Living Forgotten Realms: Too Much Roll-Playing

December 14, 2008 | | Comments 0

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

Forgotten Realms Players Guide

Forgotten Realms Players Guide

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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About the Author: Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.