Help! It's out of control!

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Hey all! I'm a first time Encounters DM. Let me explain my situation before I get to the problems. We started on Session 2, as this was the first time Encounters was offered at this game store. We started off ok, mostly using the pre-gens, available online. I said if anyone wants to make new characters before next week, go ahead. One guy showed up to the first session with a 4e druid. Well, if he can, then everyone can, right? Besides that, no one except for me is familiar with Essentials. With that in mind, I now have a party full of regular 4e characters. Do I go back and say, none but Essentials welcome? The next problem is that we missed the last session, due to a natural disaster. Do I start on Session 3 or Session 4? Any suggestions or input would be more than appreciated.


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Just run a double encounter week where you catch up with the regular position. I do it when I need to miss a week and my players don't mind.
About using O4e characters instead of E4e if you're comfortable letting them run them I wouldn't sweat it too much although officially frowned upon. Better to have players at the table playing than not. Although in the future try to get a couple to give the Essentials build a try. Dungeonsmaster.com had some heroes of Shadow pre-gens available for this season. I've found the sessions usually go a little faster with Essential characters than O4e ones due to less analysis paralysis but fun either way.
One guy showed up to the first session with a 4e druid. Well, if he can, then everyone can, right? Besides that, no one except for me is familiar with Essentials. With that in mind, I now have a party full of regular 4e characters. Do I go back and say, none but Essentials welcome?

As the DM, it's your call. 

Essentials characters are a bit more streamlined to build and easier to play - some by virtue of having fewer choices, others by having less restrictive powers.  In the hands of an experienced player, an E-character can be boring, or over-powered, or just fine.  In the hands of a newbie, an E-character is just fine.  

Essentials also had a dose of power-inflation, so an Essentials character is often quite effective on the basics (attack bonus and the like).  An experienced player with a 4e character can do just fine along side E-characters run by newbies.  If you let a newbie build a 4e character and the experienced player use the Essentials one, OTOH...  

If everyone with a 4e character is reasonably experienced, you should have no trouble.   Or, I should say, should have had - it's been three weeks.

How has your Encounters table been doing?

 

 

Oops, looks like this request tried to create an infinite loop. We do not allow such things here. We are a professional website!

Yeah, I'm curious too.  Did the WotC Police come and take away your Encounters gear? 

Hopefully you're realizing it's okay to stretch your DM wings and have fun with your players.  This adventure has a few little hooks to explore, if you're willing to go off the railroad tracks occasionally.  This includes game logistics, party composition, and role-playing in the encounters.

Game logistics: Our table plays on Tuesdays, because that's when the DM and players can make it. (Our FLGS has Encounters games on Wednesdays, too.)

Party Composition: Our table started with 3rd level characters, including some from Encounters Season 4 or the new Heroes of Shadow book.  Pregens were available (thanks Dungeon's Master) and used for walk-in players.  Our party has included a human warden, elf avenger, eladrin vampire, goliath weaponmaster (PHB fighter), elf templar (PHB cleric), human binder, and a dwarven warpriest.  They are all 4th or 5th level now, and I've scaled the encounters to match (very easy to do).  So much for only playing 1st-level Essentials characters...

Improvising in encounters:  Examples include adventurers getting separated and lost in the "Streets of Duponde" skill challenge, expanding the fortune telling from Mother Grivelda, determining party "SWAT tactics" when storming the tiefling hideout (with hilarious results), adventurers "adopting" their minion town guards (we played Week 9 early because of 4th of July schedule conflicts), and whether the PCs will rescue Nathaire instead of just "killing the bad guy." (This has already been discussed by the players if/when they find him.)

Bottom line: We have a great D&D game 1-2 hours a week, have brought three new-to-4th-edition/new-to-D&D players to my table, and everyone is buying D&D products (PHB, Heroes of Shadow, DDI subs, etc.) to improve their fun.  I'd say the objectives of Encounters are being met, even though we've broken all those rules about running Encounters.
-Alveric "And the sword that had visited Earth from so far away smote like the falling of thunderbolts; and green sparks rose from the armour, and crimson as sword met sword; and thick elvish blood moved slowly, from wide slits, down the cuirass; and Lirazel gazed in awe and wonder and love; and the combatants edged away fighting into the forest; and branches fell on them hacked off by their fight; and the runes in Alveric's far-travelled sword exulted, and roared at the elf-knight; until in the dark of the wood, amongst branches severed from disenchanted trees, with a blow like that of a thunderbolt riving an oak tree, Alveric slew him."
Just to let you all know that everything is going fine with my Encounters group. We've had alot of fluctuation in attendance but have never failed to have at least 5 at the table. Thank you all for your tips and encouragement! I've been hewing it pretty close to the printed material, although, I think that maybe some of the encounters are a bit underpowered. I'm getting my feet wet DMing after a 12-year hiatus and loving every minute of it.

FYI, the party composition is as follows:  Dwarf Swarm Druid, Dwarf Barbarian, Drow Ranger (a modified pregen), 2 Wizards, a mentally deranged cleric of Pelor, and a elven Scout (who we call "the Terminator after witnessing his destructive combat prowess),

We're still a session behind, having cleared out the cellars last night, but it's of little consequence.

Again, thank you all for your advice and comments. They are very helpful and much appreciated!


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