D&D Encounters for March, 9

March 10, 2011 at 2:34 pm (Uncategorized)

I played in this weeks D&D Encounter and it was a blast! We had two, very full tables at FTW Games here in Chesterfield VA and the store was packed with folks playing not only D&D but also MtG, 40k and some other games I didn’t recognize. At our table we ended up with six players (three healers, a dragonborn tank, and two mages. The GM and other players were great to game with dispite some problems with the adventure as written.

Let me be sure to say that the problems with the adventure were not the combat encounters. The combat was fun, engageing and challenging. The problem showed up in the RP setup for the game. I would also like to say that these problems were not the GMs fault. The GM ran the adventure as it was written, the problem was that the adventure setup was poorly written.

Now I can get into where I felt the problems lay. The first problem was that the adventure seemed to want to lay out bread crumbs for the PCs to follow rather than handing the players the plot stick. In a situation like D&D Encounters where the whole scenerio is designed to be completed in under two hours, asking the players to walk their characters out the door of the bar (which was the trigger for the real plot giver) is just too much to ask. Once the plot giver (level 10 Dwarf Redshirt) showed up and actualy explained what the PCs needed to do we then wasted time trying to figure out how to keep Sir Redshirt from going with us. I blame the adventure for this. The GM played out the scene over the dead bodies of our fellow settelers just as instructed in the adventure. The problem was that the adventure as written made it seem as though the party needed to convince Sir Redshirt not to leave the safety of the settelment. We all tried rolling against him, we divised plans to knock him unconcious and tie him up, we did everything except give up and move on.

I feel sure we threw the GM, who had read the adventure and knew Sir Redshirt’s part in the plot, a curveball. He let us make our checks (which none of us had a chance of makeing) possibly in the hopes that someone might come up with a solution that would work. We didn’t, and we wasted almost an hour between pointless conversations in the bar and equaly pointless attempts to keep Sir Redshirt safe. None of this was the fault of the players at the table or the GM. All of the blame rests firmly on the shoulders of WotC for not thouroughly playtesting all parts of their adventure. They probably looked over it, checked that no bad information was being handed out and called it good. The encounter (when we finally got to it) seemed fairly well designed.

If I were to try and make this adventure flow more smoothly I would have made a few changes to how the plot information was handed out to the players. First off, starting in the bar is fine, over hearing a conversation between two NPCs and hoping the players pick up on it is not. The information that can be gleaned from those NPCs can just as easily be shared corpse-side after Sir Redshirt has collected the party. Which leads me to point two, have the dwarf bargeing in be the FIRST thing that happens! The text should have read something like, “Six months have passed sence your group helped found this little village. One of the first buildings to be put up was the tavern where your party is relaxing after a hard days work helping to raise a farmers barn. Suddenly the doors to the tavern burst open and a scared looking Sir Redshirt runs in and looks at your group. ‘Come quick,’ he pants, ‘only half the wood cutter team has returned an they are all dying!”. Bam! Your group is filled in on the basics, there are injured people, there may be more out in the woods, and there may be some sort of plague. That should be enough for most players.

As I said the NPCs from the bar with their tales of similarly infected animals could just as easily been standing by the bodies rather than standing in the way of the characters getting out the door. Also by placeing them by the bodies you give the players a reason to pay a bit more attention to what they have to say.

In conclusion my first attempt at D&D Encounters went well if a little slowly. I think that WotC has setup a fun method of play that I will try again but if future sessions suffer similar problems I may not be going back for long.

J.B. Mannon




  1. David Schwarm said,

    > we wasted almost an hour between pointless conversations in the bar
    > and equaly pointless attempts to keep Sir Redshirt safe
    some call it ‘pointless’ others call it role playing, right!

    I really appreciated this weeks encounter–it let the players get to know each other socially–it was a much easier encounter tactically and the players spent more time goofing off and having a good time.

    Reminded me of the fun we used to have before that Dark Sun Darkness descended on Encounters!

    • JBMannon said,

      While I think you may be right about the chance for the character to get to know one another if that was the goal more focus should have been put on the bar. Have there be internal issues that need to be delt with and have the encounter for the evening be set within the bar itself.

      My real complaint is that the players were not given the proper push toward adventure. Encounters is designed to push the action forward not to leave the players floundering. I would have been just as happy with a political skill challenge followed by a bar fight all of which could have been handled while allowing plenty of time for characters to interact.

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