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It's All In Your Head

"If you could be inside my head..." - Ozzy Osbourne, Flying High Again

Last week, I was invited to play in a 3.5 Edition of D&D.  Having wanted to play 3.5 a bit, I was all for this.  However, the game that I was about to play was unlike anything else I have ever experienced with Dungeons and Dragons.

Let me explain.  When I started playing, my friends would take turns DMing "an adventure", which basically meant an entire level of play.  I remember my first adventure, which was basically the party trying to pit a tribe of orcs against a tribe of gnolls so that the villagers could live in peace while the two factions of monsters destroyed one another.  I was brand new to 4E and the game in general, so I took the written rules literally and tried to find a way to have 10 encounters so my party could level up.

Another friend of mine (who no longer wishes to play), basically did the same thing, only over and over again for his adventures.  Playing his games were fun, but it was almost like a "ok, we're exploring, how long until we have to fight another group of monsters?".  It wasn't until I started delving into other DM tips and really thinking about the kind of game that I wanted to run when I realized that I didn't like encounters for the sake of encounters.

In the time that I've played D&D, I've always used a grid with miniatures.  I love drawing maps, I love seeing my enemies, and I find it totally immersing into a different world.  The 3.5 game I played did none of this.  Everything was in our heads, or what is called "theater of mind".  Right from the get-go, this game was unlike anything I had ever played.

The players all had their laptops, which basically had all their stats and items typed up in a Word document.  I had 5 pieces of paper, using one to take notes while the others were my Level 5 goblin rogue.  Old school vs new school.  Cool.

The DM, Doug, was a very puzzle oriented DM.  Everything we did had some threat involved, whether it was crossing an underground river (which awakened a bunch of water elementals) to trying to figure out which door to proceed down next (all of them trapped).  There were other things, like an anti-gravity trap, a sleep spell, and just lots of goodies to go against.  You could tell Doug got stoked when we came upon his next puzzle and we had to discuss how to figure it out.

Doug also had a lot of house rules (from what he told me).  I've never played 3.5, so it was hard to tell what was his, and what was the systems.  But that was ok.  As a player, I'm counting on the DM to know the rules and to help me, not for me having to know everything and trying to do something broken (not all the time).  And it was in this session that I finally understood what DnDNext is trying to accomplish: give a set of rules that players can adopt or not use, making DnD a unique game for every group involved.  Let people play the game they want to play.  Just help them get there.  I guarantee that even with the next edition and the new rules, my games and Doug's games will still look very different from each other.

When the college year starts up again, Doug expressed that he probably wouldn't be able to keep up with a huge group, meaning that the groups would probably split.  So, now there's a possibility that I might be able to go from work to hang with a group and start up a new campaign, set in my world.  I'm looking forward to that.  The goal would be heroic tier.  Maybe Level 5 by the end of the year.  Who knows.

Below is the list of the group that I played with.  I've also put pictures of the mini I would give them to use if they were in a game run by me.

Doug - The Dungeon Master!

Mark as Roc, the Half Dragon Avariel Fighter (male) - Mark roleplayed his character as a stern, serious warrior.  He offered suggestions and was quick to assist the party.  I was always happy to have Mark (as Roc) on my team covering my back.  He was also extremely enthusiastic about the game and the group, which is always a plus.  I would definitely want Mark covering my back while exploring a kobold infested shrine.
No wings, but the half dragon part looks right.

Bria as Raven, the Drow Druid (female) - Bria is brand new to D&D (this was her third session or so).  She seemed like the type of player who was all about exploring a new world and asking lots of questions.  She helped contribute to the team a lot and really liked the social part of the game.  Bria was the glue that held the party together, as she got along with everybody and helped the entire team work better together.

She means business
 Cody as Jemima, the Half-elf Ranger (male) - Pronounced Ja-me-ma, Cody loved to create backgrounds for his character.  Jemima was a cook, and a darn good one at that.  In many of the games that I've played, nobody ever talks about things like food and drink and trail rations.  Cody made sure it was a priority, which brought a sense of realism for me and made me see Jemima as a character who thought about things other than just collecting gold and slaying creatures.


 Ethan as Tumultu, the Elf Cleric (male) - One of the dark secrets of Tumultu (at least to me) was that he was a werewolf too.  Doug's world had two moons, meaning the lycanthorpy was twice as potent and happened twice as often.  The rest of the party was quite afraid of Tumultu turning, but wanted him to learn to control it so that he could throw down on enemies.  Ethan seemed to be a player that enjoyed leveling and becoming stronger, something that I'm familiar with, as I have a player just like that.  I could always count on Ethan to deal the killing blow to whatever threat we were facing, or finding a way to heal those affected by ailments.

Don't mess with Tumultu
 Jesse as Aasimar, the Elf War Mage (male) - In my notes, I don't have Aasimar's race (sorry Jesse!).  But, I remember all the cool things that Aasimar was able to do.  Jesse was an extremely skilled problem solver who was quick to give advice.  In my opinion, he seemed like the unofficial party leader; he offered suggestions, helped others, and took things into his own hands.  I would follow Aasimar (or Jesse) into a beholder's lair if I had to.

The staff has some crazy magical properties
 Dom as Balrick, the Half-orc Barbarian (male) - Dom straddled the worlds of roleplaying and power gaming.  His character wasn't as strong as Tumultu, Aasimar and Roc, but he packed a powerful punch and enjoyed portraying a typical barbarian while doing so.  He was able to provide some comedy relief that way.  I've known Dom for a number of years, so it was cool getting a chance to adventure with him in the depths of the Underdark, something we have never done together at this point.


I would love to play more D&D with all of these people, perhaps introducing them to my campaign world at some point.  We shall have to see what this fall brings.

As always, be sure to leave comments, and be sure to follow me on Twitter @artificeralf

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