I've had to cut back on a lot of my gaming recently. Some of it was because of school and some of it was just because I wasn't having as much fun as I used to. I was in a weekly game that traded off GMs and it was just "meh" for me. I liked the GM and the players, but it was just too complicated for me and the whole affair seemed more like an obligation than recreation.
Right off the bat.....I'm not "dissing" the GM or the game. The GMs had their own game worlds and a whole slew of new rules. While I actively encourage GMs to play the game they (and their players) want, I prefer to stick as close to by-the-book as possible. Since I do occasionally get to playtest and I do a decent amount of convention work, I find the RAW (rules as written) to be quite comforting. If a GM wants to use a bunch of new rules, go for it...but make it as transparent for me as possible.
Of course this whole thing is kind of amusing when you compare it to playtesting, since we are essentially talking about two sides of the same coin. The thing is usually when we playtest, we aren't simply slipping in new rules to a current game, but having a dedicated session where we are specifically going out of our way to test new rules. The former feels much more chaotic than the latter, which is easily dismissed as an aside. When my PC gets killed from some bad rules in a "regular" session with slipped-in playtest rules I feel a bit cheated. If it gets killed during a dedicated playtest he's usually dead just for that session. At that point I need to see if I should run that last bit again or try and see if I can try out a different PC to get under the hood of the rules mechanics.
So I've cut back to my once-a-week home game for the most part. I'm in a rather slow play-by-post forum game and another that has gone on an unexpected hiatus. Essentially I have to get my gaming fix on Sunday nights. My wife Carolyn is our GM and we have a rather small group:
- My Dwarven Fighter Balen (pictured above), 5th level
- Human Fighter Falladar
- Elven Ranger Ginger
- Human Caregiver Cleric Tacane
By my count we have a strong fighter, an average fighter, a weak fighter, and a non-fighter, which is the party make-up in the order given above. Of course my PC is highly specialized in one weapon, the average fighter has a vast array of weapons he chooses from, and the weak fighter has a ton of skills. The cleric holds us all together.
As an aside....if you live in Boise and like HackMaster we could probably use a thief in the group.....
My characterizations about my PC might seem a little biased, but Balen is my once-in-a-lifetime PC. His stats were too good to be true so he generally has an edge over similarly leveled PCs. Our illustrious GM thinks she has to compensate for his überness, but since we are generally an under-powered group to begin with, I think we can manage.
Well, until we encounter some traps. Traps screw us up completely. Locked doors and chests....usually nothing a good application of the proper tools can't handle. Spiked pits and those &^#%$@ ankle-grabber traps.....totally boned. I easily recall one trap that had my PC hobbled for most of the adventure, giving me a movement rate of 1 foot per second.
Despite the lack of a proper thief in the group we do manage well enough. In the last couple of sessions we've had some interesting encounters. Last night Balen almost got ToP'd (threshold of pain-basically dropped from the shock of a wicked blow) from an initial blow from a half-hobgoblin. In the matter of a few seconds the party had lost about a third of all available hit points. Things were pretty bleak for a bit there. A week or two ago we were essentially a die roll away from a TPK (total party kill).
When things like this come up and we manage to overcome.....those are the best game sessions.