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

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

 I am simply not having any fun. Before I get to that let me explain a few things. This is the 5th season I have been a GM for Encounters. IMHO this is the worst season save for perhaps "Now Let's Fight in the Desert...again," er I mean Dark Sun. 

We have two other tables that I am trying to organize, but if there are any issues people come to me. I am having to deal with players complaining about a newer GM with loose understanding of the rules who not only interprets things literally but still thinks this is 1st ed. in a very Gygaxian way and another very fresh GM (he learned playing in Evard Season 5) who did not expect to have all this roleplay.

The mod itself is simply not written well for Encounters. Numerous characters are intoduced whom the players are having to keep track of each week. For a single encounter session there is too much to keep track of. Some are not important and will never show up again. The combats are simply brutal and should not be as complex as they are. The mods do not follow many of the 4E rules and go off book such as having the players make "active perception checks" to avoid surprise when they should be able to use their passives. Don't get me started on the waste of a session that was "week 0."

Considering my players have only one or two surges left I am pretty sure the Verbeg will TPK them this next week.

Many of the combats are meant to be ended in non-fatal ways, but most of our players are use to the violent method so no NPC is left alive.

Lastly any creative spark I might have had is out. I
I'm very sorry to hear it!

Some quick ideas.


  • Before each session, meet for 5-10 minutes with the other judges and review this session. See if they have questions, review possible pitfalls, and verify that the Gygaxian and new DM understand what players likely want. (And, in theory, both Gygaxian and total new 4E play should be fun if done well... that's were a head DM can provide some pointers).

  • For a bit more time, consider setting up a Google or Yahoo group and discussing each upcoming session the week prior so that these issues are ironed out. Honestly, this is a good thing to do regardless

  • Consider creating a handout that lists the NPCs they have met and gives a 1 sentence description.

  • Roleplay can be fun for the non-actor. It is about less "staging a TV show" and more "present choices". But, I would have to know more about the DM to really comment on how to help here.

  • Brutal combats: reduce all damage by 1 die size (d10 to d8). Remember to use scaling in the PCs' favor. Put in an escape clause for each combat. For example, if the party is doing poorly, maybe that "attack three times" attack suddenly becomes "attack two times" when the creature is bloodied, and the PCs can learn that with a knowledge check. But, in general, take steps to tone down combats if needed.

  • If players are near a TPK but should not be, provide them with surgeless healing via an NPC, meal, consumable item you make up, in-combat terrain feature you make up, etc.

  • Have friendly NPCs point out that lethal combat is seldom seen here and suggest they use it so they can learn about their opponents.

  • It is overall very good for Encounters to try new things. Otherwise it would get really stale playing 1-3rd level each time. All experimenting leads to some issues.

  • I hope you get the creative spark back. But, it is good to take breaks every so often. You might want to step away for a season, then come back.

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I am also sorry to hear it.

A couple of things:


  • DM burn out is a serious issue and I encourage my DMs to take a break for a season after DMing two seasons.

  • This adventure requires way more prep than the previous 3 seasons combined. On one hand this is awesome for those DMs that have time to read ahead, plan out their session in advance. It can pay off in may cool and interesting ways, with the right players.
    Any time my DMs are reading the adventure 1 hour before table time, there is going to be a problem. If the players are butt-kickers only, this will also be a problem.

  • This last fight was way too complicated for the unprepared or new DM. Flight, water combat, and mounts rarely come up on low heroic play and this one has all three. In retrospect I should have stepped away from playing and helped my new DM run the table.

  • As Alphastream suggests, I have a DM mail list where all my DMs past and present can chat back and forth on DDE. I created this from day one so I had a means of archived communication.

  • Besides having a quick DMs meeting to bring up potential pot holes and feild questions from my DMs I would also suggest talking with the players at that table about their expectations for this adventure. If everyone wants to kick-butt and take names, then by all means, alter the adventure to suit that style of play.

  • I have started a thread on how to run the solo so that you don't splatter the PCs. Trust me, unless I roll really bad and/or the players are power gamers, I can eat their lunch at-will with the Verbeeg. Its a nasty fight if you play the stats straight up and don't dial up or down the threat level from the opponent to match the PCs.

  • The effects of the mounts don't wear off until the next extended rest. If your PCs have them in session 7 they can have them in session 8 and 9. I would print off the stat block for the players to make this work. If they still have the potion, then have horse statblocks available. Otherwise the mounted stuff will suck.

  • Try and relax a bit, I know that feeling frustrated can build and it will come out at the table sending your enjoyment into a death spiral, not to mention make the players not happy either.


I hope this helps,


Bryan Blumklotz

Many of the combats are meant to be ended in non-fatal ways, but most of our players are use to the violent method so no NPC is left alive.



Are the players aware of this and just ignoring it for the sake of splattering the enemy or is it just not clear to them that it is an option?

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The PCs are aware the creatures are under a spell or just doing thier job, but that has not stopped them. In the latest fight vs. the pixie, I explained that the pixie seemed to be "out of it," however in terms of telling them they needed to do X to make it surrender I did not because my party has no insight (passive) and does not make checks during combat even when not asked.

As far as modifying things on the fly...I do that, however I do not feel as if I should have to, that should have been the writer's job.
There are a lot of good suggestions in here. While I certainly understand your troubles, it's been much the opposite for my group. I've had more fun with the role play in this season than in others, and the encounters are varied in their terrain an tactics. Roping unicorns was hilarious and fun. The last session involved a lot of checking the rules books for water and mounted combat, but at the same time, was different and enjoyable. 

I have to disagree with you about modifying things, and who's job that is. I feel that as the DM, it's your role to modify things as you go. A writer can't expect his or her module to meet every table's needs because every table is  different. Different players, different characters, and classes, etc. No two tables are going to approach the situation exactly the same way, as illustrated between your experience and mine. 

For this season and last season, the authors have been posting comments on these forums about the sessions, their thoughts on those sessions, and even how you might change things to fit your group, so I believe even they exepct you to change things as needed. That's what makes DnD a great game. It isn't static like a book or RPG video game. You and the players creat the story as you go. 

Anyway, you probably know this and love this about DnD just like I do. Don't be afraid to go off book. Think of the module as a guidlines for a story, and not a strict set of  things you have to abide by. I think you'll have more fun. 
 
Although I share Tedluck's perspective, I empathize with your situation beowulfthehunter, and hope that alphastream's and perithoth's suggestions help somewhat. I certainly understand the desire for a module to arrive balanced and fitted ideally for all groups and playstyles... However, with so many different kinds of players with so many different playstyles, it's hard to hit the sweet spot for everyone all the time. Thus, different Encounters seasons; different strokes for different folks. 

I hope things get better for you. Heck, even in the most standard of adventures there are groups that just don't mesh with them. Ever written an adventure that you liked, but the people you played with just weren't into? My advice echoes that of the other posters: if the players aren't having fun, change things up until they are. Let them kill and maim everything in their path and drown the Feywild in blood (mu-ha-ha-ha-ha). 
As far as modifying things on the fly...I do that, however I do not feel as if I should have to, that should have been the writer's job.


It is always, first and foremost, a game for your table. You own it and you can do what you want with it. You can make changes beforehand, make changes during the session, and even make changes after the session.

I've either playtested or written a number of adventures that have been played by a good number of tables and I know there is no "perfect" or "getting it right". When writing an author can play it safe and reduce the breadth of experiences (primarily by sticking to very tried and true formulas), but that means both limiting the really bad tables and also limiting the really good tables. And you will still see issues. There are adventures for organized play that are widely held to be "far too easy and straightforward" that have seen posts on the forums saying the adventures caused TPKs and are unfair. The game is swingy (actually a good thing) and can play very differently.

Yes, all authors and developers can do things to reduce "the bad", but it is very hard. It is especially hard when you try to do something new. It is a price you pay for that type of creation. It pains me greatly to know that the work I do (or edit/develop) will cause a terrible experience somewhere, but it isn't avoidable entirely.

The best safeguard is playtesting, but even there we see challenges. I've playtested with my own group and then sent out my adventure to receive from very good gamers the following: "this was a TPK and completely unfair", "pretty good, we liked how it played", and "way too easy, we finished the entire adventure an hour early, here's what you can do to make it harder." I've been fortunate to come up with decent solutions to those cases, but it is indicative of how hard it is to get it right for all tables such that you don't require a DM's modification.

Follow my blog and Twitter feed with Dark Sun campaign design and DM tips!
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 will be my first time DMing.  I'm starting late.  But I'm already modifying things to fit me and hopefully my group.  I will do my best to be prepared, but I'm not sure how things will go.  I'm really invested in the story and I'm modifying things here and there to suit my own tastes.

I played the last encounters session (my first time of encounters) and it was, eh.  My GM is a friend, but he never seem prepared or that invested.  Two of the players were his sons and they weren't invested either (I could blame it on their age, but I think 10 year olds can become invested).

I think session 0 is great.  I helped steer my players to pick backgrounds that would fit the campaign.  I'm trying my best to incorporate their characters' backgrounds into the sessions.  I disliked how themes were incorporated in the last session (but I understand why it was so limited).  I could even take a session 0.5 for my players to have time creating deep backgrounds.

I believe the thing is if you try to fit a square object into a circular hole, you will have issues.  Modify the edges of the square and things will work out a bit better.

Regardless, I wish you well in the rest of the season.  It's so important for you to have fun and enjoy what you're doing.  If you aren't, take some time off and let the players know why.  They might be having fun either.  Work together and work things out.  You both deserve it.
We've lost a couple of DMs due to this module. We are losing regular players as well.

This is a terrible module if you don't have DMs committing to the whole season. If you're handed the module at 5, to run at 5:30, you're kind of screwed. Especially if you haven't read the frontmatter, or you're working from a photocopy of that night's session and don't have the full module (we have lost a copy of the module to someone moving, and a second copy to the DM disappearing-- we are down to 2 mods for 5 tables).

An example of how bad this is? I was called in to run session 5, having missed 3 and 4, but with very little prep. Any week of Neverwinter or Evard, I'd have been fine. Session 5, I mentioned the keys, and all my players gave me blank looks. I've now read the module a little more thoroughly (as well as having run more sessions) and lo and behold: the PCs are supposed to know they need the keys, but where is it ever mentioned to tell them this?!?!? It seems like the leprechauns would have been a good fit for that....? Nope. It says in the front of the book that it's important that they get the keys. But nowhere in the module that I've found does it tell the PLAYERS that it's important to get the keys.

We've been struggling for weeks with this problem of the keys. I've taken to just calling them the "plot hole keys." I've suggested to players that they should just pluck any leaves at this point, since they have no idea why the leaves are important, just that they're strangely compelled to collect them.

I'm sorry for the writers of this module, cause I am sure you put a lot of work into it. I don't know if this stuff got changed in playtest and editing or not, and I really don't care. It really shouldn't have been sent out for this program.

Would have been good as a standalone module, with about 8 more pages of information, I think.
An example of how bad this is? I was called in to run session 5, having missed 3 and 4, but with very little prep. Any week of Neverwinter or Evard, I'd have been fine. Session 5, I mentioned the keys, and all my players gave me blank looks. I've now read the module a little more thoroughly (as well as having run more sessions) and lo and behold: the PCs are supposed to know they need the keys, but where is it ever mentioned to tell them this?!?!? It seems like the leprechauns would have been a good fit for that....? Nope. It says in the front of the book that it's important that they get the keys. But nowhere in the module that I've found does it tell the PLAYERS that it's important to get the keys.




Page 23, Column 2, under Conclusion

"The leprechauns can tell the characters anything they need to know about the archfey agents and Soryth's curse. They tell the characters that Soryth lives in a hidden castle, the Palace of Spires, that is hard to access. To do so, the characters hneed leaves as keys - one shamrock, one oak, one rose, and one mistletoe."



That's the first reference I found to introduce those clues to my players. I even included it again in a handout before session 5 started, recapping that information for everyone at my table.

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

 

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

Rundell wrote:

   

Emerikol wrote:

       

Foxface wrote:

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Design notes:

By design it is indeed a linked plot, where investment in the adventure is rewarded. Maybe that's not the best thing for Encounters, but there it is. I'm sorry it's causing problems for some, though I hope it's rewarding--or at least different--for others. 

As for the leaves, they were a little more attached to the plot in the original. In session 9, gremlins or boggles try to steal them while the characteres sleep (now a xivort attack); it was another branching encounter, depending on whether Orlando is alive or dead, but was the first to go when the adventure had to be cut for length. 

Here's how the text looked, along with design notes that addressed the issue of the leaves
Show


The characters gain an ordinary shamrock, necessary for entering the Palace of Spires through the labyrinth in session 10.[S1]  They now have a decision to make. With Juliana gone, do they travel to the encampment of the Green Lord or the Summer Queen?
 





 [S1]It’s possible that the whole business of gathering leaves to enter the Palace of Spires should be cut, since it takes up space and the characters don’t really have to DO anything to get the leaves. However, I’ve left it in for a few reasons. 1) It provides a throughline for the adventure. As the characters gather these leaves, it’s like a measure of progress toward their goal. 2) It’s an element from the original module. 3) The little leprechaun’s speech hammers home a bit more how the villain is in control of this place, oppressing the fey that live here, raises the stakes a little.


On the downside: again, putting the leaves in takes up space in encounters, they don’t really do anything special (and I think there’s enough special stuff in this adventure that the leaves shouldn’t be special too), and the characters don’t have to DO anything to find them, since we can’t have a situation where they’d miss the keys they needed to continue in encounter 10.




As the adventure went along, whenever the PCs acquired more of these, there was a little reminder. There was nothing they had to do to acquire them--they just get them automatically, so if they forget, the DM says "you have those." This is from another cut "split path" encounter in session 6:


Conclusion


The characters find mistletoe growing here by the nymphs. With the shamrock from session 4 and the oak leaves from session 5, they now possess 3 leaves necessary for entering the Palace of Spires through the labyrinth in session 10.


 


 




I am running this season at my FLGS and we have a group of players that have been playing together for a few seasons.  The module is good overall but I am finding the story to be overly complex for an Encounters setting. 

Most players at my table have given up remembering who is who.  It seems each week they are introduced to a new NPC that many times has two names.  Each name is used by different people.  It makes for a good story and if played in a home setting with a longer play session I think the players would be able to make more sense of the story line.  With the limited play time and the focus of Encounters being ease of play most all the players are very confusued even with copious amounts of notes they have taken.

A couple of people have mentioned handouts they have created to outline the NPCs.  If anyone would be willing to share that would be great.
Design notes:

By design it is indeed a linked plot, where investment in the adventure is rewarded. Maybe that's not the best thing for Encounters, but there it is. I'm sorry it's causing problems for some, though I hope it's rewarding--or at least different--for others. 


It's both different and rewarding for my group. They have finally pieced together what is going on with Orlando/Porpherio and Juliana/Caerwyn, and what Soryth and Kalbon are actually up to, and they felt really good when they finally did so. 

Glad to hear it, ScottyMet. 
I also feel that this season has been overly complex for an Encounters module. The first poster echos my thoughts; Im ready for the season to be over, and it's finally tipped me to taking next season off as a DM (I've been DMing since Undermountain).  

There are far too many NPCs to keep track of and I find that unless players are writing names down they forget what's going on from week to week. 

I love the emphasis on role-playing and story, that's my favorite aspect of the game, but things need to be streamlined in this sort of format. I had two players, brand new to Encounters, show up this past week. I did my best to give a simplified account of what's happened so far, but they were still thoroughly lost. 

I see Encounters moving away from a weekly "drop-in" type game that welcomed new payers, and moving toward trying to give it the complexity of a regular home D&D game. If you have a dedicated table of players that consistently show up each week this might work better, but I don't think that most of us have that luxury. Players come and go, and I see my table of players change up throughout the season. 
 
I've been running Encounters since season one and by far, this is my least favorite. I agree that it's too complex for the Encounters program. I made a recap packet to hand out to newcomers about 3-4 weeks into the season and it ended up being a 3 1/2 page monstrosity. It was around that time that I realized that this adventure into the Feywild is far too complex to support the easy going "drop in, drop out" mantra.

I know that I will have a new player coming to the game tonight and I'm trying to think of how I can catch him up to the story. At this point there is so much information to pass on that I can only think to say "you have traveled to the Feywild to rescue two lovers who were called there by a nefarious being. But something happened when they crossed over and the two are no longer quite themselves."

I agree with what was said before, the module would be fine in a home game. The large story and large amount of information are nothing new to that type of play environment. But in the "casual" Encounters setting, I don't think it's very friendly. So yeah, I'm ready for this one to end as well.
I have not run Encounters before this season, it is my first.

For the most part, I've enjoyed running it. And, as a player in the past, I enjoy these kinds of mods. I honestly would not show up if it was a casual "fight of the week" type format. By having a narrative that runs through the whole mod, I think it's helped keep people coming back to the table.

Something I look towards, as a player, is the idea of a "season." That means I'm making a commitment to show up for the whole story, start to finish. (And each season I've participated in, since Dark Sun, I've only missed 1 session per season, to the best of my memory.) That's a behavior I've seen across the 3 tables that have grown at our FLGS.

Almost everyone who comes is making the commitment to a weekly engagement, versus a drop-in mentality, with very few exceptions. (I can think of 2, maybe 3 people across our 3 tables. And our regulars usually fill 5-6 chairs per table even without these irregulars.)

I think it's unfortunate that some of your stores have a "drop-in" approach to Encounters, but I think it's wrong to point towards the module having a complex plot as part of the problem. Encounters is, in what experience I've had, a league-style game where you make plans to show up the whole season to play for your team. It's not a pick-up game format.

Maybe WotC needs a "Combat Unrelated" encounter program, where it's just a tactical game with no overarcing story that DMs have to worry about dropping irregulars into. Based on my past couple of seasons as a player, though, I'd say Encounters is not currently that format and shouldn't be blamed for not being that.

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

 

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

Rundell wrote:

   

Emerikol wrote:

       

Foxface wrote:

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

I have not run Encounters before this season, it is my first.

For the most part, I've enjoyed running it. And, as a player in the past, I enjoy these kinds of mods. I honestly would not show up if it was a casual "fight of the week" type format. By having a narrative that runs through the whole mod, I think it's helped keep people coming back to the table.

Something I look towards, as a player, is the idea of a "season." That means I'm making a commitment to show up for the whole story, start to finish. (And each season I've participated in, since Dark Sun, I've only missed 1 session per season, to the best of my memory.) That's a behavior I've seen across the 3 tables that have grown at our FLGS.

Almost everyone who comes is making the commitment to a weekly engagement, versus a drop-in mentality, with very few exceptions. (I can think of 2, maybe 3 people across our 3 tables. And our regulars usually fill 5-6 chairs per table even without these irregulars.)

I think it's unfortunate that some of your stores have a "drop-in" approach to Encounters, but I think it's wrong to point towards the module having a complex plot as part of the problem. Encounters is, in what experience I've had, a league-style game where you make plans to show up the whole season to play for your team. It's not a pick-up game format.

Maybe WotC needs a "Combat Unrelated" encounter program, where it's just a tactical game with no overarcing story that DMs have to worry about dropping irregulars into. Based on my past couple of seasons as a player, though, I'd say Encounters is not currently that format and shouldn't be blamed for not being that.

There is nothing in your post that is right at all.

Encounters has never been touted as being for dedicated groups. The format is specifically designed to assist with people being dropped into different stores in different countries without missing a beat. It's not for dedicated groups - that's what home games are for.

Encounters is for hard working schmucks like us to get their couple hours of dice rolling and role playing in while looking for a dedicated home group of friends to play with. That many have taken it to BE their dedicated weekly group is entirely a side issue and not entirely bad but NOT the intent of Encounters.

I'm not looking for moderator action here, so I'll stop there.

This module was terrible for Encounters. It has killed our weekly fun and driven a couple people away temporarily. I'm now just waiting for the next season as the organizer.
I'm not looking for moderator action here, so I'll stop there.



I never claimed to understand what the original intent of the Encounters program was. I was only speaking from my personal experience of what it had been for me at my FLGS. If that experience is not what the program was made for, perhaps something needs to be addressed with the design team.

Maybe the next season will be yet another expedition to the Temple of Elemental Evil. That might be the plotless, drop-in, meat grinder of the week for new people to pick up that you're looking for, though.

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

 

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

Rundell wrote:

   

Emerikol wrote:

       

Foxface wrote:

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

I never claimed to understand what the original intent of the Encounters program was. I was only speaking from my personal experience of what it had been for me at my FLGS. If that experience is not what the program was made for, perhaps something needs to be addressed with the design team.



And, in fact, that's the main complaint in this thread-- the design of this module is very poor for the program as intended and as marketed to game shops and to players.

I don't know if you played either of the last 2 seasons, but the modules were excellent and well-suited to the program. They were a good balance of a continuing storyline combined with drop-in action. The two things are not mutually exclusive. To imply that a strong drop-in-able story is somehow plotless is an insult to two extremely good modules from the past 2 seasons.
Every week that I play or run this module, I am reminded how awesome this would be in a home group. Played out over 3 sessions, with each chapter taking one session, this would be an incredibly fun, intense gaming experience. My players would have a feel for the epic size of the story, and they would not have the ongoing confusion about who these various NPCs are, because they would remember from one encounter to the next, and would only need notes for NPCs who are continuing between chapters.
tl;dr: I will totally run this in a home game. Wizards should have published it as a paid product or in Dungeon magazine.
To be fair Rood does like things needlessly complex. There is nothing wrong with that, but for most of us, it is not our bag.

Encounters is meant to be edpisodic TV like say an episode of Leverage or Supernatural. While there is a larger story going on you can enjoy each episode by itself). However this season is LOST (pun intended). You cannot enjoy an episode of that show by itself. You need to know the whole story.

For example we brought up the Blood stone, and imbuing it with power. While that is all well and good, after 6 weeks, no one was sure who had it. For something as important, you cannot mess that up.

The other option is to make Encounters like Law and Order. While each episode (encounter) might be interesting no one wants to play stories with no connection.

In all seriousness, can we get Eric Scott D back to write the next season?

In all seriousness, can we get Eric Scott D back to write the next season?




Next season is almost out, so its probably almost done by now, but this sure has my vote for any future ones!
Maybe WotC needs a "Combat Unrelated" encounter program, where it's just a tactical game with no overarcing story that DMs have to worry about dropping irregulars into.



Maybe they could call it "Lair Assault," too.

Caoimhe Ora Snow

Game Designer, The Queen's Cavaliers

5e D&D Stuff: Birthright Conversion

I posited that to my table, when this discussion came up. The opinion on that is that the bar of entry is too high. People are expected to come with higher-level characters to begin with. On top of that, the characters are supposed to be spec'd out in a very optimized way.

It's not an entry-level program into D&D as an RPG, or D&D as a tactical rule set, was the in-a-nutshell argument I received back from the people I was talking to.

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

 

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

Rundell wrote:

   

Emerikol wrote:

       

Foxface wrote:

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

I just want to say that this has been my favorite season of encounters since the first one, and the majority of my players have echoed that same feeling.  We have all enjoyed the various roleplaying opportunities it has given.  The plot is complex enough that it makes you think, it makes you take notes.  The combats have been interesting and innovative.  More importantly the combats have not been repetitive. 

The last season of Encounters was so bad that the majority of our players disappeared.  Those who did stick around were only doing so in order to spend time with friends, the adventure was really something they could have cared less about.  None of them planned on returning for Crystal Cave. 


In all seriousness, can we get Eric Scott D back to write the next season?



Nothing against the guy but after the last season I wouldn't touch anything he wrote.

When I got the new module and gave it a quick read I promised them they if they stayed they would enjoy it and they would have a different experience.  They took my word and stayed, together we've made this the most memorable adventure to date.  When I read the flavour text they are actively listening, and get excited when I mention a new type of plant and or leaf.

We've all agreed that this will be our last Encounters season.  So to the designer I say thanks.  This is an adventure I would happily run at my home table.
I'm sorry to say that have to echo feedback that this season seems built to not cater to the Encounters playerbase.
(I'll refer to said playerbase from now on as "they".)

They're killing NPCs because they come to Encounters to hang out and kill stuff for a couple hours. When that has resulted in issues for them/the story, they've expressed disdain for this season.

Even with notes, they simply don't care about NPCs. And they don't care to make notes themselves.

They don't want to keep up with the complex story and figure out what's going on.

They don't want to deal with heavy-thought puzzles at all.

They can't keep up with the story when there's a week between every few minutes of dialogue.

They refer to it as "the worst one since Shadowfell" but can't elaborate on specific reasons those two stand out as worse than Neverwinter and Borderlands.



I think:

Updating this adventure to add combats results in the adventure interrupting itself and breaking the particular flow that any given group of players tends to use for RP and storytelling.

Trying to run this particular kind of adventure over a series of months with regular week-long breaks is ridiculous and players cannot be expected to keep track of what's going on or still have important details in their mindspace when a twist occurs.

Simple to glance at and understand (if not solve) visual and environmental puzzles would go over well, but that's the only kind of puzzle. Even riddles would shut down many groups in the Encounters after work environment.

The combination of having to learn a new setting AND new builds AND new items AND etc. from the setting book AND having to deal with that setting on a regular basis AND having to deal with the varied inhabitants of that setting results in a complete lack of comfort zone for the players. There's nothing familiar that they understand without thought. Everything that happens has to be considered in light of the entirety of a new world.

I don't think releasing settings as player resources is a good idea. People might want to try a themed build, but they don't want to deal with learning new mechanics AND learning new fluff AND having an adventure in this new place all at the same time. There's no comfort zone at all - it's a high stress environment. Videogaming refers to this type of thing as the learn forward environment versus the lean back environment. I regularly find that players are ONLY looking for a lean back environment in any type of after school/work game.  


So many people are leaving and/or requesting something else, we're no longer offering this season in favor of a variety of homegames on Wednesday nights. If next season reads like it will offer the level of challenge alluded to at Gen Con, we'll not run it either.


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My location has had very mixed feelings about this season.
I as DM love the whole feywild-shakespeare-npc interaction, it's much closer to my home game than previous seasons.
But for the players it's been generally negative - we've dropped from 8-12 players to 3-5 and am down to one table.
So in light of that plus not being able to get the Heroes of Elemental Chaos until the day before next season starts plus probably not having the info in the Character Builder we are going to drop back and run "Keep on the Borderlands" while I evaluate the "Elder Elemental Eye".
I am also opening the PC choices up to all the WotC books, after running 4 seasons people want to try different builds than the ones in the Essentials line. I'm hoping to see a Minotaur battlemind or a kobold monk/thief at my table

Frank
In my store, we have a strong base with anywhere from 20-36 players each week and up to six tables of six a piece running. Its a pretty big game for the space we're in.

As a GM, I was dropped into this adventure in the middle due to a recent move to the area. As someone who has been GMing for a while now, I also felt that the encounter was far more suited to a home game than a drop in, drop out weekly relaxing game. However, it is very challenging to strike a perfect balance between too much story and not enough story to both interest new players and ones who come every week.

In my store, even the players who come every week have basically taken to ignoring the story and I pretty much follow every NPC with "Soryth, the big bad you're looking for" or "Uma, the fey woman you decided to help."

I think part of the problem with this module is that the decisions players make from week to week go table to table, and if half the group did one thing and half did the other, three people might have missed something important but get it anyway (or in the case of Uma and Ragnar, might be helping the complete opposite fey). Especially annoying is consistantly having to refer to Uma and Ragnar as "bating the bears or getting the unicorns". I understand that's just a feature of encouters, but there's a lot to keep straight and its challenging to ask players if they found Orlando's locket without giving away what his locket is.

I know tonight we're going to have several new players, and I feel like it'll feel to them like we're dropping them into a home game without enough explaniation because there's so much to know. I know I'm just reitterating what was said before, but I feel that this encounter is just not well suited for what encounters is meant to be. It requires far too many GM allowances and changes (aside from the normal ones a GM would have to make in any adventure they didnt write themselves) to keep the players interested and the fights challenging but not impossible or too easy.

The biggest complaint I get from my players is that the sessions are too much of an "info dump" (their words). Its as thought the writers went "Roleplaying? That's the GM pretending to be Uma, Ragnar, and Orlando all at once, right? PC's won't want to say anything, right?"

Just to be clear, this is a bunch of things I've heard from my entire store, not just my own thoughts.

My issue with this season (outside of previously expressed opinion about to much talking...) has been that my life has been really hectic with my wife rejoining the work force and that has resulted in me missing a lot of sessions. In previous seasons (since Keep on the Borderlands: A Season of Serpents which was my least favorite until this one due to the enforced PC idiocy) when I had to miss a session, I could be caught up really quickly (and yes, the Neverwinter/Game Day arc was my favorite to date). I expect when I finally get back next week to basically be shutting up until it comes time to shoot things with my thief's short bow or stab with his short sword.


 


Things I think were done right this season:


Session 0: giving everyone time to take a break and build thier characters together was a good idea even if most of my local group just took the night off.


Allowing the Dragon general Theme content.

Honestly, while I think the module overall is awesome, I feel (as others have stated) that this should have been released as a stand alone module alongside HotFeywild and Chris should have found another story for Encounters (or edited this even more [I'm assuming Encounters falls under Chris Tulach's Umbrella]).

As for our FLGS, we have twice the number of Encounters players for this season than we've ever had before.  

No one here really has a problem with the plot or the long list of characters.  I guess part of that is because I used simple handouts summarizing the plot to them, I used pictures hung on my DM screen to show who the main characters are, and I also managed expectations.  I've explained numerous times that Encounters is a weekly one-encounter session designed to bring people into the stores and that folks can come and go as they please.  I also explained that due to the format, there is a certain amount (a big amount!) of railroading involved, so if you like the freedom to do anything you want at any time in this story, you won't find it here, but you will find a lot of fun anyway, and that this format is NOT typically how 4th edition works, although it can work like that if you want it to.

When people understand that they have fun and if they don't they may not have fun.  So you gotta manage expectations and explain the format to people numerous times, especially since you will probably have new players coming in all the time and others leaving.

Bottom line, I have a number of players literally BEGGING me to DM next season as well.  They want more, so for us the Encounters program is a success and this season's module didn't hurt anything.      

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

We've lost a couple of DMs due to this module. We are losing regular players as well.

This is a terrible module if you don't have DMs committing to the whole season. If you're handed the module at 5, to run at 5:30, you're kind of screwed. Especially if you haven't read the frontmatter, or you're working from a photocopy of that night's session and don't have the full module (we have lost a copy of the module to someone moving, and a second copy to the DM disappearing-- we are down to 2 mods for 5 tables).

An example of how bad this is? I was called in to run session 5, having missed 3 and 4, but with very little prep. Any week of Neverwinter or Evard, I'd have been fine. Session 5, I mentioned the keys, and all my players gave me blank looks. I've now read the module a little more thoroughly (as well as having run more sessions) and lo and behold: the PCs are supposed to know they need the keys, but where is it ever mentioned to tell them this?!?!? It seems like the leprechauns would have been a good fit for that....? Nope. It says in the front of the book that it's important that they get the keys. But nowhere in the module that I've found does it tell the PLAYERS that it's important to get the keys.

We've been struggling for weeks with this problem of the keys. I've taken to just calling them the "plot hole keys." I've suggested to players that they should just pluck any leaves at this point, since they have no idea why the leaves are important, just that they're strangely compelled to collect them.

I'm sorry for the writers of this module, cause I am sure you put a lot of work into it. I don't know if this stuff got changed in playtest and editing or not, and I really don't care. It really shouldn't have been sent out for this program.

Would have been good as a standalone module, with about 8 more pages of information, I think.

The fault is not in our modules, but in our DMs... Our three DMs had the material from week 0, are committed, and have no trouble handling the heaps of plot-bits (like the leaf keys, the Tuathan road whistle, the bloodstone, etc.). 

Having invested DMs who are also prepared for this complicated adventure is the real issue for mortaine.  Previous seasons (I've run Evard and Neverwinter) had much simpler plots, with fewer plot-bits to introduce.  And, they were less fun to run!  The adventure is more advanced, however, and will overwhelm an unprepared DM - to say nothing of overwhelming under-invested players.  Cry
D&D Encounters Post-game Show podcast! http://gelatinouscubed.net/podcast-episodes/
I'm a little sad reading the posts describing how the players at different Encounters locations are having a bad time.  Our location in Bayshore Mall (Glendale, WI) has a cadre of over a dozen players who each attend at least sessions a season.  We get new players every week, and none of the DMs has mentioned any negative feedback based on this fine adventure.

The player tables are pretty stable, however.  Each DM knows who will be playing at his table next week, which permits more of a "home game" feel and continuity. Since I usually end up with the new player any given week, I present a quick synopsis, "previously in the Crystal Cave" type intro; this also helps keep the pertinent facts in front of my mostly younger boys who are also new to the game.

The prevalence in these posts of players who just want to "kill stuff for a couple of hours" suggests to me that DMs are presenting Encounters adventures as nothing more than that.  Even in Evard and Neverwinter, there was room for NPC interaction, setting description, and non-combat decisions that would enrich the play experience.  After all, the D&D board games are available for those who prefer all action and minimal "blah-blah" in their gaming.  Undecided
D&D Encounters Post-game Show podcast! http://gelatinouscubed.net/podcast-episodes/
I dm'ed the first six seasons of encounters (and just handed the reins over to an apprentice) and it was interesting to watch the development of the program as it grew into more and more role-playing and choice-making opportunities.  Some weeks I invented the RP opportunities, and some weeks I was under-prepared and "winged-it" by scanning that weeks spread as we played (an infamous "page six" joke came out of this, back when the dm had to read three separate sections of the module for each encounter.)

This season really pushes the limits of the RP and exploratrion over the combat in an experimental way.  It requires a lot of attention to get the most out of it, but "the game rises to the skill level of the dm" so to speak, so I think they are doing the right thing. 

In other words, some groups might just skip to teh fight, and that's ok.

Wielding a Bohemian Ear Spoon can be fun and informative.
This is my first season DMing at my FLGS.  I played in the previous season (Neverwinter).

In our store this season has been hard.  We have a mix of younger and older players.  I can see the younger players losing interest during the non-combat portions of the modules.  In the last session, some of the players left after the combat was over.

I'm not sure what the answer is.   Certainly some of the older players like some of the roleplaying aspects however we have had quite a bit of player turnover which makes it difficult to keep any continuity. On the whole, I have to say that I'm looking forward to this season drawing to a close.
Overall this season has been a success for me.  We've had great turnout and our regulars have gelled together.  Everyone is having a good time.

@feetz_grande on Twitter

This season has been a terrible time at my FLGS. I will very swiftly note that it's only half the materials' fault.

We have barely been able to get 3 players to show up (self included) on a regular basis and can barely keep the DM going! While the material is a decent story (though a tragic reprint...), it's horrid when it comes to the episodic nature of Encounters.  We spend 10 minutes before each session to remind everyone of all the key details which happened before.

Now I said the materials was only half. The other half is the DM. The previous players seem to not like him, so I'll be thrown back into the DM's seat next season. A game table coup! So, yes, with the two sources of bleh, it's hard to lay an exact percentage of blame on the material, but still... 
It is really interesting to see some call this their favorite season and some their least favorite. That often is a sign of the adventure trying to do really new things.

To the extent that people come to the forums not just to vent but also to pick up ideas, my recommendation is to focus on what the table wants. In the end, have a great time. The Encounters material is never very long in word count - you can generally read the whole thing in one evening. Read the material, make a call as to how it will be received by you and your table, and DM accordingly.

If you are a DM that feels it will be a challenge to impart story upon your players, simplify that story. Distill it down to the key elements that resonate with you and tell that story in your words. That might sound really hard, but it doesn't have to be. Read the story once, then out loud (saying it to a mirror is a common trick) state a 1 minute overview of what is taking place. Jot down those major points you said as bullets. Now take a look at each encounter and make sure those (simpler) points will be communicated. If as you run you find yourself getting more comfortable with the story you can find ways to add it back in. At its simplest, the story can be of two lovers that retired in a magical kingdom and various creatures have the "keys" to reaching them and stopping the recent problem.

If you like story but worry about how the players will recall it, create a quick handout in something like Excel that players can use to track "story points". Reward them when they have tracked one successfully. Usually one person at a table will be present for most of the sessions and is willing to track them. If not, consider a summary handout of "the story thus far". It can actually be really helpful for you as a DM. In a larger store you could share the task of tracking this amongst DMs and it can be a common DM aid everyone uses.

If your table really just wants combat, you can give them that. It seems like a shame to me, but the ultimate goal is fun. If the players and you really just want to defeat stuff you can provide only the lightest of reasons to linearly take them from one encounter to the next, such as written clues found on each foe. Just be careful that someone may join your table that wants more out of their game - they would wrongfully conclude that D&D is just combat.

In all cases, as DMs we own the adventure. We can see from the posts on this thread that one persons "best season ever" is another's "worst ever". No season will be perfect for everyone. We as DMs take the material, breathe life into it, and adapt it to our table's preferences.

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It is really interesting to see some call this their favorite season and some their least favorite. That often is a sign of the adventure trying to do really new things.

To the extent that people come to the forums not just to vent but also to pick up ideas, my recommendation is to focus on what the table wants. In the end, have a great time. The Encounters material is never very long in word count - you can generally read the whole thing in one evening. Read the material, make a call as to how it will be received by you and your table, and DM accordingly.

If you are a DM that feels it will be a challenge to impart story upon your players, simplify that story. Distill it down to the key elements that resonate with you and tell that story in your words. That might sound really hard, but it doesn't have to be. Read the story once, then out loud (saying it to a mirror is a common trick) state a 1 minute overview of what is taking place. Jot down those major points you said as bullets. Now take a look at each encounter and make sure those (simpler) points will be communicated. If as you run you find yourself getting more comfortable with the story you can find ways to add it back in. At its simplest, the story can be of two lovers that retired in a magical kingdom and various creatures have the "keys" to reaching them and stopping the recent problem.

If you like story but worry about how the players will recall it, create a quick handout in something like Excel that players can use to track "story points". Reward them when they have tracked one successfully. Usually one person at a table will be present for most of the sessions and is willing to track them. If not, consider a summary handout of "the story thus far". It can actually be really helpful for you as a DM. In a larger store you could share the task of tracking this amongst DMs and it can be a common DM aid everyone uses.

If your table really just wants combat, you can give them that. It seems like a shame to me, but the ultimate goal is fun. If the players and you really just want to defeat stuff you can provide only the lightest of reasons to linearly take them from one encounter to the next, such as written clues found on each foe. Just be careful that someone may join your table that wants more out of their game - they would wrongfully conclude that D&D is just combat.

In all cases, as DMs we own the adventure. We can see from the posts on this thread that one persons "best season ever" is another's "worst ever". No season will be perfect for everyone. We as DMs take the material, breathe life into it, and adapt it to our table's preferences.

To say that this mod is simple enough to look over in one evening is an unfair statement. This mod has so many small details that I have spend numerous "evenings" looking it over and still missed things.

I can tell you that this mod has killed one table already. So many players are dropping that we are down to two tables and those tables are skeletons. The statment was made that a DM should tailor the mod to the wants of the players. What if the players want to say forget the story and kill everything. To them that is fun, but then as written they are not going to get the full XP of the mod. Is that fair to them? If that is the case, why have a story and not just a series of combat encounters?

The statment was made that a DM should tailor the mod to the wants of the players. What if the players want to say forget the story and kill everything. To them that is fun, but then as written they are not going to get the full XP of the mod. Is that fair to them? If that is the case, why have a story and not just a series of combat encounters?

It seems to me that if that's what these players want, they should be playing Lair Assault rather than Encounters.

To say that this mod is simple enough to look over in one evening is an unfair statement. This mod has so many small details that I have spend numerous "evenings" looking it over and still missed things.


That's fair! I'm used to having to read and then run fairly complex 60+ page adventures all at once (and often 3-4 at a con), but I absolutely see how this adventure has complexities that can be easy to miss.

I can tell you that this mod has killed one table already. So many players are dropping that we are down to two tables and those tables are skeletons. The statement was made that a DM should tailor the mod to the wants of the players. What if the players want to say forget the story and kill everything. To them that is fun, but then as written they are not going to get the full XP of the mod. Is that fair to them? If that is the case, why have a story and not just a series of combat encounters?


I believe all of these things to be true:


  • Wizards has a responsibility to do as well as possible at crafting an Encounters season that any DM can run

  • Wizards cannot actually accomplish the above, nor design for every table/player/DM

  • DMs and players together own the responsibility for what happens at their table


All of these things are true, in part because each adventure can be very different in terms of what it stresses (RP, combat, exploration, style of play, etc.). The mod can help kill a table, but it needs the players and DM for that to happen. We have some people saying this is their least favorite and others saying it is their favorite. What is it that differentiates those tables? A designer can go mad trying to figure it out.


If a table (DM and players) wants just combat, there are ways to provide that. And if that is their game, then playing that way, well, should provide full XP. After all, we've changed the game to be about hack and slash (and that's cool), so the rewards (in my book) should be based on those new goals. But I do think it is important for the players to know that. "Nicely done. You all get the following full XP and Gold... ...Normally you would need to solve a puzzle and interact with NPCs to earn that, but based on our agreement to focus on combat, I took out those elements. See you next week!" If that is what the table wants, it will work perfectly. If it isn't, someone might speak up and say, "Can you tell me more about how it was supposed to run?" And even, "Maybe we could try for a bit more RP and exploration next time?" Or they may be perfectly happy with just combat. The game should be appropriate to the table.


Now, this program is more than "minis skirmish night". Lair Assault (or the upcoming minis game) may be more appropriate if the table really doesn't want any story at all. Encounters is supposed to have a good story element, role-playing, imaginative play, etc. It is supposed to represent all that D&D can provide, in a somewhat introductory format. One thing I would recommend is that if you change from that, make sure everyone likes the change and that any newcomers gain an understanding of what is taking place. You don't want a potential new player to think 4E is just a minis combat game. For example: "Hi there, we run a modified version of Encounters where we strip away the role-playing and story and focus on combat. If you are interested, come next week. If you want to play the actual version, I'm glad to help you find a table."

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