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Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Top Five D&D Encounters Adventures

O is for O'CONNOR
I saw an incredible documentary last night. It was really sad - it might not be for everyone. But it really is one of those movies that will change your life. It is called Dear Zachary.

The movie helped me shake off the funk of yesterday's Scourge of the Sword Coast game. Some weeks it's pretty good, but yesterday was real flat.

I was reading up on more about Tyranny of Dragons. I came across a quote from Chris Perkins that said something to the effect that the approach to Encounters was now intended to provide customizable adventures for the DM to mess with.

I have other games going. Encounters is not something I want to invest a lot of time in! There is a pretty high probability that the amount of effort you put into it will not be rewarded due to the fact that you can't pick your players and that you have to run it in a public space. If I put my heart into this thing, and it was the only game I ran, I would have quit D&D a long time ago.

I want it to be linear. I want it to be easy to prepare. Encounters is not a thing where I go to a store and showcase my DM skills. It is more like running an after-school club of some kind where the interest varies and the motives of the participants are not always aligned with what we are there to do.

The bottom line is, I am a DM and if I want to customize it then I am going to do it whether it's a linear adventure or not. So this whole idea of making it a toolkit for me to modify and make my own is useless. I sometimes think that because this game is made by game designers, they think everybody wants to do what they like to do - tinker and tool with the product.

I don't! I just want to run it.

I missed a few recent seasons. But I've run most of them. Here are my Top 5 favorite D&D Encounters modules:

5. Halaster's Lost Apprentice

This was the very first season of encounters. It involved the heroes discovering and exploring a lost level of the fabled mega-dungeon known as Undermountain. The entrance was in a well that sat in the middle of the bar.

I really liked the bar - "The Yawning Portal". It was a cool idea, very original. I also really liked one particular solo encounter which involved a female wizard inside an energy bubble that lashed out of its' own accord. It was an extremely cool solo encounter, really one of the best solo encounters in all of 4e.

4. March of the Phantom Brigade

There was plenty not to like here. The maps were tiny, the encounters were a bit too hard, and you couldn't actually go in the ghost tower of inverness!

But I liked the sprawling story, the army of undead and the six month gap that took place at one point in the story. It felt much more original, like we were not jumping from encounter A to encounter B. We were following the logical progression of events. It wasn't perfect, but I liked it.

And this was also the game in which the legendary hero GOLDEN BLOODBLADE joined the party. He was run by a young home-schooled kid who hadn't played D&D before, but took to it in a big way. His character sheet was a thing of beauty. It was a crumpled up piece of notebook paper with jibberish written all over it. He didn't know how many hit points he had!

It wasn't long before I was narrating everything he did like he was conan and kratos rolled into one. Whenever he walked, shockwaves blasted the grass away. Lightning crackled when he glared at a door or mug. And as I recall, there was a time where he insisted on licking the moss on the ghost tower. I don't know why, but Golden Bloodblade found that to be the most hilarious thing ever. This spawned the insult: "You ain't nothing but a mosslicker" or "You moss-licking son of a bitch".

Whenever I saw him in the store from then on, I did not call him by his name. He was and always will be Golden Mother f'ing Bloodblade.

3. Lost Crown of Neverwinter

I am not a Forgotten Realms guy. I don't hate it, I'm just not that into it. If I'm going to use a straight fantasy setting, I'll take Greyhawk.

That said, Neverwinter was awesome. The setting was awesome. The game day module that preceded this was awesome. And this module, particularly the first half, was awesome.

In the second encounter, a rune-encrusted dragon attacks the party right in the middle of the city! It is truly epic.

I wasn't so big on the factions, though there were a few cool ones. Everybody pretty much wanted the spellscar one which gave you special powers.

I also found it amusing that everyone and everything was named "never"something. It became a running joke.

2. Dark Legacy of Evard

This one was just really cool. A town was cursed to slide into The Shadowfell on occasion. The heroes needed to remove the curse before the shift became permanent.

On top of that, the adventure added in the tomb of Evard (of "Evard's Black Tentacles" fame). This was a cool nod, but it was a bit of a bait-and-switch.

The sections of the adventure in the Shadowfell were really fun. I added some material in there that was extremely well-received. I guess what I appreciated about this adventure was that it had a fresh concept and didn't get boring after a few sessions like most of them do.

The sequel adventure in Dungeon Magazine had some cool maps, but was less inspired.

1. Keep on the Borderlands: A Season of Serpents

This one can't really be denied. It's gigantic. And aside from book 4, it's really good all the way through. The siege in the final chapter is exceptionally awesome.

On top of that, there was a lot of great supporting material. Mike Mearls himself designed the keep, which was in a Dungeon Magazine Article with a great map which I printed out and gave to the players.

And even further, it was part of the Chaos Scar series of adventures, making it really easy to launch a full campaign with. Out of all the Encounters modules, this is the best one and the one that I'd probably use in a regular "home" game.

The Chaos Scar adventures in Dungeon magazine were pretty hit and miss. The good ones were really good though, particularly Dead By Dawn, Head in the Clouds, and Scarblade. All 4e classics, in my humble opinion.

1 comment:

C.D. Gallant-King said...

I only played the first few seasons of Encounters (as a player, not a GM) but I really liked the simple, modular aspect of it. I imagine that was a big draw for the GM, too. It really should have been pick up & play, and it's a great way for anyone to pick up and game for an hour or two when they had the time.

At the same time, though, the DM should be willing to go off script and improvise a little bit. I think it was in Phantom Brigade when my character tried to dive through a window to get cover inside the building, and the DM didn't know what to do (maps of the inside of the buildings were not provided) so he made up some dice rolls and then ruled that I had BOUNCED off the glass.

I tried it again a few turns later and got the same result. I wanted to see if the first time was just a fluke, but at that point I suspect the DM was just fucking with me.