Much as I take issue with the design decisions of “4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons” as a rules set, I rather enjoy the “Forgotten Realms” campaign setting. “FR” always struck me as the more “mature” campaign setting that
required a bit more cunning and thought than “Greyhawk.” When Wizards of the Coast announced a “Living” campaign version of FR, I hoped it might fill the void left from the soon-to-end “Living Arcanis” campaign. For those that are not familiar with Arcanis, it was very story oriented. In fact, there were entire adventures that had no combat…and they were fun! I had no illusions that the LFR modules’ storyline needed that level of role-playing, but I thought happy thoughts and started playing.
So, my heart filled with hope, I played several Living Forgotten Realms modules at various game stores, conventions and home games. I think I had a total of six or seven under my belt including the three “Weekend in the Realms” modules when I noticed the pattern. Regardless of author, each module had some basic storyline, 2-4 encounters and some wrap-up text. When I say “basic storyline” I mean cliched and simplistic. Kill bandits, rescue a princess or recover/deliver an item. I understand there are a finite number of plots for fantasy games, but at least try to add some spin to the old classics. What story there was merely served to provide some “role-playing” fig leaves to the pre-programmed combat encounters. My game play experience proceeded as follows:
- 15 minutes of story
- 3 hours, 30 minutes of combat or skill challenges
- 15 minutes of story
Nothing against the various DMs that ran the modules. There was simply not much there to work with. I know that WOTC pitches LFR as “fun” and easy to play, without a rigorous storyline that might be a barrier to entry, but they can do much better. Perhaps I suffered through a particularly bad batch of modules, but I doubt it.
Role-playing games are about story. Combat is a component of the story, it adds momentum and risk to the adventure, driving the plot. Concentrating so heavily on the combat of “Dungeons and Dragons” is a disservice to the story and mind-numbing for the players. Endless combat encounters with no story belong in the realm of the pure tactical wargames like “Warhammer,” not in a role-playing game.
I am disappointed that LFR has not met my expectations, more so because Arcanis and “Living Death” managed to put together good role-playing experiences in a 4-hour convention slot module with significantly fewer resources and backing. Poor storylines are not terminal for the campaign, but it is an issue that should be addressed and soon. I will keep playing, hoping that the module quality improves as the campaign matures.
I will let you know how it goes.
Trask, The Last Tyromancer
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