Showing posts with label Encounters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Encounters. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Go Out and Game Out

Hello, Eric here. It is officially Speak out with your geek out week and this is my first post for the event. What is Speak out? It's a pro-geek event that encourages you to be positive about your geeky hobbies and vocations. Blog, post on Facebook or Tweet with the hashtag #speakgeek all week long with us! It was put together by friends of the blog Monica Valentinelli , Jessica Banks and Amanda Valentine. This will be the first in a short series of geek-talk posts.

For today I want to talk about one of the things I geek out about the most, hobby games. More specifically Boardgames and D&D Encounters night at my favorite game store, EndGame in Oakland. The positive message for you today is find a local gaming community and go out and play.

Let's talk about why I go here once a week for seven hours of gaming every week, all in one great evening. It's a great place to meet people who are as excited about boardgames and D&D as I am. We have a very regular group of people who make the core group of the night, but new players are always welcome. EndGame prides itself on community building and Wednesday night is one of the prime examples of this. The environment is a really fun and loose. You'll never have to sit out of a game. People bring lots of new games try out every week. I've gotten to try out many new games(both newly released and older games I've missed) from all different genres here. It is also a good place to meet people who like to design board games. Prototypes of new games can often be seen on the tables on Wednesday nights. It's also where I met my co-designers Evan Denbaum and Chris Ruggiero. We designed Race to Adventure together at one of these Wednesday night events. Check out the blog for the game's origins here: Race to Adventure! aka the wallet game

I also help run Dungeons and Dragons Encounters here on the same nights. We have two tables for the current season Lost Crown of Neverwinter. This is a fun free publisher sponsored event for playing D&D at your local gaming store. At EndGame it is 1-2 hours starting at 7pm every Wednesday. When play is done people are welcome and encouraged to stay for boardgame nights. One good bridge for this group is the D&D adventure board game Castle Ravenloft. We are stuck on the last adventure trying to defeat the evil vampire Lord Strahd.

He's the toughest villian in the game, by far.

I greatly encourage you to find a local FLGS (Friendly Local Games Store) to play hobby games. It is a great way to share your geek hobby with others. If you can't find a FLGS with board game nights, ask them if you can start your own event at their store. Most store owners are more than happy to host events if someone else is passionate in organizing them. And if you don't have a neighborhood game store, try finding gamers in your area on the BoardGameGeek website.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

E is for Encounters

When the 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons was released, Wizards of the Coast attempted a dual strategy of organized play. The first was to continue their Living Forgotten Realms campaign, while getting rid of Living Greyhawk and the Mark of Heroes Eberron games. The second was to run a series of "Game Day" adventures that coincided with individual products that were soon to be released. Most of these adventures were meant to be played in a single sitting of 4 hours. Many people enjoy the Living Forgotten Realms format, but the "Game Day" format was one of the things that contributed to my initial misunderstanding of the 4th Edition system.

The "Game Day" adventures weren't very complex. Designing an adventure that is supposed to tell a story in four encounters -- approximately four hours of play -- isn't easy and these adventures largely suffered from this major flaw. These adventures also suffered from the fact that they were geared entirely to promoting a singular product that was being released within a week or so of the adventure. This meant that the adventures were only being written when products were scheduled for release -- and we are talking major "Players Handbook" type products not regular products. Thus these "Game Days" weren't frequent occurrences, or at least not frequent enough to build a real following.

Last year, Wizards combined the regular game play experience of the Living Forgotten Realms games with the market driven adventure design of the "Game Day" adventures to create their Encounters Program. One thing that differentiated the Encounters program from other organized play events was that the individual sessions were designed to be played in 2 hours, and that each sitting was only one Encounter in a larger tale. The first two Encounters "Seasons" -- what Wizards calls the individual Adventures which last for 8 to 20 weeks of play -- were a bit of a mixed bag.

The first season took place in the popular Undermountain environment, and the second took place in the fan favorite Dark Sun world, but both of these adventures missed the mark in execution -- either for story or game balance reasons. By the third season -- Keep on the Borderlands -- the Wizards staff was really beginning to hit stride. The adventure was an ambitious 20 chapter storyline that was the first adventure in the series to incorporate a robust narrative. It still contained a predictable storyline, but it was an adventure that prompted role playing more so than prior adventures and the scenes were well designed with some interesting challenges like Dragons on rooftops and using Trebuchet against mobs of attackers. The current season, March of the Phantom Brigade, is even more role play oriented than Keep and the adventure hooks for the story are fairly unique.

In the most recent season, the players take the role of Pioneers seeking to create a new settlement in Nentir Vale. That's right...Pioneers...Settlers. No mere mercenary band these characters. No avenging champions seeking wrongs to right. Those may be the motivations of individuals, sure, but the tone of the adventure is open to social interaction as the players might choose sides in the leadership. Do they favor the priest founding the new "city on the hill," the ever vigilant Ranger who is there to provide protection and create the law enforcement/militia for the new society, or do they side with the historian/archeologist who wishes to study the location to learn of its past. They can befriend them all, but there are role playing hooks a plenty.

Each adventure in the series has been better than the last, and each has shown a growth in the way that adventures are written for the 4th edition rules. Gone are the feelings of pure combat emulation, and in are feelings of storytelling and narrative.

My hope is that Wizards will mimic the old days of TSR. In the 70s, TSR used to have adventures that they only ran at conventions. These adventures included Rahasia, the "Slave Lords" series, "Against the Giants," and "Tomb of Horrors" -- all classics in the field. These adventures gained interest through word of mouth. They were playtested by gamers at cons, then they were released for sale. Not everyone has a game store in their local community, so it would be wonderful if Wizards released these adventures -- edited based on playtesting -- some six to eight months after the seasons were over.

Regardless, my local store has seen growing interest in 4th Edition since I have begun running games for them every week. Our group has a wide range of ages -- it's the first time I've gamed with high school students in quite some time.

Find a store near you running the Encounters program and give 4e a try...even if you have been resisting up until now.