Edit 10/1/2011: Apparently WotC is NOT changing their policy of requiring that D&D Encounters be run on Wednesday nights, as I had originally mentioned in this post. My mistake.
I ran D&D Encounters at my friendly local game store, Enchanted Grounds, all summer long, and I loved it. I love the mini-sessions for prep purposes, I enjoyed the story, and most of all I enjoyed helping new players learn the game. One of the people I met via encounters is now good friends with my wife and I, along with his wife.
Thus, I was sad to have to give up DMing Encounters this fall when my Wednesday night bowling league started up. I agreed to serve as a backup DM in case any of the regular folks were out of town, though, and this week I got the call. Put me in, coach – I’m running a game!
My party consisted of four PCs – two warpriests, a bladesinger and a thief. They began the session by taking a short rest in a boat house in a swamp, where they had come in search of the Dead Rats gang. The boat house held only a table and a rug, and a sharp-eyed PC noticed the rug sagging in the middle. Pulling it aside revealed a stone pipe with metal rungs forming a ladder down into darkness.
The adventurers successfully negotiated crumbling ceilings, narrow ledges, tough climbs and tricky tracking with no problem and eventually emerged into the sewers proper. They noticed some movement in the water – two pairs of eyes staring at them from just above the water’s surface. As the dwarf warpriest pushed forward, the eyes revealed themselves to be attached to a pair of crocodiles, and a swarm of hundreds of rats poured out of some pipes in the walls to join the fun. The PCs could also hear noises inside a larger pipe, as if something else was making its way toward them.
The party thief decided to try to jump across the sewer channel but failed, landing in the water next to the large pipe – which was revealed to contain a dire rat. The rat bit the thief (one exposure to Dire Rat Filth Fever) and was soon joined on the other side by a crocodile who clamped its jaws around the poor thief’s leg. Ouch!
The rest of the party was dealing with the swarm and the other crocodile, but the drow warpriest did wade into the muck and drop a cloud of darkness to help the thief get away. No luck, though – the crocodile’s next turn of grinding its jaws down on the delicious thief left the sneaky bugger unconscious (and getting more exposure to disease from the dirty water).
Eventually the thief was healed and got himself out of harm’s way and the rest of the party started taking care of the bad guys one by one – first the dire rat, then the swarm, then finally the crocodiles. And there was much rejoicing!
At the end of the encounter, since the thief had been exposed three times to Dire Rat Filth Fever (twice from rat bites and once from bleeding in the dirty water) I invoked my house rule: He only had to make one saving throw to avoid infection, but because of the two extra exposures, the saving throw was at a -2 penalty. It was a moot point, as he rolled a 7 on the die and found himself infected.
In prepping for the game, I realized that it would be a pain in the butt for a typical Encounters player to have to deal with a disease. “Wait, what do I have to roll to get better? And what happens if I get worse?” So, I used the awesome Power2ool to create disease cards to hand out to any players who get infected:
While it was only a one-week return to the Encounters DM table, I had a lot of fun. It was also nice to have more people compliment me on my projector setup + MapTool for my in-person games. The encounter itself wrapped up within an hour, so I was even able to make it to bowling on time.
Best of all, the coordinator at the store is thinking about moving Encounters to Tuesday nights in the future, since WotC has given store owners more flexibility about when they run the program. That would be awesome, since I’d be able to get involved again!
Edit: However, it looks like this is not a new WotC policy after all, and Encounters is still required to be run on Wednesday. Well, poop.