Let us begin with the Rod of Wonder. I first came across this bizarre magic item in my first campaign in the first few levels of play. It was given to us as a gift by the Demigod Zagyg, a new entry into the pantheon of the DM’s world. My guess he was added in via the untimely demise Gary Gygax the week before, or it could have just been a total coincidence. Back to the story, the Rod of Wonder seemed impressive at first because Zagyg showed you could duplicate the effect of a Lightning Bolt, and the Rod could be used over and over again without weakening its magic.
However, the Lightning Bolt only happens 10% of the time, while the other 90% of the time it creates completely random results. You see, the Rod of Wonder is an item based around dice rolling. Activate the Rod, roll percentile dice, and see what happens. Sure you could strike somebody with that Lightning Bolt or maybe even a Fireball, but you also run the risk of Enlarging the target, grow grass around them or even turn yourself to stone. Not only that, the effect you get could be entirely different than what you seek, and you may unintentionally hinder and/or harm your allies in the process.
Back to the story, one of our PCs loved the Rod, and I must admit it has merit in low levels, because it creates magical effects you cannot make otherwise. However, as use of the Rod continued I realized the negative aspects of the Rod, and came to loathe whenever it was brought out. Use of the Rod disappeared when better player options came under way, and it was mostly forgotten until my PC died and my new PC gained the power to call upon the effect of a Rod of Wonder at will (being the first Cleric to Zagyg has its benefits). I steered away from using it as much as I could, even in situations where I could really do nothing else, because I didn’t want to cause something wretched to happen.
The DM tried to customize it with other features, even lowering the possibility of something bad happening, but I still hated it and outright said as such to the DM’s face. I’m sure he took that very personally, but there really isn’t much more to be said about something I had no control over (and therefore underpowered to what powers the other PCs got). The story ends badly sometime after that, with the DM kicking me out of the game due to outbursts I had, and some continued behavior on my part I wish I could take back. It could be said there was misconduct on their part as well, but that’s beside the point. I know where I erred then as I do now, and it all boils down to a simple word: Acceptance.
And as strange as it sounds, I owe my control, calm and willingness to accept and move on to D&D. It’s taken me awhile to figure out, but I actually get the game now, even if I fail at making something proper for the game (and I’ve had failures alright). There is such a saying in D&D called “let the dice fall where they may,” referring to the core principle of the game. From the DM’s point of view, this refers to accepting what was rolled out before you, rather than ignoring it and deciding what happens. That would be considered another version of Railroading, and nothing kills a game faster than deeming certain rolls are deemed pointless (for good or ill). If the DM is going to state what happens rather than let the game play out, why even play the game?
Just one of the many issues I ran into while playing a game called Exalted GMed by He Who Is An Ass. Yeah, I keep harping on the guy, but a lot of what he did baffles the heck out of me. Case in point with a certain perk he gave to players in the game: dice would be rerolled each time he was given some sort of bribe, be it monetary or sexual. Women had the upper hand over men in that regard, who would flash their breasts to him whenever they didn’t like what was happening on the field, prompting him to reroll those dice (making it fairly obvious which gamers he favored). I was new to the game, and was willing to deal with this otherwise bizarre fancy the GM had as long as we learned and played the game.
Needless to say, that didn’t really happen. There were plenty of opportunities for one or all of us to die, and at each moment a pair of tits would be shown to negate the failure. We weren’t taught much in the form of strategy or PC development, and a GM who apparently knew all the tricks in the book stomped upon us many times because we didn’t build ourselves properly. Hell, we never even learned how fighting worked, and when the big bad boss came round (the mid-boss even), we were quickly shot down…or would be if it weren’t for tits. What should have otherwise been a humiliating defeat to us in which we could have learned from our mistakes and come back prepared instead turned into fifteen minutes of tit flashing.
I suppose there are carnal benefits to enjoy with such a moment, and I can appreciate that, but we certainly weren’t playing a game. There was no excitement or elation at the wins we got, because they were always assured as long as tits were flashing. Without chance of failure, there is no means to gauge the the difference between saving the world vs. blowing your nose. We weren’t allowed to fail, which not only spoiled our gains but destroyed any chance of learning the game so we wouldn’t have to rely on tits, creating an endless loop of flashing. Huh. Now I have to wonder if He Who Is An Ass intended it that way. Moving on…
The most important thing about failure in a D&D game is its inevitability, and downright essentiality to the story of a game. In the end, PC success or failure is the exact same thing. It isn’t about winning, so much as living out the actions of the PCs we supposedly control. Just as in real life, dreams and desires can be wanted, but getting them are entirely out of your control. Sure, you can meddle with the numbers as much as you want, but getting your outcome has more to do with the world than your own work. It feels good to win, I know, but more over to know and accept you will not win. That’s a much more important lesson to learn than about the highs you get from victory. If anything, knowing this makes victory even sweeter. Accepting this will lead to a greater happiness with not only D&D, but how you deal with things in all aspects of life.
Took me a long time to come to grips with this, something which I outright had to face when I was kicked out of my first game. I sought control over something that couldn’t be controlled, leading to an endless cycle of needless frustration in myself and irritation from the rest of the players. Granted, I’m sure they would say it was something else entirely, but that’s what I get when I look back at the situation. The rest is on them and whatever discussions we would have, which will sadly never come to be (far as I know). That’s something I’ve come to accept, along with many other things I couldn’t otherwise deal with before. Thanks be to D&D for that I say.
Now, I still don’t like the Rod of Wonder (imagine that). It’s a random item which has a chance of biting you in the butt more than bringing a smile to your face. In lieu of the multitude of options you could take which you know could bring out a desired effect, why would you choose what is otherwise a non-action and get a random effect? I suppose if you just want to see what happens, go right for it. It would be akin to attacking the nobleman at his royal dinner in front of all his guests. It’s not smart, but hey, let’s see what happens if we take this action. Never been my style, and I don’t think I know a single DM who wishes to run a game that way. I and they could wing it, but it’s a disaster waiting to happen. As it goes.