Season 4: Seriously, Wizards?

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I am enjoying the encounters program, and I'm saddened to hear this is the way it's going.

Essentials-only, again? Okay, I get devoting one season to show off new rules (Dark Sun, Essentials), but now... Look, some of us bought some of the books and were D&D Insiders for two years, and none of that material will be useful to us in the only regular game many of us get to play in? Really?

And, not only getting rid of the cards we'll have spent a year accumulating, but we have to _buy_ their replacement, a replacement good for only one season (They're not named D&D Encounters cards)?

Am I the only person who has a problem with this? 
I am enjoying the encounters program, and I'm saddened to hear this is the way it's going.

Essentials-only, again? Okay, I get devoting one season to show off new rules (Dark Sun, Essentials), but now... Look, some of us bought some of the books and were D&D Insiders for two years, and none of that material will be useful to us in the only regular game many of us get to play in? Really?

And, not only getting rid of the cards we'll have spent a year accumulating, but we have to _buy_ their replacement, a replacement good for only one season (They're not named D&D Encounters cards)?

Am I the only person who has a problem with this? 



Greetings,

I have not received any communcation from Wizards suggesting that the Renown Rewards (From ANY Encounters Season) will not be usable in the future.  They are simply adding 'Fortune Cards' to the game for players who wish to purchase them.  I am also still assuming that they will be including Renown Cards/Rewards for future seasons as well.

Regarding Essentials, they announced last Season that all future Encounters programs and Public Play session will be Essentials only. The Essentials line were created for this type of 'atmosphere'.

I am in the same boat as you, I only get to play/DM Encounters weekly, so my only fix now is Essentials and negates all previously purchased material.  However, most stores are more then willing to accomodate locate groups playing and by all means, get a 4E group playing using regular material.  I wish I could dedicate another day of the week to do so at my FLGS.

If I am wrong on any of these points, please feel free to point it out, and if it's from WoTC please reference the source

Scott
Advanced Level TO
Perhaps I am conflating renown cards and LFR cards, which I have definitely heard are being retired at the end of the year.

Essentials only is still ridiculous, and bad business -- Why should I buy essentials? In a year or so maybe the designers will change their mind again and relegate all that material to uselessness as well (But then, consumers could also answer this problem by buying the new books each time, as a sort of indirect subscription fee...).

Fortunately, the DMs at my FLGS also see the stupidity of it, and plan to allow non-essentials material in future seasons. Rule 0 trumps WotC's silliness. 

WOTC is supplying you with something FREE.
As a condition of using their FREE material, you follow a few rules.


Why should you buy essentials? Because it's useful stuff.
Your old books are not useful?

Then find a different game. It's not WOTCs job to give you free material.
It's their job to sell books.

Encounters... sells books. What a shock.
AlexandraErin: If last season was any indication, I think Encounters is pretty much the elemental opposite of "organized" play!
To the OP:

1) WotC announced at Gen Con this summer (and on the Official D&D podcast and the website) that, starting with season 3, Encounters would feature character creation right away and would focus on the Essentials products plus a specific product that season was highlighting, though for season 3 the Heroes books themselves would be the highlight as they released during the season. This should not be a surprise to you, we've been discussing it since before season 3 began at my store and making plans according. That brings me to . . .

2) Encounters is designed as a program for a) entry level players & DMs and b) for people that only have a few hours available each week to devote to D&D. It sounds like the DDi subscribers you reference that have two years worth of books on their shelf have more time to devote to D&D and might get more out of a more advanced program you could run at the store like LFR or an adventure series like Revenge of the Giants for which you could allow any/all D&D Rewards cards. As long as all the players are allowed all the same play options, I don't think WPN would care at all.

3) While we do know that the Season 4 renown rewards are Fortune Cards (FC), as allgeek already mentioned, they haven't actually referenced the Encounters Rewards Cards and whether or not players will officially be able to use them at all, with or without FC in the mix. Given that they've talked about how expensive it is to make these cards and how they've wanted to move to something like the FC for awhile, and the fact that they've suddenly disallowed similar cards in LFR, I suspect that they won't be allowed. But that is still only an assumption. I would suggest waiting until you receive your Season 4 kit before whipping your players into a frenzy and even if the current cards are discontinued, you could always do something like replace the Season 3 100pt reward with a pack of FC from the store to get regular players started, interested, and thinking about FC packs as something they can buy from the store for a few bucks so they still have somewhere to play in the future. I've started to tell my players about these cool new game mechanics that are coming soon and my DMs about how twitter buffs won't need to give away spoilers all day before the players get there.

4) I have never seen anything to suggest that FC will only be available for Season 4 - rather Chris Tulach has repeatedly discussed how, with FC, they can now have one game mechanic and one type of promotional product to give away as rewards in any OP system, potentially at conventions and Free RPG Day, etc. and have them all intereact with whatever type of D&D Game you're playing. And since it uses the randomized deck mechanic, they can be pretty loose with giving away more powerful ones here and there for very special events without worrying about power gamers using only their very best card over and over.

Look, I don't want Magic: The Gathering mechanics in D&D, but when it comes to a reward system that really works for players and venues, the DCI guys figured that out long ago and it does work really well for Magic. If anything, the bigger cards we've been using since Living Greyhawk and the ugly alternate-paint minis they used to send to DMs were just failures at trying to bring that same feel to D&D Rewards. We'll have to wait and see, but maybe with this iteration that is closer to the magic reward system will work better, especially on a level of allowing players to use any D&D Reward with any D&D game, something D&D Rewards have been failing at by design the whole time.


Come check out and add to the LFR Wiki, part of the Forgotten Realms Wiki.
I gotta fess up that in my role as a DDE DM I actually take the Wizards restrictions as guidelines (albeit important ones), but do not accept that I am slave to them, so my suggestion is to lighten up about all of this.

Currently I am running DDE Season 3 and I am letting players use characters from non-Essentials sources.  Terrible, eh?   What a travesty!

BUT the fact is that the whole thing is not so simple as to follow rules blindly any more than I follow each weeks encounter as written should I see a chance to "spice it up" without completely derailing the general story.

There are three factions here, and ALL must be happy and successful in order for this program to be worthy:
1) Wizards
2) my game store
3) the folks participating in DDE

So when something seems to hurt one group for the benefit of another a careful decision must be made and with some common sense it is easy to make the right decision.  Allowing some of my players to use non-Essentials characters is one of those balance points.  These are players who are important to the group, yet really wanted to use other builds.  If I thought they'd buy Essentials books if I told them "no", I'd be highly compelled to do so to support Wizards.  Really though the core group of DDE players are regulars to the store who buy Magic far more than D&D products.  Having a vibrant DDE group every Wednesday actually generates more Magic sales in my particular case which supports all three groups really.

We very seldom have new players coming to try D&D (I wish there were more).  When this does happen I gladly teach the game and promote it inviting them to join us every week, but like I said this is a fairly rare event, so I feel I have to balance the needs of the regulars who really want to experiment with other builds, etc.  I gently nudge people in the direction that supports the stated intention of WOTC and promote the game with enthusiasm, but I'm not going to be an uncompromising wall.  I just don't run RPGs that way.

So don't complain about any of this.  Understand what each group wants and then make the best compromise.  YOU are the "eyes on the ground" and should make the call, hopefully trying your best to look out for all interests.

Regarding cards - I've not heard anything regarding what's discontinued, etc. and frankly could care less.  I give out reward cards as appropriate, but they really have not "taken" much with my group.  I can't remember the last time a card was used so if someone pulled out some Gameday card from two years ago and was thrilled to use it, I'd say "go ahead". Even those who have the DDE cards never seem to think to pull them out and consider using them.  It's really a part of the program that has very little emphasis and just seems to be that extra thing the players don't want to think about - they just want to play D&D...
WotC may design the program for new players, but the reality is that the program has wide appeal with many different types of gamers. One big demographic is the player that has limited time and/or can't find a different game. Those players would love to have a different program, but they take this program as the next best thing. I think there are a lot of these kinds of players. There are also DMs that have trouble finding players or that lack the time to write their own material or design a campaign. For them, Encounters is an easy way to DM with limited time investment.

The Essentials-only rule is fine for new players. It is fine for a company that has the goal of furthering a new design paradigm and new product line. Unfortunately, it also hurts the sale of older material and offends the demographic that wants to play either the older version or all of the 4E material.

As a message, it is confusing. Classic 4E and Essentials are supposed to be completely compatible. The idea is supposed to be that everything fits together. For a simple entry point for new players, create easy-to-run Essentials-based pregens so a new player can jump in quickly. Forcing existing players to see little value in their previous 4E purchases may hurt business in the long run. It has a negative impact on many on the forums and at the gaming tables I see.

It is true that no one is forcing any particular player to play Encounters. They can work with the store to set up a different campaign. They can recruit players and DMs. Even in the most barren of places I have had luck forming a group, though it sometimes took months. The reality, however, is that forming a group (finding players and a DM that will write/run stuff) is a large barrier to entry. It is certainly a big barrier for the low-on-time gamer that is looking to just drop in for a game once a week. The point of Encounters is to remove barriers to entry and encourage more people to play D&D.

I just don't see the benefit of Essentials only for WotC. I would really like to see support for the breadth of 4E and for the breadth of the demographics that make up the Encounters player base.

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As someone that organizes and DM's the encounter group at my local shop it seems that it's my job to sell books. I organize everything, do the DMing, and the reporting - all of which helps WotC gain a larger player base, which is good for their business. I know that at my store I've brought at least half a dozen people into the game, and all of them have bought WotC product.  They supply a free adventure, but isn't that the absolute least they could do. I'm, in effect, working for WotC for free. Don't get me wrong - I'm having a blast doing it, and will keep on doing it for as long as they supply the adventures. But I think people have a right to voice complaints, especially those that are putting in all the work to make this program a success. Just my two cents.

So let me get this straight.

WOTC is supplying you with something FREE.
As a condition of using their FREE material, you follow a few rules.


Why should you buy essentials? Because it's useful stuff.
Your old books are not useful?

Then find a different game. It's not WOTCs job to give you free material.
It's their job to sell books.

Encounters... sells books. What a shock.



I started playing Encounters a few weeks into this season, and my local group encourages new players to also join them for LFR games on Saturdays, so we're encouraged to generate and play LFR legal characters with the Encounters setting/adventures.

I see no need to strictly adhere to an Essentials only rule.
RS: 60/60 CS: 60/60 RotS: 60/60 U:60/60 CotF: 60/60 BH: 60/60 A&E: 51/60 TFU: 53/60 LotF: 37/60 KotOR: 37/60 CW: 26/40 IE: 31/40 JA: 17/40 G@W: 7/40 DT: 7/40 Good trades with: Lily_Wan, creme_brule, suki_jedi_apprentice, Ephant_Mon
As someone that organizes and DM's the encounter group at my local shop it seems that it's my job to sell books. I organize everything, do the DMing, and the reporting - all of which helps WotC gain a larger player base, which is good for their business. I know that at my store I've brought at least half a dozen people into the game, and all of them have bought WotC product.  They supply a free adventure, but isn't that the absolute least they could do. I'm, in effect, working for WotC for free. Don't get me wrong - I'm having a blast doing it, and will keep on doing it for as long as they supply the adventures. But I think people have a right to voice complaints, especially those that are putting in all the work to make this program a success. Just my two cents.

This is an entirely different subject, and one worth making a big deal of somewhere that WotC will see. Please post your thoughts in their own thread somewhere and toss me a link so I can add my own.



I see no need to strictly adhere to an Essentials only rule.

The reasons to adhere to it are the same as the reasons that it exists in the first place. Restricting to Essentials+ allows new players to jump in without feeling like their character is weaker than everyone else's while also dramatically increasing the likelihood that veteran players will buy the new books from the store their playing in. It's important to follow the rules and allow FCs for that latter reason as well. Plus, earning the new promo DCs is an added draw to keep players coming back week after week and hanging out in the store, increasing the likelihood of sales even more.

I think it's surprising that they're making a non-dice mechanic so important, but I only see benefits to the store and the local player population, two things we need for D&D to not only continue to exist, but to get better and better.



Come check out and add to the LFR Wiki, part of the Forgotten Realms Wiki.
. . . allows new players to jump in without feeling like their character is weaker than everyone else's . . .



Since when are essentials characters weaker than previous 4th edition characters? I thought all the characters were supposed to be, more or less, equal in power level. I have a  mix of essentials and, what, original, characters in my game and I'm not noticing a difference in power levels. Maybe that's just me, or the quality of my players ;).
. . . allows new players to jump in without feeling like their character is weaker than everyone else's . . .



Since when are essentials characters weaker than previous 4th edition characters? I thought all the characters were supposed to be, more or less, equal in power level. I have a  mix of essentials and, what, original, characters in my game and I'm not noticing a difference in power levels. Maybe that's just me, or the quality of my players ;).



Actually that's the same argument I've used for people complaining about being limited to Essentials when they reference the new builds as weaker. I would even say that some of the Essentials builds are intrinsically stronger than their counterparts, especially at low level.

What I was referring to is a difference between a new player making a character using any one book playing beside characters utilizing material from a dozen books and feeling "behind" because they haven't spent $300 on materials.



Come check out and add to the LFR Wiki, part of the Forgotten Realms Wiki.
Ah, okay. I see where you're coming from, and totally agree.

What I was referring to is a difference between a new player making a character using any one book playing beside characters utilizing material from a dozen books and feeling "behind" because they haven't spent $300 on materials.



Like Player A brings his newly created human warpriest and plays alongside Player B's deva invoker, and wonders why they didn't have the option to do that?
RS: 60/60 CS: 60/60 RotS: 60/60 U:60/60 CotF: 60/60 BH: 60/60 A&E: 51/60 TFU: 53/60 LotF: 37/60 KotOR: 37/60 CW: 26/40 IE: 31/40 JA: 17/40 G@W: 7/40 DT: 7/40 Good trades with: Lily_Wan, creme_brule, suki_jedi_apprentice, Ephant_Mon
Of course, I just want to point out that all this worry about PCs being weaker is based on an assumption that it actually matters.  I've recently had a bit of an awakening with this.  I have exactly one (1) power gamer in my regular DDE player group.  He plays an optimized Ranger regularly doing 40+ points of damage (at least with encounter powers).  There is also is a Pacifist Cleric who can do amazing heals - basically keeps the party up to full points during an average encounter.  Also built by the same power gamer but played by someone else.

And guess what?  None of the other players care.  Honest.  In fact, in the recent dragon fight they were applauding the Ranger for staying back and cutting down the dragon fairly effectively.  When the healer is not there they all say, "Boy I wish we had the Pacifist Cleric with those amazing heals".

I think part of this is that I'm pretty good at never letting a player steal too much of the limelight, and that I play up a nice 11 point blow dealt as much as a 40 point blow.  So where's the problem?  There isn't one.  Everyone is having fun.  If I ever perceive a problem with this I will simply ask the player to not to play the overpowering PCs, but I haven't had to.

Over the years I've learned that as long as each PC is better at something than everyone else, or different, this type of thing does not matter really.  The wizard or rogue will not be jealous of the power ranger, but if someone brought in a non-optimized ranger build in the same party they would likely be impacted.  But I'm well aware of this, so I work to prevent that kind of conflict before it even happens.  Interestingly, even a PC with strong personality traits is fun for some players to play and is enough to separate them from the feeling inadequate if surrrounded by "better" characters (and fortunately the power gamer seldom also emphasizes strong role-playing).

I've been DMing and organizing Encounters since the Forgotten Realms adventure.


 


Being Essentials-only and starting at level 1 again is going to push out or at the least upset **a lot** of players. The Encounters format is great for experienced gamers who can't play on weekends or in marathon sessions anymore, DMs who finally get to play, etc.


 


You can say they aren't the target audience all you want, but the fact is they are coming into FLGSs every week and spending money there instead of not buying things or buying at Amazon instead.


 


A better reward than fortune cards would be manufacturer coupons for FLGS discounts so the FLGS doesn't have to hurt their margins as badly to keep up with Amazon. Or, as I've said ten-thousand times by now, any kind of D&D-labeled schwag from pencils to paper to tokens to adventures to character folios to dice to clothing to your character drawn by a noted artist. Look at the Old Chicago or Granite City bar franchises in the US for an example of this done well.


 


Aside: Sight unseen, no one I've talked to has a positive opinion of fortune cards. I certainly don't. I've been wrong before (For example, an earlier hater, I've found Essentials to be a solid, though imperfect, relaunch of 4E. My concerns about the post-Essentials product strategy seem to be prescient, though.) but these just smack of bald-faced, ill-considered money-grabbing. As a DM I don't think I'll allow them in my games.

Since we are taking Season 4 signups right now, can I get an answer for one question:  Will there be a purchase requirement for Season 4 of these fortune cards?  If so, will it be a single pack for the season, multi pack for the season, or a new pack each week?  Specifics would be helpful as there are some players who may not have funds to play.
I'm with Festivus here can we get some official rules for whats happening with these fortune cards for the next chapter?  We can all complain about them and say how much we dislike them or like them for that matter.  What I want to know is how these are going to affect the next chapter?    They certainly don't sound like something I'd along at my home table, but at Encounters I'd be open to playing with them and seeing how they work or don't.

Oh also could we get a Season four group already so we can be talking about this in the right place.


I'm, in effect, working for WotC for free. But I think people have a right to voice complaints, especially those that are putting in all the work to make this program a success. Just my two cents.


If that's the perspective you want to go with, great. It changes nothing.
So you're working for WotC, in exchange for compensation (the adventures and related material).
Jobs normally have conditions of employment... you can do the work and get the pay, but you have to follow rules in doing that.

Do you think it's appropriate that a McDonalds employee loudly bitches and demands that he not have to wear a uniform? You think it's justified for someone to insist that they can do anything they want, ignore all the rules and conditions set by the employer, and still expect to get paid? Seriously?

It's not like this is a secret. You know you need to wear a uniform when you apply to work at McD's, and you know you have to use Essentials when you play Encounters. If you don't like it, go play LFR!

DMs who are not enforcing the conditions are actually defrauding WotC by their actions. The conditions are clearly laid out.
"Run this adventure as a public game, on Wednesdays, using these books. In exchange, you get this free stuff."
When you keep the adventure, but don't follow the rules, you're in breach of contract. It's no different than a contractor agreeing to fix your fence, taking your money, and then refusing to fix the fence.

On the player side, it's not much different. Encounters is clearly labelled, clearly advertised. It is an event on Wednesdays, using specific books and material. If you don't like that, DON'T COME.

It's akin to going to a theatre showing Eat Pray Love, and complaining that it won't change and show Harry Potter for you RIGHT NOW. If you don't want to see Eat Pray Love (which is entirely understandable!), then DON'T GO. If you do go and it's not what you want, it's YOUR FAULT, and you have no right to complain. You also have no right to demand that a company give you free product on your own terms. Even charities have conditions on their handouts.

Finally, I refuse to accept the "Encounters is the only game I can play" argument.
If you have time for Encounters, you have time to play an independent game. The only difference is that Encounters is sponsored and has specific limitations on it. You can play LFR or some other adventure or even a completely different game like Shadowrun in that same date-time slot.


AlexandraErin: If last season was any indication, I think Encounters is pretty much the elemental opposite of "organized" play!

Finally, I refuse to accept the "Encounters is the only game I can play" argument.
If you have time for Encounters, you have time to play an independent game. The only difference is that Encounters is sponsored and has specific limitations on it. You can play LFR or some other adventure or even a completely different game like Shadowrun in that same date-time slot.





Which might be why Encounters is the only game people have to play...  They have to do something pretty bad for the Game Store not to allow them back, but if you act this way in an independent game, its easy for them to tell you to hit the road.

Always a GM, never a player (not really but sometimes feels like it).

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Which simply reinforces my point
AlexandraErin: If last season was any indication, I think Encounters is pretty much the elemental opposite of "organized" play!
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It is unfortunate that some people can't resist trying to turn everything into a flame war, or tell everyone else how what they are doing is wrong/immoral/etc.

I have been organizing Encounters since Season 2 (and am continuing into season 4) and have freely IGNORED the Essentials only rule as being counter productive and stupid.

I have introduced (new DCI #s at least, new to D&D for most) approximately 20 new people to D&D via Encounters in that time.  It has made it easier and more enjoyable for them by having that experienced player at the table to help them with their character/rules system.  I WANT that at my tables... and as an incentive, I do not require anyone to purchase new rules for existing classes just to play the game.  The restriction I have put on it is anything from Essentials, PHB1, PHB2 and PHB3 (what I consider Core) and there have been zero complaints.

The 'new' guy that is playing his Dwarven Slayer is having a great time playing... NOT wondering why he didn't get to play the Minotaur Barbarian that the guy helping him is playing.

It is the general consensus, in my area of play, that Essentials characters are broken and over-powered.  Great stuff for new people to sink their teeth into and have fun.... not so much for the people that were playing 4th since it came out (until it was retired/replaced by Essentials) and prefer some challenge.

So, for other DMs/Organizers worried about what other people think of what they are doing... I continue to say ignore them! Do what you can to build up our hobby IN your local gaming store. THAT should be what we are all concerned about... not what books your player's characters are coming out of...
I couldent agree more, at then end of the day it all about the players and if they enjoyed themselves. Rules will change, WotC will make stupid decisions, and continue to improve their game over time. Even now theres somone from WotC looking through threads looking for constructive ideas and opinions so the purpose of making the game better.

Personaly I'm happy WotC made a separate system for their essentials games to be ran. I'm also happy they are refining new machanics just so we can have our own edge, or bit of defining differance from a regular gaming session.

Sry no time for spell check, plz forgive!
OK...I'm going to weigh in on this one.

I've run Encounters at my FLGS since the first week and we run, on average, four tables every week.  Yes, some players have stated that they would like access to ALL material, but everyone who's played has had a great time using either the pre-gens or the Essentials characters they've built.

There was some discussion, and a bit of disappointment, at the idea of using Essentials-only again in Season 4.  Most players simply said they'd try a different build or a different class entirely.  And we HAVE had a lot of new players (or players returning to the game after years) join our games.  We have kids from about 10 - 12 to adults over 50 playing side-by-side and loving it.  Everyone has been very encouraging and the more experienced players mentor the newer ones and keep them coming.  So I DO keep the Essentials-only rule in play so everyone is on a relatively even playing field.

Now, about Fortune Cards - We were lucky.  Just this week, WotC sent our FLGS a booster box to try out.  We gave one to everyone playing (24 packs and 24 players worked out well!).  I had just printed the rules from the website and asked all the DMs to go over them before they started the scenario.  Each player simply used the pack they had.   Everyone seemed to enjoy using them. 

There are 8 cards in the pack with an extra card that can be a rules card, an Intiative card, a condition effect card or even another special card.  Players enjoyed opening these packs and looking at all the cards and using them during the session.  The new mechanic worked great and brought a fun level of change to the game.

I thought the cards were pretty balanced and the rules seemed to keep things in order - three of each card type per 10 cards in your deck.

Overall, I think these are going to be a fun addition to Encounters and the fact that the new cards will be Fortune Cards instead of the other cards won't really be an issue - in fact, they'll be MORE useful as you can use many per session instead of just one.  I'm more then willing to try this new mechanic out in Encounters and will also allow the cards in my home game as well.

If I were asked to run a public game like Encounters for a bunch of people essentially walking in off the street, I know I'd feel far more comfortable with a limited range of materials. No surprises hiding in those 6-book characters.

As for personal experience, I've found there's more roleplaying when using the Essentials. I guess the players feel the need to apply a personality to the blank slate they've been given and make it theirs. There's far less concentration on builds and more concentration on the characters and story. Perhaps it's just the kind of people that frequent our Encounters that make it seem either/or. 
Does anyone know who we can ask for a Season 4 Forum since it starts next week?
We are also supposed to have a Character Builder update prior to next season specifically to create characters for MotPB.  Is that still happening?
If I were asked to run a public game like Encounters for a bunch of people essentially walking in off the street, I know I'd feel far more comfortable with a limited range of materials. No surprises hiding in those 6-book characters.



If Encounters was running at a higher level I'd agree, but there's really not much you can do to break the game in the first three levels.

Last week, some new guys wandered into the store, and happened to have their character sheets from their home campaign. I gave gave them a cursory look, and let them use them, they were a PHB original Paladin and Ranger. Didn't destroy the game.

In any event, since I have a fairly regular table, with only the few odd drop-ins, I've decided not to enforce the player generation restrictions. But then, I feel confident in my players to be responsible, and in my own fairly encyclopedic knowledge of 4e.

Not sure if it's been addressed, but wrt the Fortune Cards/Previous Reward Cards....

According to the material in the new season, you can use both.  However, you have to choose at the start of each session whether you'll use your deck of fortune cards or the previous reward cards.  IIRC, they say that the old rewards will still be valid for future seasons.  I'll have to re-read the section, but I think they mentioned wanting to highlight their new product (duh) and allow players to use 'em.
Here is my problem with the "Essentials Only" model... they are pulling a support for it out from under us. One of my main problems with Season 3, actually my ONLY real problem with Season 3, is that all my players have the same gear. In the two books that are out, there is basically a choice of 2-3 items for each "slot" - weapon, neck, armor. In my game with 6 players I have 3 Viscious and 2 Defensive wepons (one character has one each as a two handed ranger). I have 3 Cleansing and 3 Veterans Armors, 2 Safewing Amulets, 3 Cloaks of Resistance. There isn't enough variety in the books to make finding a magic item the event it should be. "Okay, well when season 4 starts, we'll have the Essentials Adventurers Vault, so it will get better."

Now we find out this is won't happen. So now we go through another season (2?... 3?...) with characters all looking the same. I was amazed that when I went to level up the pregens to level 3, and only one of them got to choose ANYTHING new. Level 2 to 3 is COMPLTELY predetermined for almost ALL Essential Characters - Warpriest, Knight, Slayer, Thief, Sentinel, Cavalier, Hunter, Scout, and Hexblade. Only the Mage gets a choice about his character going from level 2 to 3.  Add this in with the incredibly limited magic item selection, and you may as well get out your cookie cutter now.

I understand Wizards wants to sell books, but now they can't do that because there are no new books coming out to sell. If they are realizing that Essentials is not the "shot in the arm" that D&D needed (which I suspect is the case, if my Encounters group is an indication) then take off the artificial straitjacket and let players play what they want. Create the pregens using Essentials. Encourage new players to play Essentials. But let those who want to play non-Essentials characters play them. They have said Essentials is compatible with non-Essentials. Now is the time to put your money where your mouth is.
Defining DDE as essentials only makes it easier for DMs to vet the characters as legal.  Crazy as it may sound, people cheat sometimes, and it can be subtle enough that you don't notice it as you play the table.  Limiting your source material makes it much simpler for the table to remain above board and avoid these scenarios.  But if you are confident in your players and don't mind expanding the available library, more power to you.  There is no WPN police that will come and revoke your Herald's license for doing so Tongue out

The level 3 options for the classes is a little odd, I'd have expected at least an increase in your encounter power (Power Strike/Backstab) if nothing else.  Maybe a class feature bump.  It's not the end of the world though...

The gear selection, ok, maybe there's an argument there.  But really, at low heroic, there's not a lot of variety to begin with; all of the items have heavily situational properties that don't provide a ton of uniquely different benefits.  Vicious and defensive are both great weapon options at those levels.  Also worth noting is that the treasure in season 4 is dropped from a random loot table, and not parceled out in the traditional fashion, which I know some people had issues with for S3.

Ultimately, the simplicity of the Essentials line is to its advantage and to the strength of the Encounters program, because it gets new players exposure to the core tenets of the experience, and then they are free to move on to other, "more advanced" methods if they choose.  It's the same principle as why Encounters always starts over at Level 1; the program is designed to accomodate new players.  If the steps it takes to do so bother you so much, then perhaps you may want to stop and consider whether or not Encounters is a good fit for your desired method of play in the first place.  Consider the "superdelve" they're going to start in the fall if you want more of an anything goes, highly optimized experience.


As to the questions about old Renown cards and Fortune Cards: Fortune Cards are completely optional.  Players can choose to use them or not, there is no required buy-in to play.  The existing Renown cards are legal, for now, but Chris Tulach did say quite clearly that they plan to phase them out in favor of the Fortune Cards (the RP rewards for Season 4 will be unique Fortune Cards).
https://twitter.com/#!/Nullzone42
Not sure if it's been addressed, but wrt the Fortune Cards/Previous Reward Cards....

According to the material in the new season, you can use both.  However, you have to choose at the start of each session whether you'll use your deck of fortune cards or the previous reward cards.  IIRC, they say that the old rewards will still be valid for future seasons.  I'll have to re-read the section, but I think they mentioned wanting to highlight their new product (duh) and allow players to use 'em.



I saw that as well. That is nice, letting players benefit from previous play.

For those of us organizing games, we should do our best to promote WotC and the gaming store hosting the event. I'm not a giant fan of Fortune Cards (though my play experiences at D&DXP were neutral-to-positive), but at the store I will be promoting them whenever I can. I want my store to do well.

When I speak to new players I find they really like the idea of the cards. I can see sales being pretty good during the first weeks of this campaign. Encounters has scaling options, so as DMs we can tailor the challenge level as needed to keep things fun.

Follow my blog and Twitter feed with Dark Sun campaign design and DM tips!
Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

The level 3 options for the classes is a little odd, I'd have expected at least an increase in your encounter power (Power Strike/Backstab) if nothing else. 


The Thief gets an additional use of Backstab, which is the same as getting another Encounter power. Backstab does an extra d6 of damage, and paring Backstab up with Sneak Attack (which the circumstances of the combat will often allow) adds another 2d6 to the damage. That makes for a powerful attack, and is a pretty substantial boost in my opinion.
- Rico
For those of us organizing games, we should do our best to promote WotC and the gaming store hosting the event. I'm not a giant fan of Fortune Cards (though my play experiences at D&DXP were neutral-to-positive), but at the store I will be promoting them whenever I can. I want my store to do well.


I want my store to do well, but I'm not going to buy things I don't want in order to help it. i want my store to do well, so I'm buying a Small World expansion pack there next Wednesday. It's Wizards' problem that they can't figure out how to sell products that we want to buy, despite hosting a game that we want to support. It's also their problem that the character builder isn't ready for Encounters Season 4. It's not like the start date is a surprise or anything.
 It's also their problem that the character builder isn't ready for Encounters Season 4. It's not like the start date is a surprise or anything.


You'd think that would go into the planning, wouldn't you?
- Rico
My home game has three encounter DM's in it as players so tomorrow we are pooling all of our Fortune Cards and trying them out.  So I am really looking forward to seeing how they play over all and how they work in a regular roleplaying and gaming environment. 

What I am thinking of suggesting we allow is that you can take a Reknown reward from the past and keep it on hand but use a fortune card as a replacement for it in your deck.  That way it can be basically treated like a specialized fortune card and will have to follow the same rules as a fortune card.
I want my store to do well, but I'm not going to buy things I don't want in order to help it. i want my store to do well, so I'm buying a Small World expansion pack there next Wednesday. It's Wizards' problem that they can't figure out how to sell products that we want to buy, despite hosting a game that we want to support. It's also their problem that the character builder isn't ready for Encounters Season 4. It's not like the start date is a surprise or anything.


Agreed. I'm not going to buy things I don't like either, but what I was really talking about is about being positive.

Scenario 1: "Welcome to the new season of Encounters. This game allows Fortune Cards, which I think are terrible. Anyone want to buy them or bring them to my table, 'cause if you do, allow me to bellow loudly and say that..."

Scenario 2: "Welcome to the new season of Encounters. This game allows Fortune Cards. I have a copy of the rules here and if you need time to go buy some, let me know. Now, character introductions..."

Follow my blog and Twitter feed with Dark Sun campaign design and DM tips!
Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

I want my store to do well, but I'm not going to buy things I don't want in order to help it. i want my store to do well, so I'm buying a Small World expansion pack there next Wednesday. It's Wizards' problem that they can't figure out how to sell products that we want to buy, despite hosting a game that we want to support. It's also their problem that the character builder isn't ready for Encounters Season 4. It's not like the start date is a surprise or anything.


Agreed. I'm not going to buy things I don't like either, but what I was really talking about is about being positive.

Scenario 1: "Welcome to the new season of Encounters. This game allows Fortune Cards, which I think are terrible. Anyone want to buy them or bring them to my table, 'cause if you do, allow me to bellow loudly and say that..."

Scenario 2: "Welcome to the new season of Encounters. This game allows Fortune Cards. I have a copy of the rules here and if you need time to go buy some, let me know. Now, character introductions..."



+1

I see Encounters as a showcase for WOTC and D&D.  It is really designed to get new players interested in D&D and get a taste of the way the game works.  It's the one format that I wouldn't think of changing the rules in at all.

I happen to know the D&D rules really well, but I know that if I came in for a demo of a different RPG and then bought the game based on my experiences, only to find out that the game played differently when you follow the real rules, I'd be kind of pissed.

I was looking forward to seeing how the Fortune Cards worked in real play.  This was to be my main reason for showing up to Encounters next season.  However, I was just at my LGS and they informed me that their judge pool have gotten together and agreed to throw out the rules for Fortune Cards and make up new ones instead.

Of course, he informed me that we were not allowed to make up our own Fortune Card decks in his store AFTER I bought 8 boosters so that I'd have enough cards to make a good deck.

This is after the same store threw out the rules last season on only allowing Essential characters when I really wanted to see how the game worked without any pre-essentials characters in the group.  And they required that anyone who made a custom character in Dark Sun must own a copy of the Dark Sun book and bring it to the table or they were not allowed to make their own character.  Even if they took nothing at all from the Dark Sun book.

I'm just saying that you can claim that all of your house rules are "in the name of fun", but whose fun?  Simply because you don't like something doesn't mean it's in the best interests of all the players who are showing up to change things.

I just don't see the benefit of Essentials only for WotC. I would really like to see support for the breadth of 4E and for the breadth of the demographics that make up the Encounters player base.


Here's the benefit:  Essentials was partially designed to streamline the game to run faster and be easier to understand for new players.

I've found, due to lots of experience, that classes outside of essentials can slow the game down...sometimes dramatically.  Also, the power structure can be confusing for new players to understand.  Experienced players often feel the need to explain how their characters work at the table to everyone.  I've already seen one player start going on and on about how his non-essentials based character worked to the people who had shown up for the first time ever and I could see their eyes glossing over at all the detail.  A couple of people were more than a little intimidated when they found out that there were 20 different books with classes, powers and feats.  The experienced players who showed up with non-essentials characters often knew the rules well enough to power game, which made them more effective than the other characters at the table.  The implication being, that if you want a good character, you need to own all of these old books.

I think WOTC wants a nice, neutral starting point that says "You only need to buy 1 of these 2 books and it tells you everything you need to know to play D&D.  There are only 10 classes to learn."

New players often suffer from option paralyzation due to too many choices.  The idea is to lower the number of options and rules thrown at them in a single campaign.