A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Friday, October 1, 2010

[Review Corner] Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Red Box Starter Set Part 4a: D&D Encounters

Call this a non comic like subreview.

For those not in the know, WOTC provides many game shops with a Wednesday afternoon game series called Dungeons & Dragons Encounters that they have been running for a good year or so now.

Unlike my attempts to recruit gamers, both the stores I have been to that run this program have 4-12 people show up every week to play.

Encounters is a "season" adventure suite using the 4e ruleset with an adventure for stores to run with DCI (WOTC's DM/Magic Tourney sanctioning thingie) qualified DMs.  Basically you show up with no RPG experience needed and play a D&D 4e encounter and over the course of a quarter of a year or so you play an adventure, with no real requirements to be there each week.

Each encounter takes about an hour or two to play with pregenerated characters available.  Depending on your actions throughout the series of encounters you collect Renown Points which do.. something and your character gains normal XPs and the like to level up.  (For example, I made my own character and gained a number of RP for doing so while the other 3 players did not.  However they had been there the week before when this season began and gained some RP for hitting a "Milestone", something I will get to further on in my Essentials review series.)

This season is D&D Essentials, and is a remake of "Keep on the Borderlands", one of the most fondly remembered D&D modules.  I have run the Basic D&D version of it myself, though we never finished it sadly.  (Players not showing up and all.)

So... what is it like?  Well, there was almost ZERO roleplaying.  There was some opportunity for it, but no serious need.  There was enough people to split into two groups, and I joined the one with less 4e experience.  Due to my reading of the Red Box Player's Book and my skimming of the DM's book and the first 2 Essentials books (Heroes 1 and Compendium as I will call them) I was helping the experienced in 4e DM teach the rules to the new and returning to D&D players.  Much like a long ago 3.0 campaign I became the "Rules Bitch" because I am rather good at either retaining basic rules knowledge, or being able to find said rules QUICKLY.

In this regard we can safely say the Red Box teaches what you REALLY need to know for D&D 4e Essentials quite well.  In fact I could say you could all but pass on Rules Compendium and just buy one of the Heroes book and get along fine if you have Red Box.  (Much information is repeated in my two books, and I am sure the next Heroes book will continue this.  Its understandable WHY they do this, but its also sort of wasteful IMHO.)

The encounter itself was a fight against a couple bandits and their Halfling boss.  Sadly I learned at least at low levels there is no "Guard" ability that gives you a free swing at guys moving into base contact.  I was able to QUICKLY rebuild Rufus for Encounters using the Heroes book.  It took me like 10 minutes or so, and that was just because I was being careful to do things properly and doublecheck my work.  (He isn't TOO different from his Red Box version, though he only has 2 of those combat stance things, and I chose different armor and feats.  For you 3.x fans know that Cleave is no longer ridiculous, but is BRUTALLY useful against those 1hp "Minion" type monsters.)

I probably took the least damage of anyone, due to a bit of luck and decent tactics which I helped the rest of the players with, also reminding them of racial powers and their other neat abilities.  (Humans have a gloriously cheesy Racial Encounter Power that lets them add +4 to any D20 type roll they don't like.  Pretty much giving you a single +4 roll per encounter.  That's BAD ASS.)

But was it all fun?

Yeah.  It was.  Now this is Essentials 4e and still Level 1 play where things are simpler and there isn't a ridiculous laundry list of powers and abilities to keep track of so things may change further on.  (Not to mention monster HPs can get into the THOUSANDS at high level play.  Seriously.)

Will I go back and play some more?


I do recommend that if you want to try 4e the Encounters program is a great way to do it.  It doesn't take a long period of time per week, and its currently using the Essentials stuff as opposed to the ridiculous amount of options and powers full on 4e has.

If you want a Braunstein game you could do worse than to give it a shot.

Just... don't expect D&D as it was for the first 30 odd years.

Because it isn't.

I'll continue to explain WHY as this series continues.

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