DnD Encounters (DDE) is a Wizards sponsored event that is scheduled to run on Wednesday evenings from 6:00-8:00. They just completed their third session this past week and the next session - March of the Phantom Brigade - starts Wednesday (02/09/2011). I attended a single session this past summer when a Dark Sun module was being played and I enjoyed it quite a bit (read here), so I thought I'd make a commitment to see if I can do a whole ~20 week session.
The premise is that Wizards will provide interested local game stores with a complete adventure module, a set of pre-gen characters encased in lamination, and some advertising material to display in the store. The store provides the DM (or 2) and a place to play. The intent is to draw in new customers and expose them to the game in a friendly fashion and with minimal commitment. The store also gets the benefit of potential sales, whether it be from DnD or other gaming products.
There is a new game store in South Elgin IL - The Gaming Goat - that will be hosting, and it is closer for me than Comic Connections in Oswego I visited their new location this past Sunday to 1) ensure they were hosting DDE, 2) ensure a table spot was available for me, and 3) ensure I could actually find the place. And they've got plenty of parking - are my needs are simple or what? And no, I don't know why the store is named "Gaming Goat," but I suppose a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
Players are encouraged to create their own Essentials character instead of arbitrarily being forced to use the pre-gens, so I went ahead and worked up an Eladrin Scout (Ranger) with Two-Weapon Fighting abilities. I guess it ultimately depends on who or what else makes up our group - if everyone is playing a striker then I'll adjust. I haven't talked to the DM yet, but regardless, I am looking forward to it.
I don't intend to post full recaps like I did for Keep of the Shadowfell and Thunderspire Labyrinth, but I will provide a weekly synopsis of the Wednesdays I can attend. I am particularly interested to see how combat in Essentials really is that much more streamlined (or simplified) than in regular 4E, so expect to see some commentary on this in the future. I still consider myself a novice DM, so I have full intention of outright stealing any new DM tricks I might come across as well.