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View Full Version : [Tournament Games] Anyone have good experiences of them?



Kiero
2008-11-30, 07:14 AM
The worst roleplaying experience of my entire life was in a tournament game run by TSR in what must have been about 1995 or so. It might even be the root cause of some of my dissatisfaction with the traditional GM/player split, and is certainly something I often channel when talking about it. I had never played one before, and have never played one since. This is the only time I'll recount the entire sordid tale.

Summary: tournament AD&D 2e game, running through a module in a limited timeframe. This one experience managed to combine railroad with pixelbitch, culminating in two hours of real time spent looking for a secret door we knew was there, because it was the only exit.

Long form: Back at school my regular group were asked to represent our school at an inter-schools AD&D (2e) tournament run by TSR over in Cherry Hinton. Obviously in the days when they still existed as a going concern. Obviously being active gamers at the time, we were chuffed to be doing this with the school's blessing. If I miss particular details, blame it on my memory, I don't remember a lot of my early gaming.

Come the day of the tournament (a Sunday I think) we roll up to a school near their offices and the hall is laid out with many tables surrounded by chairs. We get introduced to our GM and get settled.

Now I must clarify this from the off. The GM was an alright kind of guy, I don't entirely blame him for what happened. I think he was genuinely caught in a bind by the situation he was in. They were probably briefed quite thoroughly on trying to keep things "fair" from table-to-table so had to be strict in their interpretation of things. Given it was run from a module (again no doubt to make things "equal") things were already heading in a certain narrowly-defined direction.

Anyway we get our character sheets, and I notice they've added up the bonuses for my paladin character wrong. I was often the GM and I had an eye for this kind of thing at the time (because I was often the GM, I was also made party leader by the others). I point the error out to the GM, but he doesn't feel comfortable changing it to the correct value because, well, the mistake is the same for everyone. One of my magic items is a folding boat, which is the subject of an amusing story later.

We get started, it's a standard dungeon crawl module. Some McGuffin or other we have to find down there for some reason or other. By this point we'd pretty much stopped playing dungeon crawls in our regular session, having grown bored of the dynamic. So we weren't exactly in peak dungeon-bashing form. An hour or two of mapping and room clearance later, and we're stuck.

We've cleared out all of the most apparent rooms on the level, but there doesn't seem to be a way to continue. The thief and the elven character get to work looking for secret doors. In every room. By sheer process of elimination and scrutinising the map, we work out the only place it could be. So we search this room. Nothing. We search it again. Nothing.

We know the secret door is in here somewhere. There is nowhere else to go - we can't leave the dungeon because we'll fail the game. I don't think the world existed outside the dungeon anyway. We can't go on until we find this door. So we keep on trying different suggestions and different spins on the words, spells, magic items, the lot. For. Two. Hours. I don't even remember what it was that eventually opened this door, or perhaps that the GM finally rolled what he had to behind the screen.

After that I think we'd hit a stage of not really caring how the game went. Sure school pride was on the line, but we'd gone past frustration point. The door leads to a passage and then some steps going down to a cavern and underground river. Aha! Finally something we can do perhaps. In my exuberance that we're finally going somewhere, I shout out "Yay, [command word for the folding boat]!" GM rules that my character said the command word, and thus the boat opens up in my pack, knocking me off the stairs. Result of which I lose almost all my hit points, as well as looking like a complete [email protected] Needless to say no one was happy with that ruling, especially after the pixelbitch from hell.

I don't remember much else that happened, but we didn't get much further after that. We didn't win, I think we may even have come last. But apparently the GM said we were one of the more fun groups he'd run the game for. We just weren't disciplined enough for that style of game I guess.

Looking back on that experience, it was everything I wouldn't want in a game. A GM with an agenda other than "create the most fun for everyone at the table". A railroaded adventure where you had no options but to stay the course. A pixelbitching One True Solution puzzle which held up the entire game until you solved it (I hate puzzles to this day). Some bizarre interpretations of what's going on at the table (the folding boat debacle). And no means whatsoever for the players to make their ideas count, nor take any kind of control of the game besides what their characters did.

There were no issues of problem players or anything like that, because it was me and my regular group. Though perhaps in other tournaments where groups might be pickup types you could get that thrown into the mix.

So to get onto the title topic, has anyone ever enjoyed a tournament module? Has anyone else had experiences that matched my own?

The Glyphstone
2008-11-30, 07:27 AM
Not my experience, but I remember from the DM Horror Story thread a story about a tournament DM who, ten minutes into the "adventure", killed the players with a dozen wyrm dragons so that he could spend the next four hours enjoying the convention they were at.

UserClone
2008-11-30, 07:40 AM
Glyph, the way I heard it, the GM put them all in a room with every monster that can turn you to stone (Medusa, Gorgon, Catoblepas, Cockatrice, etc).

The Glyphstone
2008-11-30, 07:42 AM
Hm. Maybe the story just mutated, or maybe my memory's wrong, or maybe (shudder) it happened to two different people...

arguskos
2008-11-30, 07:45 AM
Is it sad that I've had both experiences you guys mentioned (the wyrms and the petrification) with different DM's? And as a note, I managed to live through both of them (until DM fiat killed me off). I survived the wyrms by sacrificing my courage, and teleporting the hell out of there. I actually managed to nuke the petrification room until everything in it died horrible deaths (including the rest of the party, which was entirely petrified). Note that these weren't tournament games, the DM was just pissy. :smallannoyed:

Also, on topic, I played in a single tournament game, found it FAR too railroady for my taste, and managed to get us wildly off course. The DM said that it was an awesomely fun time, even though we were the worst group at the event. :smallwink:

NINJAEDIT: Also, Kiero, man... I feel terrible for you. You have my sympathies. I've heard horrible things about most tournament games, and so tend to avoid them whenever I can.

Kiero
2008-11-30, 07:52 AM
Also, on topic, I played in a single tournament game, found it FAR too railroady for my taste, and managed to get us wildly off course. The DM said that it was an awesomely fun time, even though we were the worst group at the event. :smallwink:

The GM in the game I described said as much afterwards, as well. We didn't get very far, but he did think we were a lot of fun.


NINJAEDIT: Also, Kiero, man... I feel terrible for you. You have my sympathies. I've heard horrible things about most tournament games, and so tend to avoid them whenever I can.

It was a long time ago. I've never played in a tournament since, and can't say I'm really interested in doing so either.

Kurald Galain
2008-11-30, 08:20 AM
Although I don't have any really bad experiences, I do concur that most tournaments (at least, all those I've been to) are both heavily railroaded and very much forgettable afterwards, so that I found them quite boring and it didn't take me long to quit going to tournaments.

One thing I recall was a stupid voting system, wherein players had to vote which of them would go to the next round. This generally meant that either people voted for their friends, so that those who came to the tourney alone simply didn't pass; or it meant that players who considered themselves "strong" would vote for weak players because they didn't want to vote for the competition.

I also note that (at least in my experience) tourneys tend to attract (or perhaps create) the kind of DM that disallows everything that isn't written down in the script. The stupidest case I recall was where another player and I, after a first round, ended up in possession of a boat; and then in the second round, the script involved a boat, so the two of us suggested that we use ours. Note that this involved no captain NPCs, rental fees, or anything else, in other words it wouldn't have made any difference at all and nevertheless the DM opted to discuss for about twenty minutes why we were not allowed to use our boat.

elliott20
2008-11-30, 08:48 AM
I never understood tournament games. I mean, what is the basis for judgment? Time? really? Not roleplaying prowess? Not game fun factor? TIME? Are the tournament guys trying to say that the best games are not the games where people have fun, but are the games where the players are the most efficient at running through a pre-gen module that they could have read and studied before hand?

Kiero
2008-11-30, 08:52 AM
I never understood tournament games. I mean, what is the basis for judgment? Time? really? Not roleplaying prowess? Not game fun factor? TIME? Are the tournament guys trying to say that the best games are not the games where people have fun, but are the games where the players are the most efficient at running through a pre-gen module that they could have read and studied before hand?

In this instance, I think they were modules written specifically for the tournament, and kept secret up to that point. So like an examination, you couldn't prepare by reading through the script beforehand.

elliott20
2008-11-30, 09:00 AM
I suppose. But even then, that doesn't strike me as a very good measuring stick for roleplaying, more like a good measuring stick for team tactics.

Kiero
2008-11-30, 09:01 AM
I suppose. But even then, that doesn't strike me as a very good measuring stick for roleplaying, more like a good measuring stick for team tactics.

I don't think they were interested in "roleplaying", to be honest. I think it was about measure team tactics, given the prizes went to the group that got the furthest through the module.

I think we came last. :smallredface:

Kurald Galain
2008-11-30, 09:02 AM
I suppose. But even then, that doesn't strike me as a very good measuring stick for roleplaying, more like a good measuring stick for team tactics.

That's true. Frankly, the whole concept of an "RPG tournament" is silly, and a contradiction in terms. If it's not a time limit, they'll measure progress either by player vote, or by setting some arbitrary story goals (like "befriended NPC A", "did not kill monster B" and so forth).