On Wednesday you had the opportunity to read Buxtehude’s list of 7 Reasons I Hate Living Forgotten Realms (LFR). Today I present the other side of that argument. I happen to love LFR. I like the modular nature of the games. Knowing that every week it’s a totally self-contained adventure gives me the freedom to play when I can and not sweat it too much when I can’t. There’s certainly enough variety to keep everyone interested, whether LFR is your only D&D outlet or it’s just another game on your D&D dance card.
I deliberately did not weigh in on any of the discussion generated from Wednesday’s article. Instead I wanted to wait until I had my chance to run this article. So for everyone who was hurt or offended by Wednesday’s post or for those who can’t imagine how I can support LFR in any way, shape or form, here are 7 Reasons I Love Living Forgotten Realms.
- Meeting new people
- Testing new characters
- Sharing information
- Learn the rules (and house rules)
- Balanced encounters
- Story Rewards
- Common framework
One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed playing D&D for so many years is because of the people. D&D is a social game. Sure it’s fun to play at your dining room table with a group of close friends, but public-play D&D introduces you to a totally new peer group. Here are other gamers who enjoy D&D. Over the past two years, since I first began playing LFR, I’ve met a lot of people that I would never have met otherwise. Some I game with quite regularly, above and beyond the weekly LFR games at my FLGS. Others still have become part of my close-knit social circle. The decision to play LFR has introduced me to great new friends. I will admit that there are a few folks who play in these public games that exemplify some of the worst gamer stereotypes. However, you have to be willing to accept them or give up LFR. I find that there are so many great people playing LFR that it’s easy to avoid the unwashed masses or the gaming jerks.
I like creating LFR characters that are completely outside of my comfort zone. The great thing about LFR is that there is no obligation to keep playing a character you don’t like. If you wanted to you could play a new character every week. In fact, if you create a new character you can even re-play an adventure you’ve played previously. Whenever new books are released and new classes and races are introduced, I use LFR as my place to try out the new builds. When the RPGA finally loosened the rules and allowed you to create characters above level 1 I was ecstatic. Finally I could create the ultimate character I always wanted to try and didn’t have to start at the ground floor. This change really let me discover some of the best and worst in many classes.
Along the same lines as testing new builds, I find that a lot of the other gamers come up with great character concepts I’d never thought of making myself. I like to see what other people are playing and then decide if I’d ever play that race or class. It’s a lot like going to a restaurant and looking at what everyone else is eating. You don’t have to have the same meal as person to your left, but perhaps on your next visit you’ll give it a try. By watching those around me play Druids, Shamans, Avengers, Invokers and Battleminds, I can safely say I have absolutely no desire to ever play these classes. Seeing these classes in action over multiple sessions gave me a solid understanding of them in real-play scenarios and based on that I’ve made an informed decision.
There’s also another huge upside to seeing other characters in action. I’ve found that many LFR participants love to optimize their PCs. Some of these power-builds are phenomenal. The race/class combs, combined with a few carefully selected feats and items has produced some of the most powerful and awesome characters I’ve even seen in action. Some find this power-gaming aspect of LFR problematic, I find it fascinating. As a power-gamer myself I’m always on the lookout for a new power build, at least until Wizards of the Coast releases an update and gimps it (I’m still sore about the changes to the Daggermaster paragon path).
Looking at what magic items other players have selected or purchased has also been extremely helpful for me. In most home games the DM will ask the players to give them a wish list of magic items. When I’ve been asked to do this I tend to stick with the items I know best. The compendium and Character Builder are full of items that I’ve never heard of. As the number of items continues to grow I’m even less likely to read every description. But LFR gives me a place to see some of these missed items in action. I had no idea what a “Salve of Power” was until I saw it used in an LFR adventure, now two of my characters have it in their inventory. Different people will find their own favourite items when they build characters. By playing with different people I get to see items in play I’d never choose for myself or that I might never have even hear of before.
It wasn’t until I played LFR that I realized I wasn’t following all of the rules correctly. Playing in public games is a great way to see other DMs in action. You can bet that if a DM is running a game for six total strangers that he’s going to make sure he knows what he’s doing. And on the off-chance that he makes a mistake you know that at least three of the other folks at the table will correct him.
I’ve also found that LFR is a great way to learn about other gamer’s house rules. I’ve picked up a few since I began playing LFR and I’ve shared a few of my own with other DMs. Ultimately we’re all there to have a good time and we want to make every D&D experience as good as we can. By sharing tweaks to the rules as written we collectively try and improve D&D.
I’ve also found that by playing LFR I’ve picked up some of the lingo that is perpetuated during public play at my FLGS. Now whenever someone rolls the maximum damage I find myself saying “crit the hard way” an expression I picked up during my LFR experiences.
Putting on my DMs hat, I have to admit that I really like the monster balance during the combat encounters. In my home game I find this is the area of DMing most difficult. I never know if I should add an artillery monster or a brute. Should I add a bunch of minions or leave them out entirely? Knowing that the LFR combat encounters are balanced gives me another resource to go to when I’m stuck or unsure. I’ll admit that on more than one occasion when I need to put together an encounter for my home game I simply “borrow” one from an LFR adventure. There have even been times when I’ve taken an entire LFR adventure, made a few adjustments and then run it as part of my ongoing campaign. I’ve also found that some of the other guys in my group have done this from time-to-time as well.
A while back we wrote about adding favours to treasure bundles. That idea was inspired, in part, by the story awards that accompany almost every LFR adventure. It’s a little something extra that the players get to take away with them after they’ve played LFR. It generally doesn’t have any monetary value, but it can be used as a role-playing catalyst in future games. This is especially true if you play multiple LFR games that are set in the same part of the realms.
Since everyone creates their characters using the same rules it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, you can sit at any LFR game and play. The treasure bundle rules also ensure that even the magic items are more or less balanced. So you don’t have to worry about one player saying that his DM gave him some super powerful magical item that will break the game. He can only have what he found in a treasure bundle of what he could afford to purchase himself. By having this common framework, LFR allows gamers from far and wide to easily play with gamers they’ve never met before and still have fun. In fact this is what GenCon is all about for me. I like knowing that my level 11 character is going to be at pretty much the same power level as your level 11 character.
Since Bauxtehude stopped his LFR list at 7, I figure I should stop mine there as well. There are a lot of other things I like about LFR, but these are the top seven that come to mind. You will surely notice that some of the things I like about LFR are the very things Bauxtehude hates. In that we’ll just have to agree to disagree.
Now that you’ve seen a list of 7 Reasons I Love LFR and 7 Reasons He Hates LFR, where do you fall on this barometer? Are there any big issues we’ve completely overlooked? What would you change about LRF to make it better? What changes would ruin LFR for you? We want to hear more of your comments on LFR in general.