GenCon: D&D Convention Delve – Lair of the Dread Witch

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on August 6, 2010

After a lot of meticulous planning about what to do and which games to play at GenCon we made an accidental discovery that changed everything. Originally we registered for a few LFR games, the D&D Championship and the D&D Classic. We intentionally left some time open to take in a couple of seminars and to try out the Dark Sun Arenas tournament. But last night we discovered the D&D Convention Delve and that changed everything.

After being eliminated form the D&D Championship after three encounters (more on that in a later article) we felt deflated. We grabbed a bite to eat and drown our sorrows in the bottom of a pint (or two or three). We then headed back to the Convention Centre to wander the halls and it was then we learned more about the D&D Convention Delve.

All we knew about it until then was what Wizards of the Coast posted on their website.

D&D Convention Delve: Lair of the Dread Witch

In the deep forest lies a place of dark power. Its corruptive influence seeps into the lands beyond its borders. Can you contain the threat of the dread witch and stop her rituals before all falls into darkness? A 1st-level D&D convention delve, where you can play as often as you like, earning tokens that can be redeemed for prizes!

The D&D Convention Delve is a series of adventures that all tie in to one larger campaign. Each adventure is a stand-alone, self-contained, two-encounter adventure. You can’t pre-register, you just line up and as soon as there are six players and an available DM you begin play. There are four different maps and on each map there are four possible scenarios. So in essence there are 16 different possible adventures. You have an hour to complete each of your two encounters.

There are six pre-generated characters provided. You don’t have to play the same pre-generated character each time, but that’s entirely up to you. All six PCs must be represented at each game so you can’t have three people play the same pre-gen. The characters were all created using the new D&D Essentials rules. They are extremely simplified, but still fun to play. Represented were two Rogues, two Fighters, a Wizard and a Cleric.

I played the Halfling Thief. He was pretty decent for a level 1 PC and I managed to avoid taking any damage during the two encounters. Wimwick was playing the Human Fighter and he wasn’t as fortunate. He hit hard and he hit a lot so the monsters focused on him. None of the PCs died, although the guy running the other Rogue did fall unconscious once.

No matter how many times you play, the PCs don’t level up. Everyone stays level 1. And every time you sit down at a new table, the PCs are fresh. So you don’t have to worry about tracking hit points, healing surges and action points.

After you complete each encounter you earn tokens (two per encounter). When you’re finished your two-encounter slot, you can redeem your tokens for in-game or out-of-game prizes. For example, a healing potion is two tokens. A viscous +1 weapon is 5 tokens. A Wizards of the Coast backpack is 20 tokens and a cool T-shirt with the picture from the cover of the original D&D Red Box is 50 tokens. You can keep playing over and over again and earn more tokens. You can also pool tokens with other players.

At the end of every two-encounter adventure all the players roll a d20. The highest roll wins a free magic item. I rolled a 19 and won the item from my table. I choose a +1 lifedrinker weapon. I figured this would be useful no matter which character I played next time. I’d like to continue playing the Rogue, but I’d be happy to play one of the Fighters.

This adventure was so much fun. After playing in the high-pressure, D&D Championship with level 25 characters and only 45 minutes to complete each encounter, this level 1 game was a welcome change of pace. I will admit that having a few pints in us didn’t hurt either. Neither of us had played level 1 characters in a while and it was humbling to get back to basics. Wimwick and I cleared our schedules for this afternoon and are going back to play in the delve a few more times.

I think the folks that run D&D Encounters could learn a lot form the folks that set up the D&D Convention Delve. If D&D Encounters was setup more like this I think a lot more people would come out and there would be a lot more excitement. I know that people were excited to see Dark Sun represented in the weekly Encounters, but this is a much better way to bring new people into the hobby of D&D.

I’m attending the Wizards of the Coast seminar on D&D Encounters this afternoon between delves. I’ll post my synopsis and thoughts on it tomorrow. I suspect that they’ll have lots of goodies to share with us about the future of D&D Encounters including what seasons 3 and 4 will be like. Are the rumours about epic play true? We’ll know in just a few hours.

More from GenCon throughout the weekend.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sunyaku August 6, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Lower levels are so much fun. I’m looking forward to DMing a fresh campaign this fall with a group of new players, and everyone at level one. :-)

2 Sunyaku August 6, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Also, for Dungeonmaster.com readers who have been starving for Dark Sun content over the last couple weeks, I just posted a guide to playing Castri, entitled, “Dark Sun Encounters: Castri is NOT a Gimp” on my Wizards community blog (click on my username). Enjoy!

3 Dungeon Newbie August 10, 2010 at 12:16 am

Wow! You managed to avoid taking damage? Not bad, not bad. I must ask you, did you enjoy playing as Level 1 or did you miss your old powers?

4 Ameron August 11, 2010 at 12:02 pm

@Sunyaku
I find that going back to level 1 can be rewarding as a player and as a DM. But I don’t like starting that low all the time.

@Dungeon Newbie
I avoided taking damage through two encounters because I played smarty. I attacked from range initially and then once the defenders had the monsters engaged I moved in to flank. Playing the level 1 Essentials build was certainly interesting. It was very simplified. I see this is a very easy system for new players to learn but I think experienced players will find it too limiting.

5 ladybam August 11, 2010 at 3:10 pm

I swore I killed at least one of you… lol

Final total: 69 :)

6 Ameron August 11, 2010 at 3:49 pm

@ladybam
The delve we described in the article above was our first one. We did three by the end of the convention. When we played at your table you did indeed kill one of the PCs in the first encounter. The clock killed the remaining 5 PCs in the second encounter. So your 69 kills do indeed include 1 PC from our outing.

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