7 Reasons I Hate Living Forgotten Realms

by Bauxtehude (Liam Gallagher) on September 15, 2010

Living Forgotten Realms (LFR) is a series of organized game-play sanctioned by the RPGA. The “Living” in Living Forgotten Realms represents a framework for D&D games that allows players all over the world to participate in adventures using the same guidelines. Some people love LFR and others hate it. I happen to fall about as far into the hate it camp as you can get. Today I’m going to share 7 reasons I dislike LFR so much. But don’t worry, for those of you who enjoy LFR, Ameron will be providing the flip-side of this discussion on Friday when he provides 7 reasons that he loves LFR.

I originally wanted to call this article “Why I Hate Living Forgotten Realms: A Terrible Culture of Play” but I thought that might be too inflammatory. I also though it might lead some readers to believe that I’m suggesting everyone abandon LFR, which is absolutely not the case. This article is based on my personal experiences with LFR. It’s “Why I Hate LFR” and not “Why You Should Hate LFR” so keep that in mind when you leave your comments.

1. Mandatory Dungeon Mastering

In order to play LFR everyone must take a turn at being the Dungeon Master. You’re expected to DM at least one game for every six games you join as a player. As a result people who cannot and do not want to DM are forced to do so if they want to keep playing at their FLGS. Forcing anyone to DM just so that they can play again is not a good enough motivation. As a result there are too many examples of mediocre DMs putting together halfhearted LFR adventures with the only goal being to get it over with. As new players climb the ranks and have to DM themselves, they take after the DMs who came before them. Being the DM in a public game for strangers is the most challenging thing you will do as a DM. But beyond needing the chops to do it, a person needs to want to do it. If you don’t want to run the game, I don’t want to play it.

2. No Cohesive Plotline

The adventures in LFR are often called modules or mods because they are modular. While this modular approach works for lamps who don’t care which light bulb is in the socket, this same approach does not work for my character. You cannot place him in any city with any group of adventurers fighting some unpronounced bane of someone’s existence. Eventually he gets a spinning feeling and the impression that he’s lost. Each time I play Wardell Greenfeather, the Kenku Bard, he wakes up in some bar in some city or town he’s never been to or ever heard of with absolutely no memory of how he got there. He finds himself surrounded by five homicidal maniacs (very possibly serial killers) who he immediately befriends and joins ranks to make an adventuring party. In these circumstances, of course player introductions and an attempt to reconcile each character’s back-story seems trite. After all you have a lot of opposition to contest within these absurd circumstances. Unfortunately you’re usually forced to just forget it, especially if you’re at an oh-so-common table where people just want to kill things and roll lots of dice all night.

3. Tragically Bad Adventures

Getting the party together in the first place often requires the DM to wave his magic wand. For me this sets the bar low right off the bat, and then the adventure proceeds to limbo right under it. I have played countless adventures where, from the onset, I just didn’t care for the plotline at all. Nothing was interesting about it because I had no idea where I was or who the people around me were. The adventures seldom make more than a passing mention of where the adventure is actually supposed to take place. From my memory I can only recall that one was set on an island where there was a forest, another in a port on some body of water that was never described, while another was near a mine. What a thrilling backdrop for the epic adventure that will unfold before us over the next four hours.

At some point in the first five minutes of play the NPC who offers you the job or assigns you the mission (which you of course have to accept without question or the game is over before it begins) is unlikable. Inevitably this person is the mayor, the owner of a bar, a wealthy patron, or some form of shady figure. “Do this thing, get that McGuffin” and after the tired fantasy trope is dragged out of the stable to plow that infertile ground one last time in its life, it’s time be rewarded with six identical magic swords. Why are monsters always flipping out and doing stupid things to anger the locals? Some of those things have an Intelligence score of, like, 16 or more. If you need creatures to fight there are plenty of motivations you could supply them with but it’s always destroy the town, city, country or world. I can’t believe that saving the world was made boring.

4. Treasure Bundles

“In the golden gilded chest you find seven different bundles with treasure enough for everyone in the party. Provided that each of you only take one, and the number of each bundle in the chest depends upon how many of each bundle each of you want to take.” says the DM. I admit that the treasure bundles are, even though an extremely graceless one, a logistical solution to the problem of handing out loot. It’s a method of insuring that the people around you don’t selfishly take from your character what they worked to earn. A big problem with this system of awarding treasure (beyond the fact that in-game they make no damned sense) is that there are circumstance where people are only playing an adventure because they want one of the bundles that’s offered. I’ve even played with some people who play the same adventure again to get a different item from one of the bundles. As a DM I am appalled by this kind of meta game playing. This person is playing an over arching looting game and not the adventure at all.

Why bother? None of the treasure is real anyways. Just write it down on your sheet if you want the item so bad. No one will ever notice or care, and even if you do meet someone who takes note, so few people actually have the wherewithal to call you on your fraudulent book keeping. Just write down that you have a billion gold, it’s free. No one will ever know or care.

5. Boring and Over-Emphasized Combat Encounters

Three combat encounters in four hours of play is a challenge even for groups whose rounds roll like a well-oiled machine. People who play LFR seem to love combat, and why wouldn’t you? If you take out any possibility for character development and you stick people in painfully rehashed scenarios then what is there left for them to do? Characters are viewed as nothing more than a lump of stats with powers. So when the PCs are forced to start combat by placing their minis on one of the squares labeled “PCS START HERE” in a room that’s supposed to be a theatre with no windows, only one door, no raised stage or seats… it is considered completely acceptable game design. I feel bad for fighting the criminals who are operating in this city. They’ve obviously been robbing people with absolutely no spatial awareness and as such have become lazy in the interim. The people of this town don’t need heroes, they need a metal health institute. There’s no backstage, there’s nowhere for the audience to sit, there’s no place to hang lights, place props or even take tickets. Every set would have to be carried in piece by piece through the five-foot wide door and assembled inside, in total darkness. Awesome.

I’m just not interested in rolling dice, generating and comparing numbers until a number that represents the life of an ill-defined assailant is reduced to zero. I need to know that each and every fight is meaningful or for some greater goal in order to fight it. I’m not interested in gaining xp so that my character’s level goes up so that he can get a new power that generates larger numbers to be used against another stat block that has higher numbers than the stat blocks I used to compare numbers against.

6. Formulaic and Forced Skill Challenges

The claim that fourth edition doesn’t allow for role-playing is incorrect. Skill challenges were introduced as a game mechanic to help DMs understand how to structure a non-combative (or extrapolated combative) situation in a similar manner to a combat encounter insofar as skills and DCs are used and experience is gained. In LFR any amount of time that could have once been invested in role-playing is totally extrapolated into skill challenges that boggle my mind. Some skill challenges have taken what would have been the most interesting part of the adventure and reduce them to the DM saying “Who has Nature? Ok, roll it” and then they read off the read aloud text from the adventure. That’s clearly not the way to run a skill challenge but I digress. I have been in LFR games where the DM simply skipped the skill challenge because she didn’t like them. Fine, that’s better than dragging a dead horse through the mud, I guess.

Other times the skill challenge is actually about something that no one cares about. The “let’s walk through the woods” skill challenge is an excellent example. The epic feel of the adventure is lost when you force Grull’than the Half-orc Barbarian to roll Perception to make sure he doesn’t step of thistles or get lost. “Why don’t we just spend the 12 silver pieces it costs to hire a guide from town to take us there?” asks Grull’than. Because there is a skill challenge here in the adventure and you’re going to like it. Once in a LFR skill challenge I was actually sent to buy nails. It’s rough being an adventurer in the Forgotten Realms.

7. LFR Is Not Your Babysitter

Please don’t bring your children to play just because you’re there and you don’t want to hire a babysitter. I am not responsible for your child and you assume incorrectly that others will gladly endure their poor behavior. I have nothing against playing D&D with kids. After all I was a D&D camp councilor all summer. (Read about my camp experiences: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3.) I don’t dislike children, but it is not fair to the rest of the people at the table to force them to endure a 4-hour adventure next to a hyper-active nine-year-old. It is irresponsible to have strangers supervise your child. I am glad your child is learning how to play D&D but until they learn how to play on the same level as the adults they should be playing D&D with people their age or with their family.

With that, I bring my tirade to an end. I realize that this list of sounds really mean and critical. I really don’t like LFR and as such will never have anything to do with it ever again for my sake and yours. For those who enjoy playing LFR, please continue to play. I hope that everyone reading this (on both sides of the argument) get at least a laugh out of this. Be sure to visit Dungeon’s Master on Friday when Ameron shares his “love it” list. Until then, let me know why you hate (or even just dislike) LFR.

Bauxtehude appears courtesy of the Shattered Sea, the home of the Shattere Sea D&D actual play podcast.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Shane September 15, 2010 at 9:29 am

Amen!

2 Tom Allman September 15, 2010 at 9:47 am

Ditto! Having played and DM’ed both, I can say that the D&D Encounters is much better. But, I have access to a weekly campaign. Folks who don’t are sometimes left with little choice.

3 Peter September 15, 2010 at 10:02 am

Well, I’m sorry you feel this way! But I want to point out that some things you talk about here might be local phenomena for you. For example: there’s no rule or guidelines that I know of that say anyone has to DM Living Forgotten Realms..ever. So your local meetup may be coercing you into DMing but it’s not the LFR campaign mandating that. I’ve been DMing weekly at the local meetup for over two years and there are some players who I’ve seen there who have never Dm’d.

Your second point is definitely a legitimate concern. There is something called MyRealms adventures- these are blank adventure templates that Dms are meant to use to create original adventures that fill in the cohesive plotline. For some reason, very few DMs are willing to create their own LFR adventures, though. I think theyre awesome. I manage two Adventuring Companies (formerly three) and create almost all of the adventures for them- one is a Drow house set in the Underdark, and one is a group that travels aboard a riverboat casino all around Faerun- half of the adventures usually take place on board the ship and often focus on the soap-operaseque relationships between the players, or players and NPCs. Yes, it’s still totally LFR. With MyRealms you basically get a session budget of XP and treasure and create whatever adventure you want with that.

Your third point- I’m sorry to say- also a legitimate concern. There are some really great LFR adventures, and there are some that aren’t my thing at all. Once again, I advocate using MyRealms to create the ideal LFR experience and take ownership of the campaign world, but that brings us straight back to your first point about not wanting to DM. :(

I think the rest of your points are good as well. There’s no way to get around the treasure issue just yet (although alternate systems are being discussed right now, especially with item rarity on the horizon). Once again- there’s tools in place to make the Living Realms exactly like you want it to be, (use the MyRealms adventures to create your own skill challenges and encounters) but that won’t help unless someone is willing to create these adventures and Dm them in the first place.

The last point seems like a local issue.

So anyhow- bottom line, I want to say- I think that you are totally right that there are problems, but that here are also tools to make it different- to take control of it. LFR got to be the way it is now because people involved in it have been very set in their ways about how Living Campaigns work. But those people aren’t the final authority.

4 Captain Spud September 15, 2010 at 10:25 am

1. Mandatory DMing: Is this actually a core LFR rule? It’s sure as hell not how it runs at my store. We have one or two people who actually PREFER DMing over playing, and they run all our LFR events (and other organized play days). They like it, and do a good job.

2. Cohesion: This is fair, but isn’t this kind of an inherent assumption of the format? I mean, personally I’d just say that if you’re a hardcore story guy and want an ongoing story that makes sense, **LFR isn’t something you should be doing in the first place**. It isn’t *FOR* you, it’s for the players who just want an evening of punching things. I guess I’d counter this with a challenge: how would you change this assumption while still keeping LFR as a drop-in format? I personally can’t think of a single way to make module-to-module story cohesive without mandating that the same group do stories together in a certain order.

3. Bad, Tropey Adventures: Again, this is down to the format. It’s unfortunate, but you just don’t have that much time in a four-hour time slot to properly embellish the environments and characters. The story writers have to lean on recognizeable tropes so that players instantly understand people and places they see. Complex motivations take more time to properly set up and develop, and you just don’t have time for that in a four-hour gaming slot.

4. Treasure: You aren’t allowed to repeat the same adventure, so those players are cheating.

5. Bizarre Fight Settings: I’d guess that this is because they design encounters to be buildable with dungeon tiles. Players are expected to be able to suspend disbelief a bit and fill in the holes in their heads– sure, these tiles don’t have audience seating on them, but since we’re all pretending anyway, what’s the harm in pretending one more thing and just saying that stuff is all there?

6. Skill Challenges: This goes back to your first complaint– if people are DMing against their will, then it’s not surprising that they’re half-assing the skill challenges. In our group, our DM runs them in a very fluff-heavy manner, approaching it from the “What do you want to do? Ok, make a [check]” perspective instead of a, “Skills are: [X, Y, and Z]. Everybody make checks. Go.” method. LFR is no different from regular D&D on this count: good and bad skill challenges are ENTIRELY down to the DM.

7. Children: Not a problem I’ve run into.

Final thoughts: LFR has a target demographic of players– the fluff-light, “I want to goof around for four hours and kill stuff” players. For players in this group, it’s a lot of fun. For players not in this group, of *course* it’s going to be awful– **you’re not the target audience**. This is true of ANYONE partaking of ANYTHING they aren’t the target audience for– guys watching chick flicks, adults watching NickToons, autistic kids going to raves… whatever.

You approach the article as if LFR could have satisfied you, but fails for reasons X, Y, and Z. I think that’s disingenuous– LFR was *never* going to be fun for a fluff-heavy RPer. Appeasing those players isn’t even one of its objectives. The organizers know their demographic, and do a pretty good job of building experiences that will work *FOR THEM*.

Story-oriented players should be participating in games that are tailored to their preferred experience– long-run games with a consistent DM, a strong story, and opportunities for freeform roleplay. Sure, it would be great if you could also do pickup games, but I just can’t see that ever working out with someone in your player bracket. Even if LFR released modules that had no fighting and were four hours of beautifully-written mystery story, you’d still complain that it doesn’t make sense for these six characters to suddenly know each other at the start and instantly begin working together.

And stuff.

5 Brian September 15, 2010 at 11:14 am

This is interesting, because I can see both sides of the coin here.

The group I game with is completely ok with showing up for mods with no cohesive reason for being where they’re at, and rolling dice, killing monsters, and leveling up. The characters are very two-dimensional (“my character likes beer!”), and play focuses on combat rather than character building and story telling. There is little concern for over-arching plots, and most of them couldn’t point to Cormyr on a map. All well and good, we have fun.

The group I DM for is a bunch of High School kids. I play LFR with them as well, but I try and fill in some blanks for them to make it more of a campaign. For example, they were in place X, when they got a letter from someone in their past (something I had to make up), and one of the “quest cards” (put out by Wizards). The letters pointed them to start looking in either Y or Z area, so they headed to Y. Between X and Y, there are a few countries, so they find adventure along their journey. Thus, the modules have been organized by me, the DM, in a cohesive way; it makes sense that they’re playing this module because they’re travelling through that area on their way to Y (I usually pull out the map to show them). They also have an overarching quest.

As of right now, there are only two “official” quest cards, but I’m planning on making up more quests to help string modules together. That’s where the MyRealms (mentioned above) come in handy. Quest tasks can be completed in published modules (as they are for the “official” quests), while the Quest finale will be a MyRealms.

Before starting as a DM for these kids, my total Living RPG experience was of the former variety (LG/LFR). However, with a little work and imagination (as well as a steady play group), it’s not too difficult to plug the modules together in a way that makes sense. And I’ve actually had fun with that challenge.

I guess the key there is playing with the same group all the time. It’s difficult to get cohesive story if you only play at conventions or gamedays.

6 Bauxtehude September 15, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Hey Peter,

by the sounds of it you’re putting in as much work into LFR as I would to my home game which is exellent. For what it’s worth I’ve really enjoyed playing the D&D Encounters program because it was started up at my FLG by a grop of people who were excited about it and really did their best to make it fun.

LFR seems to have a different culture of play and if that’s fine for them that’s fine. It’s just really not for me. As you have shown there is a lot of potential for LFR, which is likely why I am so frustrated by it in the first place.

If you would care to link MyRealms that would be great. Thanks for the comment.

7 valadil September 15, 2010 at 12:32 pm

I don’t disagree with any of your points, but I’m not sure any of them are fixable. How else would you run a series of standardized, sanctioned adventures?

8 Al September 15, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Like Peter above I agree with you 100% about points 2-6, Point 7 I’ve only had to endure during some Gamedays and point 1 I do believe is a locale phenomena albeit probably quite common.

Another point I’d like to bring up is the design for 4 hour session lengths, although this is quite workable in a house campaign where you can continue next session. Trying to bring 6 people together to tell a whole story through D&D 4e is quite unrealistic, a least bump them up to 6 hrs to have a little breathing room and role play.

I used to play in Living Greyhawk a bit before and for some reason I seemed to have enjoyed it more. Now I hate LFR so much that I won’t play in it even if it is my only source for D&D play. At least I’ve found the encounters format to be more to my liking.

9 Andy September 15, 2010 at 12:42 pm

#2 is the one that ruined it for me.

The meta gaming also drives me crazy where folks seem to see each adventure as a way to get the next crazy magic item so they can go to the next adventure to get the next crazy magic item so they can…

I started going to LFR to see I really wanted to get back into D&D after a 30 year hiatus.

I still go but not as often and now more to DM, since I do enjoying that. Especially running skill challenges but not saying that they are skill challenges. That does screw some folks up!

10 Peter September 15, 2010 at 1:06 pm

You can get the MyRealms adventures from the Wizards.com website.

Take a look though:

https://webapp.wizards.com/download/adventures/MYRE11LFR.zip

I can understand that LFR isn’t for everyone, but culture of play is really defined by people. For content issues, I think in most cases, yeah, you really nailed it..those are real problems. But that’s why I think MyRealms really saves the day. What you found in your Encounters group is.. better people! I had this exact same issue- most of the issues you brought up in the LG era, and I switched to Xendrik Expeditions. and the difference for me was.. a differnt group of people.

Well good gaming anyhow!

11 Neuroglyph September 15, 2010 at 1:58 pm

I wish I could say I disagree with you on most of the points, because I really like the general idea of LFR. But sadly I can’t.

Now admittedly my experience with LFR has been mostly at conventions, and I like playing D&D at conventions! I love meeting new people and the social interaction with gamers and DMs from all over the place. But the best adventures I have played in have not been the official LFR modules – which are pretty much lackluster. I wish they could get the high scoring adventures from the DM’s Challenges they have been running and use those. The two of those I have played in have been really enjoyable – but I’m not sure they qualify as official LFR material.

12 Ryven Cedrylle September 15, 2010 at 2:21 pm

I’m going to agree with Peter on several things, and then add in my own.

Points 3-6 are completely valid in my estimation. In order to encapsulate the D&D experience in four hours or less, you have to interact with as many of the rules as possible as fast as possible. Roleplaying isn’t specific to D&D and there aren’t really strong RP mechanics in the game. It’s something you do over top of the base D&D mechanics, which are skill rolls, combat and looting. A good DM can overcome some of this but good DMing does not equal good game design.

Points 1, 2 and 7, however I think are more representative of your play location. I’m not familiar with the 1-in-6 guideline you mentioned earlier. Check if this is a WotC thing or an FLGS thing.

Plotline cohesion is not necessarily a problem, though I can see how it could be. The LFR circles I run in tend to contain many of the same characters over and over again, so the experience becomes more of a rotating-DM campaign rather than a miscellaneous series of one-offs. Our characters have history together even if the modules themselves are somewhat disjointed and even that can be alleviated with a little forethought in game planning. Admittedly, I do most of my play through MapTool and its forums; that may help a lot.

Finally, the babysitting issue is not really an LFR-specific problem either. If the person whose house a home campaign is being run in has a kid, the same problems can arise. Kids are not conducive to D&D anywhere, unfortunately.

I’m sorry to hear your LFR experiences have been so negative. While I think most people prefer a private campaign to public play in general, I have found LFR to be an enjoyable experience in its own right for what it is. And seriously, check out the MapTool forums (www.rptools.net/forum). There’s a really welcoming community of guys (and a couple gals) who know how to do LFR right.

13 Bauxtehude September 15, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Sorry if any one felt their comment was skipped, I’m a contributing author to the site and not a moderator and as such have little sway on what happens under the hood, until now your comments were hidden from my view. That being said…

@ all – thanks for your comments, I think this is an area of D&D that could use more discussion

@ Captian Spud – The message that the RPGA touts for their living campaigns is a very different one than you do. I’ll agree that your approach is far more pragmatic than their own, but we are along time away from this tag line: “LFR – if you care about story, don’t bother!”. I’ll adopt your pragmatism for the time being and suggest that LFR’s solution is to change to a plot driven format like the encounters program. Why not? Appearently the hack and slash crowd wouldn’t notice anyways and you would still establish that inclusive tone that public play is supposed to be about.

It is my firm belief that when you pander to your audience you only cheat them. You’re better off pushing your authors to produce risky content that is exceptional than to have them churn out the mundane.

@ Brian – Good for you! I’m glad that you’re working with the kids at your school. I have to dissagree with your comment about the troubles with storyline being linked to an ever shiffting player base, and I would like to cite the Encounters program as my exception. With encounters if you shoe up consistantly you get to be part of the storyline, but there are still ins and outs that make sense for new players.

@ valadil – It’s always much harder to nay say than it is to establish a solution, isn’t it? That being said maybe this is an article for another time, but in breif I guess I would attempt that the change has to come from better writing. I think you need to inspire people and get them excited about the adventure because of the quality of its content. You’ll get better results from putting a great mod infront of a bad DM than you will from putting a bad one infront of a bad DM.

@ Al – I agree with your claim about encounter. I feel that it really has a lot more to offer people playing public games than LFR does.

@ Andy – You have my respect. Little by little I am sure you can rasie the bar.

@ Neuroglyph – I love the idea of LFR, but I find actually playing it so frustrating. I think coventions are a better place to play LFR because the level of energy at conventions is ussualy quite high. People are excited to be there! I really wish the RPGA would accept higher quality submissions as well, and I don’t give a damn where they come from!

14 Lucretius September 15, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Not all Living campaigns have to be like this. Look at the late lamented Living Greyhawk: It had complex cohesive plot-lines with a lot of context. Characters could belong to organizations based in the back-plot of the story world. Each physical region of the real-world corresponded to a region of the game-world and was administered by a set of three local volunteers called the Regional Triad. The Triad would coordinate the writing of a series of yearly regional modules that advanced the regional plot-line and sometimes interacted with neighboring regions. You had to physically play regional modules in the part of the real world that corresponded to that region of the game-world. Want to play in a module set in Geoff? You have to play it in Virginia. All of this complexity lead to characters who were firmly rooted into the game world, and players who were invested in their own regions and the regional plot lines. Players would routinely travel hundreds of miles to participate in a particular adventure… not so that they could level their character or get some powerful item, but so that they could affect the plot-line… kill that NPC, help drive an invasion of giants out of a captured city, prevent a given noble from becoming king etc. Players cared about these things because the modules slowly built up a complex history of context and background. Characters routinely chose actions that were not ideal power-gaming choices… why? Because they had reason to! They had allegiances, and loyalties. They belonged to factions and nations.

To be sure there were other aspects of LG that were better than LFR: Modules could never be replayed. Modules were retired after two years to help move the over-arching story along. Most modules were at least passingly part of such an over-arching story. There were sometimes requirements that at least one or all of the players have played one module before the next in the series be played.

15 Al September 15, 2010 at 3:05 pm

LoL, calling LFR mods “fluff light” is like saying that Antarctica is sparsely populated Captain. So if the target demographic for LFR are the “I want to goof around for four hours and kill stuff” players why even bother basing it in LFR at all. Wouldn’t it be simpler just to publish mods with recommended levels.

Aside from using FR locations I never got a sense of the FR world in LFR. What they really should have done was publish adventure paths across a tier or half tier that really gets into the lore of an aspect of FR. Each adventure path would be broken up into chapters or mods telling that story, and once a character gets on the story he doesn’t get off till done, between each chapter it would be possible to lose/gain fellow adventurers along the same path at the same point.

16 Cyrus Duane September 16, 2010 at 7:50 am

My wife and I used to be avid LFR players, back to 2nd edition D&D. The issues you outlined with the current LFR is why we jumped ship over to Pathfinder Society Organized Play, – It’s feels and plays more like the RPGA games we used to love so much.

17 Alphastream September 17, 2010 at 6:24 pm

I have never heard of your #1. While it is a good idea to share DM duties, that is only true if you are capable of performing the task – no one wants a bad DM. Number 7 is very rare. I hardly ever see someone bring kids to the table or drop off young kids. Once every two years?

There are a lot of valid points. As Lucretius mentions, other living campaigns have had a different structure to facilitate better story, better understanding of the plot and setting, and the opportunity to shape the story. The LFR admins promise a better story this quarter and next year as they change tactics. A lot has to do with some ideas they spun that just didn’t pan out (such as the many regions). If you play the MINI campaigns (especially the second one) you really can see what the campaign can accomplish.

18 Daddysauce September 21, 2010 at 3:37 pm

After recently trying LFR at my local game shop, I am afraid I have to agree with most of these points.

I no longer attend, because during my month long stay, the player base (collectively) kept referring to the modules not by name, or even reference designation, but by Choice Loot Available (as in “Run that mod with the Veteran’s Armor”).

Also, the while the players didn’t repeat the same Mod with the same characters in order to get different loots, they DID repeat (incessantly) with different characters and their metagaming these mods pretty much ruined them for me, who had never played any of them. Any dramatic tension that might have built was quickly blown when the player next to me would say “After this ettin, we get an Extended Rest, so be sure to blow your daily. O ya, and we just hand-waved the skill challenges cuz they take too much time and the DM gets bored with the RP.”

YMMV, of course, but as someone without access to a home campaign, I was really hoping for more of a D&D experience than I was presented with. As an aside, I feel I must mention that in my 4 sessions, not ONE of the other characters was referred to in anything resembling roleplay terms, much less a name. I adventured alongside “My 4th lv Cleric”, “My Orc bard” and “My new Chaladin”.

Anyways…. thanks for letting me know I’m not alone in my disappointment. On the positive side, at least our group didn’t have a child at the table. :)

19 Pseckler13 September 21, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Well, that’s disappointing. But these games are only as good as the players involved, and that includes you. I think the DM has a lot of influence too.

Which adventure has an Ettin?

20 Alphastream September 21, 2010 at 8:35 pm

There is one written by Eric Menge with an Ettin. If it was that one, wow, because that is an RP-rich and fantastic adventure.

21 Al September 23, 2010 at 2:24 pm

I said it before and I’ll say it again 4 hrs. is nowhere enough time to run 3-4 encounters with maybe a skill challenge and also expect any semblance of RP or narrative. Add in the factor that you may be playing with strangers and your chances diminish even further because of unfamiliarity between players. I ran Encounters last night and our first session took 2 hrs because I wanted the players to have a chance to RP and explore the setting.

22 CSHunt68 January 25, 2011 at 9:39 am

Wow. Late to the party, here. ;)

To address a comment about the way DMing was run at your FLGS (and I know which one the author is talking about), we didn’t have people who “prefer DMing”. Everyone wanted to play. This is pretty standard in shared campaigns. But, this caused the obvious problem – nobody ever signed up to DM. Plus, we had LOTS of people who had NEVER TRIED DMing. Sorry, but there’s no excuse for that, in my mind. Give it a shot. That’s what I had to FORCE people to do. Some were good, some were bad. The VERY bad ones were never asked to do it again – if I had feed-back about them. Mostly, I never heard from anyone. Most of them were at least reasonable, and there was no excuse for them not to keep trying to develop their DMing skills.

In an ideal world, I would have kept asking the same people to DM over and over again. It’s obvious who the good ones were. They didn’t want to do nothing but judge, so others had to step up. In the real world, nobody did, until I INSISTED. In the real world, had I not insisted, the LFR nights at that FLGS would have died long ago.

In my mind, the real problems are … well, everything else you’ve laid out. LFR stinks, plain and simple. It can’t hold a candle to Living Greyhawk, the old RPGA campaign. I tried to enjoy LFR for two years, and have pretty much now given up. If you still play, and enjoy it, great. Seriously, have a good time. Myself, and many other long-time RPGA folks have hit the end of the line with the organization – such as WotC has permitted its existence, these days, and are now gaming in a variety of systems. I encourage everyone to find systems they like, and not stick with what’s familiar.

Good luck, and good gaming,
Sean

23 Ao March 21, 2011 at 1:02 am

I *hate* LFR. The reasons you give are strong, but they really are just good reasons why one wouldn’t enjoy it. There are a lot of things I don’t enjoy and would never do, but I don’t hate most of those things. I hate LFR b/c of what it is doing to the gaming culture. Obsession with RAW almost to the point of a personality disorder is common today. Whenever anyone suggests home-brewing or house-ruling, the objection is “no that’s pointless b/c of LFR.”

D&D is all about an ongoing story between characters. Going on ‘adventures’ repeatedly with strangers is not only bizarre, it means that you’ve got no common history. It also means that nothing about the adventure is tailored to your backstory. And as more and more people play LFR instead of home games, these really awesome aspects of D&D are lost.

In LFR, nothing matters but mechanical crunch. In my opinion, LFR is NOT d&d, and to the extent that more and more d&d players are playing LFR, d&d is dying.

24 Alphastream March 21, 2011 at 12:23 pm

I think all organized play demands a common interpretation of the rules. If I look at the boards for Shadowrun Missions, for Living Spycraft, for Living Greyhawk, even for Heroes of Rokugan, I see a common thread of gamers trying to find a common interpretation of RPG rules.

The reason for this is that players want to know what they can do reliably. It is very frustrating to have a power/feat/etc. that will be dealt with one way at one table and another way at another. Similarly, DMs want a common interpretation so they can adjudicate with confidence. By tapping into (or even working to establish) the common group mindset, the DM is ruling in a more acceptable manner.

So, I see this all as driven by the players. No campaign admin for any campaign (including LFR) is driving some status on how the War Ring works, for example. If anything, LG was way beyond LFR in adjudication of the rules (look at the banning of Quill Blast). The mindset is driven by DMs and players alike.

What has happened is that the rules are in each edition less and less vague and more and more along common concepts. How Ultravision or Infravision worked was a darn good question in AD&D, as was the concept of scale. Look at 3.5 and 4E and these things are very clear. 4E further builds powers and feats over common frameworks. This makes it much easier to establish a common interpretation and to make an educated guess at what the designers meant. It is only natural to see organized play want to establish common views of RAW. For some players, this will be frustrating: they want their way. For some DMs, they will miss the days when things were completely up to the DM. They are no longer that way. The reality is that any group of players (say, 5 players at an LFR table) will be better at figuring out “truth” than one person (say, the DM at an LFR table). Part of being a good DM in 4E (and in other similarly developed RPGs) is understanding this and honoring this.

I don’t actually see any negative impacts on house rules or gaming culture. My house rules for my Dark Sun home campaign are a bit more numerous than in my previous 3E, 2E, and AD&D home campaigns. I read about house rules all the time on the WotC forums. The same is true with other RPGs I played. I just disagree with your premise here based on what I see and read.

We have talked a lot about LFR’s issues with ongoing story. I will simply say that the new system of far fewer regions and releasing adventures for a few regions at a time (plus with a wider APL play range) is a god-send for ongoing story. You can now easily go to a convention like D&DXP and play 8 rounds where you are in just two regions and dealing with two very tight story arcs. LFR is truly now where I would have liked it to have been at the beginning. If you hate or are unimpressed by LFR, I would caution you to judge it by the actual state of the campaign now vs. two years ago.

I understand where your final statement is coming from, and you can indeed see this at many tables. But, this is true of most RPGs and living campaigns. It is a criticism you can find on Paizo boards, on LG boards, etc. Many players love cheese, love optimizing, and find organized play an easy way to play mechanically. The early emphasis by LFR on creating an easy setting that was light on flavor promoted that style of play. But, that is not what the current LFR campaign is like at all. Mechanical crunch is not what matters in the games I see. If it happens where you play, you should openly talk about this with players and especially with DMs. If I look at any current adventures I see plenty that promotes story and role-playing.

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