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D&D Experience and a New Play Experience
D&D Play Spotlight
by Chris Tulach

At our feature convention D&D Experience, we announced a new in-store weekly D&D play experience called D&D Encounters, which begins its first season by exploring the iconic dungeon of Undermountain on March 17. I’ll give you the complete details below, but first, I want to give a little wrap-up of D&D Experience.

Serious Fun in Fort Wayne!

D&D Experience was a blast this year. Hundreds and hundreds of D&D gamers from around the US, Canada, and Europe braved the cold and headed to Fort Wayne, Indiana for a four-day celebration of all things D&D. In a big ballroom in the Grand Wayne Convention Center, players got their fill of Living Forgotten Realms, an awesome Dark Sun preview adventure, and bashed monsters in a new version of the Convention Delve.

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The hall swells with tables
of dedicated D&D gamers.
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My table gets ready to take on
the savage land of Athas!
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Rich Baker gives away his signature
and his new book,
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Mike Mearls presents the 2010 D&D lineup
at the product preview seminar.

What really brought the players out in force were the two special gaming events at the show – the Dark Sun preview adventure and the Living Forgotten Realms battle interactive. At the Dark Sun preview called “Death in the Arena,” players got their first look at the 4th Edition world of Athas, playing a variety of diverse characters such as a mul barbarian gladiator and a thri-kreen shaman elemental priest. I won’t spoil the adventure details for you, because we’ll be running it again at PAX East and other local shows in the future!

The Living Forgotten Realms battle interactive was the first of its kind for LFR, and it was a rousing success! Dozens of tables participated in two days’ worth of missions as they attempted to save Elturel from the horrors of the nearby plaguelands. As the spellplague spread to the city, the characters rallied to its defense and only narrowly managed to avoid complete catastrophe! For more information on the battle interactive and to hear players’ stories, head to the Living Forgotten Realms Community Page. Who knows, a convention near you might be running it soon!

We also had other special events, including a pair of book signings. The signing with Rich Baker on Saturday had an additional surprise – free copies of Rich’s not-yet-released Avenger, the third and final book in the Blades of the Moonsea trilogy! Suffice to say, he had quite a line of fans.

We also had lots of sneak peeks at the show, giving out first looks at the D&D Essentials line, a deep dive into the design of the updated Dark Sun setting, and lots of information on our upcoming board games and the new Gamma World game. Some lucky folks even got to playtest Gamma World with Rich Baker!

All in all, we had a great show – attendance was way up, and all sorts of little secrets were dropped on players throughout the weekend. If you didn’t make it to the show this year, make sure you make plans to attend next year. In the meantime, you can listen to podcasts of many of the seminars right now!

D&D Encounters: Undermountain Starts March 17!

We launch the first-ever weekly Wednesday D&D play experience in just a few short weeks. I’d like to take some space here in the column to tell you more about the program so you can get organized now and be ready to participate on March 17!

Weekly in-store D&D play on Wednesdays. D&D Encounters runs each week in your local Wizards Play Network store. This is the first D&D program that Wizards has designed specifically for weekly play. Because it’s on Wednesday nights, it stays away from busy weekends and coincides nicely with comic book day.

An ongoing mini-campaign. D&D Encounters is set up with an ongoing narrative element, played as a mini-campaign lasting a few months. Each mini-campaign is also known as a season of play. After one season finishes, the next one begins the very next week, without interruption. The season is divided into three chapters; each chapter is composed of a few sessions of play.

One encounter per week. Fitting D&D Encounters into a busy schedule is made much easier with its one-encounter-per-week sessions. You can get the encounter done within 1-2 hours, making it easy to finish at a reasonable hour and keeping the DM’s prep time to a minimum each week.

Earn Renown Points for accomplishments. At the conclusion of each session, you earn Renown Points for different types of in-game accomplishments–defeating encounters, hitting milestones, doing something spectacular during a game session, etc. As you accumulate those points, you earn rewards cards that can be used in-game for your current and future D&D Encounters characters. Some rewards are easy to get and can be obtained after only a few sessions of play; others might take a while to qualify for. The first is the Delver reward, and it’s given to you on the session you’ve earned it. The other two rewards (Explorer and Adventurer) are awarded at the end of the season based on those that qualify for them by earning a certain higher total of points.

DMs get rewards too! In addition to the player rewards in the D&D Encounters kit, there are also special rewards for the DMs, consisting of valuable game aids and other cool specially-made, not-available-for-sale items. Each new season will bring a different DM reward in the kit.

Each season takes you to new D&D worlds. Every D&D Encounters season is a self-contained mini-campaign, giving you an ongoing story in a different D&D setting each time. Each season will last three to four months—short enough that you don't need to make a long-term campaign commitment but long enough to give you a sense of growth and accomplishment. The seasonal nature of D&D Encounters also means you’ll be able to sample new game content and different worlds a few times every year. The first season of D&D Encounters is set in the Forgotten Realms, where you’ll be uncovering the secrets of Halaster’s Lost Apprentice in one of the most infamous dungeons of all, Undermountain! In season two, journey to the blasted lands of Athas as you play in a mini-campaign preview of the Dark Sun campaign setting!

Get social by following us and sharing. The D&D Encounters play experience goes beyond the store as Wizards uses social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook to communicate messages each week, sometimes offering special in-game benefits or events that affect your current play session. In addition, you can share your stories, post photos, and join the discussion right here at the D&D Community Group.

D&D Encounters: Undermountain

Halaster’s Lost Apprentice: A lost passageway on the upper level of the most infamous dungeon in Faerûn has recently been uncovered. When a patron hires a band of adventurers to brave the dangers of Undermountain, a search is on to uncover secrets of an apprentice of the dungeon’s lost creator – Halaster. Bring a 1st-level character or use a pre-generated character. Characters this season can be exported to the Living Forgotten Realms campaign at the conclusion of the mini-campaign!

Season Length: 12 sessions (3 chapters of 4 sessions each)

Season Dates: March 17 – June 2 (Wednesdays)

Make sure your local store signs up for D&D Encounters through the Wizards Play Network. Signups begin on February 8th. They’ll want to sign up early, because kit quantities are limited!

That’s all this month on the D&D Play Spotlight. Join me again next month as we talk about PAX East and share more information on D&D Encounters and Player’s Handbook 3 Game Day!

About the Author

Originally thought to have been raised from a humble Midwestern family, Chris Tulach actually fell to Earth in a meteorite-shaped capsule flung from a planet far outside our galaxy. While under the yellow rays of Sol, Chris’s nerdity far surpasses that of any normal human. Using this precious gift only for good, he has become the D&D Organized Play Content Developer, responsible for the development and deployment of Dungeons & Dragons organized play programs. He is also the co-author of E2 Kingdom of the Ghouls.

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