With the last session of The Lost Crown of Neverwinter behind me, I am looking back at the season and reflecting on what was great and what was truly terrible about this season of Encounters. I spent half my time as a player and half my time as a DM, finishing it out as the DM for a group of players who had come into the season in the middle of Chapter 2 of a 3 chapter season. Overall, a few key items stand out in my mind overall.
This isn’t book report style, so if you didn’t participate at all in this season’s Encounters, go ahead and skip this post, you’ll be fine.
This season built a great story of intrigue and mystery surrounding the crown of Neverwinter and the city’s many factions. The season also had a wealth of interesting NPCs to converse with.
Great: The Neverwinter themes were heavily encouraged and used through-out, with bonuses and advantages for anyone that took a theme for their custom character. Some of the factions saw no use in this season, but honestly that would have seemed forced and awkward.
Bad: Players joining after the start of the season had a hard time jumping into the middle of the intrigue, especially when the key encounter was the first encounter of the season. Obviously not much can be done about this.
Ugly: No premades were offered for this season – so new players that walked-in were expected to use last season’s premades. Our store remedied this by making our own premades and making sure each table had a folder full of them.
The plot was railroaded all the way to the station, with several incidents of dead horse assault.
Great: Yes, there is a great for this. The plot was easy to steer. New DMs could focus on learning the ropes while experienced DMs could at least focus on random flavorful interactions with confidence (something that can be risky in Encounters sometimes if you’re not prepared to compensate).
Bad: The group really only needed to be hired once to do the job. Having one NPC (and an important one at that!) ask the group to go after the Heir was sufficient. Having two more NPCs also direct the group with no risk of conflicts of interest started to feel like Wizards was beating a dead horse. Were you concerned the party would forget who they were after?
Ugly: The “surprise” addition of the Bregan D’aerthe faction approaching the group was grossly redundant and hilariously awkward. The drow mercenaries brought nothing new to the table except the chance for free loot – and if the party didn’t want to be indebted to an unknown drow spy then they were out that free loot. And what purpose did the loot cards serve anyway? If the party declined, they got the cards anyway but aren’t allowed to ever use them? Color me WTF?
Combat encounters touched both ends of the spectrum.
Great: Open the season fighting a mother-lovin’ real white dragon? Hell yeah! Close on the same note? That’s how heroes roll! Kraken in the sewers? Amazing. Non-combat resolutions to combat encounters? Yes, we’d like more please!
Bad: Some of those combats were obviously entirely superfluous. When multiple participants at multiple tables feel like the day’s session was a waste of time: it was a waste of time. WotC, Encounters seasons last long enough already, its not necessary to stretch them out even longer.
Ugly: Don’t put people in a combat situation if you don’t want the players to fight them. Don’t put NPCs, well described in heavy armor and weapons with armed guards, in the middle of a planned combat encounter (that the NPCs presence caused no less) and then tell the players that not only are those NPCs not fighting, but the PCs are also not allowed to fight them. Its awkward for newbie and inexperienced DMs alike.
Most of the players I talked to wanted to attack General Sabine rather than talk to her when she causes the brawl in the tavern, only DM heavy-handedness prevented it.
I know I put a lot of negative points up here, but overall I actually really enjoyed the season. Where the encounter and plot building failed, the setting and the characters (PC and NPC) made it up. Great tables and great DMs make all the difference too. I’m looking forward to DMing the new season of Encounters.