At this year’s GenCon I participated in my very first D&D Championship. My team did remarkably well and we advanced to the final round. Unfortunately we did finish in the top three and did not win any prizes. Looking back on my experience with the 2009 D&D Championship I have some feedback for you, and for anyone thinking of participating in this kind of event at future cons.
Having no idea what to expect with this kind of event I decided to do a little bit of homework before hand. Chris Tulach’s article GenCon Indy Approaches! posted on July 13 gave me most of the answers I was looking for.
Although the article provided guidelines for character creation and instructed participants to bring level 2, 3, and 4 versions of their character in case I advanced, it wasn’t clear to me if I should re-equip my character with treasure suitable to his new level or not. This point was clarified for me when I began play in the first round of the Championship. It turned out I could indeed re-equip my PC with new magical items based on his new level between adventures.
Tulach’s article said that “your team is graded on its performance” and “scores will be tabulated” but there was no indication on how the scoring was measured. If my party completed an encounter in five rounds but the party at the next table took nine rounds would we get more points for finishing more quickly? What if my table expended twice the number of healing surges as the next table, would that affect our score in any way? Was completing the entire adventure at the expense of some PCs worth more or less points than only completing three of four encounters and having all the PCs live? Having a better understanding of how the scoring worked would have directly impacted the in-game decision-making.
The biggest complaint I have about the entire D&D Championship was the utter lack of role-playing and the absences of any acknowledgement for trying to make the adventure feel more Eberron.
As much as wanted to win, I’m realistic. I wasn’t naive enough to believe that I’d win the D&D Championship my first year in the tournament. But I was still interested in walking away with some kind of prize. So when I read that “The team with characters judged the most “Eberron” will take home a special prize” I decided to build a character that would stand out as incredibly Eberron. I’d even argue that my character was among the most Eberron in the Championship.
If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to tell you a little bit about my character. I created a Warforged Artificer with the Mark of Making. He awoke on the day of Mourning in Cyre and truly believes that he is Starrin d’Cannith, the house patriarch who supposedly perished during the Mourning. He possesses all of Starrin’s memories, desires, goals and ambitions. Since Warforged cannot have Dragonmarks (or so he believes) he sees this as more proof that he is indeed The Gorgon. He’s been gathering information and house resources from Cyre since the war’s end and has only recently emerged from the mists to find out how his family is managing while he’s been away.
With my focus on making this character extremely Eberron, I gave my PC the feats, skills, powers and items that best supported the background I’d come up with. This made the character less optimized for combat, but incredibly suited for the politics and role-playing generally associated with Eberron.
The absence of opportunities in which to role-play or draw on this background was shameful. The D&D Championship was just a delve dressed up for competitive play. If it was advertised as a delve I wouldn’t have wasted my time with a creative background or character concept. I’d have min/maxed my build in much the same way I did when preparing for the Ultimate Dungeon Delve. I looked forward to role-playing this character and felt very underpowered and inadequate when all we did was combat, combat and more combat. This character was not built for excessive combat and the party suffered because of my shortcomings.
I would like to make the following recommendations for next year’s D&D Championship.
- Provide some guidelines regarding scoring. If players know what actions or objective will yield the most points then they can make more informed in-game decisions.
- Include more skill challenges. On average a party should have one skill challenge for every two combat encounters. This means that an adventure with four encounters should have at minimum one skill challenge.
- If the campaign is going to be set in Eberron then the DMs should have some cursory knowledge of the campaign setting. Especially if there are awards or points available for having the character judged most Eberron.
Overall I did have fun participating in the 2009 D&D Championship at GenCon. Had more information been available before the tournament began I think I would have had a better time and had a much stronger chance of actually winning prizes. Next year, if I participate in the Championship again, I’m going to build two characters: one optimized for role-playing and one optimized for combat. That way I’ll be better prepared when I arrive at GenCon and get the answers that Wizards didn’t feel obligated to publicize before hand.
Sincerely, Derek Myers (Ameron).