paragon-level battle interactive.

2013 D&D Championship - battling Zargon in the lost city

2013 D&D Championship – battling Zargon in the lost city

Although I dungeon mastered the Crisis in Candlekeep delve twice, my DM highlights came from running the Murder in Baldur’s Gate launch adventure three times. Murder in Baldur’s Gate forced me to develop an aspect of my DM skills that I’ve rarely exercised in the past. I’ll write about that in an upcoming post.

As usual, playing the 2013 Dungeons & Dragons Championship delivered as much fun as I ever have playing D&D. The Championship features a lethal adventure intended to test even the best teams of players. The unforgiving challenge brings a sense of peril that you never see in typical adventures, because in typical adventures the odds always favor the players. The event’s time pressure amps up the urgency and demands fast play.

The Lost City (1982) by Tom Moldvay

The Lost City (1982) by Tom Moldvay

This year the author of the championship adventure, M. Sean Molley, created a tribute to the 1982 Lost City adventure by Tom Moldvay. The first round dared teams to recover three staffs from locations in the lost city. Earlier fourth edition championships played solely as tactical miniature battles, but this year’s adventure added puzzles to the mix—a welcome nod to the old tournament classics. The final round required characters to use the staffs in a fight to destroy past and present versions of Zargon, the evil demigod of the lost city. I marvel at how skillfully a battle with so many variables was balanced on the narrow line between difficult and impossible.

As a dungeon master, I admire the DMs in the championship, who must play fast, fair, and show total command of the rules. They do enjoy some perks: Where else can a DM coupe de grace a fallen character without straining D&D’s social contract? Even among this elite crew, our DMs Brian and Sean stood out as exceptional. Plus, our DM for the finals happened to be the adventure’s author.

I played on the team that claimed second place—for the third year in a row. We’re like the 1990-1993 Buffalo Bills of the D&D Championship. Still, I’m thrilled to do well.

Will next year’s Championship be the first to feature the next iteration of the D&D rules?

Living Forgotten Realms Battle Interactive

I received my judge assignments for the upcoming Winter Fantasy convention. I’ll be running CORE5-3 Lost in Wonder during all the afternoon and evening slots on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. On Saturday, I’ll run a table for the Living Forgotten Realms Battle Interactive event.

Battle Interactive events unite a ballroom full of Dungeons & Dragons players into a single, shared conflict.  A year ago, I had no interest in running or playing in such an event. I envisioned an nine-hour slog through a giant combat encounter, further dragged down by the need to administer the movement of characters around the battlefield, and with a taxing suspension of disbelief required to account for the high-paragon superheroes running with the 1st-level mooks. (I wrote about the dissonance that occurs when you compare fourth-edition characters of widely different levels in Two problems that provoked bounded accuracy.)

Last spring, when I volunteered to judge at Origins, I must have selected the ADCP series along with the other events I would judge. I failed to realize that event ADCP4-2 Lost City of Suldolphor was a Battle Interactive. I’m happy I made the error, because I had a blast running a table. Actually, if I hadn’t “volunteered,” I certainly would have found myself among the many judges drafted minutes before the event. I still would have had fun, but I prefer to be prepared.War In EuropeAs it happens, the Battle Interactive does not use a single giant map, like a D&D version of War In Europe. The BI plays as a series of timed challenges, shared by the entire room, with the combined results from each table contributing to the final outcome. At the individual tables, the players tackle an instance of an encounter scaled to level. These encounters represent a segment of a larger challenge faced by everyone. The encounters include non-combat objectives, making them more dynamic and interesting than a simple slug-fest. The time limits imposed on the encounters maintains a breakneck pace as players race to complete their objectives in the allotted time. This was no slog. For each encounter, each table has the option of sending one player to contribute to sort of skill challenge involving other volunteers from across the room.

Much of the fun comes from the chance to play D&D with a large number of enthusiasts in a single, grand experience. Everyone at my table became passionate about contributing to the shared success of hundreds of players. Dan Anderson, the adventure’s author, and Sean Molley turned in great performances as the WeavePasha and Ala’Ammar. They set the scene and objectives for each encounter in character. For my part, I loved the excitement, the brisk pacing and, since I ran a level 18 table, the chance to bust out my purple worm and titan minis.

Next: Update on elemental miniatures and 3D battle maps