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I like the concept of D&D Encounters and would like to incorporate some of it into my own games. The problem is that I'm nowhere near a place that runs D&D Encounters, so I don't know much more about it than what's at the Wizards of the Coast website.

How does D&D Encounters work?

What I'm interested in is how Encounters differs from a typical D&D campaign. For example:

  • Do the players need to know the rules and create their own characters?
  • Is there a fixed group of players or does it change from session to session? Likewise, does one group always have the same DM?
  • Is there a continous storyline? If so, how is character advancement handled? And what happens to the PCs and the story between encounters? What if a player misses out on one or more sessions?
  • Is it purely combat-focused or are there opportunities for dialogue and other non-combat activities?

I know it's a pretty broad question, but seeing as how most of D&D Encounters still seems to follow D&D traditions, I figure an answer summarizing the differences should be manageable.

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You might also want to look at this question. rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/5077/… –  GMNoob Sep 4 '11 at 11:33

1 Answer 1

up vote 16 down vote accepted

First step. D&D encounters is intended to be run by a hobby store or something similar. This means, you can sign up and ask to be an Encounters DM. (I need to remember to do this myself). If you can't join the official encounters session, try turning a module into an encouterseque experience like suggested here.

When you become an encounters DM, you are asked to report back the results of your session back to Wizards of the coast.

You also get the following:

  1. The module for the week.
  2. 6 pre-made character 'sheets' Like this one:
  3. A few progress sheets to keep track of Encounter rewards that you might get after a few sessions.

My wife and I were able to learn the rules of the game while playing. Though it is helpful for atleast 1 player at the table to know the rules as well, it is not necessary. All relevant rules are given in the modules by Wizards of the Coast.

In general, encounters are broken up into 5 'encounters'. After the 5 encounters, all charachters level up. The encounters themselves are meant to demonstrate various aspects of the D8D game, and highlight new content. So while most of it is combat focused, it does introduce skill challenges, and dialogue and skill usage when it can.

I played it in my local hobby store, and we started of with 5 people. Eventually after about 2 months, we had over 12 people playing, with 2 dms and 2 groups playing side by side. The DMs would sometimes switch off so they could play as well. Also, we eventually allowed home built charachters for people who wanted those.

If you can apply to be an encounters DM I would highly recommend doing so. It's great fun. However, the 'story' only lasts for those 5 encounters. It then switches to a new story line, and often setting. (Though if I remember correctly, the dark sun campaign allowed us to level up twice)


I see you put up a bounty, which I assume means that you didn't find my answer complete, so I'm just going to give a summary of answers based on your exact questions. The details of which can be found in the above paragraph.

Question: Do the players need to know the rules and create their own characters?

Answer: No.

Question: Is there a fixed group of players or does it change from session to session? Likewise, does one group always have the same DM?

Answer: By it's nature, the group of players and DM are likely to change from session to session, but they don't have to.

Question: Is there a continous storyline?

Answer: There is a continuous story for every 5 weeks. After those 5 weeks, the story can/might change

Question: If so, how is character advancement handled?

Answer: Advancement is handled at the end of those 5 weeks.

Question: And what happens to the PCs and the story between encounters?

Answer: You decide :)

Question: What if a player misses out on one or more sessions?

Answer: Encounters has a system of points which you gain for specific events during play. If you have X amount of points at the end of a 5 week 'campaign' then you get a reward that you can use on future campaigns. (Like curious knack which gives a one time bonus to a skill check) IF you miss sessions, you don't get the points, and have to wait longer to get the rewards. In other words, the Player is rewarded for playing, but the Character advances the same no matter what.

Question: Is it purely combat-focused or are there opportunities for dialogue and other non-combat activities?

Answer: It is mainly combat, with once in a while there being opportunities for dialogue and other non-combat activities.

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Dark Sun was the last Encounters season that allowed you to level twice. Prior to that they all did, IIRC. (Then again, my DM was nice...) –  GPierce Sep 7 '11 at 0:38
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I added the bounty in part because I wanted some more information but mainly because I wanted to see if other people had a different understanding or perspective. Regardless, I like your updated answer. –  Jakob Sep 9 '11 at 14:08
    
On the topic of "signing up to be an Encounters DM": I also live in an area where it is difficult to find a retail location for D&D, I tried around July of 2010 to get access to the "Encounters" content from Wizards. After an incredibly long process of registering as a judge (among other things), I got this info from their Customer Service: "I'm also sorry to report that Encounters is strictly for retail store participation. It isn't available for home play or for public play at non-retail locations." –  TML Sep 14 '11 at 2:07
    
TML, thanks for that update. –  GMNoob Sep 14 '11 at 8:39

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