The long-awaited and much hyped PAX East Fourthcore Team Deathmatch Tournament has made its mark on the world. While it did not live up to our wildly ambitious expectations, it has made a lasting impression on all who played.
FTDM Tournaments were born and thrive in the GenCon specific environment. In it, we are able to have a relatively controlled and structured gaming zone, with very specific time slots for very specific games, all players can be pre-planned, and most of the variables nailed down before our first Dungeon Master steps into Indianapolis.
Not so much with PAX East.
PAX East is a video game con; hands down, no question. The tabletop area is almost an afterthought in the grand scheme of things, relegated to the outskirts of the basement next to the carney folk. (Yes, there are carnival-style food vendors inside the building.) D&D is something that the vast majority of people going to PAX have zero interest in, or merely a passing interest into it because they read something or other about it on Penny Arcade. In short, there is a dearth of hardcore D&D fanatics and expert tacticians. There are few elite dungeoneers there, at least few who are interested in testing their skills in the D&D arena, and thus our FTDM Dungeon Masters were faced with too few numbers to run a real, full tournament.
So what did we do all day, anyway? We played FTDM, that's what! Several individual matches were run featuring FTDM regulars C. Steven Ross, Duece DM, and Stephen Chast. We grabbed new players walking by, and poached recruits waiting in the WotC lines. We took the opportunity to show off quick 45-minute matches of 3 players or 4 players per team. Each and every dungeoneer loved it, had a great time, and are even now as we speak are spreading the word of the greatness of Fourthcore Team Deatchmatch!
The lesson learned here is that FTDM "tournaments" need to cater themselves to the audience and the venue, adapting itself to the situation instead of rigidly adhering to arbitrary standards. While a convention such as GenCon, with its massive pool of hardcore Dungeons & Dragons players to choose from, makes an excellent venue for an over the top ladder tournament complete with theatrics and smack talk, venues such as PAX East deserve a more freeform expresion of the FTDM aesthetic, adapted to the hustle and whirling attentions of the participants when they stumble onto our little table after a sea of sensory overload in the expo hall.