Manda’s Game

25 January, 2012

GG Season 4 is starting in a few weeks, but in the meantime I’m dropping in on Manda’s game. The idea would be that it would be nice to have an experienced player along.

I’m not 100% sure it’s working out well. On a few levels.

First, she is running Age of Worms, which I have DM’ed in the past. So I have to be careful to not give the game away. But this means that I can’t really play the game fully.

She has a table of new players and one copy of the pathfinder rules. This means you have new players playing spell casters, which is always a bad idea but there’s no help for it, really. After last week, however, I think that you are better off with a party of fighters and one rogue than a balanced party played by newbies. Just so long as the DM gives the party a wand of Cure Light that’s been finessed so that UMD is not an issue.

Compounding the spellcaster issue is that the standard character sheet provides these annoying, bitsy little boxes for your spells. Paizo ought to take the spell casting slots off the standard character sheet and release supplemental sheets for the various spell casting classes. Something that makes the distinction between prepared spells and your spell book clear.

What else? My character is a bard – which is supposed to be good at low levels and a good 5th wheel. But my character was useless in the big fight of the night – tieflings with Darkness. My habit of playing DMs pet is also not going down well. I don’t think the person stuck with the cleric wants to be a cleric.

And it’s noisy. I think that bothers me more than other people – I don’t cope will with noise.

So. If I was attempting to run Age of Worms with a table of new players, what would I do?

Core rules only
Manda is doing this, and I agree that it’s the right way to go.
I would not run Age of Worms.
It’s 3.5, not pathfinder, and that means continual rule modifications every step of the way. If I am using Pathfinder, I’d run a campaign written for pathfinder. It would be terribly nice of Paizo to update AoW.

No spellcasting for newbie players.
Everyone starts as a fighter, barbarian, ranger or rogue. You can start taking caster levels after the first module, or just build a new character from scratch. Sorcerer rather than Wizard, unless the player can explain in their own words how spell books and spell slots work.
Free Wand of Cure Light to start with
I think it’s on the ranger spell list, or the Rogue can use it. Or just make it a special one-off that anyone can use without UMD. Or a “charges per day” special item.
No goddamn animal companions
Unless the player is competent to manage the other stat block and to play the companion as an animal. Rangers do not have a telepathic link with their companion.
Spellcasters have a copy of the descriptions of their spells
Self explanatory. Even experienced players can be guilty of not knowing what their spells do
Ties in with the above. It calculates, manages prepared spells vs spell books, and gives you a summary of the effect. I (sigh) just cannot get it working with the new at a sets, but for core rules it’s perfect.

Yeah – looking back on what I have written, the spell thing is the major issue. And it’s not an incidental part of the game, either. But for newbies: Fighter, Barbarian, Ranger and Rogue. Maybe sorcerer, but they suck at low levels. Be generous with magic items, but talk them up. Make magic, well, magical. A low-magic environment would be a good way to go.

And finally: I was ok first week. Sucked second week. If I suck next time I play with this group, or even seriously start to suck, if I were Manda I’d kick me out.