Extremely unhappy about the Murder in Baldur's Gate Encounters season

I hope this is the correct forum for this. Please move it to the proper one if need be.

I, along with several other people involved in our Encounters group at our local game store, am very unhappy with the decision to make the upcoming seasons of Encoutners require the DM to purchase the adventure in order to run it. The Encounters program was meant to bring in new players, by providing a free mini-campaign to stores, and allowing people to either start playing, come back to the game, or continue, depending on their experience. Now though, that free experience might go away, and with it many of the players who had been a part of the games. The economy is still not all that great, and I, along with many players in our group, am unemployed. If my store chooses not to purchase a few copies for store use, then it may come to the need to ask for donations, or require a fee to sit down and play. Any goodwill that was built up by the program being free for so long will evaporate quickly. Even asking players for a $1 per week fee to sit and play will turn some people away.

I know that WotC is a for-profit company. I know that they weren't making much, if anything, by having Encounters be free to the stores. I also know that they gained a lot of new customers by bringing in new players through Encounters. Other people's experiences aren't the same as mine, and I realize that, but there are a lot of people out there in the same situation. I truly hope that, as Encounters goes past the Sundering events, this is not a trend that continues.

One more thing I know, is that this post of mine most likely won't change anything. But, Wizards wants feedback about the things they are doing, and this is mine about this decision. It's my own opinion, which happens to be shared by some of the other people I game with, run Encounters with, and have as players at our tables. One way or another, we will keep running Encounters here, regardless of other factors. Thank you for listening. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.
I am curious if the store has made that decision versus WOTC.
I am curious if the store has made that decision versus WOTC.


It depends on the number of tables. If a store only has 1 table (or at least, no more than 1 table played at a time), I could see a store buying a copy and loaning it to the DM to use for Encounters. At my store, however, Encounters is very popular with 22 Players and 3 DMs, all going at the same time. I suspect we would either have to eat the cost (which I will not do, but the other 2 DMs probably would) or reduce the number of active tables, leaving some player out in the cold.

I know someone who is buying the module who is not in Encounters, however, and hopefully I can borrow his copy.
I'm of 2 minds about it.


Before I was DMing Encounters I would have loved a chance to buy the Encounters packets.     And I am now DMing in part to get access to the materials.  The maps are a strong incentive for me.

Not sure if the Sundering modules have maps.  They aren't in the write-up.

So I'd be fine with buying the adventure and running it if I would have bought it anyway.  If I don't care for the Realms and there are no battle maps I'm strongly leaning towards not running.  Depending on my schedule I could run someting else. 


However, at this point the Modules are the only new product on the schedule and giving away a large percentage of your sales seems like a bad business plan.  Especially if the main complaint is "we'll only play if it is free."  To the shop owner that doesn't sound like you are much of a customer.
     How much money are we talking about here?  [and where are the official, or even rumored, details?]

     I drive to the store quite a distance, so I am effectively spending $20 to play an Encounters mod.  I am not going to like spending $5-$10 more, but the idea that this is a real killer is not clear, if not outright wrong.  But $1 a week per player works out to $40.  That's more than most books for what is a none too great module.  Now that is just not going to fly.
     However, somebody has to pay the bills.  Right now we are worrying that WOTC might actively spend money to kill 4e.  Making Encounters a money earner may be the only way to let the program survive.
I fear this may deal a serious blow to this OP program. If they want to cut distribution cost, they could always offer instead to have the D&D Encounters Seasons downloadable as PDF and let DM print them i don't know. Similar to how the Public-Play Only LFR modules are available.

[and where are the official, or even rumored, details?

It was announced here www.wizards.com/WPN/News/Article.aspx?x=...

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

Encounters for us is so successful that people get turned away (7 tables of 6 participants is max occupancy).

The members of our Team DM are compensated for their involvement, so we will probably just offer these materials to them for free (or keep compensating them and offer the materials at cost).

There are no maps in these packs, and all monster stats need to be downloaded separately (in 3rd Edition, 4th Edition, or D&D Next format).

Taking part in the adventure at a participating FLGS offers you the seasonal dice, pre-printed player maps, and NPC cards; otherwise, you have everything you need to run the adventure at home.

We'll just have to see how it works out and offer our feedback.  

Danny

Looking beyond Murder in Baldur's Gate I think there will be a fundamental shift away from new player generation anyway since it is a 5 adventure arc.  Likely lasting 15 months and 10+ character levels.


If the modules reset to Starter levels frequently they are less useful for home campaigns.  
If the modules reset to Starter levels frequently they are less useful for home campaigns.

Hopefully the downloads will include tiered bestiaries for both resets at public play and continuing home games.

Danny

On one hand, I can see how Encounters may not have created a direct line between expenditure (The Encounters maps and adventures) and profit (customers buying profit). In a way, I can understand why WotC did this.

That being said, it truly looks bad for any future D&D organized play programs from WotC. It's been frequently stated (and evidenced by their advertising of it) that Encounters is one of their most popular RPG OP programs ever. It eclipsed the living campaigns in terms of getting people to play at stores and creating an atmosphere where people new to RPGs, D&D, and/or the current edition are welcomed. 

That seems like a really worthwhile goal to have. If WotC isn't going the Paizo route (selling directly to customers on-line) and want to promote the game through the store, it would make sense to make this program affordable and attractive to play in the store. Making Encounters free to play, but exclusive to stores, meant there was a big incentive to get these adventures, and to do so at the FLGS. 

Now, if I want to run Murder at Baldur's Gate, I don't have to get it from my FLGS, or play it there. I can buy it on-line and play it at home for less money and time spent to go to a store. I really don't see how charging more money up-front for a non-exclusive product (that also requires downloads for stats) is appealing to anyone.

If Encounters wasn't worthwhile enough to promote with free adventures, I don't see how any program that gives away free adventures could be justified by the same beancounters.

"Ah, the age-old conundrum. Defenders of a game are too blind to see it's broken, and critics are too idiotic to see that it isn't." - Brian McCormick

It would be nice if the adventure was exclusive to stores and didn't go on sale until after the Encounters season in which it was featured ends.

Or something. 

Danny

I find this to be an interesting attempt on WotC's part to create more sales for their module product... because that's what this is - they aren't making Encounters into a pay-to-play organization, they are just providing neat running aids for free and having the organized play groups that want to participate buy the same adventure that is available for anyone else to buy.

ATTENTION:  If while reading my post you find yourself thinking "Either this guy is being sarcastic, or he is an idiot," do please assume that I am an idiot. It makes reading your replies more entertaining. If, however, you find yourself hoping that I am not being even remotely serious then you are very likely correct as I find irreverence and being ridiculous to be relaxing.

Even asking players for a $1 per week fee to sit and play will turn some people away.



  If it does, then they're not customers anyway.

  It is shockingly hard to find a babysitter for a $0.25/hour in the U.S.

@mikemearls don't quite understand the difference

I don't make the rules, I just think them up and write them down. - Eric Cartman

Enough chitchat!  Time is candy! - Pinky Pie

All of the places 'round these parts charge for a seat to take part in Encounters.

People are happy to do so if the experience is quality. 

Danny

I find this to be an interesting attempt on WotC's part to create more sales for their module product... because that's what this is - they aren't making Encounters into a pay-to-play organisation, they are just providing neat running aids for free and having the organized play groups that want to participate buy the same adventure that is available for anyone else to buy.





Like your style, dude.

And the avatar:

"...to clush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of de women..."
The local game store will get encounters for you if you want to run it. They only ask that if they get it that you actually show up to run it, allow anyone who wants to play to join in, and are respectful to the other customers who are not participating. 

For the game store they're not making any money off of encounters or 4e sales. Their profit comes from MtG, Warhammer and the Warhammer clones. 
Since I'd buy the module anyway, it doesn't make much difference to me, as a DM.
I was planning to buy this when it comes out anyway. From what I understand, Murder in Baldur's Gate is set up to be something like Keep on the Shadowfell was. It's supposed to come with extras, like a DM screen, quick play rules, pregen characters and one or two more items. What I disagree with is that I am now REQUIRED to buy the adventure if I am going to continue running the Encounters program at my local store. I live in a small community, and we typically average 12 players per week. Of the 14 people (2 DM's of course) attending, probably 5-6 of us are unemployed. We do what we can to support the store, as they sell water, poweraide, and snacks, but that's about as much as we can do most of the time. If the store wants to eat the cost of a couple of the adventures (Around $30 retail as I recall) that's all well and good, but I don't see that happening everywhere. Everyone's situation is different. I can see Encounters losing players in a lot of places as this change may affect the stores' ability to supply the program. And, as another poster said, why go to the store and run it when you can buy the adventure, and run it in the comfort of someone's home? It's going to make for some interesting decisions over the next several months.
Even asking players for a $1 per week fee to sit and play will turn some people away.



  If it does, then they're not customers anyway.

  It is shockingly hard to find a babysitter for a $0.25/hour in the U.S.



   a quibble, but Encounters are usually under 2 hours.  So you are paying over $0.50 an hour.  Of course you don't find many babysitters at that rate either.
I'll be honest I'm on a complete opposite from the OP, we don't have an FLGS around here and I was always bummed I couldn't play the encounter adventures so being able to buy the adventure is a big plus to me.

But I see where DMs who are used to getting the encounter materials for free might be miffed about having to buy the adventure but I want to point out two things, a. You still get the extra materials for free if you run the adventure and b. it's the first sunderling adventure where WotC intend to aggregate groups resulted into the canon of FR, making it free for a segment of the players base will cause (some of) the rest of us to be extremely annoyed.

My 2c

Warder 

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lokiare

englishlanguage

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Polaris

     I'm not sure, but I suspect we may be getting worked up over rather little.  I think the charge is for the book, not for the encounters game[s], which remains free.  The book is merely an optional purchase we are encouraged to by.  Of course, encouraged can be "encouraged" pretty strictly, and I am not at all guaranteeing my reading.  But we may not be facing a hit to the wallet.
I'm not sure, but I suspect we may be getting worked up over rather little.  I think the charge is for the book, not for the encounters game[s], which remains free.  The book is merely an optional purchase we are encouraged to by.  Of course, encouraged can be "encouraged" pretty strictly, and I am not at all guaranteeing my reading.  But we may not be facing a hit to the wallet.

The retailer infoatiom clearly describe that the adventure is not included in the materials provided to stores hosting the event.

Danny

I'm not sure, but I suspect we may be getting worked up over rather little.  I think the charge is for the book, not for the encounters game[s], which remains free.  The book is merely an optional purchase we are encouraged to by.  Of course, encouraged can be "encouraged" pretty strictly, and I am not at all guaranteeing my reading.  But we may not be facing a hit to the wallet.

The retailer infoatiom clearly describe that the adventure is not included in the materials provided to stores hosting the event.




And would you want to play in one...?
I'll be honest I'm on a complete opposite from the OP, we don't have an FLGS around here and I was always bummed I couldn't play the encounter adventures so being able to buy the adventure is a big plus to me.

 

I notice that you aren't a subscriber to DDInsider, which means you aren't getting the many adventures WotC publishes for 4ed. So, I'm wondering why you won't put out $10 to download 100+ adventures, but will pay $30 for 1 adventure.

My guess is that you want the Encounters program because it's hard to get. WotC made them rare in order to entice people to DM on a regular basis and bring in new players to D&D/RPG. But some people only see the reward, and don't think about the company who pays for the product, or the community who could always use help growing. 

But I see where DMs who are used to getting the encounter materials for free might be miffed about having to buy the adventure but I want to point out two things, a. You still get the extra materials for free if you run the adventure

 

Yes, maps and NPC portraits for a product you still have to buy.

b. it's the first sunderling adventure where WotC intend to aggregate groups resulted into the canon of FR, making it free for a segment of the players base will cause (some of) the rest of us to be extremely annoyed.

 

There is absolutely no feedback process involved in the Encounters program, no way to tally up what parties did, and make it canon. What they're doing here is what they did with Die Vecna Die and Shadowdale: The Scouring of the Land: having us play out (and pay for) what the new story arc is going to be.

"Ah, the age-old conundrum. Defenders of a game are too blind to see it's broken, and critics are too idiotic to see that it isn't." - Brian McCormick

I hope this is the correct forum for this.



Not that you can't put it here but there's a thread about this on the Encounter forums here. Although we don't get as much foot traffic. Smile

@feetz_grande on Twitter

..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />There is absolutely no feedback process involved in the Encounters program, no way to tally up what parties did, and make it canon. What they're doing here is what they did with Die Vecna Die and Shadowdale: The Scouring of the Land: having us play out (and pay for) what the new story arc is going to be.




Both the WPN article and Sales Solicitation flyer make reference to a Facebook app where everyone can go and report their results.

@feetz_grande on Twitter

The site for this keeps mentioning that this is for the "Launch weekend" event.
What does that mean?
Is this a special thing for the official launch of DDN itself?
"Ha! Rock beats scissors!" "Darn it! Rock is overpowered! I'm not playing this again until the next edition is released!" "C'mon, just one more." "Oh, all right..." "Wait, what is that?" "Its 'Dynamite' from the expanded rules." "Just because you can afford to buy every supplement that comes out..." "Hey, it's completely balanced! You're just a bad DM for not accommodating it."
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RPGs are getting more popular, and whenever something gets more popular, it inevitably changes, usually becoming more palatable to the masses. Nintendo is the perfect example. In the old days their games coined the term "Nintendo hard" to extend play time, but they knew their fans were dedicated enough to play anyway. Now they mostly make stuff a five year old can master. That's not necessarily bad, though. Most of those old Nintendo games were infuriating. Likewise, a lot of old RPGs were too complex and irritating for the average person to really get into. Rules light systems are going to get more popular as more people enter the hobby, simply because the new people aren't bound by nostalgia, and would rather play something easy and fun than something that takes a huge amount of effort to learn.
I think Launch weekend means launch of the new season, which coincides with GenCon and the release of the adventure.

 

Both the WPN article and Sales Solicitation flyer make reference to a Facebook app where everyone can go and report their results.



But do I need to prove I played the adventure to give "results"? From what I can tell, you sign up for the app a month before the MaBG season starts. 

"Ah, the age-old conundrum. Defenders of a game are too blind to see it's broken, and critics are too idiotic to see that it isn't." - Brian McCormick

I'll be honest I'm on a complete opposite from the OP, we don't have an FLGS around here and I was always bummed I couldn't play the encounter adventures so being able to buy the adventure is a big plus to me.

 

I notice that you aren't a subscriber to DDInsider, which means you aren't getting the many adventures WotC publishes for 4ed. So, I'm wondering why you won't put out $10 to download 100+ adventures, but will pay $30 for 1 adventure.



Why does that matter?

My guess is that you want the Encounters program because it's hard to get. WotC made them rare in order to entice people to DM on a regular basis and bring in new players to D&D/RPG. But some people only see the reward, and don't think about the company who pays for the product, or the community who could always use help growing. 

 

Am I one of those "some people"? 

But I see where DMs who are used to getting the encounter materials for free might be miffed about having to buy the adventure but I want to point out two things, a. You still get the extra materials for free if you run the adventure

   

Yes, maps and NPC portraits for a product you still have to buy.



Really? iirc all the maps, NPC cards and player handouts are part of the DM packet that AFAIK the stores gets for free.

b. it's the first sunderling adventure where WotC intend to aggregate groups resulted into the canon of FR, making it free for a segment of the players base will cause (some of) the rest of us to be extremely annoyed.

 

There is absolutely no feedback process involved in the Encounters program, no way to tally up what parties did, and make it canon. What they're doing here is what they did with Die Vecna Die and Shadowdale: The Scouring of the Land: having us play out (and pay for) what the new story arc is going to be.




They said that the sundering adventures will be part of crowdforging the next installment of the Forgotten Realms for a year now.

Warder


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lokiare

englishlanguage

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Polaris

The site for this keeps mentioning that this is for the "Launch weekend" event.
What does that mean?
Is this a special thing for the official launch of DDN itself?



The weekend before Murder in Baldur's Gate starts there is an introductory adventure to launch the new season. This is a separate sanctioned event.

I think Launch weekend means launch of the new season, which coincides with GenCon and the release of the adventure.

 

Both the WPN article and Sales Solicitation flyer make reference to a Facebook app where everyone can go and report their results.



But do I need to prove I played the adventure to give "results"? From what I can tell, you sign up for the app a month before the MaBG season starts. 




Unclear at this point.

@feetz_grande on Twitter

I wonder how many of you were going to buy this adventure anyway before you found out it would be used in D&D Encounters?

I was going to buy it and I am still planning on buying it.

I will still get the maps for free at my store as that is part of the store support packet.

And now the store has something to sell for D&D that is new. I am thinking about the store which is ironic in this whole thing because my boss at the store says he thinks we should get it for free.

My players have all wished they could buy these adventures I have been running for years.
I wonder how many of you were going to buy this adventure anyway before you found out it would be used in D&D Encounters?



I did not and will not plan on buying this adventure. Maybe my store and players will work something out but it won't be me by myself.

@feetz_grande on Twitter

I'm not sure, but I suspect we may be getting worked up over rather little.  I think the charge is for the book, not for the encounters game[s], which remains free.  The book is merely an optional purchase we are encouraged to by.  Of course, encouraged can be "encouraged" pretty strictly, and I am not at all guaranteeing my reading.  But we may not be facing a hit to the wallet.

The retailer infoatiom clearly describe that the adventure is not included in the materials provided to stores hosting the event.

And would you want to play in one...?

I have a phenomenal time playing in my store, but I understand that we do things more along the lines of a community center (whose community is a large group of rowdy inner-city New Yorkers).

Yesterday's Free RPG Day kicked off with a line at the door before opening, and ended at a very inebriated 4AM after bar-hopping (as an example). ;)

Danny

I'm not sure, but I suspect we may be getting worked up over rather little.  I think the charge is for the book, not for the encounters game[s], which remains free.  The book is merely an optional purchase we are encouraged to by.  Of course, encouraged can be "encouraged" pretty strictly, and I am not at all guaranteeing my reading.  But we may not be facing a hit to the wallet.

The retailer infoatiom clearly describe that the adventure is not included in the materials provided to stores hosting the event.

And would you want to play in one...?

I have a phenomenal time playing in my store, but I understand that we do things more along the lines of a community center (whose community is a large group of rowdy inner-city New Yorkers).

Yesterday's Free RPG Day kicked off with a line at the door before opening, and ended at a very inebriated 4AM after bar-hopping (as an example). ;)





No that I could get into.
 
I notice that you aren't a subscriber to DDInsider, which means you aren't getting the many adventures WotC publishes for 4ed. So, I'm wondering why you won't put out $10 to download 100+ adventures, but will pay $30 for 1 adventure.



Why does that matter?



Because you obviously aren't hurting for adventures. Heck, DDI has several articles and adventures about the Realms, so it's still a better value. I'm just not sure why you want to buy this particular adventure instead of the dozens others that are already available. I'm also unsure why, if you want to run this adventure, you seem pleased that you can't get it for free in exchange for playing it at a game store. 

But I see where DMs who are used to getting the encounter materials for free might be miffed about having to buy the adventure but I want to point out two things, a. You still get the extra materials for free if you run the adventure

   

Yes, maps and NPC portraits for a product you still have to buy.



Really? iirc all the maps, NPC cards and player handouts are part of the DM packet that AFAIK the stores gets for free.

 

You are correct. They are free NPC cards and player handouts for an adventure you have to buy. I don't know how much use they would be if you didn't have the adventure, but I'm guessing not so much.

"Ah, the age-old conundrum. Defenders of a game are too blind to see it's broken, and critics are too idiotic to see that it isn't." - Brian McCormick

I know that WotC is a for-profit company. I know that they weren't making much, if anything, by having Encounters be free to the stores.

Encounters is a promotion.  The point isn't to make money from it directly, but to stimulate in-store sales.  Prior Encounters seasons let you bring in characters built using the latest book being released, so the store might sell one or more copies of that book per table, in addition to whatever else their Encounters-'regulars' bought as a matter of course.  Obviously, when they stopped making product for D&D, continuing to promote it became a questionable business activity.  I guess they were hoping that keeping Encounters going could eventually lead to better sales of 5e.

Having terminated 4e with extreme prejudice in a bid to win back the affection of the h4ter side of the edition war, WotC is next going to publish a series of edition-agnostic books.

People /have/ been asking to buy Encounters and other promotional modules for years (there's a market for them on ebay).  


Put those two together and using Encounters to sell campaign books almost makes sense.

 

 

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

They are removing the exclusivity or bragging rights for being a DM for encounters, in addition to making them pay for personal time they were ready to commit. They should have released a special edition of the adventure for the DM at the game store, and the standard fair for those that want to buy it. But as always, you wonder about the motives of WOTC, as it appears another test concept being introduced at the game store at the expense of the DM.
It would be nice if the adventure was exclusive to stores and didn't go on sale until after the Encounters season in which it was featured ends.

Or something. 



Yeah, do this, because I need some money. I'll show up and order a bunch of extras from a friend that owns a store and sell them on Amazon.com and make quite a bit of money off it...Smile
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The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
I don't mind buying the adventure. People have been saying for years that they wish the Encounters adventures were available for purchase. Every time I have gone to Encounters I have felt bad for the shop owner. The place is always packed, but no one ever seems to buy anything. There are not a lot of game stores left in most areas. Something new that is D&D related that people will actually buy is a good thing in my opinion. When you consider how many weeks Encounters lasts and divide the price by that, or even just split the cost with five friends at the table, it really is not that much money in my opinion. A lot of people don't have access to a game store. This gives those folks a chance to play in the shared experience. Just the fact that it is advertized as playable as 3rd, 4th, or 5th edition I think is a big step forward. It says we may all play with slightly different rules but we can all share in the same adventure and enjoy the great game that is D&D.
Every time I have gone to Encounters I have felt bad for the shop owner. The place is always packed, but no one ever seems to buy anything.



I used to feel the same way but then I got over it. By running the program I'm helping to bring potential customers into the store. It's up to the owner to convert those into sales.

@feetz_grande on Twitter

It's difficult for the store owner (certainly here in the UK) because RPGs are quite niche and they don't want to stock items they will have a hard time selling, especially when books etc... are so easily available online and often at lower prices. It would imagine it's not so bad for stores in larger cities.