Dungeons and Dragons Encounters is a "season" based weekly 4th edition mass game campaign produced by Wizards of the Coast that's played in comic book and gaming shops across the nation on the same day every week from season's start to season's end.
This season's campaign is "Dark Legacy of Evard", and runs 13 episodes. I'm only recently back into D&D after a very long absence away from the game, having subscribed to the D&D Insider earlier this week. This week's penultimate 12th episode was my first chance to put my subscription in action and see if I got my money's worth from it.
So far, the verdict is a big YES.
I was able to build my player character using the browser based DDI Character Builder tool, and download and print all the pertinent game mechanics information to play my character using the browser based DDI Compendium. Add in a complementary set of dice that I received from the session's hosts at the comic/gaming shop (very gracious of them!) and I was set to play with 4 other players, plus the Dungeon Master. Everybody was very kind and helpful, allowing us newcomers to play newbie 1st level characters even though we're just one episode away from the season's end. There were enough gamers in attendance to split the motley crowd off into two tables - one for the regulars and experienced players, and one for us newbies who are late to the bandwagon.
I was worried that I wouldn't be able to really enjoy the game having only my rusty AD&D recollection for context, but through helpful comrades and a patient DM, I/we actually managed to successfully complete the episode in the allotted/suggested playing time of two hours. I played a 1st level Dragonborn Warlord Hexblade (aka a striker class PC), and we had a balanced adventuring party that was only short a controller class PC. D&D 4th edition really lends itself to successful newbie play, or at least to play by people whose entry into the realm of fantasy RPGs is the World of Warcraft and other MMORPGs. The fact that at least half our adventuring party came from the WoW set amazed me, as they deftly eschewed their digital trappings for the pencil-and-paper stylings of the genre's predecessor/innovator.
The game mechanics of Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition were easy enough to pick up so that by the end of the episode, I had already internalized the basic power set and accompanying rolls of my PC, as well as developed a sense of troupe strategy with everyone else's PCs. The rules and dice rolling was simple and streamlined enough that we could all soon focus on immersing ourselves into the episode's adventure and drama, instead of leafing through pages of esoterica and scanning tables and charts in search of our character's action effects upon the gameworld. The fact that I could play my way through the episode without having a single book and using only my DDI excerpts is a testament to the streamlining of the game's ruleset.
I definitely had a fun time, and I look forward to going back next week to finish off this season's capstone episode and then get ready to commence a new season from the ground up, which I understand will be set in D&D 4th edition's version of the Forgotten Realms, my very favorite campaign setting from my old AD&D days.
RATING: 5 out of 5