Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dungeon and Dragons Encounters - Session 1 (02/09/2011)

I participated in the initial session of the fourth edition of DnD Encounters (DDE) Wednesday night. Jack, our DM, provided the laminated character sheets, provided each of the players with two packs of Fortune Cards, Steve had a plethora of miniatures for us to pick from (plus he lent me a set of dice to use because I forgot mine), and after some general discussion about the rules we got started.

The players and characters were as follows:

Jack / DM
Steve / Valenae (Eladrin Cleric Warpriest)
Robin / Keira (Elven Rogue Thief)
David / Jarren (Human Wizard Evocation Mage)
Roger / Brandis (Human Paladin Cavalier)
Don / Belgos (Drow Ranger Hunter)

These are all Essentials characters. It is easy enough to sit down and just pick up a character and play, but the character sheet still requires a careful read so that all the powers are properly understood, including knowing your minor or special move abilities, special opportunity affects, and your stance choices. However reading and reviewing your character still usually requires further distillation once play begins, but that's all part of the fun and our DM handled this very well.

The DnD Fortune Cards are cards that generally provide a small bonus when used by the player. It adds a bit of randomness to any encounter, and yes, it is an effort by Wizards to sell product. Basically you initially draw a card on your first turn, if you choose to use it it gets discarded and you draw another card on your next turn. You don't have to use the boon, and you can discard it and redraw on your next turn.

Opinion: They seem OK. I probably won't buy them. It's an 80 card set (8 cards to a pack), with commons, uncommons, and rares. However, later this year Wizards is releasing another card set that can be used in a more ominous environment such as Shadowfell or Ravenloft. These cards are more like mood setters, with players being negatively affected by the overpowering sense of gloom, fear, pain, or panic. I could really see someone who was interested in a Ravenloft setting using this to his advantage.

As in the past DDE sessions the DM was provided with a game module, maps, the laminated players cards, basically all the tools a DM would need to run the adventure. Once the player cards and the fortune cards were distributed the DM began the session.

The players were part of a caravan leaving Hammerfast for a three day trip where they intend to populate and start a town around the newly found ruins of the Castle Inverness. The caravan was led by a Dwarven Cleric named Aldus Splintershield. The first two days and nights passed uneventfully, with different adventurers taking turns to see what additional information they could find about their destination, specifically the castle.

As the road roughened Splintershield and Malgram, his half-orc guard captain, got into an argument about which path to take. Several of the adventurers attempted to step in to help resolve the issue (but most figured we'd get attacked no matter if we took the road near the forest or near the mountains). This turned out to be a designed role playing opportunity that was built into the adventure that the adventurers were later rewarded for.

The caravan neared a small river and once half of the wagons were safely across the party and the half of the wagons not yet across were attacked by stirges. The stirges attacked horses, NPC's (i.e., minions) in the area, and the adventurers, but the attack was soon repelled with only one NPC being killed. I tried to have my character run and jump across the 10 foot wide river (creek?) and managed to make it exactly half way across.

The Essentials characters may be a little more streamlined, but they are no less deadly. Three different players delivered individual blows of 15 points or more, and the stirges were all dead in just 4+ rounds.

The evening ended with the awarding of XP and renown points, plus there was some additional discussion on alternate playing schedules. We agreed to stick with the every Wednesday schedule as originally designed. Although the pre-gen characters were used this first week, several of the players announced they were going to use the CB tool to cobble up their own characters for next week.

All in all I was very satisfied. Jack did a good job as DM, and the other players have all played before and were able to quickly jump in and work together as a team.


  1. It's not enough that Wizards tried to make 4E D&D a tabletop version of WOW, but now they have to make it like MtG, too?

  2. This card set/option looks to be a little gimmicky, but it isn't hard to use and it didn't cost me anything. The next set with "horror" affects might be a little more interesting if we were to ever do a Ravenloft dungeon coughScottcough. We'll see.