Tabletop Dungeon Crawl
I had the opportunity this past spring and summer to try out Dungeons and Dragons for the first time. My cousin invited my brother and me to join in a couple tabletop campaigns with him and three of his buddies. I played Neverwinter Nights I & II pretty extensively, as well as Icewind Dale II and one of the Baldur’s Gate games a little bit, so I felt I had a decent understanding of the game and it’s mechanics. Both campaigns used the D&D 3.5 rules, which I’m more used to through NWN II anyway. The campaigns were set up alternate weekends. My brother played a barbarian in the first and a dwarf fighter in the second. I played a rogue in the first and an archer in the second.
The first campaign was more story-driven. The characters were all sailors on a ship in a world where sailing is powered by magic. Clerics use divine spells to control the wind, thus propelling the boats. My rogue carried a rapier, but since I had little familiarity with how to set up the skill points, I ended up being fairly mediocre at my trade. In particular, as Spot and Listen checks are pretty much useless in games like Neverwinter Nights, I didn’t put any points into them. After suffering the embarrassment of constant failed checks, I put all of my points into Spot at next level and made hearing problems part of his character from there on out in the story. Our characters were quickly built and so not thoroughly researched or thought out. But it was fun. I got kudos from the more experienced gamers in the group by using a fishing net to catch an enemy with Greater Invisibility who’d been tearing us up pretty bad.
The second campaign had minimal plot or story, but was set up as an excuse to play around with level 20 characters. My brother built a dwarf fighter with a spiked chain as a weapon, who had the ability to ‘attack of opportunity’ enemies twice before they could reach him in melee combat. Mine was a combat sniper using a fighter, rather than the traditional ranger build. (It was kind of funny when I had to assure the party’s paladin that I was a combat sniper rather than an assassin. He admitted that it was an important distinction.) I gave my sniper all of the fighter-exclusive longbow and ranged-combat feats that I could find as well as feats to increase stealthiness and awareness. Interestingly, none of the more experienced players had ever experimented with a fighter-archer build. I think I created a certain respect for the build when I wiped out a third of a group of mid-level NPCs in the surprise round.
Both campaigns broke up after a little over five months, due to my cousin needing to get ready for his upcoming wedding and personnel conflicts between a couple of the other players. It was fun, though, and I’d do it again given the opportunity. The strategy in character builds as well as the combat held the most appeal for both my brother and me. I think my brother’s only real issue was the role-playing aspect of it. I think he felt silly trying to get into character. Having had experience in drama and theater, however, I had a lot more fun getting into my character—even adopting a pseudo-Aussie accent for my sniper.
(I’ve looked at some of the rules to D&D 4.0, and I honestly didn’t like it. The combat in particular fees like it caters too much to MMO fans in how it breaks classes down into tank, support, and damage rolls. A: I feel like this limits the scope of how battles can and should function. B: Not having one or more of these rolls filled shouldn’t cripple your ability to function as a party.)