The timing of my introduction to Dungeons and Dragons was almost perfect. I started playing the game early in 2010, just a couple of weeks before Wizards of the Coast began the D&D Encounters program. And what do you know, the friendly local game store, Enchanted Grounds, is not only running Encounters, but they’re located within walking distance of my house! How perfect is that?
Well, it’s ALMOST perfect. Unfortunately, Encounters is run on Wednesday evenings, which is when my wife and I have our bowling league. We love our teammates there, so I couldn’t abandon them to go play D&D. Tonight, however, we’re between leagues – the summer bowling league just ended and the fall league doesn’t start until next week. Time to check out Encounters!
It was good that I showed up this evening, because there were only three other players when we started the game (one more showed up a little later, before the action got too heavy). I thought that I would be playing a pre-generated character, but I was told that players are allowed to create their own characters now. I had brought along my character folder that held both my half-elf paladin from my Living Forgotten Realms games as well as my githzerai avenger, Kern, from my home game with my friends. Kern the Avenger seemed like the right choice. He is only Level 2 and the characters at the table were Level 3, so I added the appropriate amount of hit points, adjusted the healing surge value and picked a Level 3 encounter power to bring him up a level. Off we go!
The summary of the encounter from Kern’s perspective is that Kern completely ruled. I don’t know if this battle just particularly played to his strengths or if my dice were just hot or what, but Kern made it through the whole battle without taking a single point of damage while unloading massive pain on the snakes and lizard creatures that we battled (the rest of the party took care of the fey panther that showed up in the third round). It helped, of course, that Kern would not be playing in Encounters again, so he used his daily and his action point without any thought for the future. Still, his Oath of Enmity was always working, and rolling two d20s on every attack made it so that he never missed.
The encounter itself was fun enough, though not what I expected from Dark Sun. It was in a mystically lush environment, which I’m sure will be explained in future weeks (Dark Sun is usually a harsh desert environment). The enemies had some cool abilities, and I frankly wish the DM had been a little more vicious with them. One lizard grabbed our Seeker and started dragging him away and chomping on him, but he stopped dragging before he got too far from the rest of the party. The Seeker was never even that badly threatened, though we were scared for him at the beginning of the battle.
The people at the table were great folks to game with – very friendly and welcoming. I felt a little bad that Kern seemed to have an oversized impact on the battle, but this was partly about luck and the other players didn’t mind. The DM had built some cool 3D environments for the encounter – some bushes with bad guys underneath them and a tall tree with the panther in it. Nifty stuff!
Overall, I don’t feel like I’m missing much from not being able to play Encounters. I prefer more continuity in my games, and one encounter just feels too disjointed. I applaud the idea, though – it’s great that WotC has this program that will allow players to just drop in every now and then for no more than two hours (my session took an hour and 20 minutes) – no ongoing commitment, no need to even roll up a character if you don’t want to. It’s a cool program, but I’m not the target audience. I can continue bowling without feeling like I’m missing too much.