Session 10 and 11 Ideas [DM ONLY, Spoilers!]

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So, we run a DM walkthrough of each Encounters session as prep for the game. In the past, it's been a full-on game, but this week we were short on time, so we just walked through the final two encounters last night. 


Session 10: The templars form a blockade of sorts, but the encounter suggests that you can talk to Zarnak if you don't monkey with the basin while doing so. Getting to Zarnak is difficult-- why would the templars let you in? And yet-- we want to encourage players to role play, and especially to get the "before I kill you Mr. Bond" exposition from Zarnak.

Suggestions, if the PCs choose to parlay with Zarnak: Let the PCs close with Zarnak, at which time they will realize the basin is Full of Evil, and will be engaged in a role-play conversation while trying to sort out how to drain it without being obvious about doing so. The templars will let the PCs get close to Zarnak, but they follow the PCs in the process. When the combat starts, Zarnak teleports next to the water fountain, putting the templars between himself and the PCs. The minions come out of the necrotic ooze basins (to give them a chance to close in on the PCs before getting killed). 

Session 11:  The climactic scene of this season is in session 10. This session is actually a lead-in to next season, and it almost doesn't belong here. EXCEPT that it's a good lead-in to next season! We didn't have a lot to say about the tactical encounter, although I plan to remove Vlondril's miniature from the board the first time she uses Fall Apart (because that's how we show players that a monster is dead), but we did make some plans for the lead-up.

Suggestions: At our shop, we always have an end-of-season party at the end of each Encounters season, which we will do again next week. Cupcakes, punch, etc. This time, however, we will ask everyone to be in-character, and as the heroes mingle (all 3 tables of them), the DMs will mingle as well, representing the drow assassin who the PCs will encounter. As the players sit down to munch on their cupcakes, the DMs will sit with them, chatting them up-- and then the adventure begins. This may mean that the parties aren't in their normal tables-- we might have a vampire sitting with the Disney crowd, or one of the kids hanging out at the Dark and Dangerous table.

Additional suggestion: I hate having a lead-in for an adventure that your PC doesn't get to go on-- it makes their story feel unfinished. Every season, we have players who want to continue the same character, but are frustrated by starting back at level 1. We are going to offer a little renown bonus to players who create a character for next season who is somehow related to their character from *this* season, and who therefore knows about the drow assassination attempt. That will give our players a reason to come back, and give them some continuity between one season and the next. 

Thoughts? Further suggestions?
I also have the frustration at starting back at level 1.  I've DMed and played four seasons now, and I've had about all the low-level adventuring I can stand.
We let our players bring them to our public D&D games on Sundays. I do a quick conversion for them, so they have comparable equipment and gold for their level. It means we need to start another "4-7th" table soon, but it's helpful for continuing the storyline.

We also have players who then take their characters into home games and such, which also works pretty well. 
I'd allow players to bring their characters along to the next Season, but it would require me to make 4th level pregenerated characters (because we do get new players a few times a Season) and I don't really have the time to level up the encounters along with the other three campaigns (!) I'm involved with. Maybe if I can find somebody else who's doing it and can get the encounters from them.

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TiaNadiezja wrote:
I have already started playing higher level encounters - we are currently playing 4 tables 2 beginners(1-3), 1 intermediate(4-7) and one High (9-11). Im running the high lvl table - session 10 was a blast. (note that the intermediate and high tables are made up of the same weekly player base) I will be continuing into the next season. Its is some work, the results are worth it and a lot of fun.
If you want more out of the game, and have enough players and DMs to support it, you can switch to Living Forgotten Realms. You can import the Encounter season characters into that campaign. In fact, the current season has close ties to the Undermountain adventure which we will adapt to LFR. If you are worried about not being able to finish an adventure within one evening, there is no rule you cannot spread out an adventure over multiple nights. In fact, I have done this several times in the past myself. The only problem you might run in is that LFR is not well suited to new PCs joining or leaving midgame. LFR allows PCs to start at higher levels, so the occassional guest player can certainly join as well, although I would be careful not to let LFR replace Encounters completely. The target audience of both are different.
That's pretty much what we do when they come to the Sunday game, actually. Our Sunday games have been LFR, but we may be transitioning to "open D&D, without campaign restrictions" soon.

The time slot on Wednesdays isn't great for us for running Living Forgotten Realms, though. We really need 4-5 hours for an LFR adventure, which is why we play on Sundays.

Although many of our Wednesday players can't make it on Sundays (and vice versa), we do at least have an option for folks who really want to continue leveling up their same characters. 
Well, with a bit of work you can run a LFR adventure spread out over multiple sessions, but it requires a bit more organization from one person. So I think you could run LFR in your Wednesday evenings especially if you have the same people returning most of the evenings.
We *could*, but we haven't had a huge demand to do so. Most people coming to the Wednesday game really enjoy playing the same story as everyone else. And we vary from 2 tables to 4-- enough variation, in fact, that we can't count on adventurers being seated together every week.

If we set one table aside for a home game, that's a table and a DM who isn't available to run Encounters. 

For the Neverwinter season, we had an adventuring party table-- they all rolled up characters who knew each other and played together every week. It worked... sort of. It worked until we had to keep putting an extra player on their table, because we had too many players on the other 2 or 3 tables. And it worked until only 3 of their players showed up for a few weeks. By the end of the season, I wanted that DM to be available for the ever-growing community of other players who were showing up on a weekly basis (some dropping in for the first time, some who were returning week after week).

I'm not sure there's an answer to the "continuing advancement" issue in Encounters, aside from making the adventure book quite a bit bigger and writing a multi-level adventure, similar to LFR, with "level 2, 4, 6, and 8" stat blocks. A DM can scale the adventures on the fly to a point, but there's a pretty big difference between level 1 and level 8, when it comes to the equipment a hero will have, and the status effects they can work with. Simple mathematical changes don't quite work-- adding hit points and increasing to-hit and damage numbers works to a point, but by 8th level, monsters should be doing more than damage, and so will heroes. Status effects are good for about 4 levels before you really have to upscale them-- and then you run into potential issues of overpowered synergy. Problems that can be addressed in playtesting, but playtesting for 4 levels takes 4 times the resources, of course.

Overall (and despite any complaints I've voiced in the past), I've felt that the Encounters program has done a really good job of achieving its primary goal of introducing new players to D&D in a casual, weekly format. It's certainly brought a lot of new players into my FLGS, and we've managed to recruit and train new DMs as a result of the program. Next season, we're training two of our younger DMs to run tables, in addition to having a couple of experienced DMs on hand for the "tougher to run" tables.

Sending them to the Sunday game after they "graduate" really doesn't seem to be a problem. If folks really want to level up and Wednesday is the only night they're free, there's no reason they can't start a home group on Wednesday nights. With Encounters being available at different times on Wednesdays, they can even play their home group *and* come to a FLGS game.
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