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    Troll in the Playground
     
    ghost_warlock's Avatar

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    Jun 2006
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    Default Opinions on this season of Encounters

    I'm running this season of WotC's Encounters, War of Everlasting Darkness, for my local 4e group and I was wondering if anyone else around here is playing through it as well as what they think.

    This season is supposed to focus more on exploration, skill challenges, and roleplaying encounters than the previous seasons, which are often criticized as being nothing more than a string of combats - a "fight a week."

    However, perhaps due to the "snapshot" formatting, the skill/RP content, and my own personal DMing style () I'm having a hard time getting my group interested and engaged in the sessions. Table talk seems to be at an all-time high.

    This session the party was primarily supposed to be involved in a discussion/debate with the orc king and his court regarding their involvement with drow-inspired raids. However, no one really engaged in the conversation and so I mostly ended up glossing over most of it (and easily passed the skill DCs when they bothered to try). They were a bit better at getting involved in the following combat encounter, but because it focused more on a single party member (even with the other characters being able to influence the fight), most of the players spent the time chatting or having their characters roam about doing other things - examples include looking for peanuts & funnel cakes and the halfling hitting on "hot orc chicks."

    Is anyone else having similar experiences with this season, or is this issue isolated to my group?

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Sep 2004

    Default Re: Opinions on this season of Encounters

    We were short on players at two tables this week, but design is such that you can play a session as easily with three as with five most weeks. Overall, reception at all five tables was good, even great at some. It's worth reviewing the advice on page 5 weekly.

    We've always had cross table chatter at some tables, but it's only a problem at one. Those players need to be reminded that there will be time to tell bystanders (as well players at other tables) what's happening after the game.

    Our quickest tables are taking an extra half hour to an hour a week, with the rest finishing up within the next half hour. We've had more character interaction at several tables because the players are less preoccupied with turns than events.

    The more free-form the DM, the better they seem to enjoy this season. A few let the clock run too long on the riddle game a few week back, but we've reviewed that. They didn't have much trouble involving others in the arena battle, but it was fine if they treated the whole thing as a useful distraction instead. (I'm not just talking about pickpockets either. Some spent their time in the crowd gathering information. Neither group picked up much, but it was enough to be make them happy.) There's been an increase in the number of improvised skill checks attempted around the room as players get more comfortable with the realization that failure does not prevent the story from moving forward.

    There's more effort to be the character this season, fewer problems with people in the habit of telling you what their characters were saying, rather than letting their characters say it. People are becoming less preoccupied with whose turn it is and yet less likely to try to argue down the player whose turn it is when they don't agree with the action. I know it should be obvious that character action doesn't have to stop when its someone else's turn, but maybe some people aren't comfortable with they see as imposing behaviour.

    It's not to everyone's tastes, but it's been pretty adaptable. One DM beefed up the encounters one night because his table was in the mood for more of a fight, and still finished within an acceptable amount of time. Others are coming around to the realization that optimization isn't offering them any real advantage, freeing them to try new things.

    (For example, I've got an armoured dwarf witch who wields a hammer instead of an implement. She acts like a bad misrepresentation of Thor. There are a thousand ways to improve on her mechanically, but not one of them makes her better to play.)

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Troll in the Playground
     
    ghost_warlock's Avatar

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    Default Re: Opinions on this season of Encounters

    I'm glad it's at least working for some groups, then.

    Our group consistently has 7-8 players so we have just enough people that it's awkward to split into two tables. As such, we suffer from all the usual problems associated with cramming too many players around a table. (Combat encounters are almost always beefed up as a result - e.g., there's no point in even rolling initiative for a fight with a single stirge when the group has 7 PCs.)

    I guess part of the problem my group is also having is that they don't see all of the non-combat as that engaging and actually seem let down when their character building efforts turn out to be pointless - they may as well be playing pregens rather than having spent the time to personally craft their characters.

    As for success/failure in skill challenges, they realized a while back that neither really matters so far as advancing the plot/story - usually they end up at the same place, win or lose. The worst case scenario is that they lose some surges or have a few minor penalties.

    My group does favor a more kick-in-the-door, Diablo-esque playstyle, though. We've been taking turns DMing the Encounters seasons (as well as our non-Encounter home games) and I've noticed the trend when the other couple of people are DMing, too, so I know it's at least not entirely my fault.

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