I tried Living Forgotten Realms today. It was pretty fun, actually. Short-form explanation: you write up a D&D character, and you sign up for an event — there are two public regular nights here in the Boston area, and each night so far has had at least two modules — and you go down and play with whoever else signed up and the DM, and at the end of the night you and the DM record your progression and then you can do it again the next week, or two weeks from now, or at a con. Whatever.
Pros: no pressure at all. You play when you wanna. Tired of the wizard? Swap to the fighter. Nice casual environment. Meet new people. All the modules are Wizards-approved.
Cons: Not super-heavy on the roleplay. Meet new people. All the modules are Wizards-approved.
I wouldn’t want it as my sole gaming outlet, maybe, but I had a good time and I expect I’ll do more. We had a great GM, who did an excellent job of keeping things moving and who knew the rules well. He handled skill challenges nicely; when we needed a push on appropriate skills, we used ’em, and he was fair about arbitrating other skills we could use.
I got stepped on once or twice when I busted out a bit of clerical roleplay and someone else wanted to make the roll due to a higher bonus, but c’est la vie. From an in character perspective, I think Alesk (oooh, a character sheet) did the talking on those occasions no matter who made the roll, so nyah.
The module was solid. I was wondering how these get built for random groups. Simple setup: “you all got notes requesting your presence at a meeting,” and we all went and met each other, and there was no angst about whether or not we were going to work together. I think the rogues got to show their sinister sides and my cleric got to be all holy and we acknowledged imperfect compatibility without letting it get in the way. Probably not the greatest start for an ongoing campaign, but for six people scheduled to work together for a few days? Worked fine.
The GM framed competently. He wasn’t shy about asking for skill rolls and providing hints, both out of combat and in combat. I think the modules encourage that as well, but the little touches like allowing us to roll Arcana to intuit that Sleep wasn’t going to work on the statue trap was good; saved people from feeling silly for using their big powers poorly. And nudging us gently towards the right places as we progressed towards the crypt was nice too. I didn’t feel railroaded into a specific way of handling a certain pack of guards, but I do feel like we were offered some possible smart ideas. None of which we took! And we still got past ’em.
I pretty much liked the table. I spent a few minutes pre-game chatting about the irksomeness of trying to get Zul’Aman bear mounts with the one couple, and one guy brought his kid along for some D&D exposure, and everyone was cool with that and super-helpful to the kid. Definitely varying degrees of game expertise, but I’m not gonna judge when I kept forgetting my bonuses to hit.
Also I got a +1 Holy Symbol of Life. And I suspect there’s a shortage of healers. So I gotta play again…