This post is directed specifically at the in-store Encounters program.
We currently run with four DMs at our FLGS, all running D&D Next rules in the MiBG adventure.
- I love the MiBG format as a retail release.
- It is much more story and roleplaying based than past Encounters offerings have been. This offers a more rich and immersive experience. It offer the DM more freedom to improvise and follow character interests.
- I find the product itself to be very nicely done with fantastic art. The DM screen was an awesome idea, I use it tons.
- I like that it was offered as a retail product that other DMs that are not affilliated with a shop can obtain and run on their own terms.
- I like the additional materials that were offered such as the alternate events.
- I like the supporting content in the latest version of Dragon and Dungeons mags.
- This adventure, because of the story-type delivery and player choices requires much more DM preparation time. I'd like to see tools like the ones suggested below to relieve the DMs burden.
- There are many sessions were there is no combat at all, which is fine occasionaly, but for Encounters, players want a combat encounter or at least a skill challenge more times than not. As a DM on a time budget, you try to work a little of all three pillars, (exporation, interaction and combat), into each session. I find that the nature of this story makes that difficult.
- I'm very dissapointed with the Encounters store packets. The small player maps and dice were not enough to identify the Encounters program as the flagship organized play offering that I know WotC want it to be. Key battle maps and a supplement to aid the DM in adapting the adventure to a 2 hour per week adventure would be what I would expect. This offers the DM the freedom to use it or not depending on their available preparation time.
- The sections or stages are written in story format and very difficult to refer to on-the-fly while DMing. You can not easily scan to a section to find the information you need to deliver to the players at a glance and that interrupts game play. It's fine for home games, not so much at the shop. This is another good tool that the Encounters packet could provide.
The bottom line is that this adventure is fantastic and a great offering, but needs more support from WotC to be friendly or appropriate for the time constrained format of the in-store D&D Encounters program. I believe this can be achieved and shouldn't require a change the shelf product. I think it can all be made available in the Encounters packets and online supplements to aid the DMs, (similar to the Alternate Events file). I understand that WotC is trying out a new format that doesn't "railroad" players as much. I think that's great and support it. Unfortunately, it doesn't work well for Encounters so tools to supplement and support the organized play community would be very welcomed.