Athas Brings the Heat in D&D Encounters: Dark Sun (And How You Can Keep It Cool)

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"Chris Tulach chimes in with some thoughts about making the most of D&D Encounters: Dark Sun":

Dark Sun is a very different campaign setting than most D&D worlds, and one way that’s expressed is in the harsh, gritty nature of battle. Over the course of the past few weeks, players have noticed a tick up on the combat challenges from what they experienced last season in D&D Encounters. There are two factors that contribute to the challenge bump: the Dark Sun setting experience is naturally a bit tougher, and the design adjustments on monsters (which made their debut in Monster Manual 3) ratcheted up their damage output a bit over their predecessors.

Some players love the challenge, and others want combats to be a little easier, more like what they saw in the first season. Of course, the primary job of the DM and organizer is to facilitate the fun of the players, so with that in mind, hone in on what makes the game fun for your groups. If you’re a DM or organizer and want to help out a group that’s struggling with the challenge, here are a few simple things you can do to keep the play experience challenging but not overwhelming:

Adjust the encounter’s difficulty before play begins. Inside the adventure chapters, you’ll find a sidebar on adjusting the encounters for groups of different sizes and play experiences; read over those notes, and remove a creature here or there to make the play experience better suited to the group. If you find the encounter a little too easy after it’s begun, you can always have the monsters you removed get into the fight in later rounds.

Adjust the encounter on the fly. As your game is running, keep an eye on your players’ engagement with the encounter. If they’re frustrated by the challenge, you might want to have a monster run away when it’s bloodied, make a tactically unsound decision that benefits the party (like breaking from melee to provoke opportunity attacks to get at the psion), or declaring a monster’s defeat when it has a few hit points left. Don’t worry about “cheating the rules” – if it means your players will have a better time, it’s worth the tweak.

Use the Twitter buffs! Each Wednesday, if you follow @Wizards_DnD on Twitter, special messages with little benefits pop up for use in the D&D Encounters sessions that week. Players and DMs that see these messages can use them during their game sessions, and they can provide a nice little boost or especially reward certain types of tactics. Bonuses to healing, damage, or other combat perks are there for the taking!

I hope you continue to enjoy exploring the world of Athas and facing down the Wastewalker as you play through the remainder of D&D Encounters: Dark Sun. Don’t forget that when we start Chapter 2, all characters will level up to 2, they’ll be a little tougher, and have another power available to them during the game sessions. Good luck, and remember, above all – keep it fun!

About the Author

Originally thought to have been raised from a humble Midwestern family, Chris Tulach actually fell to Earth in a meteorite-shaped capsule flung from a planet far outside our galaxy. While under the yellow rays of Sol, Chris’s nerdity far surpasses that of any normal human. Using this precious gift only for good, he has become the D&D Organized Play Content Developer, responsible for the development and deployment of Dungeons & Dragons organized play programs. He is also the co-author of E2, Kingdom of the Ghouls.