D&D Encounters, First Glance


Sarah Darkmagic - Posted on 18 March 2010

Last night was a night of many firsts. Beyond the obvious first night of D&D Encounters, it was the first time I played with strangers (or even outside my normal group), the first time I played in an RPGA event and the first time I played a 4e first-level character. Overall, pretty crazy stuff for me, especially since I decided to go after I was already at work. This meant that I didn't have any of my books with me, or anything else for that matter, including my dice. During lunch, I quickly created a Wilden Seeker using the Character Builder. Then I went to Your Move Games in Davis Square, Somerville, after work to give this whole gaming in public thing a try.

The truth is, I liked it. I don't want to give too much away because I know there are people who are going to play this session who haven't yet, but overall I think it was a pretty good experience. More people came than could be accommodated at the 7 pm game. Most of the group regularly plays together in the Living Forgotten Realms series, they were friendly to the two strangers in their midst. While there are some things I wished the DM did slightly differently, that's just life. However, it did show me just how important it is to have the initiative order displayed so everyone can see it. As the bad guys were taken out, it became harder and harder for me to remember when my turn was coming up.

As for the Encounters series itself, there were a couple issues I had with the first session. First, it starts in a tavern. I know, I know, there is a long history behind this. But nothing is more awkward to players than trying to figure out the social dynamics of a tavern. No one in our group really wanted to be the first person to go forth and get things started, which made that first part drag a bit.

While I really like the idea of the twitter stuff, I found it hard to keep up on it. It might make sense for each table or location to appoint one twitter person to follow @Wizards_DnD to get the special game buffs during play. Another idea would be to turn on texts for that twitter account during the game, but since it seems that the account is also used to post responses to questions during the game and I don't have unlimited text messaging, that might not work well for me.

Also, the renown points system is pretty cool and people who got 10 or more during the first session received a buff to use at future sessions. The one given out last night gives you a once per session reroll of a failed saving throw. It sounds like more of these will be handed out in the future and only one will be applicable to any particular session, which means players who play a lot of sessions might get better buffs, but they won't be a ton cooler than a new person at the table.

I'm still not sure how they are going to handle a bunch of in game elements. For instance, if I can't show up for two weeks, how will they handle dailies and action points? Similarly, if I expend those on my current character and decide to come the next week with a different character, does that mean I have the new character's dailies and action point available to me. It may seem silly to create a new character every week but it's incredibly easy with character builder and right now, all I would be missing is a little gold. I think some of the characters from last night's game may die before the end of the season, if only because we probably won't be taking an extended rest before we get to our first objective and they went down a bunch.

Overall, it was great to be a player for the first time in a while and I think people should definitely give them a try. It's a great excuse to try new classes and races and to meet some new people. And I really hope they make the season available afterwards, hopefully as pdfs. I think there might be some really good DM wisdom contained in the pages, such how to scale the adventure, dealing with inconsistent groups, etc.

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Man I am so sad that I missed this. I hope I can make up for it at PAX.

I am running the D&D Encounter for my local store (Tyche's Games in Athens, GA) and the first session went fairly well (even with only three then four then three players). The advice for the DM is pretty good for the dealing with the 'rotating cast' issue but we will have to see how it works out in play.

Sarah, I'm a D&D Encounters DM, and the adventure makes specific recommendations for how to handle missing players and/or playing with a group that changes every week. It's really not a big deal if you miss a few weeks.

It seems that Wizards has really thought this program through.

I'm really glad to hear that. I hope they release the information after the season is over (or sooner if possible). It would help me a ton in my regular game since my players often can't make a particular session.

Send feedback using the contact form or through twitter, @sarahdarkmagic.

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