Now that season 12 is over what did you think of it? We provide our Report Card at Dungeon's Master.D&D Encounters: Against the Cult of Chaos – Report Card
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I really enjoyed this season. While it was hard to give up all the thousands of goodies to choose from when making a character in 4th edition, D&D next is more fun because of its simplicity and old school feel. Unlike some other stores, our table for Next was the most popular with a smaller table of 4th edition.
The season before was a good primer for doing a more role-play oriented and open ended adventure, and we spent more time developing our characters than advancing the plot, which was really cool. It was also somewhat frustrating as lots of side-tracking and derailing happened, and for a while I thought we were going to finish 2 or 3 weeks later than planned. We managed to catch things up but I think we spend one session with no combat at all which was unusual.
There were lots of plot points in town that we missed, I think we only visited 3 or 4 locations in the town. Temple, Both Inns, pawn shop briefly, Tanners shop, and the moat house. My character wanted to immediatley take the paladin to the Druids instead of the Temple of the Lawbringer but after that idea was shutdown by the priestess, I never found a good enough reason to convince everyone to go to the druids until the end of the campaign (when players had created Druid characters with the new packet).
One problem we had in our group was a strong inclination of not choosing sides. Half of our group did not want to align with either the Old Faith or the Lawbringer, and the rest band wagoned onto the Old Faith. Some people would flip flop from session to session changing their mind. The DM allowed some wiggle room but also put his foot down at some point. They also went back and forth about whether to join with Lareth or to kill him, and ended up doing both. In the end, the choosing sides was a wasted opportunity, and while it did help us role play the last session, it didn't really pay off until we knew the whole plot.Overall, I really liked the different factions and the unravelling of the plot. I was able to guess at what was going on but it wasn't obvious like some previous adventures. The skill challenge after the Reptile God was pretty cool, I hope to see more of those in the future. The DM basically gave presented the group with a series of obstacles and said each player could only contribute once. It was cool to see people step forward and say "hey, my character can do this to help." There was a good balance of exploration, combat, and puzzle solving, I hope the next season doesn't stray too far.
My final note regarding playing with Next is that the combat was too easy. D&D Encounters is generally really easy anyways unless you have a DM who is comfortable scaling things up, but the final battle was a cakewalk compared to the 4th edition summaries I read. It doesn't help that my paladin can do 3d10 and 4d8 extra damage in one turn, which killed an ogre with an extra 30 points of damage (thanks to maximize spell). It also doesn't help that we routinely had eight or so players, which makes it complicated to decide how many monsters to add.
I know that the next season has better rules for scaling encounters, so hopefully that will fix things. In general, I can see how it is much more difficult to balance difficulty with D&D next compared to 4th edition. My suggestion is to throw more cannon fodder into the battles to draw fire away from the glass cannon bosses & elite monsters. Kobold Dragon Shields are a great example for that, I wish there were more "support" monsters in the Bestiary.