Intrepid dungeoneer Gavin O’Brien headed to his local game store to try out D&D Encounters and get an early taste of the Dark Sun campaign setting. It turns out flying razor sharp shards of obsidian are unhealthy for characters and monsters alike.
I participated in Encounters this week. We played the first week’s encounter [Season 2] since it didn’t happen at the local gaming store last week (no one showed due to lack of promotion on the store’s part). It was pretty cool. Some spoilers of the first week exist below.
The DM hadn’t read the encounter until about five minutes before we started, so I think time and concentration was spent on keeping the monsters straight instead of tactics for killing us. That, combined with some weak rolls on the DM’s part and solid rolls on our part, allowed us to burn through the nasty lizard men swiftly. I’d heard horror stories about how difficult the encounter was, but didn’t really get a sense of that. I’ll just attribute our success to my awesome defendering skillz.
Anyway, Athas… several things contributed to the unfamiliarity of the game world, not the least of which was the unfamiliar group and DM. Like any D&D encounter, your primary goal is surviving for the next five or so minutes. However, this encounter also strongly suggests you work to prepare for the future. You’re encouraged to gather supplies from the wagon as you fight (a minor action which draws opportunity attacks but never actually drew an opportunity attack because the DM apparently forgot). I’m interested to see how this preparation affects the party later in the adventure (remember, I’m a week behind).
You’re fighting what is essentially a battle for a wagon full of resources while standing in the middle of a deadly sandstorm laced with razor sharp shards of obsidian. When I think of places where I’d like to fight a battle, within deadly sandstorms laced with razor sharp shards of obsidian isn’t anywhere near the top of the list.
I’m not sure if the DM ran it this way or if it was in the encounter sheet, but the obsidian shards damaged our lizard people enemies as well. This concept of an impartial, indomitable, natural enemy (i.e. the weather) seems very “Dark Sun,” and I hope it was a taste of things to come. My character tried to suggest we all wait out the storm in the wagon and fight the battle once the razor sharp shards of obsidian died down, but it came out as “Yuka gonna smash your face!” Likely this tendency to express aggression when diplomacy is intended arises from his race’s inability to procreate. That’s pretty common.
My only gripe about the encounter isn’t actually based on the material provided (the glaring errors on the character sheets have been beaten to death on other blogs, so I won’t go over that here), but instead the lack of any type of promotion of the weekly event by the store. Maybe people would attend events at your store if you promoted them, say, on your website, on your Facebook page, or even on the giant calendar in the middle of the store. I’m no game store entrepreneur though, so what do I know?
Based on my small taste, Dark Sun has me interested. Gritty and dangerous is appealing. I look forward to exploring more of Athas in the coming weeks.