Thursday, July 1, 2010

DnD Encounters at Comic Connection (Oswego IL)

Earlier this year Wizards of the Coast started DnD Encounters. The purpose was to allow game stores or whoever wanted to sign-up for the program to get a small adventure arc and some pre-made characters, with the goal of playing one encounter per week for the complete 6-8 week cycle. Wizards would provide everything needed, all the stores had to do was advertise, provide the location, and run the adventure.

The primary point was to provide an introduction to DnD to those who had never played before and were curious to try it out before making any kind of investment in money or time. It also provided an inroads to those who had played DnD previously somewhere in their lives but had either drifted away to other games or had quit playing completely. Of course regular DnD'ers could latch on as well, but chances are they might be more likely to be drafted as DM's to help run the encounters. While there was an overarching story line, it was set-up so anyone can walk in and play a session without having been there from the beginning. Wizards was also awarding "Renown Points" for those playing additional or all sessions or for reaching certain goals in the sessions in an attempt to increase the allure of the program.

The first season completed earlier this spring and the second season commenced a few weeks ago. The current season was based on the not-yet-released Dark Sun books, the desert world of Athas. A PDF of the Dark Sun characters was available here. The concept is the same as before - try to draw in new blood, but with the added benefit of introducing the new Dark Sun material.

Wizards provided a "game finder" tool on their website that found two different local sites hosting DnD Encounters: Comic Connections in Oswego hosted every Wednesday from 6:00-8:00, and Dean's Dugout on Thursday from 7:00-9:00. I happened to be off work on Wednesday, so I sent Tom at Comic Connections a note to inquire if they were still on for Wednesday night and he said there was always a table open, so I went. I found the shop rather easily (hint: Washington St. = Highway 34) and was able to join the table easily. The shop maintained a full selection of comics, DnD material, Magic supplies, and two rooms with tables for game play. Their calendar listed several scheduled activities throughout the week plus it sounded like they host a few other campaigns as well.

Alex was our DM and we talked about Dark Sun briefly and soon the other players arrived and we got started. Most of the other players had participated before and already had one of the pre-made characters, so I took one that was left (an Elf Ranger Marauder) and we were ready to go. Besides myself there was Patrick, Austin, Tom and his son Nick, and Jeff, as well as Alex running the show.

One of the elements of Dark Sun was that the harshness of the land itself makes it a “player” as negative and/or positive effects can happen at random. For this night it was determined that players could use their Second Wind as a Minor Action. Apparently the previous week each player had a -1 to defense for the encounter. Alex gave a brief description of the situation as we placed our characters on the map and we were promptly surprised by various goblins.

My character immediately sprinted toward the nearest goblin archer and clambered up the 20 foot high mesa to get to him. The goblin was able to fly (!) to the next mesa but with my mighty jumping ability I was able to clear the three foot distance by the skin of my teeth. As the rest of the party concentrated on the remainder of the goblins I was able to do some major damage and eventually put him down. I ran over to join the rest of the fight and while I didn’t deliver any more final blows I was able to hit the flying drake and each of the two goblin cursers and help them along their way to the great goblin in the sky.

Play was pretty brutal. I rolled consecutive 1's on my to-hits once, which caused each of my stone daggers to shatter - I had to use my elven re-roll to save the second one. Almost every one of the characters was bloodied (I was down to 2 HP) at some point during the battle (I neglected to use my minor action Second Wind), but we survived to fight another day. Alex took a lot more glee in inflicting damage on the players than I do, but that is something I think I can work on. Afterwards the other players agreed that I my character was the one that earned the "moment of greatness" designation, although I think my guy was just the one who managed to hit more consistently.

Would I go again? Well, the stars kind of lined up right so I could go this time, but if my schedule allows then absolutely I would go. Everyone was real nice (I left my dice at home and Tom was nice enough to lend me what I needed) and I had a good time. They were interested to hear about our little Sunday Night group and our adventures, and since they have had problems with players disappearing they marveled at our membership cohesion over the years. There is to be a Dark Sun Day on August 21 once the Dark Sun books are released and I will try to make that as well.

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