I just want this entire season to be over! Not having fun at all.

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I'm totally on Alpha's page here that if people have been unhappy with their experience, it's because of a breakdown in the social contract. The DMs have not been working with the players, vice versa, or maybe the Encounters program set up expectations different than what this mod is offering. I contend that a good season is entirely contingent on the players and the DMs coming together to create an experience everyone can enjoy. (I'm trusting that Wizards will come together in the next seasons using these forums and other forms of player feedback to help manage expectations and create a better experience in that way.)

I'll say this: My players seem happy with what I've been able to offer them this season.

I did have one player switch out because he was unhappy with how the combats in the first chapter resolved, with a lot of their abilities being nerfed due to the immobilized and grab effects that were very present. The player I received in kind has been engaged and participating in the mod in a way that has helped to bring some of the other players at my table into a more interactive role with the mod.

Sadly, I have gone down to a bare-bones table of four people, but one left because of schooling, and the other left because of employment issues. More power to them, and best of luck in their education and interviews, of course. And it leaves me happy to say that, even if people have left my table, no one who's sat down at my table has quit Encounters citing this mod (or my DMing) as the reason.

58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?

 

An insightful observation about the nature of 4e, and why it hasn't succeeded as well as other editions. (from the DDN General Discussions, 2014-05-07)

Rundell wrote:

   

Emerikol wrote:

       

Foxface wrote:

        4e was the "modern" D&D, right?  The one that had design notes that drew from more modern games, and generally appealed to those who preferred the design priorities of modern games.  I'm only speculating, but I'd hazard a guess that those same 4e players are the ones running the wide gamut of other games at Origins.

       
        D&D 4e players are pretty much by definition the players who didn't mind, and often embraced, D&D being "different".  That willingness to embrace the different might also mean they are less attached to 4e itself, and are willing to go elsewhere.

    This is a brilliant insight.  I was thinking along those lines myself.  

 

    There are so many tiny indie games that if you added them all together they would definitely rival Pathfinder.   If there were a dominant game for those people it would do better but there is no dominant game.  Until 4e, the indie people were ignored by the makers of D&D.

 

Yep. 4E was embraced by the 'system matters' crowd who love analyzing and innovating systems. That crowd had turned its back on D&D as a clunky anachronism. But with 4E, their design values were embraced and validated. 4E was D&D for system-wonks. And with support for 4E pulled, the system-wonks have moved on to other systems. The tropes and traditions of D&D never had much appeal for them anyway. Now there are other systems to learn and study. It's like boardgamegeeks - always a new system on the horizon. Why play an ancient games that's seven years old?

 

Of course, not all people who play and enjoy 4E fit that mould. I'm running a 4E campaign right now, and my long-time D&D players are enjoying it fine. But with the system-wonks decamping, the 4E players-base lost the wind in its sails.

It is pretty natural for players to drop out over time. I've had players that were clearly having a great time drop out mid-season and then come back a season later. That doesn't invalidate the feedback of players that state they are leaving because they are unhappy; it is just a reality of the baseline for a program like this. A store should continually look to bring in new blood via store advertising, Meetup, Yahoo groups, EN World, etc.

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Sorry for this rant, but honestly I just want this season to be over already.

 I am simply not having any fun. Before I get to that let me explain a few things...

While I do like the module, I have to admit that we've seen some of the same problems at our FLGS.

We normally have 2-3 tables, and 3 DMs who have been running for a while.  When one of them can't make it, we have a couple of experienced players who will step in.   Session 0 went great, we looked over the rules, built characters, or looked over characters already built.  I was pleasantly surprised by the HotFw classes, and pixies created a bit of a stir.  But, we were already down 1 DM, who just plain stopped showing up - but that was OK, we weren't running, so we just had 2 very crowded tables.  For the first session another DM had a conflict, so we had one regular DM and two substitutes who were handed the module moments before the game began, and didn't think to take it home with them because they hoped to play the rest of the season.  That didn't happen, one of our DMs was just plain gone, and the other got burried under work (because of the holidays).  So, while our 1 experienced DM handled the module the others had a tough job of it. 

The module does present quite a lot to get through.  There's RP interaction or puzzle-solving aproach skill challenge levels of complexity in most sessions /and/ a combat encounter, so games, even though often successful from the player's PoV, are running quite long, frequently over the 2 hours the FLGS has scheduled - which bumps up against closing time, which is incovenient for an owner-operator with a small child to take care of.

But that's the best case, what was happenning at our experienced DM's table.  Our substitute DMs got thrown in the deep end.  To their credit, both still provided their tables with good experiences.  They're not that experienced, but they are talented.  But, one of them just didn't have the time with the module to pull the whole thing together, and went off the rails to keep the session flowing.  Her table kept Soryth from kidnapping Juliana.  She had to have her do so while resting.  A couple more 'oopses' like that and she gave up. 

So now I'm running.  To say I'm 'experienced' is putting it mildly, I'm an old guy (the younger of two litteral 'grey beards' on our motely crew), I've been running D&D since I was 15.  The organization of the module perplexed me at first.  You've got two or more pages of partially-scripted RP/puzzle-solving/exploration, often leading to psuedo-critical decision point, then you flip forward to the fight, which changes a bit based on the lead-up to it, then back to script for the end.  By the time I stepped in, the party was trying to rescue 4 people in 2 bodies.  From 2 evil fey, with the 'help' of 2 less-evil fey, who served 2 arch-fey, so that's 10 major characters to keep straight, each with convoluted relationships:   Kalbon is allied with Soryth who has kidnapped Juliana who is possessed by Caerwin, who is the lover of Proferio, who is possessing Orlando who was targeted for assassination by Basal who serves Ragnar who's hostile to Uma who serves Tiandra, just for a start, for instance.  A lot of players had trouble remembering the name of Salazar Vladistone from one session of Phantom Brigade to the next  -  this is /casual/ play, afterall.

How I ended up dealing with it:

I start each session with a re-cap.  Fast and slightly comical.  Then jump into the scripted portions of the session, I call for rolls, because there isn't time for player to 'experiment & interact' the way they're clearly meant to - they still get some of that, but because of time contraints, I have to pull them along if they don't poke at the right thing at the right moment.  Once they trigger the combat it's 'roll initiative' and ignore anything too hinky or fiddly to be worth it to speed it along.  The fights can be a little tough, and are mostly fun, but they do leave the players 'done' for the most part, but I have to hold their attention long enough for the wrap-up.  The lure of treasure doesn't help so much as usual, since the magic treasure is sparse, weird, and in a couple of cases, not described in HotFw like it says it is in the module (under a different name, in one case), and there's no opportunity to spend monetary treasure. 



The sense I get this season is that WotC had been listening to a lot of the anti-Essentials and anti-4e complaints hurled at them when they were designing this season.  Including the spurious ones. 

HotFw really got away from the Essentials fetish for crapping on AEDU, for instance, all the subclasses are genuinely compatible with their PH2 counterparts, not just 'swapping a utility now and then makes you compatible.'  HotFw also had the fluff that 4e was so lacking - much of it good (particularly the SJG-like use of sidebars), some if it (like the big-print power descriptions) utterly worthless and redundant wasting of space. So a little something for both Essentials-hate and 4e-hate.  On balance, though, the best thing WotC's done since quality started slipping over a year ago.  If every WotC response to criticism will be this good, we should just go on criticising them every day.

Crystal Cave, OTOH, seems desperate to answer the charges that there's "no RP in 4e" and "the exploration style of play isn't supported.'  And it does, with a sledgehammer.  I'm just not so sure Encounters was the right venue for it - the module giving you more old-school puzzle solving, forced RP, and exploration than any newbie sitting down to try D&D could possibly deal with.   It could have also answered the charge that 'WotC doesn't produce enough modules' by being published (and not so low level) and offered for sale as a companion product to HotFw.  A simpler, more Encounters-apropriate adventure could have been used instead - perhaps one that blatantly leads into said published module. ;)







 

 

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That's really helpful feedback as well, Tony. Because I often write for organized play I like to hear the good and the bad feedback. I agree that adventures that force you to flip back and forth can really be confusing. The Dark Sun season did that a lot, making it easy to skip important story bits (sometimes in three places!). It has been useful for me to hear specific feedback on this season because I like trying to place heavy story and RP opportunities (not forced, just opportunities) in adventures. It is a very tough challenge for a program like Encounters where your judges can have such incredibly different experience levels and vastly different comfort levels with RP.

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There's also the issue of time constraints, and table composition.

We rarely have the exact same players & characters at each table each week.  It's casual play, so people miss some weeks, tables consolidate, or players just drift from one to another.  This module has factors that happen in prior weeks (did you find such-and-such item, spare such-and-such 'enemy') that then matter in a later session.  But, you might, through player-shuffling or table consolidation (from missing players or a missing DM) have 3 characters carrying a 'unique' item at your table, or none, or you might find that half the group spared Ariel and half killed him...

 

 

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I should also point out that even though it's driving DMs crazy and going long consistently (to the frustration of your host), this season has been /very/ popular with the players.  We had something like 17 show up for session 0 character creation, and still have 3 tables going, including several new players who have been well and truely hooked, and lots of joy is evident at each session. 

 

 

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I should also point out that even though it's driving DMs crazy and going long consistently (to the frustration of your host), this season has been /very/ popular with the players.  We had something like 17 show up for session 0 character creation, and still have 3 tables going, including several new players who have been well and truly hooked, and lots of joy is evident at each session. 


That's especially interesting to me, because it really suggests that at your location the format is creating difficulties for the DMs but the goals are often working. Ideally the format would support what the adventure is trying to deliver so it is easier to run.

Though I have a beholder badge (playtester) I wasn't involved in this Encounter's season at all. But I know a bit about the process, which involves a number of creative people and developmental passes after the initial author's work. One of the challenges is often finding the sweet spot between having decisions matter and the "drop-in" nature of Encounters tables. I think Rodney Thompson really spoke to that in his design and development article, where he said he ended up backing out of a lot of his earlier plans. I think this season pushed forward, and hopefully that advances the "science" of how to do this. One of the toughest challenges is the low word and page count necessitated to keep Encounters at a reasonable internal price. With Ashes of Athas, if I feel an encounter isn't clear enough I can add a paragraph. With Encounters this likely means deleting another paragraph. I have spent a few daydreaming hours thinking about "if I wrote an Encounters season" and I find the prospect tremendously challenging.

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I've DMed this season ... and it's been a mixed bag.

I like the variety in combat encounters, less "kill 'em all", and the problem solving elements involved. There have been some really well done encounters. I think the puzzles have been a step above most of the skill challenges presented in any season.

I know that the roleplay elements are never my group's favourite moments ... they're happiest when initiative is rolled, but this season has been especially tough because there's too many characters to keep track of.  I'd agree that this is a complicated season. I had to completely handwave the plant leaves to be used as keys in the maze, for example.
Though I had to fade more into the background of organizer for this season, what I found is that this module caters more firmly to a particular playstyle that previous modules. It's a great module if you know you're going to have a somewhat close group of roleplayers. 

For the group that we have, it wasn't a good fit. They seem to just be there to chuck some dice at some monsters once a week. We haven't had a new player come in since the end of Neverwinter, and he ended up taking over DMing (and had come looking for such an opportunity). Before that, I can't really recall the last time a new player came. 

Obviously, our program isn't really meeting the original purpose of Encounters, which is bringing new people in. We've been running for a regular group that almost completely eschews roleplaying. I think this season's DM just either read much of the RP text out as a block as fast as possible, to not be interrupted constantly, or skipped it entirely Undecided 
I really hope that the issues being brought up are being taken as feedback and not bashing.   I know that was my intent.  I think Tony has a good summary of how the module has played out.  In our FLGS our numbers have dropped from 14 at two tables to 8 at two tables this season.  I cannot say that is due to the season but in talking with some that have stopped coming as well as those that continue to play it had some influence.

The feedback I have recieved is
1) Liked the added role play and puzzles but the role play was a bit hard due to the large and complex cast of NPCs
2) Very confusing due to keep track of the NPCs.  Especially with the shared soul aspect of them.
3) Some players felt the encounters were extra hard since the monsters in many cases could hit HARD

I really hope some of the future Encountes seasons can help find that sweet spot of D&D.  Need role play, exploration and fights.  Encounters is were many people will get thier first taste of D&D.  Some of the more compelx aspects of the game are where the DM's can help the players realize that is what a home campaign can deliver and here is how you go about creating or finding one.