The Bloodstone Disaster, Part 2: The War on Fun

A few weeks later, the game began in earnest. As my job often had me closing on Thursdays, I was present for only parts of H1, H2 and H3, not being able to consistently attend until H4, so my reports will be fragmentary.

But I think they’ll be enough. I’ll speak to the players who attended more of this, and see if I’m missing anything too important.

But for now, here’s what I know.

H1, “Bloodstone Pass,” like the others, was written for what I THINK was 1st Edition, but it kind of doesn’t matter. What matters is what it WASN’T written for, and that, obviously, was 4th Edition D&D.

This would require conversion.
Conversion requires effort.
Yoni did not put nearly enough effort into converting the adventures, and we’ll look into this in greater detail once we get to H4, but for now, the big problem with H1.

BattleSystem.

A mass combat system, designed for use in D&D, I know very little about it, save for the fact that module H1, “Bloodstone Pass,” required use of it. Many of the scenarios in question could only be meaningfully resolved through BattleSystem.

This is a problem, and became the first real sign of Yoni’s limitations as a DM.

A smart Dungeon Master would, say, cut out the mass battles completely, finding ways to scale them down to more personalized combats the characters are directly involved in.

A clever DM would find, or create, a system that simulated mass combat while streamlining the experience. Burns, one of my players and one present for this game, had at one point designed such a system.

Yoni did neither of these things. Instead, he first attempted to run BattleSystem under 4e, an endeavor which bored our players to tears. He then attempted to graft on a number of systems to 4e, in particular, a Warhammer Miniatures conversion… One he never bothered to read himself, and expected his players to explain it to him.

It’s a good thing I was working Thursday nights, because, had I been present, it’s around this time that I would have lead a mutiny.

You might be asking yourself, “Wait, why did he have to do ANY of these things? Why use mass combat at all, if the players weren’t feeling it, and the game couldn’t support it?”

And the answer is quite simple, really.

“Because that’s how the adventure was written.”

Yoni’s views on the Bloodstone Series were as follows: They were among the greatest adventures ever written, and, as a result, had to be treated as holy writ; as canon, in the strictest sense of the term, something to be read and pondered over, but never questioned and, Mima forbid, never altered in any meaningful way.

You’re probably already seeing where the logic in refusing to update modules written nearly 30 years and three editions ago might run into some snags. The way I understand it is, most sessions went more of less as follows.

Players: “We want to do this.”
Yoni: “You can’t.”
Players: “Why not?”
Yoni: “Because what’s actually next is this.”

And then, he would point to the book, and proceed to read off whatever “this” was, including things he probably ought not have been reading, as they were primarily DM-only material.

This meant that roughly nine of the eighteen months the campaign took to play out consisted of listening to Yoni droningly reading off canned exposition.

Anyone who ever made a joke about putting “Detect Boxed Text” on your spell list, I have now found the DM that made this choice worthwhile. Myself, I got a Ring of Dull Exposition, which had a constant Detect Boxed Text effect…

This however meant that we had very little agency- Our characters were who we were told they’d be. We did what the DM said we would do. We went places and wandered about on maps, all to a schedule Yoni had put into place before we’d even begun.

So, I suppose the real question is, if we were all so displeased, why did we keep attending? Partially because it was something to do, but also, because at least three of us, myself included, were waiting for the train wreck. We were waiting for the moment that it all went wrong.

That only happened when Yoni’s train reached its last stop, at the corner of Irony and Justice, that dread station known as Inevitability.

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