DDE Dark Sun Field Reports (Week 1)

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Use this thread to discuss your experiences with week 1 of D&D Encounters Dark Sun. 

Please realise that both players and DMs read these threads, so do not put spoilers in your posts. If your post goes into enough details, then you absolutely must use spoilers. Enclose the spoilery bit in [*sblock=spoiler stuff][*/sblock]  (just remove the *) spoiler block tags so that players who haven't played yet don't have the surprise ruined for them. 

[*sblock=spoilerey stuff]



will produce

spoilerey stuff


once you remove the *.
Guardians of the Gameday ran the first encounter of Season 2 of DDE tonight @ Guardian Games.

4 Tables with 23 players (this is a single day record, one we achieved with no advertising this time, it was all word of mouth).

I could not fill the singleton chair at my 4th table because I had a group of 3 and a group of 2 that wanted to play together. I have got them signed up to play on Monday at our other 2 tables.

When the store expands its space soon I will probably add 1 or 2 more tables. I am very excited.

I had one judge bow out this afternoon (car trouble) but I gained 2 more judges with hours giving me my 4 judges. Kudos to Alex and Rob for being able to quickly read up and run this encounter. Teos and Noah did their usual bang up job.

As I was not DMing a table tonight kept busy making sure my players and DMs had all the materials they needed to play and run this encounter:

  • PC Pre-Gens w/ Teos collected errata.

  • PC Name placards that came with the kit.

  • PC Character Tracker from the Ch. 1 Instructions..

  • PC Opening Scene Intro Doc (collected/created by me).

  • PC Standies by KJordan. I cut them out, taped  them together with pennies for basing (Rob helped me alot).

  • The Welcome to Athas: A Quick Player’s Primer from the Ch. 1 Instructions.

  • A small color map of the "road" between Altaruk to the City-State of Tyr (created by me, printed only).

  • Reporting form.

  • Minis for my 2 last minute judges (I had minis for three judges) I figured I might have to judge.

  • Copy of the Player intro (see above).

  • Adventure and maps.

I made sure all players had DCI numbers (Cards for new players, looked up a few for players that forgot them).

While play was going on, I organized the DDE folders where we keep all the DM resources. Removed the season 1 materials (gave a copy of Undermountain to all my judges from the previous season).

Since I didn't judge I don't have a table report, but I know we had no PC deaths but they got beat up pretty bad (even with some of the downgrades we did to the monsters).

Everyone was positive afterward and it looks like we will have a packed house this season. Awesome.

I had a third person volunteer to judge (he will likely be my back-up DM for my Monday crew).

It has been exhuasting winding down last season and ramping up the new one. I am very pleased with how well the program has grown here in Portland, OR and when I go back to school in the fall I know I will leave the program going full steam ahead. I hope to have my replacement trained up by the end of Dark Sun.


Bryan Blumklotz
Guardians of the Gameday Organizer
Portland, OR

You run them tuesday night?? I will remember that and start the thread earlier next week.

Thanks for including the initial post!!
Mudbunny SVCL for DDI Before you post, think of the Monkeysphere
You can run them on other nights? Sweet! I thought Wednesday was solid as per Wizards. I would love to have make-up sessions for players that couldn't make Wednesday.
as long as you run the regular session on wednesdays, you can run overflow or make-up sessions as you see fit.
We have been running a single token Wednesday table because there is a major Warhammer minis group that litterally takes up all table space except for the card table in one corner on that day. They run every week and spend mad amounts of money (and lets face it, we RPGers don't spend a fraction of the money that Warhammer or Magic players do). The owner would be crazy to kick those guys to the curb.

The good news is the store is expanding space and by Season 3 we will be able to run our main day on Wednesday. For now our main day is Tuesday (4 tables) (which means we don't get the twitter buffs) and we have a make-up day on Monday (2 tables).

Bryan Blumklotz
GotG Coordinator

My group got off to a rough start unfortunately.  There was some chaos getting organized in the beginning and we were looking at one table with 7 or so people or two tables of 3 (since one player would have to DM).  After it was all sorted out we ended up with a table of 5 players and myself DMing.

The party consisted of:

Castri, Jarvix, Phye, Shikirr, and Yuka

And now the secret stuffs!

 Since we combined two groups, one of which that had started, I quickly summarized the merchant caravan and the omen to turn back made by Jarvix.  We briefly RP’d the initial assault of the full fury the obsidian shard storm had.  Then we started the read aloud and encounter 1-1 in earnest.  As the players got to their turns I hinted (perhaps to heavily) that you have no way of surviving out in the athasian wastes without supplies (water, kank honey, dried meats, sun salves, and the like), and it was a minor action go gather them in or adjacent to the wagon.  Also mentioned was the looming wrath of the shard storm and hordes of silt runners.


The players were nervous at first and spent the 1st round with pretty much everyone gathering ‘survival days’ (Sd).  Only Jarvix attacked, blasting both Ragers with an augment 2 Dishearten for 10 damage and -3 to attacks.  The ragers hit the party once with Brutal spear, on Castri, for a viscous 17 points of damage.  One of the Darters also hit Castri with Poison dart for 13 dropping him.  The thri-kreen Shikiir was also bloodied by the Psi Detonation and a poison dart.  Lots of misses by the silt runners helped stave off a TPK, as the party only left the caravan on turn #3.  Most people took run actions, opportunity attacks, and spent an action point to clear the map.  The last person ran off the map at turn 7.  Instead of having a full wave of silt runners join in, I had several come to loot the caravan (and threaten the PC’s) from behind.  Otherwise it would have been a full wipe.  Not one silt runner died in the making of this encounter, but some were bloodied!


In the quick wrap up haste, I forgot to mention the two healing fruits in the SD’s they got, but I’ll surprise them next run.  The party was a bit put off by the lack of experience, but a couple seemed to like the “level up” at the end of chapter 1.  All in all I feel 1-1 got mixed reviews from out table.  A good portion of the problem was our beginning organization.  I’m confident we’ll have a better set up and two full tables next week.

We had 4 players and a TPK... But we had a great time. We are not sure what to do next week since we all died! Any advice?  LOL
Well I got a better turn out then all of the first season. I got 9 people to show up. I wasn't expecting that many in fact 3 people contacted me the night before.

So with nine people in tow and only one DM (me) I did a 9 player game. I will try to find another DM to split the tables next week. Anyone in the Scranton,Pa area want to help a fellow DM?

So therefore I had alot of duplicate characters at the table just changed the names and cosmetic things for it. I will have to change around some of the builds if we stick to the 9 player format.

On with the good stuff
spoilerey stuff

So all nine players cram into the wagon and I alert the Psion that there is a meteor shower the night before ,but the caravan master pays it no heed.
The night goes on and then the storm hits. They hear screaming of pain from the pack animals and caravan master. When the daylight hits they see the carnage from the obsidian storm through the slits on the wagon. The storm lets up a little and they go out to get supplies that are not damaged. One of the fights climbs up on the rock pillars as a look out as the rest scrounge. The storm clouds approach at the same time as the silt runners emerge and attack. With the large party I added a few more of each type of monster.
The fight is on and the party is able to quickly drop 4 of the things due to the high damage the Thrikreen and Elf were dealing out. The silt runners miss alot for alot of single digits.
I go two rounds of combat before I bring on the storm. I tell the players the obsidian storm is coming on the board and slowly move it up the map at the end of each round to catch the players in it.
The PC's think they should take cover in the wagon so some head back that way. I then start to respawn more of the little runners. They start to connect this time and with the damage dealing the PC's get the point that the wagon isn't a safe harbor.  The storm is starting to ware it down as well. The Tiefling bolts from the wagon and a runner swings and misses. People take more damage from the storm ,but they all take off and run off the map edge to find cover. They found their magic fruit and other day survival kits.

Moments of greatness: the Fighter running and jumping up to the top of the pillar to engage the Inciter.
James Playing D&D since the Red Box of '83.

The other table seems to have managed to hit 7 players while I had 5, but I have to admit I wasn't there most of the night and one might have been an observer. They did badly, apparently, with three down and at least one death I saw happen watching them after we finished. Other DM was going for TPK according to him.

Pregens seem to have turned a lot of people off. Last season's DM and all but two of the players in last season's group I was in all didn't come. I can't say that I blame them, pregens are why I'm running this season instead of playing in it.


Four people was my initial group, then right at the beginning of Stuff Happens after the initial exposition a fifth wandered in.

I started off with a brief overview of what was going on, that they were part of a caravan heading from Alturuk to Tyr, a bit about the two places. I had the cloth map from the 2E Dark Sun set with me and brought that out to show the players the world. That seemed to go over well, visual aids like that I find add to the experience.

I got a set of the Deserts of Athas dungeon tiles yesterday, and used the wagon tile on top of a dice box for the wagon on the map. Gave a little bit of dimension to the map.

I ran it easy on the players, had one completely new player and two semi-new whose experience level I was uncertain of and the two least experienced guys from Undermountain. They started taking bad damage in the first round so I 'forgot' the 2 damage from the environment. They spent most of the time humping the wagon anyway, looting supplies. I made it clear to them that supplies would be important, since this is kind of a Common Sense thing on Athas. Also made it clear that there were other figures in the distance heading towards them to give a sense of 'we better hurry'.

I tried not to get too nasty with the players, just enough to scare them, not enough to kill them. I find that TPKs generally don't lead to fun. Feeling like you're in danger but not quite getting to the point of 'oh god' is usually a good place to be. I think I made it, hopefully the players felt the same way. Got them good and bloodied but not dead. They cleared out the last of the initial wave in the 5th round and since we were running out of time due to a late start, I just had the next wave arrive as they ran off into the storm and a successful escape. There's plenty more hurt to come in the next month, and most of them are newish, so I feel a bit of punch-pulling is a good way to go for these early sessions. I'm not here to win, I'm here to roll dice and fight monstersplayers.

I'm still fairly new to DMing, this was actually only my second session running 4E period, though I ran 3.5 for a bit, so it's a bit of a learning process.

Halaster's Lost Apprentice was named The Book Of Errors by our DM, I've named this one The Book Of Derp.

It's spelled Corellon Larethian, not Correlon, Correllon, Correlllon, Corellion, Correlian or any other way of getting it wrong. I'm a total grognard and I still play 4E.
We play in the Omaha, NE area.  Our little group went through most of the 1st season together, and looked forward to season 2.  Oh, if we'd only known...

We had four players at the table, which is about how many we had for most of season 1.  We played with what the kit had for us, and didn't know about the errata until too late.  Being played were the Ardent, the Battlemind, the Fighter and the Ranger (don't remember names, sorry).  Now, you'd think that with two defenders, a leader and a striker, this would be a fairly good party, right?

Here's how it went down...

First round:  with the presence of attackers, the fighter and the ranger go forth to meet them.  However, we didn't reach them with standard moves, so readied actions so when the Ragers came to meet us, we'd be able to attack.  Instead they stood back with their reach weapons and got a free round of attacks on us.  With attacks that do 18 points of damage on AVERAGE, the first Rager put the Ranger to bloodied, and the caster did enough damage to kill the Ranger outright.  In return, the battlemind and ardent were able to bloody one of the Ragers.

Second round:  The Fighter grabs the bloodied Rager (focussed fire) and unleashes an attack which does a whole... 5 points.  But the shard storm and the aura power wear on the Fighter, and the two darters circle around and both target the Ardent... and hit.  The Ardent goes down, at -2 hit points.  But we're able to drop one of the ragers.

Third round:  The fighter switches targets to the caster, but is hit by the Rager, and the Caster's sword does the Fighter in.  The Battlemind is left alone, fighting for his life.  He does manage to drop the Rager, though.

Fourth round: with the Battlemind facing three fresh opponents, and the arrival of five new opponents on the next turn, the party decides to call it a night.  It was officially a TPK.

My feelings on this module is that it's very poorly written, and if this is what I can expect from future encounters, I will not be returning next week.  My friend, who played the Ranger, was very confused at her character (the additional complexity of a nonstandard character was not a good thing for new players) and was very frustrated that she didn't even get to attack before she was incapacitated.

The adversaries did far too much damage for first-level characters to handle, the information in the module which explained the background is not presented in a manner accessible to players, the encounter's theme and tone is never explained, and in all I found it very frustrating and disappointing.  Combined with the new rules proposals for Living Forgotten Realms (not a topic for this board), and I am considering selling my 4th edition books and wiping my hands of 4th ed.

I feel I deserve better than this piece of garbage.
First Post on the forums.  I started back specifically to play Encounters Season 2. 

When I showed up to play there were already 6 people and I was told they were playing last week's encounter and not Season 2. 

Suddenly there were 12 players and 1 DM.  A guy graciously offered to run the adventure cold (Thanks) and rather than split up the regular group, we broke off and played the Dark Sun encounter.  

There were only 3 of us, with the DM playing a character to make 4 players... then another guy showed up later and we let him join.

We were:
Jarvix (late addition)

spoilerey stuff

The poor DM essentially skipped over the opening, no description of what I assume was an obsidian storm, no endurance skill challenge.  We move the wagon and poof: little lizard dudes come running over the horizon.

Shikirr takes his three movement, close to what happens to be a Ranged monster (blowgun).  Initative is rolled and the badguys go first.  The blowgun hits Shikirr with a crit, immobilizes him, the others attack the Elf, bloodying and immobilizing him. 

Barcan damages one of the guys. 

Phye surges and heals the Elf, and readies and attack for the charging lizard.  Misses. 

Since the DM didn't scale the monsters for a party of 4, he turned one of the lizards into a minion.  The next round of attacks (round 2) on Shikirr crit AGAIN!  Now the defender is basically unable to do his job effectivley. 

More healing, more damage... We kill all the monsters but we are still operating on initative.  We are all bloodied except Jarvix (who showed up late and played well).  We are confused and follow the Elf (DM character)'s lead and start to get supplies for the road to Tyr.  Then more lizards show up and start dropping us bloodied few.  Within two rounds we were dead.  TPK.

I don't blame the DM, he was running a cold game and did his best.  The game was fun and I love the world even though I feel like I didn't get the full flavor.  The DM told us he forgot the 2 points damage just for being out in the sun.  Talk about flavor!

I'll be there next week and hopefully there will be two tables running in Queens, NY.
My table ran just fine since I reviewed the Encounter ahead of time. I knew that some of the monsters had the capability to really put out a lot of damage, so I monitored the condition of the PCs carefully and watched who was about to drop. This way I could really give the PCs the illusion of danger by making most people bloodied and very close to death, but without TPKing them and making them want to quit.

Nobody had any problem with the pre-gens after I applied the errata for them; they understood the necessity since this campaign setting has not been released yet.

My players had a ton of fun gathering supplies for this season and they're ready to brave the wastelands, I think Cool
Our group of "standby DMs" (myself included) pre-ran this encounter to get a feel for it, and that helped a lot, I think. Not sure what counts as spoilery and what does not, so I guess I'll spoilerize the rest:

Spoil me!

I managed to not DM during Season 1, so I was a bit hesitant about DMing for Season 2. But I'm part of the pool, so into the fray I went. To tell the truth, I enjoyed DMing as much as playing, maybe even moreso. I had a group of three newbies (two tweens and a 4.0 newbie) and two experienced players (including a standby DM), which made it fun for everyone as the veterans helped the newbies understand their options and make sure everything went well.

I was determined not to fudge dice rolls in behalf of the players, and I didn't; but I did give the players a few breaks. For example, I ruled that any player who started their turn prone (from being knocked down to negative hit points) did not take the 2 points ongoing damage, even iff they had been healed and stood up during their turn. Also, one of the silt runners, after seeing the elf fall, darted past some players (provoking opportunity attacks) and literally bloodied himself to get to the supplies. Another runner got taken out by the storm itself, losing its final 2 hit points to the ongoing damage. A quick mutter from the standby DM reminded me to tone it down a bit, which is why I had the silt runners ignore opportunity attack possibilities when they moved; I think that helped a bit.

One player knew he was not coming back next week, and so when everyone left before or during round 5, he (playing the elf, natch) stayed behind to attack the next wave of runners. They all missed him on their attacks (all ragers and they rolled really low). The other players encouraged him to shift and escape, but he refused and came close to bloodying one runner. They got their turn, and 22 points of attack later he's deader than dead (barely standing up and brought back from the brink as it was).

Another player (tween newbie) had to leave after the first round of the fight, so his character beelined to the caravan and standard/move/minored scooping up survival days for two or three rounds before being the first to vamoose. If not for that, I don't think the party would have enough to survive; nor would they have seen that discretion is the better part of valor.

All in all, a good experience. Really tough; about half the party spent their action points. But fun. I look forward to more!
My feelings on this module is that it's very poorly written, and if this is what I can expect from future encounters, I will not be returning next week.  My friend, who played the Ranger, was very confused at her character (the additional complexity of a nonstandard character was not a good thing for new players) and was very frustrated that she didn't even get to attack before she was incapacitated.

The adversaries did far too much damage for first-level characters to handle, the information in the module which explained the background is not presented in a manner accessible to players, the encounter's theme and tone is never explained, and in all I found it very frustrating and disappointing. 
I feel I deserve better than this piece of garbage.

I have to agree, the combination of poor pre-made characters and design of the encounter made the first encounter not very fun and more importantly: not noobie friendly. I think that is the important thing, this is suppposed to get new players into it and I think this encounter failed.

We didn't TPK, but we took a pretty good beating. The encounter wasn't fun or instructive to new people. That seems like a bit of a failure to me.

Maybe it was our GM or somthing, but the characters we chose seemed to have essentially no link together or reason they were travelling together.

While I won't be quitting 4E, Encounter 1-1 of Season 2 has not inspired me at all. The best thing was I was able to play a thri-kreen, allbeit a bit of a gimpy one.

I wanted to add that everyone had to blow through all their encounters and all but 1 of the 4 players used action points to get through the fight. Some of us debated using dailies, but mine (Shikkir) was pretty much not useful (much like my at-wills!), which was the only reason it didn't get used.

I'm also jealous of the human for having an extra power point! OMG!

We completed session 1 of Dark Sun.
I was observing as the coordinator, we had a full party of 6 and it was very nearly a TPK.
The monsters were optimized while the characters were not.
The balance for the adventure seems to be off.

The encounter was very tough; it was more like an LFR high tier encounter.
While ultimately no one died this time, the party will not be able to survive 4 more encounters.
Most the charters are down 50% or more of their Healing Surges and still damaged.

One character hit the 50 points of damage mark already and another was only 9 points away.
4 of the 6 characters were taken to negative.

The 4d6 Encounter Power was way too powerful, it did a one shot on one of the players and took him to negative right from the start.

The only reason the group survived was by the grace of the DM and a few timely excellent die rolls.  Had the DM played as it was supposed to be (even allowing for the minor adjustments), it would've been a TPK.

Since this was meant to be a live advertisement / enticement to get people back to the table and the game, it is an epic failure.  Our store has already lost one of the players and several others are shaky about coming back.

The mod is not written very well, there are several things to keep track of, but there is no clear definition of what exactly they are like "Survival Days" (i.e. rations?); at least not that the GM could find.  Other things were the Player's information about the world was very lacking, there should've been a player handout included to help the player immersion into the adventure world.  An RP or well written skill challenge would probably been a better first session.

I am not sure how well Dark Suns is going to do at my location, nor am I certain that it will run all 15 sessions.

Likewise, frustrating experience, here.  We had eight tables of six; mine had two experienced players and four complete newbies.  Characters were randomly distributed.  This did not work out well; the characters and the scenario were not friendly to newcomers.

2d10+4+Immobilize, 1/2 damage+slow on a miss, recharge on a 5+?  Holy hell!  With six of us there were three of those hitting us in round one.  At least one recharged every round.  The only reasons that any of us survived are A) the DM took pity on us, and B) we totally surrendered any pretense of being a party of heroes and ran, leaving those unable to flee to die.

This was not how I would choose to introduce people to D&D and Dark Sun.

I'm looking forward to next week, but I do sincerely hope the actual encounter is more sane.
Hey, all-

A VERY successful first foray into Athas for Modern Myths. The new setting lured an entire extra table into the shop for this week's Encounter, and it sure looked like everyone will be coming back.

We had to scramble a bit to get that third table set up, but got everyone set down and running well once we were settled in.

My own table...

I ended up with many of the same folks I typically had at my table in Undermountain. Two of them are younger players, two are relatively new to 4e, last is very experienced, a Herald-level DM and very knoweldgable about the system.

I have to agree that the structure of the module, as was Undermoutnain, makes it hard ot string events together sometimes, all the information regarding the ENTIRE encounter, into, etc, should all be together in one place. Luckily, I had listened to the PA podcast and thorgouhly read the entire intro and first Encounter, so was reasonably prepped, as were the other DMs.

My table was missing the Mul PC, so all the roles were still filled (we made SURE somene took the Ardent!). The youngest kid had some trouble grapsing Psionics, but got a kick out if playing a bug, so it worked OK. We spent a minute or two on intro RP-ing, coming up with reasons why they happened to end up on the same caravan wagon. I decided on the spot that the shard-storm looked more like a twister, s adnastorm, and that they ended up sort of in the eye and so weren't as badly slammed by it as the others.

The PCs seeing other groups of critters going after other wagons beofre turning their attention to the fight was a very cool ytiming mechanism for the Encounter, and kept them moving at a good clip. I used the reduced damage suggestions in the DM thread, and was glad I did, the Ecnounter was merely brutal with the changes, it would very likely have been a 'Myconids II' if I hadn't scaled it back as suggested. Something is very wrong with the damage scaling for these things when there are attacks that can send a PC from full to dying, or unbloodied but damaged to outright dead in one shot. Ouch. Luckily, we had all read the errata (we've been warned!) and no one went home pissed off.

The PCs did a good job of telling how they were snatching supplies off the wagon between sword swings and such, and in the end they got away JUST as the second wave was closing in. We had two PCs go to unconscious, but no one killed, the impression of the environment being as much of a hazard as any monster has been firmly planted in their minds, I think, the main goal of the first Encounter.

All in all, a success. I've had another player volunteeer to run next week so I can play, I'd lvoe to give it a shot, hopefully I'll be able to report as a player! Very much looking forward to playing out that running Skill Challenge.

As with Undermountain, there are quibbles, but overall, it's a great start to what has already proven to be a setting that increasd our attendance by 50%, so thanks!

Jim Crocker, Managing Partner Modern Myths, LLC Northampton, MA www.modern-myths.com
Had plenty of fun for this first session of Season 2. I'm very excited for the continuance.
All the stuff I should hide
i had 7 players RSVP, but two did not show. I'm fairly certain that one will be coming next week...I decided to play the character not taken, but was judicious with resources.

Castri was taken as soon as we knew the pre-gens. He stayed alive, but took a serious beating from the elf hating silt runners. not much RP, but that will come.

Barcan's player wanted to be a defiler. I printed the rules for defiling, but explained that he'd better not make it a habit. no defiling this week. The other players have notified him that as defiling will be noticeable, they will not respond with kindness to becoming targets of defiling power.

Phye is played by a deep voiced man. Lots of jokes about gender bending Phye in all that. did great as a leader, got bloodied once.

Shikirr earned a moment of greatness for our table fairly quick. Fantastic play style. Also revived a dying Castri, and dealth more than 15 damage to an enemy. Good night for Shikirr.

Yuka was an excellent defender. grappling strike was a perfect tool to holding off foes.

Jarvix...well, maybe someone will pick him up another night. i played him and grabbed survival days so taht he has resources when a player takes over.

So, i was worried about these killer monsters. I was going to have them using the most devastating attacks as often as possible; however, strangely rolled below 10 for all such attacks. the silt runners certainly tried, but luck had them as total losers. they did lay down damage, but not as much as i had anticipated.

since the skill challenge seemed a bit toothless, i made it an individual challenge for each PC rather than a group challenge. Jarvix has failed a bit already.

also, the healing fruit...changed that some. i didn't want to just hand out healing potions, and I knew that they would be burning through healing surges during these hard combats. I told them these are the fruits used in making healing potions, but refinement and distilling is required. Eating the fruit would do one of two things--restore a second wind if it had been used in combat, or allow PC to regain a healing surge if eaten outside of combat. This will be very important for Castri and Jarvix so that they can restore healing surges. I ruled that anyone which picked up even one survival day of supplies found two healing fruits among the supplies.

Barcan also found a box that had an additional two healing fruits. I had listened to the podcast and really liked the box that was described from the first episode, with the string ritual book. So, i borrowed that. they now have the ritual book. I haven't decided which rituals nor the method for them to decode the tangle of strings that holds the secrets of the rituals.

the team did get through 5 rounds of combat and was able to see the second group of silt runners arrive, but ran away at that round without taking additional damage.

if my dice had rolled high rather than low, it could have become a TPK very easily. another table at the store tonight was a TPK. too bad for them.

best moment of my night was the silt runner inciter decided to 'hop down' from the 10 foot boulder. as per recent errata that was a DC 10 acrobatics. he failed and took a full 10 points of damage from the fall. completely hilarious. also fun was his failed attempt to climb the next boulder closer to the cart. also hilarious.

the players clearly enjoyed the night and were glad that the danger was tempered by bad luck for the DM's dice. I think they certainly felt the level of danger under the circumstances.
Ontario, Windsor area.
The store I played at had 3 tables, 2 with five people and 1 with four. I didnt really pay any attention to the other two tables so I only have a story about my own.
My Table had 4 Newbies to fourth edition and myself. I was playing the ardent, and the other four characters were the battlemind, the sorceror, the psion and the fighter.
During the first round everyone used there actions to gather supplies allowing the enemies to advance and using the caravan as cover against the ranged enemies and the storm.
The party was hit for high damage all around, but a lucky hit with an augmented 2 Energising strike saved the fighter from going down. Fight was nowhere near a TPK however, we got off the map as the second wave came onto the map with about 4 SD's per character.

All and all, I was bored. The fight wasnt interesting at all. *According to my DM* the creatures all had low to-hit and very very high damage. The first encounter just seemed overoptimised for a first level party of INCREDIBLY unoptimised PC's.
We played with erratad characters, but it never actually had an effect at any point.
I hope the second encounter is more fun or I might stop going until the 3rd season.
I have a different story to tell.  Maybe it was the Heat here in Vegas (we were over 100 all week).

Our groups (we had 3) all enjoyed the encounter although it was extremely dangerous.  There were enough players to possibly have a 2nd night of encounters on thursdays.  There were new players in every group and were aided by fellow players.  

The damage was extreme, but several players did more than 15 in one hit.  I've already got confirmation of 4-6 more for another session.  
All in all it was fun.  We actually had people who wanted more.  Being an intro to Dark Sun, it was just as dangerous as ever.   For those who had questions about tracking and survival days, there was a sidebar in the adventure which explained them.  In addition there was a handout included with the tracking sheets that did give a clear view of the world similar to the general  "rules" of the world at the beginning of each of the world books.

Our group wanted tokens for the players with the picture of the character on them (awesome idea) and all of us would like to have the characters from the current Dark Sun encounters and the Forgotten Realms encounters from the prior season loaded into the Character Generator as sample characters (please, please, please)

Welcome to Athas and glad to be there.  Is that a Silt Runner on that Rock?
Pro's: I got a nifty foam cup holder

Con's: F!@#$%^# BULLS$%#...(translation below)

Season 2 - Session 1 in a word is...OFFENSIVE! It's also incredibly difficult to put it in one word without combining it with a string of profanity. I for one didn't realize it was a Pre-Con ONLY season, so I showed up with a shiny new character only to be given the bad news (so before even setting my books down I'm no longer having fun). Add that to the most notoriously unforgiving campaign setting in all D&D (Dark Sun), and you have an instant recipe for a big'o'bowl of "WTF?". Unfamiliarity with the pre-cons and an aggressive "OMFG!" designed encounter created all out miserable (and barely survivable) game-play.

Being a huge fan of D&D having played the various editions over the years no single publication bearing the D&D title (even D&D encounters Season 1) ever made me feel like I wasn't having fun until D&D Encounters Season 2 - Session 1. It not only felt alien, uninspired, and uninviting to new comers, it was in flagrant defiance of everything I find attractive and unique about D&D.

At it's heart, D&D is the expression of ones own creativity and problem solving skills for the purpose of entertainment. None of these aspects were present in this session. If this is how Wizards wants to advertise D&D in an attempt to bring in newcomers, then sadly it will remain a game only played far from these sanctioned events.

That thing I played today wasn't D&D; the game is better than that non-sense they attempted push with a D&D label. Seriously, I feel betrayed for backing 4E and singing its praises to the skeptics and haters out there only to be stabbed in the back with this non-sense. I even went as far as telling people they should go check out D&D Encounters to get a taste of what 4E is like...

Thanks for shooting me in the foot there Encounters writers... now I'll never be able to convince my 3.5 buddies to play 4E... keep up the great work with bringing players into the fold...
As Perithoth said, the games in Portland at Guardian Games were awesome. Bryan runs a great ship there - DMs share info and links beforehand, he meets with DMs to review each session before play starts, etc. Being prepared lets us really help the newer DMs (and we have a couple, which is fantastic).

As I have said before, DMs really should keep in mind what the program is about. It is a program designed to attract players to the game we love. I agree that both sessions of Encounters should be less difficult as a baseline and just contain options so DMs can run them harder if needed. I also feel that the program would work best with a very clear sidebar on Fun being job #1 and advice to not get cought up in the text. It is good to see some talk of pulling punches, as perhaps we as a community are starting to get the word out. With time, DMs get good at modifying on the fly so players don't notice what we do and just feel like the challenge is appropriate. There are DM tools in this thread. Players, let your DMs know about these forums!

At my table, I had some notes to use. I took what Bryan shared as an intro doc and modified to make it a bit longer and involve the players. Here is the process I used:
Very mild spoiler on the steps I took to start the encounter:

  1. Get organized by mustering tables, giving out Welcome to Athas, tracking sheets, etc.

  2. Give out the pregens and give them a chance to trade them and look at them before having everyone choose a PC. 

  3. While they look over the pregens, explain the program (weekly sessions, same time/place/day, renown, auto-level, etc.). If can, briefly talk about the WPN/RPGA and LFR.

  4. Answer any questions they have about the PCs. Describe the weapon breakage rules.

  5. Summarize the info in Welcome to Athas and ask if there are any setting questions. If can, talk about the pregens, explaining things like themes, races, weapons, etc. so they get a solid grasp of the setting.

  6. Handout themes and errata (optional).

  7. Have them introduce their PCs, with the understanding that they can add more depth later.

  8. PC connections: Barcan and Phye are brother/sister. Jarvix recruited Barcan into VA.

  9. Opening scene, below.

  10. Winds lessen, PCs can venture outside. They can make the checks listed. Proceed with encounter 1-1 on p14.

For step 6, I used a half-page handout for each PC. On it was the part of my recent blog reviewing the themes that dealt with their specific PC. I made this completely optional and let them take it home as ideas for how they might RP the PC. I hope that this helped them understand relationships ("Hey, I have a sister!" "Wow, I really hate slavers and I need to look for a pack to protect...") and helps them come up with good RP. I certainly noticed some of the connections this week as brother and sister played up that angle and the student and teacher competed a bit as well. The bottom of that half-page had the errate for that PC, which I let them use or not as they saw fit.

For the opening scene I ran with painting how things started in Altaruk, the reasons for their voyage, the realities and dangers of a merchant caravan, the intrigue of the Veiled Alliance, what the caravan was like (picture of an Innix with a Howdah, etc.), and the rumors about Tyr. This helped set the stage.

spoilers for the plot of this session:

I then very briefly ran the meteor shower scene with both master and student, letting them tell the party and the captain about this bad omen, with the captain ignoring it. This then segued nicely to the coming sandstorm and how it suddenly hits. I had fun describing the confusion, low visibility, screeches from the Innix, then a massive obsidian shard destroying their innix and sending them flying.

The combat then began. As I have mentioned, I took steps beforehand to lower the threat level and took steps during the encounter to communicate what was taking place.
spoilers for combat portion:

It took them a bit of time to get going on collecting supplies. I announced each one collected. "You have one set of supplies. You think this might keep one of you alive for the day in the desert..." And, "you have two supplies now... of course, you don't know how many days you may be stranded here..." They got the hints, or as my friend wrote, the clue-by-four over the head. I often gave free-action knowledge checks to help decide how much I clued them in at any time and to make it feel more like they are learning vs. me telling them.

Even with 4d4 instead of 4d6, I was able to bloody 4 of 5 players and to send three to unconscious. It was a solid battle, with good tactics by the party and some good moments as they RPd and learned what their PCs could do. The storm added constant pressure, as did the lead siltrunner constantly yelling into the storm for what they surmised would be reinforcements. I managed to crit a PC with the 4d4 vulnerable 5 attack... it was perfect, leaving them at 9 HPs... the next turn they took 2+5 from the storm... down to 2 HPs! And yet, they dropped their foe.

Overall, it was a good encounter, maybe a bit too challenging even with my revisions. I probably could have stepped down another damage die on a different foe and been fine. However, the party did well and the players are eager for the next game. For me, it was an absolute joy to DM in Athas once more. I truly love the campaign setting. Getting to break out my old Monstrous Compendium and map from the boxed set was terrific fun.

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Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

This was my first time attending Encounters, and I definitely left with mixed feelings towards it.  It was fun to try something new, and to practically be 'forced' to play a character that I wouldn't typically play, but the encounter itself was absolutely brutal for our table.

There were three tables in all at the store, and the table I was at was mostly just the new players.  The other two tables were overflowing with players; one sitting at I think eight, the other at about nine, our table had only five, one of which a total newbie, one being relatively new, I think, and three of them all knowing each other and playing with some regularity, I think- with me being a pretty well experienced player as well.

For a brief version - I was the only character that made it away from the encounter alive and just barely too with seven health; having used my second wind, and my action points, both of my power points (I was playing Shikirr) and having been dropped unconscious twice.

For the long version

Things were off to a rocky start when I quickly began to notice that our DM was doing less than a stellar job of informing us of just what was going on - I barely even understood that there was a legitimately dangerous shard storm going on until one of the players took two damage from the storm. 

I started the encounter by running out to runners to sort of 'intercept' them while hoping to buy the rest of the group time to do...whatever?  We weren't even well informed about the fact that the wagon was holding supplies that we should have been attempting to gather until the person after me went and started to move forward to attack as well; where the DM then informed us about the fact that the wagon was full of supplies that we would be needing to survive.

The blowgunners (whatever they were officially called, not sure) dropped the Fighter on their very first turn; both hitting with their poison attacks, and one of them critting, for something in the range of 35 damage total between both attacks.  From there we started to try and focus on gathering supplies instead of trying to kill any of the lizards, since we quickly came under the impression of - there is no way in hell we're going to be able to stand toe-to-toe with any of these enemies. 

To shorten the story some; in all during the encounter, the sorcerer was straight up killed during the encounter in one round of being focus-fired by the blowgunners, I believe, plus some damage that had built up from the obsidian storm.  I was dropped in one round of being hit by one of the 4d6 spear attacks followed up by blowgun shots, but was thankfully revived.  We tried dragging the sorcerer's body out of the area; since he had grathered four 'survival days' by that time and it was easier to drag his corpse with the supplies than to try and pick them up off of his body.  The ardent was dropped in two attacks from the spear wielders plus damage from the storm - On our attempt to run out of the area with what very few supplies we had (most of us only had two or three a piece) I stopped by the almost totally dead ardent and used a heal check to let her use her second wind and brought her back up - and was then promptly dropped down to unconscious again with attacks from the blowgunners.  On the ardent's turn, she stood up, attacked the controller to let me use a healing surge to get back up - which in turn bloodied the controller, which caused every enemy to get a free attack - dropping the ardent immediately to just two points away from being killed and nearly dropping the psion.  The fighter; carrying the sorcerer, then attempted to run past the controller and a spear guy, provoking two opportunity attacks - and being hit by both and being dropped unconscious on the other side of two enemies.  One of the spear guys then charged the psion, crit, and dropped him.  On my turn, all I could do was stand, grab a survival day off of the to be dead ardent, and spend my standard action to run just barely off screen.

Our DM pulled absolutely no punches, did nothing at all to try and help us survive, fudged no rolls at all in our favor, and didn't alter the encounter in any way.  As a result, the encounter was absolutely savage and felt completely unrealistic for a level 1 encounter; even one that you were supposed to run away from.  Personally I know that, to an extent, this was partially the DMs fault - if at ANY point he had abidded by the two of the most important rules of DMing (the most important thing is for EVERYONE to have fun, and that DMs are not the enemy of the players) this fight easily could have been adjusted for all of us to just barely survive while also feeling like we just got out by the skin of our teeth.  Since he didn't, and we were only at a mere five players to being with, there was just no forgiving margin in the fight.  As a result, I could see newbies with not-so-kind DMs being completely turned off to D&D by a session like this.

I think this really showed off the dangerous side of Encounters - D&D is a fun and exciting game; but if you don't have a real good DM to back up the material that's being presented, even the absolute best material will still probably feel absolutely lousy, never mind how material under a good amount of criticism will feel.

All in all, though, I am still greatly intruiged by the Dark Sun setting.  I'll probably continue to attend Encounters, at least for a while, to give it some more chances and what not, plus I like the setting and being a DM most of the time it gives me the chance, at least for this season, to actually get to be a player - which in turn I hope will help me learn to be a better DM myself.   Even with those benefits though, Season 2 is definitely off to a rocky start for a lot of players I think.
 I ran two sessions tonight at uncle's games in Seattle WA area one at 5pm and the second at 7pm. Both groups had a full six players. The first session had a mix of skill ranges from first time ever playing 4E to very experienced. The Second group had much higher experience with the game including Greg Bilsland as one of the players.

First I read the following intro to the players.


Chapter 1-1 Salvage in the storm intro

1. give the following description
Altaruk is a small merchant village. It is maintained by three merchant houses (Wavir, Rees, Tomblador) and is heavily fortified (15' wall, 500 mercenaries armed with mekillot-hide shields, wooden lances, daggers of sharpened bone). A powerful Preserver commands the warriors, named Arisphistaneles. Because of this, the Veiled Alliance is openly tolerated in Altaruk. Altaruk is regularly attacked by giants wading in from the Sea of Silt. The village has been rebuilt after these raids.

The veiled Alliance have sent written orders for Jarvix and Barcan to join a caravan to Tyr and ascertain the situation there following the death of the Sorcerer-king Kalak, Barcan's sister Phye and adventuring partner is accompanying them. They can approach the Caravan master Duicann and attain a spot in the caravan using letters of credit in the orders from the Veiled alliance.
Castri, Shikirr and Yuka have just been sold to the merchant Thormbus to be porters on the upcoming caravan to Tyr.

  The Caravan will depart in the hours just before dawn travelling until about four hours past noon when it breaks till dusk to travel again till full dark to avoid the hottest part of the day.

 The caravan consist of four carapace covered carts pulled by two Inix (a large lizard with a thick shell on its backs) in harness lead by a walking drover with a viscous flail of leather and stones (to drive the Inix like a whip). The carts contain various essentials for the expedition to Tyr. There are also 40 slave (including three of the PCs) porters carrying "lighter" trades goods in pack frames being forced forward by four overseers armed with master's whips and flint daggers.

 The Caravan is guarded by four Kank (a large domesticated beetle like mount) rider mercenary guards with flint tipped spears and Javelins.

 There is also a representative of the Merchants family Wavir Sub matron Alandi seeking to find if there is any profit to be made in the city of Tyr with the current situation. She rides in a chitin palanquin carried by 16 slaves and protected by a mixed group of ten Half-giant, Mul and human guards eight are equipped with bone long swords and tortoise blade shields, The other two are equipped with Long bows with flint tipped arrows with puchik as melee weapons.

2. (Have the PCs make the history skill check on page 8 for the tablelands) The first days travel goes well.

 After the caravan stops for full dark cooking fires alight and most of the group settles down for a short sleep and rest from the brutal heat before arising before dawn to continue... Barcan wanders a short distance from the fires to commune with the stars in solitude. At first peace runs thru him away from the constant mumbling and distraction of the others...then with rising horror some stars began to fall in an omen of disaster undefined but imminent.

 Barcan decides he must tell Jarvix as he is much better in handling dealing with others. After hearing the tale from Barcan Jarvix heads to Duicann's tent to tell him of the auspice. After being told he is unimpressed the Caravan will go on the next day for to wait in the desert is just as deadly as to move on.

3. The next morning the rise of the relentless sun greets the caravan already on the trail for two hours. Things go well till mid-morning when signs of a sandstorm from the south began to show.

 As the storm moves closer it seems to have a strange black color moving in the reddish orange dust (Have the PC's make the nature check on page 8 for the sandstorm/Obsidian shard storm). As the caravan stops and prepares for the sandstorm, a hazardous but not uncommon event the Caravan drovers and Duicann begin to appear very nervous as the sandstorm is anything but typical.

 Screaming erupts from the back of the caravan as the storm overtakes the caravan. its obvious now that this is not a typical sandstorm as the guards, slaves and drovers are taken into the sandstorm red fills the air down wind of them small flecks of obsidian the size of flat peas are thrown out razor edged to the area where you stand. You see larger fist sized chunks of flattened shards fly in the storm too.

The Six of you and the carts drover dash into the only available shelter the lead carapace covered cart hoping it will stop the deadly projectiles that are moving forward ripping flesh and grinding bone from those at the rear. you see others near other carts doing the same. You pull down the the hide covers at either end of the cart as the storm over takes you the wind and shards pelting the carapace almost deafen the howls of pain from the Inix's harnessed to your cart the cart jerks forward as the pain driven beast try to escape the tempest. The Drover huddling in the front of the cart suddenly gasp as a larger shard of obsidian slices thru the carapace and rips thru his chest and out his back. After a a few tens of yards the cart stops along with the pain filled groans of the Inixs. You huddle in the cart to the timpani of sounds trying to patch any holes ripped in your "shelter" with any materials at hand. 

 After what seems an eternity the pelting of shards on the cart lessen. You look around the cart and see fate has smiled on you in more ways than one, This cart was carrying much of the food and water for the expedition things you will need desperately if the caravan has fared badly.  Also the gear taken from Castri, Shikirr and Yuka has been stored here along with a small ornately carved chest.

Then while the pattering of stones diminishes to a light drumming you hear a horn blown from in front of you and the sound of more horns more distant to the rear.... Looking out to the front you see the eroded bones of the two Inix and  several small bipedal reptiles leap from the surrounding silt.  They are light on their feet and keen to pick through the remaining cargo.  YOu quickly scan the area and see more of them lurking on all sides with many, many more to the south.  The best bath away from the hordes and the worst of the strom is directly through the nearest foes.

Set up the 1-1 map,  the initial siltrunners, the PC's and have them roll initiative


1. I had Barcan notice the meteor shower not Jarvix as looking at the stars is much more in character for him
2. The Inix drawing the PC's cart forward successfully separates them from the rest of the caravan preventing looting of any of that gear and such.
3. It gives a strong hint as to the importance of "Survival Days"
4. The drover droped his "Inix whip" while he stumbled into the cart leaving his body with no worth while loot.
5. the carved chest contains the two healing fruits.
6. The information on the village of Altaruk come from Alphastream1 and I give him full credit
7. the last three and a half sentences are from Nicholas K. Tulach and i give him full credit
8. the rest of the document was written by me and I take full blame for any errors.

Combat spoiler stuff

  The 5pm had the battle mind knocked unconious but healed back to standing. Castri had made a nature check DC 25 and knew the Siltrunners hated elves and delayed, hiding in the wagon till they were mostly engaged so he only ended up bloodied when he did emerge. The break down for expendatures were.

Shikkir spent 5 healing surges, two from the ardent in combat 1 second wind and two in short rest.

Castri spent 2 healing surges in the short rest

Phye spent 1 healing surge in short rest

Yuka spent 1 healing surge in short rest

Barcan spent 1 healing surge in short rest

Jarvix spent 1 healing surge in short rest

 No daily powers were expended, no action points spent, all characters beat feet as soon as the first siltrunner reinforcements arrived on turn 5 the had accumulated 24!!!! survival days.

The 7pm group

On turn one Castri ran out to meet the Darters and was knocked unconious on round one. Shikkir was knocked unconious on Turn 3.

Shikkir spent 4 healing surges 1 from the ardent one from a heal check for second wind and the rest in the short rest.

Castri spent 5 of his 6 healing surges 2 from the ardent one from a healing check second wind and 2 in the short rest.

Phye spent 2 healing surges in the short rest

Yuka spent 1 in the short rest

Barcan spent 1 in the short rest

Jarvix spent 1 in the short rest

No daily powers were expended, Barcan spent an action point. The group only collected 7 survival days. Again they ran as soon as the first reinforcements appeared on the southern edge of the map. 

Edited: Oh yeah I asked both of my sessions and they said they had a great time.
I'm second from the left in the picture.

D&D Home Page - What Class Are You? - Build A Character - D&D Compendium

We play in the Omaha, NE area.  Our little group went through most of the 1st season together, and looked forward to season 2.  Oh, if we'd only known...

We had four players at the table, which is about how many we had for most of season 1.  We played with what the kit had for us, and didn't know about the errata until too late.  Being played were the Ardent, the Battlemind, the Fighter and the Ranger (don't remember names, sorry).  Now, you'd think that with two defenders, a leader and a striker, this would be a fairly good party, right?

Here's how it went down...

First round:  with the presence of attackers, the fighter and the ranger go forth to meet them.  However, we didn't reach them with standard moves, so readied actions so when the Ragers came to meet us, we'd be able to attack.  Instead they stood back with their reach weapons and got a free round of attacks on us.  With attacks that do 18 points of damage on AVERAGE, the first Rager put the Ranger to bloodied, and the caster did enough damage to kill the Ranger outright.  In return, the battlemind and ardent were able to bloody one of the Ragers.

Second round:  The Fighter grabs the bloodied Rager (focussed fire) and unleashes an attack which does a whole... 5 points.  But the shard storm and the aura power wear on the Fighter, and the two darters circle around and both target the Ardent... and hit.  The Ardent goes down, at -2 hit points.  But we're able to drop one of the ragers.

Third round:  The fighter switches targets to the caster, but is hit by the Rager, and the Caster's sword does the Fighter in.  The Battlemind is left alone, fighting for his life.  He does manage to drop the Rager, though.

Fourth round: with the Battlemind facing three fresh opponents, and the arrival of five new opponents on the next turn, the party decides to call it a night.  It was officially a TPK.

My feelings on this module is that it's very poorly written, and if this is what I can expect from future encounters, I will not be returning next week.  My friend, who played the Ranger, was very confused at her character (the additional complexity of a nonstandard character was not a good thing for new players) and was very frustrated that she didn't even get to attack before she was incapacitated.

The adversaries did far too much damage for first-level characters to handle, the information in the module which explained the background is not presented in a manner accessible to players, the encounter's theme and tone is never explained, and in all I found it very frustrating and disappointing.  Combined with the new rules proposals for Living Forgotten Realms (not a topic for this board), and I am considering selling my 4th edition books and wiping my hands of 4th ed.

I feel I deserve better than this piece of garbage.

It sounds like in places where the dm didnt read up on the stuff in these boards that it went very harshly on the groups.
I'm second from the left in the picture.

D&D Home Page - What Class Are You? - Build A Character - D&D Compendium

This is in San Diego, at the Artifex place.

This was my first DCI event thing, I kinda wish I could have DMed it, for the following reasons:
1. I'd like the adventure book, and map, and all the other cool DM stuff I saw.
2. The DM who ran it for us was not prepared at all, didn't even know he was going to run it, he said.

spoilerey stuff

We start off with no idea why our characters are in a caravan, we are not told about Tyr at all. Zero roleplaying occurs from anyone besides my friend and me, he was playing Jarvix and I was playing Mr. Cosmic Sorcerer.

We're told a bit about the setting, magic burns life, desolate wasteland, supplies are important. Then he unfolds the map and tells us to roll initiative.

Round 1: Ardent gets blooded, I use excise from sight to save my 'sister'. (I also happen to be burning my encounters to get to Arcane Reserves.) Ranger gets KO'd. I happened to crit on my Encounter, so that was good.

Round 2: Ardent heals ranger using energizing strike instead of Ardent Surge. Ardent gets KO'd. I use an action point and use Ray of the Moon and Blazing Starfall on the two spear wielding silt runners. For the rest of the encounter, I miss out on the AoE Damage bonus by only ever hitting one of my two targets. Battlemind is KO'd.

Round 3: We manage to wittle through the rest of the lizard people. The Elves never showed up, I never knew they existed, in fact, until reading about them here.

The encounter ended, I said I was going to search for any artifacts and supplies for the trip to Tyr. (Which I knew we were attempting based on the Penny Arcade podcast.) I'm told I find two healing apples (equal to healing potions) and we were never told how much gold we had, or how much experience we recieved. The Obsidian Shards were never brought up.

Out of curiousity, could I pass whatever test I need to DM, and pick up as the adventure's DM next week? Or is that impossible? I'd really like to get a hold of that DM stuff, even if I do enjoy messing around as the Sorcerer.

Slightly shameful note: I was a 'bit' disapointed when none of us got the cup holder things, it's not like there was more than one table, I just kind of assumed it was another thing he forgot. XD
Well, where do I start?  My first mistake was last Sunday when the group I was playing with convinced me to come to this seasons encounters!  I had so much fun on Sunday I thought it wouldn't be that bad.  The DM for last season's encounters and this seasons was DMing our 7-10 and it was a challenge but tons of fun.   I didn't want to go because a) you make characters to suit your playing style with pregens your playing in a way you don't necessarily want to.  I would suggest next time limiting the types of characters we have to what is required by the mod and have some pregens on hand for the newbies.  That way players that want to can have a vested interest in their character.  b)with our DM in season 1 we had three TPK's and one 3 hour battle. Is continually dying fun? 
Well I was the fourth player to show up at the table because the rest wouldn't play.  It took me longer to read my card then it did to die!  You know we can still make this fun.  I think my party holds the record for the fastest TPK!  If anyone out there died quicker post it here and we should compare.  Maybe we should go each week and see who can have the fastest TPK?  At least always dying will be fun then.

Don't blink or you'll be dead

Our DM did a good job on laying the groundwork of Athas.  It seemed really cool and I liked the penalty for critical failures.  If anything there wasn't enough emphasis on what we had to do or hints during the actual battle.  We had four players, the ardent, the fighter (me), the bug guy, and the teifling.  (Sorry didn't really know what they were supposed to do)  We rolled intitative and for the first time since I can remember the bad guys didn't go first.  (Little did I know how bad this really was)  I went first and being a defender I charged the guy nearest to the ardent and the teifling.  I missed.  The bug guy went and he went right for the leader to (as he put it) "cut the head off of the snake".  The other two went into the tent and spent two minors collecting supplies.  Then the bad guys went.  My fighter got hit with a blowgun.  I died.  The ardent got hit with the other blow gun.  She died.  The teifling got hit with this encounter power thingy from one of the other guys.  He was almost dead.  The bug guy got hit with the other lizard things encounter power thing.  He was bloodied. The bug guy got hit with the head guys ranged attack.  He was almost dead.  I rolled my death saving throw.  I failed.  The bug guy ran back to us and did a heal check on me.  He passed. Smile  He then used his action point and used second wind. The tiefling did a heal check on the ardent.  He failed Frown.  He too used his action point and used his second wind.  Then the bad guys went.  The bug got hit with the blow gun. He died.  The tiefling got hit with the blow gun. He died.  The end.  TPK

I hadn't even got to my encounter powers on my pregen character when I was dead.  Lots of fun wizards!  I really am going to see if the whole party can die in the first round next week.  It's really the only reason worth going.  I told them I wasn't going to play any more but I will now.  If wizards isn't going to make it fun we might as well. 
Why make a module that is that grossly overpowered, I don't understand?  Is it not playtested?  Why make it at all when the only people who are having fun are the ones that dumb it down from this website.  If that's the case should you not send either an email or something to the stores with the errata on it before game day.  What if your DM's computer is broken like mine is?  I don't want to look at the errata and tell him because if it ever does turn out to be fun I'll know everything and be metagaming. (or at least accused of it)  It's not the DM's fault on this one guys. 
I actually see why you only have pregens because when my guy died I didn't really care because I hadn't spent any time on him.  It was a good idea then. 
One round TPK here we come! If any of you get a 1 turn TPK I think that would be epic.  It was possible in session 1 for us.  If the bad guys had won the intiative.
Austino's LFR CHARACTERS Ander Darkfoot - 12 - Halfling - Rogue/Daggermaster Miget Lii - 12 - Dragonborn - Paladin/Champion of Order Belfire Ogrecrush - 13 - Dwarf - Weaponmaster/Dreadnaught Dragonheart - 5 - Dragonborn - Sorcerer Shadowflame - 4 - Drow - Assassin Big Daddy - 3 - Goliath - Barbarian Utua - 4 - Shardmind - Artificer Terminator - 1 - Warforged - Barbarian Bladyis - 4 - Elven - Ranger

I think one of the problems we had with getting the geist of running away through the monsters is that while the DM is explaining things we are all STILL trying to read our characters and get the idea of how they work.  For those of us who have played 4E before perhaps putting them on regular character sheets would make things more helpful then these little cards.  At least on the character sheets we know what is where.  On these cards we are trying to learn not only the characters but where everything is?  For newbies too, if they do ever want to play 4E it won't be such a challenge for them to create new players because they will have figured where everything is from the pregens.  Just a thought.
If you don't want the DM's to use the damage dice or too "fudge" the rolls, why even put them in there?  Instead when a bad guy hits tell the DM to "damage the PC as you fit, but don't TPK" Blaming the DM's here on not realizing you have made a mistake and not admitting perhaps smaller damage dice would have rectified this just shows how messed up your thinking is.  Yes they are supposed to make this fun, but no they shouldn't be expected to do your job for you.  I was actually thinking of DMing this because I felt my DM was partly to blame but seeing how this is turning out I think the part he has played is getting smaller and smaller. 
If you haven't figured it out, you are losing people.  More negatives on this board then positives the last I looked.  Ooops.
I don't know how long this mod was worked on before release but it does seem thrown together, with DM's having to pull information from all over it to make it work.  For something that was supposed to be easy on DM's and players it certainly doesn't feel that way.

Austino's LFR CHARACTERS Ander Darkfoot - 12 - Halfling - Rogue/Daggermaster Miget Lii - 12 - Dragonborn - Paladin/Champion of Order Belfire Ogrecrush - 13 - Dwarf - Weaponmaster/Dreadnaught Dragonheart - 5 - Dragonborn - Sorcerer Shadowflame - 4 - Drow - Assassin Big Daddy - 3 - Goliath - Barbarian Utua - 4 - Shardmind - Artificer Terminator - 1 - Warforged - Barbarian Bladyis - 4 - Elven - Ranger
And now for the longest post ever.

Seriously, don't even open this spoiler block unless you want your entire Internets to be filled with this one post.

Super long post incoming . . . no, apparently it's a stupidly long post.  But I couldn't help it, I'm excited.  (Ha, and it turns out that this is only part one of my after-action report!  Crazy!)

In a sentence?  "Tonight's experience with D&D Encounters: Dark Sun made me remember why I love D&D, and why I love DM’ing."

I just got home from running the first session of D&D Encounters: Dark Sun.  It was a huge success!

I am so happy!  I had an absolute blast running this, and all six of my players seemed like they had a great time, too.  There was a lot of excitement around the table, and the game just went really well.

This was more fun than I've had DM’ing in a long time.  I've run a lot of 4E, both home games and LFR, and I've gotta tell you, tonight was totally awesome.

Dark Sun.  The best setting of all time!

This adventure is very cool, the characters are interesting, the first encounter was brutal and fun and tactically interesting as well as a wonderful thematic introduction to the harsh sands of Athas.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone involved in making this program possible, creating the materials, writing the adventure, and helping me to become a WPN organizer and have a chance to run this excellent D&D game at my local store.  I had a tremendous time, and it's only getting started, and I'm so grateful to the fine folks at WotC and the helpful posters here who made it all happen and gave me such great ideas.

We played for not "one to two hours", but for almost four hours.  And it was thrilling and intense the whole time.  I feel like I did a good job DM’ing, and I had a great table of players who were a joy to DM for.  Everyone really loved the setting and the scenario, it was a huge hit.

So, I had no "new" players, but I did have a couple of guys who hadn't played much 4E, or much Dark Sun, so they were fairly new-ish.  Three of my players were brand new acquaintances to me as of tonight, and they were great.

I had two of my good friends and longtime gaming buddies there, and they're 4E pros.  I knew they were coming.  I also had another friend there who had DM’ed some Dark Sun for me previously, and he'd signed up ahead of time, too.  Then the fourth player was a guy I'd never met before, who just e-mailed me a couple of days ago about the game, because I had finally hit upon the idea to post something about it on the local gamer Meetup groups, and he saw it there.

I figured those four who had contacted me ahead of time were going to be it.  But to my delight, two other guys showed up who had just heard about it from the Event Locator on the Wizards site.  So we had a perfect six-man table, with two unexpected guests.  I was very happy about this!

We spent the first hour and forty-five minutes going over the characters, me talking a lot about the setting, and describing the background for the adventure.  There was some roleplaying, and some scene-setting.  We didn't even get to the "encounter" until an hour and forty-five minutes in, and everyone was already having a great time and really getting into the Dark Sun vibe.

I used a lot of the ideas that Teos and others here suggested, as well as some ideas I had myself from some time spent reading old Dark Sun material and thinking about how to make the introduction to the adventure really sing "Welcome to Athas!"  I got a lot of compliments on how I started the adventure, and I think it added a lot that we did things the way we did, instead of just showing up, reading a paragraph of boxed text, and rolling initiative.  If I may toot my own horn a bit, I think I really nailed it.

To start with, I printed up a bunch of stuff ahead of time.  I made a big full-color picture of the Dark Sun from the logo and put it up over the back of my DM screen with the words "Welcome to Athas" in big red letters in an old classic Dark Sun font.

I wrote up and nicely-formatted my own personalized errata sheet for the PCs, only including changes that benefitted them, and not bothering with any errata that reduced their abilities.  They appreciated that!  (I also gave Phye a +1 masterwork bonus to all of her attacks for having a metal weapon, because I wanted the metal weapon to feel really special, and enforce the "metal is rare and awesome here" theme, and make her feel like a true noble.)  I also printed off (warning: slight copyright infringement alert, please don't sue me WotC) the first six pages of my scanned PDF of the old original Wanderer's Journal from the first Dark Sun boxed set, because I think they're an amazing introduction to Athas and a great read.  And then the "Welcome to Athas" player primer from the kit, and the tracking sheets.  So I made this huge packet of stuff for each player, and gave them all of it at the beginning, told them it was all theirs to keep and use as they saw fit.

Then I had the beautiful character cards for them, and gave them all dry-erase markers with erasers to use on them, and another marker to use to mark up the sheets more permanently if they chose.  I told 'em to write whatever they wanted on the sheets, as I had plenty of spares.  I had a big selection of minis with me for them to choose from, pretty much every mini I had which could remotely be used for one of the characters.  (Though poor Shikirr had to choose from either an ettercap or a mezzodemon.)  And I gave out the can coozies, which people liked a lot, too.  So they showed up and I just showered them with stuff, it was a good time.  I felt well-equipped and well-prepared, and it was appreciated by the players.  The materials provided by WotC were gorgeous and fun to hand out.

After everyone had their characters and their minis and all the sheets and information I'd printed for them, and we were all settled in, I gave a little speech about how much I loved Dark Sun, and how it had been my favorite setting as a young gamer, and all of the magical memories I had of it, and how I wanted to share the wonders (and horrors) of Dark Sun with these guys.  Really riffing a lot off the similar comments made recently by Jerry Holkins about his running of Dark Sun for his pals.  I felt the same way he did, and so I said some words about it.

Then I asked them to listen for a moment as I read them something to set the mood.  In my most dramatic poetry-reciting voice, I intoned...


"I live in a world of fire and sand. The crimson sun scorches the life from anything that crawls or flies, and storms of sand scour the foliage from the barren ground. Lightning strikes from the cloudless sky, and peals of thunder roll unexplained across the vast tablelands. Even the wind, dry and searing as a kiln, can kill a man with thirst.

This is a land of blood and dust, where tribes of feral elves sweep out of the salt plains to plunder lonely caravans, mysterious singing winds call men to slow suffocation in a Sea of Silt, and legions of slaves clash over a few bushels of moldering grain. The dragon despoils entire cities, while selfish kings squander their armies raising gaudy palaces and garish tombs.

This is my home, Athas. It is an arid and bleak place, a wasteland with a handful of austere cities clinging precariously to a few scattered oases. It is a brutal and savage land, beset by political strife and monstrous abominations, where life is grim and short."


(That's the first three paragraphs of the original Wanderer's Journal, of course.  I read it like I was auditioning for a play, and they all seemed suitably impressed.)

Oh god I love Dark Sun, and my love for it was just pouring out of me as I started talking about the setting, about the harshness of the environment, and about the things that made each of their characters special in the world.  I told the Veiled Alliance players about the Veiled Alliance, and I told Shikirr about Thri-Kreen, and talked about The Will and The Way to the psionic characters, and the legendary toughness of Muls and the savage raiding tribes of the Elves and the glorious rigors of the arena.  I'd read each character's background several times, so I could speak to each player confidently about their specific PC and who they were and what was cool about them, without having to read anything or glance at any notes.  I could see them getting into it, feeling drawn into this amazing world so different from the common D&D generic fantasy settings.

Then I explained about weapon breakage, and the concepts of all the non-metal weapons and the scarcity of metal and all that.  I explained the rules for it, and the players liked them.  I urged them to strongly consider trying to find extra weapons or take them from their enemies.  And I explained survival days, and the crazy harshness of the environment, and how absolutely crucial it was to have the proper supplies in order to survive the wastes.  I really talked a lot about these two mechanics, and all of the story/setting implications of them.  They got the picture, and also really liked the rules elements of both of these Dark Sun specific things.  So, great job on those two mechanical elements, Dark Sun designer guys.  I think you knocked those out of the park.

So then we launched into the narrative of the adventure itself.  I told them about how they'd come to be with this caravan, drew in the linked stories of Phye and Barcan and Jarvix, and talked about the unique nature of Veiled Alliance sympathy in Altaruk.  I told the other three that they'd been enslaved, and were serving masters on the caravan.  I said that they'd all been travelling together in this caravan since Balic, and were headed to Tyr.  I talked about the rumors of Kalak's death, and how and why that was such a Big Deal on Athas.  I described the caravan in detail, painting pictures in their minds of mekillots and inixes and kanks, huge armored wagons and guards.  I talked about how dangerous travel is, and described many setbacks that they'd already encountered on their long, slow journey.  I told them they'd faced terrible sandstorms, and attacks by elven raiding bands, and that they'd had a chance to fight together and work together to survive the journey.  The nobles among them requested that these three slaves be assigned to their personal duty, and we had a couple of brief roleplay scenes, and I let people make some skill checks that got them more into their characters.  Nature checks to reveal knowledge about the world, a couple of Diplomacy checks as Phye and Barcan persuaded the caravan master to let them bring their befriended slaves into the heavily-armored "big wagon" with them.

I told them that they'd started seeing Silt Runners (and of course, then there were Nature checks and more knowledge revealed about Silt Runners, which I'd prepared well for with a print-out of the old 2E Monstrous Compendium entry -- and I got to show them the old Silt Runner picture, too, which was nice) following along and watching the caravan, keeping at a distance.  I told them that more and more kept coming, and that this was unusual for Silt Runners, as they'd normally never mess with such a huge and well-defended caravan as this.  There was a lot of talk about Silt Runners actually, lots of knowledge checks and questions from the PCs and roleplay about it.  By the time they got to fight some Silt Runners, they really knew a lot about them and weren't just facing some random faceless generic bad guys.  Dark Sun flavor to the max, that's my goal in this thing!

I also did the whole thing with seeing the comets in the night sky, and feeling that it was an omen, but of course I made it Barcan who saw it, since that was such an obvious tie to his character background.  Then he took it to Jarvix, and they went to the caravan master about it, who blew them off.  But I really made it sound ominous, and told them that they were having bad dreams for a couple of days afterward.  I was slowly building this thing up, with the omen, and the massing Silt Runners just mysteriously following and watching them.

Then they saw the storm, far off, but obviously huge, and strangely dark, and moving their way.  I told Barcan and Jarvix that they could feel a wrongness about it, that they knew it was tied somehow to the grim omen they'd noticed a couple of nights before.  By this point, all of the players were really intrigued and excited and nervous.  We'd been roleplaying (and me narrating a lot) for well over an hour, and I just kept giving them Dark Sun lore and color, and building up the tension of the approaching disaster, and they had lots of questions (in-character, smart questions), and it was very cool.

I described the preparations for the storm, as the wagons all started covering themselves up and taking shelter and trying to protect themselves.  The fear was building, and I made a big deal of how dangerous this was, but also how well-prepared for such dangers the caravaneers were, how this was a way of life on Athas.  So finally they were all battened down inside the "big wagon", the armored one with its own guard turrets, pulled by lumbering mekillots because it was so huge.  The noble PCs got to feel cool because they'd made an effort to persuade the caravan master to let the other characters into this fortified wagon with them, and now everyone felt rewarded by that, as they were obviously the safest people in the caravan.  This gave the slave PCs more of an incentive to like and trust the nobles, too, which made more of a party bond.

Then I told them that they started to hear something most unusual.  A sound that their characters had never heard, but which any of them as players would know as the sound of a hailstorm beginning.  Not just sand and wind blowing out there, but something hard, many such somethings, falling like a deadly rain from the sky.  Then we did the inevitable Nature and Arcana checks, and more descriptions, and I really built up the obsidian storm, described it in several stages as it grew worse and worse, and how unnatural it was.  I let the psionic and arcane characters determine, through their skills, that it was not a psionic or arcane effect, nor was it natural.  So they got a bit of a clue that this had to be some very powerful primal magic, but since none of them were primal characters, it was scary and mysterious to them.

Despite all of this really lengthy description, narration, and just talking, my players were so into it at this point.  No one was bored or waiting impatiently to kill something.  It was intense and really, really felt like Dark Sun.  I was feeling like the best DM ever, but really it was all the material and taking time before the game to read a bunch of excellent Dark Sun stuff and think about how to present it.  The scenario is perhaps not very thoroughly fleshed-out in the adventure module itself, but of course I know that's due to space limitations.  The idea of the scenario itself, though, as conceived by the author, is really quite brilliant and so rich with possibilities.  I had to put in some real work and effort myself to make it truly shine, but all of the brain fuel was provided for me by the module writer (seriously, great job Mr. Tulach!), and the old Dark Sun authors, and some very clever people here on these boards (thank YOU, Teos!)

So the storm got worse and worse, and the less-stout wagons were being shredded, and crushed, and thrown about in the wind.  The air was filled with the screams of dying men and kanks and inixes, and the air was a haze of blood and sand.  Larger and larger heavy chunks and razor-sharp shards of obsidian were falling, decimating the caravan, killing everyone, but only in the one largest wagon were the PCs safe.  But not for long.  I told them it was getting worse, and they looked pretty nervous, wondering what they were going to do, trying to plan how to survive.  Yuka and Shikirr were scouting out the locations of the supplies in the wagon, and just waiting for the opportune moment to jump the guards and take what they needed.

Oh, and the Silt Runners!  Now this freaked them out.  I told them that the storm wasn't hitting the Silt Runners at all.  That hundreds of them were still out there, gathered and just watching, relatively calmly.  Like they knew this storm was coming, like this was all part of the plan, and they knew they were safe from it.  Then as it got more intense and dangerous, I told them the Silt Runners were getting more excited, chanting and singing songs in their unknown language (I knew that none of the PCs spoke Draconic), and dancing about.  Man, the players were very scared of these Silt Runners, and this storm.

One of the players cleverly asked the caravan master if the caravan was carrying any odd or special cargo that might make it a target for someone powerful.  He answered, of course, that the only thing controversial that this caravan was transporting was the two Veiled Alliance members.  All eyes turned to Jarvix and Barcan, as everyone sort of suddenly grasped that they were the targets of this crazy disaster.  It was a cool moment at the table.  I was delighted to see how into the characters and the scenario everyone was.

So finally it all went to hell, and the biggest chunks of obsidian rained down, causing the whole earth to shake, as the wind picked up to incredible speeds, throwing smaller wagons and dead animals everywhere.  I described a huge shard of obsidian cleaving their big wagon in half, the remains of it being ripped to pieces as they cowered in their shelter and clung to it for dear life.  And another huge chunk fell, and sent their little piece of the wagon flying, and the windstorm picking it up and hurling it far away, high in the sky.  And then it crashed to the earth, and all was black for them.

They woke up, and they were in this tiny, shattered fragment of the original huge wagon, far away from the road and the remains of the caravan, but fortuitously in the part of the wagon which had held the supplies.  The storm was behind them, at least the worst part.  They were just on the edge, and the shards still falling were mildly dangerous, but survivable.  But they could hear the blowing horns of the Silt Runners in pursuit of them . . . many, many of them.  Coming from the south, east, and west, and only a small scouting band ahead of them to the north, away from the killer storm of certain death, away from the hordes of Silt Runners coming swiftly their way.  But they were very motivated to gather supplies, as my depictions of the brutal inhospitality of the desert on Athas had made them respect the danger of the wastes, and they were not about to run off without lots of survival days in hand.

So, finally the actual encounter itself begins.  We've been playing for nearly two hours already, but everyone's super excited and the atmosphere is thick.  It was one of the best DM’ing experiences I've had in ages, I was just thrilled by how immersive it was.  I wanted to transport these guys into Athas, and I think I really succeeded.  (Again, with the wonderful material I had to work with!)

I took some liberties.  First of all, I placed some other "stuff" in the wagon with them besides survival days.  I had bundles of three javelins each, and belts with five daggers a piece.  All non-metal, of course.  I think that Castri, especially, really needs more than those two daggers for ranged weapons, and the two defenders could use some ranged weapons on occasion, too.  So in addition to having survival days to collect, they had the option to spend minor actions to bulk up on some basic ranged weapons as well.  Then I had the ornate wooden box, which I told Jarvix and Barcan they could tell was just a bit arcane in nature, "like the kind of box that a wizard would keep magical things in".  Inside were the two healing fruits (and here again was some explanation and description of the lore behind those, why they were really quite special and a big deal, and so on), and I also put in enough mystic salves and rare herbs for Jarvix to cast each of his rituals twice.  I made the box sound cool, and the stuff inside sound cool, too.  They felt like they were getting something really flavorful and neat, not just a few gold worth of ritual components and two healing potions.

I made the storm only harm the PCs, because it was way cooler telling them how the storm seemed to miss the Silt Runners on purpose, like it was targeted, like something was directing it.  This really creeped them out, and had them wondering about this mysterious and obviously powerful enemy (whom they suspected was a primal caster of some kind) who was stalking them and throwing all of this scary stuff at them.  After having run the encounter for myself twice already as a test, I felt confident that I could do this and it would make the encounter more tactically challenging without being too overwhelming.  I knew at least three guys there were seasoned 4E pros, and no one there was actually new to the game, so I figured they could hang with a bit harder fight.

I added one Rager, for six players.  I also made visibility beyond 20 feet in the storm provide concealment, and I applied this penalty to monsters and PCs alike.  Oh, and I gave the Silt Runners the ability to ignore all of the difficult terrain from the dunes, since we'd spent so much time earlier talking about how they were so fast and light, and had these big, flat feet that let them run over sand and silt easily.  It made them feel more like the flavor they were supposed to have, and again, added yet another level of tactical difficulty to the fight.

That's all I changed in the combat encounter as such.  The visibility thing, the storm only hurting the PCs thing, and the Silt Runners ignoring the difficult terrain thing.  Those made the fight all the more scary and tricky, without adding more monsters or raising their levels or stats.  On the PCs side, I'd given them wholly favorable errata, plus extra weapons available to grab, plus the free ritual components, and I'd armed them with a lot of knowledge.  (For example, I'd made a very big point about how much Silt Runners hated elves, so everyone knew very well that Castri was going to be target number one before they ever got into the fight.)

One of my players had Twitter on his phone, so we checked it and the buff granting the PCs a free slide at start of turn had just come up, so I gave them that.  They thought the Twitter buffs thing was really cool.  Whoever came up with that little idea, well done!

So, then we had the battle.  It lasted two hours in and of itself, and we'd already played for almost two.  But man, was it fun.  Brutal and intense, and all of the build-up and immersion to that point had really set it up well.  The tension was high.  Everyone was into their characters and the scene.  Everyone was on the edge of their seats and it felt like a true life-or-death struggle.  I loved it!  And the players fawned over me and the adventure afterward, so I'd say they loved it, too.

But I think I'm going to make my report on the combat itself a separate post of its own, as this post has already become ridiculously, perhaps inexcusably, lengthy.  So I'll leave off for now, and start writing post number two.

I told you, didn't I?

A bit less-long part two of my report...

Yeah, I said part two.

The battle was great!  When I first read the encounter, it didn't seem all that special to me.  I thought, "eh this is okay, but nothing to write home about."  But man, in play, it was gorgeous.  Props to the designer, again, because this really was a well put-together D&D encounter.  So challenging, even at only a level 1 XP budget.  I can't tell you how many lame, unimaginative, cake walk LFR encounters I've DM’ed and played, which all felt way too easy, too safe, and just disappointing in their simplicity.  But this, this lovely little introduction to Athas . . . this was masterfully tough given the low XP budget.  The terrain, the time limit, the need to gather supplies, the ongoing storm damage, the motivation to stay in the cover of the wagon in conflict with the motivation to escape the map and/or go chasing down Silt Runners who are hanging back shooting poison darts and blowing you up with psionics from afar.  Just glorious.  I dunno how it was for everyone else, but for my table tonight, this encounter just plain rocked.

The first creature to attack them was the Inciter, blowing them up in the wagon with his psionic explosion.  I told the psionic characters that they could feel him using The Way, could sense the psychic energy being manipulated by this intently-concentrating Silt Runner.  (That led to a brief conversation in which I said, "Well, I'm pretty sure there's nothing in the rules that lets you actually sense other creatures using psionics, but in all the Dark Sun novels they always talked about sensing each other using The Way and stuff, and it sounded really cool, so I'm going with it.")

The fight was hard enough on its own.  It made it all the worse when I rolled three crits.  (And I roll everything in front of the players, it's just how I like to DM.)  All of them were on the big-damage encounter powers, too.  Poison Dart crit for 23 was the very first Darter attack I rolled.  Brutal Spear crit for 28 was shocking and scary.  Getting hit for 28 by a 1st-level monster is not something these guys are used to!  It was pretty terrifying.  I also rolled a 1 at one point, and had the Rager break his spear and re-roll!  After quite awhile, the players were having a bit of a rough go, and it was late (we started at 6:00pm, and it was 9:30pm, and the battle was far from over), so I called for another Nature check to glean additional insight into their foes, and then informed them that "Silt Runners are pretty skittish when their leader is slain.  If this one who is calling the shots and inciting them to such a frenzy dies, the rest might lose their heart for the fight."  So they gunned for him, and took him down just in time to avert a very probable TPK.  It felt epic, and they were thrilled and relieved, and even though the second Darter and two of the three Ragers ran away and didn't actually die, they took it as a satisfying and hard-won victory, all the same.

My players were great though.  They were soldiers.  I hammered them, and they kept on fighting.  I drilled them with the storm, which their foes ignored, and they didn't give up.  They were champs when it came to getting survival days, too.  At the end, they had 24 of the things!  That's amazing.  24 survival days, and they managed to pick up a few extra weapons, and Shikirr even carted off the dead body of the Inciter as they fled.  (He's going to eat it...)

A lot of great moments in this battle.  Everyone got their chance to shine.  Well . . . okay, everyone but poor, poor Castri.  So, I knew he was doomed.  I'd even pretty much made it clear to the player that Castri was doomed.  I really pushed the "Silt Runners hate elves a LOT" thing, and he totally got it.  In fact, the guy who played Castri was the best possible player for it.  He's a big time old-school Dark Sun fan, too.  So he was quite into the idea of the Silt Runners gunning for his elf, and he's also the coolest, most laid-back guy ever, so he was totally not bummed out by getting raked over the coals.  And ultimately killed.  Yeah, Castri died.  I knew he would.  When I playtested the encounter for myself, he did.  It was almost inevitable.  The player got that, too, and he was really fine with it.  I don't think I've ever seen a D&D player take his character's death as well as he did.  He's a great player, and just a really classy guy.  (He's the one I mentioned who'd DM’ed some Dark Sun for me at one point.)  So yeah, Castri died, but it wasn't a big deal, and it didn't dampen the fun or bring down anyone's spirits.  It served to punctuate the brutality of Athas, make the encounter feel difficult and deadly, really support the whole lore thing of the Silt Runners, and yet it didn't ruin the game or cause a TPK or piss anyone off out-of-character.  So really, as far as PC deaths go, it was the best possible PC death there could have been.  He's excited to come back next week, death penalty and all!

Everyone else lived, and escaped the map in round four.  With 24 survival days, some extra weapons, the box of goodies, the dead body of Castri slung over Yuka's brawny shoulders, and the corpse of the slain Silt Runner leader in Shikirr's greedy claws.  Four of six action points were used, but no dailies, and no healing fruits consumed yet.  The PCs spent seven healing surges in the battle, which is the same number I used when I ran the encounter for myself the first time.  But they haven't done the rests after the fight yet, and they're pretty badly beat up, so they'll use quite a few more surges when we start the next session.

Barcan used 0 surges, 0 dailies, 1 action point, and ended with 4 hit points.  He critted the Inciter to end the battle with his encounter power Ray of the Moon, which was a huge moment and much needed.  His player gained 4 renown.

Castri used 1 surge, 0 dailies, 0 action points, and ended up dead with no hit points.  He kinda just got the crap kicked out of him, but he had lots of fun anyway, and is ready to come back with a vengeance next week.  His player gained 4 renown.

Jarvix used 0 surges, 0 dailies, 1 action point, and ended with 8 hit points.  He saved Phye from certain doom with a timely Excise From Sight Veiled Alliance power, and made great use of his twice-per-encounter Distract power, too.  (Oh, and he even used Send Thoughts in battle, to secretly tell someone across the field to KILL THE INCITER!)  His player gained 4 renown.

Phye was the MVP of the night, getting her Moment of Greatness when, in one round, she killed a still-tough Rager and brought three different allies up from dying.  (Nearly maximum damage on an Augment 2 Energizing Strike plus granted a surge to one dying ally, then action point and Augment 1 Energizing Strike to grant 4 hit points to another dying ally, then Ardent Surge a third dying ally.  The guy who played Phye tonight was very effective!)  She used 1 surge, 0 dailies, 1 action point, and ended with 5 hit points.  Her player gained 7 (!) renown.

Shikirr took heaping piles of damage, and very nearly died twice.  He didn't get much chance to attack or use powers, but boy did he save his buddies a ton of pain.  He used 3 surges, 0 dailies, 0 action points (the only PC besides the dead Castri not to use an AP), and ended with 18 hit points.  His player gained 5 renown.

Yuka got a chance to use his Combat Agility opportunity attack AND his immediate interrupt Combat Challenge attack both against one Rager in one round as the stubborn brute refused to be deterred in his mission to attack the elf.  He took it from unharmed to bloodied, and knocked it prone (and the team got a lot of mileage out of that prone), and in the second attack, he rolled a 1 and took advantage of the reckless breakage rule.  I described the resulting hit as him actually breaking off one whole spike of his alhulak in the Silt Runner's body.  It was a nice, brutal Dark Sun moment.  He used 2 surges, 0 dailies, 1 action point, and ended with 8 hit points.  His player gained 4 renown.

(Oh, actually I just remembered, Castri did get to do something cool before he died!  He got the first kill in the fight, as a matter of fact.  He threw a javelin from inside the wagon at a Darter who was taking cover beside one of the big rocks.  Despite a -4 to hit from concealment and cover, he threw and hit, and did good damage with his javelin and Quarry, and killed the same Darter who had just critted him with Poison Dart for 23.  I gave a detailed and epic-sounding narration of Castri's enraged and skillful gladiator throw.  So yeah, that was a cool moment for him before he died.  Yay!  But this was also another shining moment for Phye, too, because actually, Castri missed that killing javelin shot by exactly 1, and Phye made it a hit with a timely use of her Adept's Insight theme power.  So that was great teamwork.)

The battle was one of the most fun I've DM’ed in 4th edition, and without doubt more fun than any Living Forgotten Realms encounter I've ever DM’ed.  (And I've run quite a lot of LFR.)

Overall, the session was a tremendous, tremendous blast, for me and the players, and I'd call it a huge and unqualified success.  I am now super psyched about D&D Encounters, and feel so happy and lucky that I get to run this, and have this kind of fun with D&D, in my beloved Dark Sun, in a wonderful organized play program like this.

The store owner was happy too, as I brought six guys in who'd never even been to his store.  He'd never had any sanctioned, organized D&D stuff at his store before (they pretty much just have a lot of Warhammer players there), and I was the one who specifically called him up and talked him into it.  So another D&D venue is born, and hopefully this helps his business as well.  What a great program!

Thank you again, everyone who made this possible!  Chris Tulach, Nicholas Tulach, and Teos Abadia, in particular, you guys are my heroes.  Big thanks to my awesome players tonight, and I can't wait for next week!

Oh, and I hope everyone else had a good time, too.  (But really, there's no way that anyone else had as much fun as we did.)

Whew!  That should do it.  The short version is:  I had lots of fun! 



Ottawa, Canada

Well we had a huge (for us) turn out.  We had 14 people (two tables of 5 and one table of 4) come out to the Ottawa University cafeteria (as our sponsoring game store closes it's doors at 5:30 on Wednesdays) where we've been holding the Encounter sessions.  Next week we might even get three more players!

Everybody had a blast as far as I can tell.  Over at the table of four, composed pretty much of all new players (even one woman who I talked into trying the game out for the first time) they managed to get a record number of survival days (25!) and kicked much butt in the process.

At my table they killed the opposition in the course of three initiative rounds (with the expendature of a daily or two...that's gonna haunt them later on) but managed to walk away with a 20+ survival days worth of supply.  Heck in true Athasian fashion they carted off three of the corpses with them and I gave them three survival days for that!  Mmmmm lizard, it's what's for dinner.
And now for the longest post ever.

Wow what a write up and what a fun thing you have done for your group.
James Playing D&D since the Red Box of '83.
Resounding Success for us in Highlands Ranch, Colorado

4 tables, almost all full, 2 no shows who had signed up ahead fo time.

I made sure to use the errata and encounter adjustments Alpahstream1 compiled.  Which I recommend to everyone that had a rough go of it.  They really helped make it a brutal but not over the top encounter.

I wrote up a custom intro along the same lines that Bryan did and really help set the mood and tone of Dark Sun. 

The players all really got into it.  I put together some player packets, but felt like I let one of my tables down as the other DM showed up with Mood Music and Sound Effects...sigh....curse his little speakers!

Anyway no player deaths and everyone was psyched to come back next week. 

As a long time organizer and DM the only advice I can give to all the people that are spitting venom, take a breath, look around at the forum posts about modifications and errata about the adventure and characters and see if you can impliment some damage control and make the next 14 weeks a much better experience for you and your players.  TPKs always leave bad tastes in peoples mouths but while you can never repeat a first impression you can always strive to make it right the 2nd time you meet.
I always wonder, why people start off with how wonderful ther DM was, and then follow up how they wiped them.

Clearly the DM made an error in judgement ir didn't quite read the encounter well, or just basicly he was out for a wipe. Lastly he could als have made the description of the encounter very well.

Anyways for the group I DMed


I took a long time describing the setting, cos like firesnakearies, I love Dark Sun. (I also hate divine classes so thats an added bonus for me :D) My players absolutly loved it.

They immediatly took on the idea that gather food is the most important stuff and getting the hell out of here was the way to go, which they luckily did.

I didn't change anything on the monsters (even though I read all the stuff here and the suggestions) basicly because I didn't have time (I just got the adventure yesterday). I was really pulling punches though

I only had one dead, because the mul fighter decided to run back one last time for more supplies (she was only gathering stuff the whole fight and ran away at 1 point) She ran back, spend a minor to gather, and then ran off again. This left her with the snipers and the leaders (the 2 brutes were already killed when the PC's fought their way through) The sniper used his immobilizing power (meh 12+ to hit and she hasn't yet, atleast she didn't tell me) I hit and rolled 9 and 10 on the die. I rolled open all die rolls the whole night, so I couldn't really fudge the roll. Bah she forgot to tell she was bloodied (we use markers) so that hit killed her

Anyways the ranger was bloodied once, the sorcerer was down at some point, and a dead Mul. It wasn't really that bad. All the players though the encounter was really cool (and they are a difficult bunch to appease or impress!) So kudos to the writer

Des Moines, IA

We had two tables at our place, I was playing Jarvix at one of them.  Both of our tables succeeded, I'm not sure to what extent for the second table, but our table did fairly well.  We had 7 players at each table (we had an extra Phye), so next week I'm actually going to be DMing instead of playing probably.

[sblock Table 1]
But for our group, all the attacks were centered on Castri, Shikirr and Yuka, since Barcan and myself stayed in the wagon constantly gathering supplies while throwing out ranged attacks (through the concealment due to twitter).  Castri was dropped in the first round (but not killed), luckily there were a couple of misses, or low damage rolls, so it took nearly every silt runner to drop him.  The way the ragers were grouped though, Jarvix (myself) was able to drop a Dishearten for 11 damage on all of them (-2 atk).  After Castri was brought up, nobody else was knocked unconscious, but all 3 of the aforementioned were brought to bloodied or more.  Once the Inciter moved to the closest rock, Jarvix and Barcan focused on him, with Jarvix throwing augment 1 mind thrusts (-3 will) and distract (combat advantage), so that Barcan could use his encounter powers with the greatest chance to hit.

We had just finished dropping the first wave, when the second wave appeared.  Jarvix and Barcan grabbed whatever else they could, and ran.  Castri ran back to the wagon to grab just one more day, then ran out himself.  So between Barcan and Jarvix they had 12 survival days, with most everyone else having at least 1 or 2 more on them they grabbed before entering the fight.  Castri, Shikirr and Yuka probably went through quite a few surges (probably 3 each), but with the other half of the party only taking minimal damage from the storm Jarvix should be able to rearrange those surges to better use.

I look forward to DMing next week, though since I'll be a fresh table, it'll likely be fresh characters.  I don't know if that'll be good for them or bad, since they'll have full surges, but only 2 survival days per character.

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

Hex Grid UserPopcorn InitiativeAndroid UserD&DMapTools


It seems that a lot of people didn't have favorable opinions of Season 2, Session 1.  Our table had a blast with it.

We had a table of 5:

Phye (played by myself)

Nerd Alert!

Our DM did a great job explaining how harsh Athas was and that we would need to gather some supplies in order to survive.  He also did a nice job depicting that if we didn't gather our supplies and get out, more of those pesky silt runners would arrive and overwhelm us.

Luckily we PC's rolled extremely high initiative, which is a rare occurance for us (21, 20, 19, 19, 12).

I spent the entire encounter healing, stabalizing and collecting supply rations.  I was only able to actually attack twice using Energizing Strike (it was actually in the same round because I used an action point to do it twice in a row with Augment 1 to revive people).

At the very end of the session we had 4 people dying.  Luckily, I managed to stay out of the line of fire and got hit just once (for 9 points of damage).  It took a while, but I managed to use a heal check on all of them and allowed them to use their second winds while Shikirr kept the silt runners at bay.

Just as more of them started pouring in, I did my last Heal check, we each grabbed one last supply ration and sprinted off.

I don't recall what our total supply was, but I managed to grab 6 of them, myself. 

I thought this first encounter really captured the danger of the Dark Sun setting.  Everyone had been knocked unconscious at least once in the encounter (except me).  As the healer, I was pretty much on edge the whole time trying to decide who I wanted to heal, where I wanted to move, how many supplies would be enough, and how much time we had left before more Silt Runners arrived.  I found the encounter very exciting and fast paced.  And despite the fact that we were all beaten up badly, we all left really having enjoyed the session.

I can't wait to see what next week has in store for us!

Kelowna, BC, Canada-Quantuum Games group.

As soon as the guys had picked their toons, the battle started.
All six players here are veterans of D&D so things went quite smooth with several attacks from them hit for quite high damage.


I had the Darters use their Poison Dart on two of their group right off and the Rager's Penetrating Spear attacks first off.
The group was gathering Survival Days packs as fast as they could during the fight meanwhile Yuka hit the dirt unconscious for a round.
After Phye returned Yuka back to the battle, the group went on to roll saving throws and dispatch the rest of the Silt Runners with a complete round left to collect one more SD pack and hightail their **** out of there.

These guys are good.
They collected a total of 23 SD packs during the fight.
Let's see what next week brings! Wink


Edited to sblock mild spoilers - mudbunny

And now for the longest post ever.

Wow what a write up and what a fun thing you have done for your group.

I agree. Thanks for the great enthusiasm. I love DS, don't get me wrong. I made some things to hand out, no doubt about that. Honestly, I dont' think I got even close toyour enthusiasm and enjoyment of Dark Sun and DMing for the team.

Fantastic report.

Paradox in Fargo, North Dakota.

Rich, the owner, didn't order the kits until last Thursday because I was the first person to ask about Season 2 after we finished Season 1. (I'm DMing this season after playing last season.) Rich called his WotC rep on Thursday to make sure we would still get the kits on time. The rep said absolutely, just register online and he'd make sure the kits got sent out right away. After they didn't show up yesterday, Rich called the rep back and the rep basically said, "what did you expect, you ordered them late"? But that's why Rich specifically called him last week!!! Ugh.

So, "boo" to Rich and his Rep for not getting us the kits. We'll be running two sessions back to back next week.

We did have a HUGE turnout compared to season 1 (which averaged 8-10 players at two tables). Fourteen players showed up, including four who have never played D&D before and one who hasn't played since the first year of 3rd. There were also a couple of regular 4E DMs who are really looking forward to having a chance to play. I hope we can get a couple more good DMs to handle this many players. I hope everyone comes back next week after the disappointment of not playing this week.

I was prepared for 12 players. I handed out player tracking sheets with the 10 Things about Athas info. I also had printed off two copies of the the pregens so they could take a look over them and think about who they might want to play next week.

How to Handle Pregen Disappointment
A few experienced 4E players, especially those that played season one, were surprised and disappointed to find out they couldn't create their own characters. I think I handled this well by stressing two points.
  1. Athas Is Deadly: Player's Handbook characters, even uber-optimized ones, at 1st Level will die quick deaths in Athas. The Dark Sun setting has introduced rules for Themes to augment the standard Races and Classes and toughen up your characters. We won't have the full rules for themes until the setting is officially released in August. So we'll use pregens now to give us a taste of Dark Sun before the books hit the shelves.

  2. It's a Chance to Try New Things: I have a friend who only plays Human Fighters. And he plays that character the same way every time. Don't be that friend. Take this opportunity to try a new race/class combo you might not have considered before. Read your pregen's Background, Appearance, and Personality Traits and try to take on that persona in your role-playing. Use the Encounters pregens as a laboratory for trying new things.

  3. Think of it Like This: If it helps, think of these pregens as a demo or an open beta of Dark Sun. When you play video game demos and betas, you only get a peak at the entirety of the game while still having a hella great time. The same goes for this season of Encounters.

Everyone who was upset or disappointed nodded in agreement and was satisfied after I put it like this. At the very least, they leaned their pitchforks against the wall and snuffed out their torches.

I shared more about Athas, the weapon breakage rules, and how encounters works. There were lots of questions about Athas, Encounters, Renown Points, and D&D. I think most everyone left with their disappointment about not playing tempered by being even more excited about Athas and D&D and looking forward to playing than when they arrived.

So I guess I'm left waiting for the kits to show up today or tomorrow, and looking forward to double the fun next week.
Our store had "kit" drama. The store is the only one in the city (San Antonio) to run Encounters, and it gets very very popular, so the playing gets split over Monday, Wednesday, and now a Friday night game. There's one fella that brings his kids in, and other kids, and DMs games for them. He insisted that two (of the six) of the kits were his, and flat-out took them with no intention of sharing, which caused some people some grief. As the store employee said "nerd drama - and the D&D folks are the worst." As such, I wasn't able to get a hold of the actual encounter booklet until half an hour before the game started, so I wasn't entirely sure how to start things going.

Apparently there was a lot of upset about pre-gens, but I didn't hear any from my group.

I had six people at my table. I handed out the renown sheets and the intro to Athas, and told them to read parts 1,2, and 7 in particular. Read the intro, talked about the Sun Sickness, made a few assumptions in regards to their start-up, and jumped into combat immediately.

spoilerey stuff

I had ruled that the cart was damaged, and over turned from the storm, with the PCs being knocked under it. That way, they could move around as necessary, find the supplies, and still take cover from the storm. They immediately caught on that they needed to collect supplies, so they did a pretty sensible thing and turtled beneath the caravan, with only the Fighter coming out.

Unfortunately, the Inciter was first in initiative, so he managed to hit four people with the burst 1 ability. The elf was at the front of the cart, and so while others before the Runners in initiative used their turns to gather supplies, the runners came in, attacked the elf, and I rolled a crit on their encounter power. Already hurt from the first attack, the elf died. Beyond negative bloodied. I DM fiat-ed that and said he's one point above negative bloodied. Thankfully the Fighter stepped up and marked the two runners, but it was touch-and-go.

The elf got dropped a further time after his revival, but not dead dead; the Thri-Kreen also  dropped as well. The Ardent was 2 HP away from going unconscious, and the Fighter actually hit 0 HP. I said that he's still conscious, so he was able to second wind.

Half the group used Action points. The poor elf didn't get to roll anything other than Death Saving Throws. I had to fudge things around - I rolled in the open, and I landed 5 crits the entire session. Only once did I roll a 1, and I used the weapon breakage rules and the Darter lost his blowgun. The Thri-Kreen, on a saving throw meant for Slowed, rolled a 20; I said that, since he just dropped to negative HP, that can be his Death saving throw. I revived old Twitter buffs conveniently when the Ardent rolled a 1 that would've healed two members of the party - she re-rolled and hit. I ignored difficult terrain; I allowed those who used Aid Another to trigger a character's second wind after falling to negative HP to also gain the benefit of the +2 to defenses.

 The Sorceror, being at the bottom of the initiative order, was actually rather bored. The elf, thankfully, was the event organiser so he wasn't too upset about not being able to fully play. But it was really really tough, given my excellent rolling, which never happens whenever I need it to

They managed to high-tail it out by the beginning of the fifth round.

The majority of the party came out of the session saying that it was fun, even though it was really really tough. I kept it standard; when I re-read back through and it said that for six players, they recommend adding another monster, i exclaimed some choice curse words, told the group, and they said the same thing.

I was nominated for the Moment of Greatness renown point for my death-crit on the first round. lol.

I think it was very very difficult, and probably should've been scaled back in damage terms. I reckon, however, if they ran the encounter again, they would've learned from their mistakes and did a much better job.
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