While I have not started playing Season 3 I have in fact been reading about it, learning about it and planning ahead for it. My FLGS is a bit behind in Encounters sadly, but thats fine as we don’t really care.
However, I have come to a few realizations about Encounters, its design, and what I think about the system as a whole, as well as a few specifics towards Seasons 3.
Firstly, the encounter packages / modules are designed to showcase the new products. I get that. Darksun is designed to show off Darksun and apparently Season 3 is designed to promote the new Essentials line. My beef with this is the restrictiveness that people can feel when playing this. Darksun for example is designed to be this horrifc and painful thing, with fights that push you to the limit constantly. The first 5 battles in fact are to be played without an extended rest, pushing a party to its limits. In my groups case, they hit the end with half of them having zero surges left, and they got 1 back thanks to the skill test.
However season 3 is going to be more slow going from the sound of it, as its designed around the “newbie” set. In fact, they encourage people to make their own characters using that set! My group would not be keen on that, I can tell you right now, and I refuse to follow that restriction.
Next up is the time thing. Encounters is “designed” to be played 1 encounter an evening, which is about 2-3 hours depending on the group and time constraints. In our case, we get 2 hours. Which means of course that I have to start exactly at 8pm EST and end by 10pm EST due to store hours. The problem? What happens if the encounter takes too long? Do you declare it a loss? Do you move on? Do you start from that point next week which delays the whole “plan”?
Furthermore, Season 3 actually is designed to allow for Roleplay. This is good in general, but bad with the base design of Encounters! Now I either A) Have to squash Roleplaying or B) try to rush through the fights! Even if I had 3 hours to play an encounters session that could STILL not be enough. Hell, when I used to play regular DND for 8 hours in a sitting we would get maybe 2-3 battles. Thats 3-4 hours per battle, including roleplaying, exploring ect. Encounters is not really built for that.
So if Season 3 wants us to roleplay….what the hell am I as the DM supposed to do?! Make each encounter take 2 nights? 1 night of RP, one night of FIGHT? Thats not very satisfying. Half the fun is Fighting, and my group is pretty combat thirsty. I know if given the chance they WILL roleplay but… ARG. Its one of those things that drives me nuts.
Final problem with Encounters is the actual product. Spelling errors, typos, characters built in odd ways. In general, its pretty poor. Yea its free, but when fights are designed in the stat blocks one way and the map shows a completely different setup it makes running them harder.
Overall I like the idea behind Encoutners but its not just designed well enough to work. Maybe if they went back to the Delve idea where each week we got a new encounter to battle and people could keep their characters and earn points or something.
Like each time you fought with this character you earned a certain number of points, and then at certain levels you earned rewards, like coupons, discounts, special content, character perks and so on. You could even advance the characters a level every 5 weeks just like Encounters, to give everyone a power boost, and do a reset. It would be like a ladder.
Basically an arena fight every week. People can easily drop in an out, and the fights and arena’s can be changed to fit the theme of the fights.
But that makes too much sense don’t it?