D&D Encounters: The Elder Elemental Eye – Preview

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on February 18, 2012

Season 8 of D&D Encounters begins on Wednesday, February 22. This adventure coincides with Wizards of the Coast’s latest product offering, Heroes of the Elemental Chaos which hits shelves on February 21.

Below is a high-level overview of what you can expect during the coming season of D&D Encounters. It relatively spoiler-free.

The Adventure

This adventure brings us back to the Forgotten Realms and once again ties into the ongoing, cross-world saga of the Abyssal Plague. The adventure begins in the independent city-state of Iriaebor. Knowing this, some players may want to give their PCs a back-story and even backgrounds that have them from Elturguard or one of the nearby regions such as Cormyr, the Dalelands or the Dragon Coast.

The adventure itself has 11 encounters. Chapter 1 is three weeks, chapter 2 is four weeks and chapter 3 is four weeks. However, the character are given an opportunity to take an extended rest between weeks 10 and the climax in week 11. This means that PCs will be at full power, have an action point, their daily powers, full hit points and all their healing surges when they face the big boss at the end. I really, really like this idea.

Throughout the previous few seasons of D&D Encounters resource management was a real problem with my groups, especially the younger players. This meant that when the finally got to the end they were so depleted that they were almost always killed and that’s no fun for anyone. Taking the extended rest before the final showdown means that DMs can really go at the PCs and not have to worry about holding back. It also means that the encounter will be the most difficult of the adventurer and let me tell you it certainly looks like it’s going to be. Good luck heroes!

One huge improvement in the way this adventure is set up is that at the beginning of each session the DM is provided with a series of summary bullets which he’s instructed to read to the party. This ensures that the players remember what’s going on and that important details are not forgotten. This also helps if someone is new to the adventure or missed a week. I’m amazed it took eight seasons before Wizards realized that adding this was a good thing.

Many people will be glad to learn that unlike the previous season of D&D Encounters where there seemed to be endless NPCs, this adventure only introduces a few that you need to keep track of. Their names and relevance are included in the weekly recap bullets.

I was really happy to see that the entirety of chapter 2 and some of chapter 3 have the PCs doing a dungeon crawl. The last time the PCs had anything like this was way back in the first season of D&D Encounters. However, this time around they’re doing it because they want to and not because they’re trapped and looking for an exit. The DM has the entire dungeon mapped out in the adventure with key rooms provided on the full colour poster maps. Only a few areas have monsters which leaves the PCs with plenty of room to explore and have fun in the dungeon without getting slaughters every time the move from one room to the next.

The adventure seems to have a good balance of role-playing and combat. There are structured skill challenges and there are consequences for failure so take them seriously. Character designed for combat and nothing else will have difficulty with this adventure as it’s not just hack and slash.

Regrettably there are no situations in this adventure where the actions of the PCs will dictate which one of multiple scenarios they’ll get to play. However, given the very linear progression of the story I don’t think it would have fit anyway. The closest they come to this is during the exploration of the dungeon.

Character Creation

Last season Wizards made a significant change to the D&D Encounters program — they introduced week 0. Moving forward every season of D&D Encoutners will begin with a week 0. This gives the players a chance to create characters together, or at least discus options. I know that this would really be helpful for the groups I play with as we never seem to have enough leaders.

Again this season Wizards provided special character sheets. These are Elder Elemental Eye themed and look great.

The new book (in this case Heroes of the Elemental Chaos) is officially released the day before week 0 and the character builder is updated at the same time. This makes it easy for players to use these new options when making their characters (something Wizards strongly encourages).

Although the DM can participate in week 0 there is no need for him to be there. For DMs like myself it’s a good chance to just relax and take a week off before diving right into the next season.

Pre-Generated Characters

The same stock pre-gens were provided in the DMs kit. You can find them along with all the other pre-gens Wizards has provided since D&D Encounters began in the Dungeon’s Master Pre-Generated Character Library. We’ve reached out to our friends in the D&D community and hope to have some new pre-gens available by the time the season starts.

Amazing Maps

Every season I talk about how much I like the maps. This season is no exception. The maps are spectacular. Earlier this month I wrote about DM Compensation for running D&D Encounters. The biggest motivator for many of us is that we get to keep the adventure and maps when the season is completed. These maps are awesome and DMs should have no trouble reusing them in their home campaign.

Initiative Tracker

Along with the special themed character sheets we once again received Elder Elemental Eye themed initiative tracking cards. If you’ve got Initiative Trackers from multiple seasons mixing and matching them will certainly make it easier to distinguish the heroes from the monsters.

Fortune Cards

Although we don’t use Fortune Cards in my games they are obviously popular since Wizards keeps producing new sets along with every season of D&D Encounters. This season players can earn up to three special promo Fortune Cards exclusive to D&D Encounters.

When a player earns 20 Renown Points, they earn the Questionable Intent (promo 3) Fortune Card.

When a player earns 40 Renown Points, they earn the Demented Assault (promo 2) Fortune Card.

When a player earns 60 Renown Points, they earn the Worth the Price (promo 1) Fortune Card.

The Adventure Begins

Each season Wizards seems to learn from the season that came before it. The Elder Elemental Eye looks like another outstanding adventure. I can’t wait to begin running it. The inclusion of an old-fashioned dungeon crawl should really appeal to old school gamers while giving new players a taste of what many of the older adventures used to be like (and may be like again with the next iteration of D&D). Season 8 begins on Wednesday, February 22.

Visit the Dungeon’s Master D&D Encounters Archive for all of our ongoing weekly coverage as well as other great D&D Encounters articles and resources.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 JSollars February 18, 2012 at 5:52 pm

I will be stepping back into the DM ring this season after spending the last two as a player (I was the DM for both Phantom Brigade and Dark Legacy of Evard previously). Since I tend to have a pretty stable group of players every season we are looking at the idea of playing this season starting at level 4.

Any advice for a DM looking to do this, as it concerns either character creation guidelines (do I let them start with magic items or extra gold?) or scaling up the encounters to make them balanced?

2 Rick Hansen February 18, 2012 at 8:02 pm

I would really like to incorporate some of the “Elturguard or one of the nearby regions such as Cormyr, the Dalelands or the Dragon Coast” into my character’s background. Could you recommend some reading or resource material where I might learn about these areas, at least enough to use for making my PC?

3 Sunyaku February 18, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Hrmm… I hope our week zero goes smoother this time. It was a very noisy cluster of confusion last time. As a veteran player (did not DM last season) I spent the entire session helping teach a new player the rules and walking them through “hard copy” character creation. The builder has its flaws, but it makes life sssoooo much easier…
Sunyaku´s last blog post ..Love and Other Mental Maladies in DnD

4 Don Cee February 18, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Once again, I did not find a paper Player Tracker to copy and give to our players. It there a site out there with a fan created one?

Thanks!

5 Ameron (Derek Myers) February 18, 2012 at 8:56 pm

@JSollars
When we ran Dark Legacy of Evard we continued using the same characters from March of the Phantom Brigade. I found that adding more monsters was a better way to balance encounters than leveling up the monsters. As for loot, I made sure all players had at least one magical item, but in truth most had more than one already. I was also a lot more conservative when it came to issuing additional treasure throughout the next season. I opted for a lot more consumables (like healing potions) rather than continuing to load up the PCs with more magical items.

@Rick Hansen
If you have the Forgotten Relams Campaign Guide see “Cormyr” (pg 104), “The Dalelands” (pg 108), “Dragon Coast” (pg 116), and of course “Elturgard” (pg 124).

@Don Cee
Trackers for last season were available on the D&D Organized Play Downloads page.

I assume that Wizards will make trackers for The Elder Elemental Eye available soon (hopefully before the first week).

6 Joe Lastowski February 19, 2012 at 1:10 am

The only troubling thing I found with character gen was that (once again) Wizards can’t seem to get their story straight. The Elder Elemental Eye Encounters book says that you can use the 2 Essentials books, plus the Elementalist (sorcerer) and Sha’ir (wizard) from Heroes of the Elemental Chaos. It says that races can come from the 2 Essentials books, or you can play a Genasi from the Forgotten Realms book.

However, the D&D Web site (in the Encounters section) says you can use any player options from the 2 Essentials books or Heroes of the Elemental Chaos (which would open up the Monk, Druid, and Hexblade builds in the new book). However, there are not enough powers in the new book to flesh out a full Monk or Sorcerer, so you’ll need PHB2 and/or PHB3 support to build full characters with those classes.

Yet when you go back to the Elder Elemental Eye Encounters book, you only get extra renown points for playing a Sha’ir or Elementalist. In previous seasons, they’ve handed out extra renown for playing any fey race (Beyond Crystal Cave) or for having a Neverwinter theme (Lost Crown of Neverwinter). I really wish they’d get their stories straight.

That said, I’m super excited about the adventure, and I’m also happy that many of the miniatures I’ll need won’t require me to have 500 different elemental/archon/genie-types. I like the idea of an elemental-themed game that is still grounded in the normal D&D world. I love buying new minis and making new clay models as much as the next guy… but it’s nice to see Wizards letting us use some more common minis.

7 The Unlucky Paladin February 19, 2012 at 12:58 pm

People do use the cards… they just forget to draw them… BTW did you even give out the promo cards from the last encounters?

8 Joe February 23, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Our character generation session went well, though it was noted that the elementalist sorcerer is more underpowered than it should be, getting no daily power and only an encounter boost power. Players were so excited to play sorcerers, because of their missile-platform-like ability to just keep launching damage spells. Yet suddenly the elementalist sorcerer, whom you’d expect to be able to throw lots of damaging elemental powers, is crippled.

We also noted that there are a lot of strikers in the new book, but very little in the way of leaders & defenders. I’m hoping that the enemies this season tend towards more hit points and lower damage, so that strikers can shine. But we’ll see.
Joe´s last blog post ..Session 9: Wait, Which Bar Fight Were YOU In?

9 JSollars February 25, 2012 at 2:41 am

Hmm, I would have to disagree about the Elementalist build of sorcerer being underpowered (though of course I have yet to see one in play, though that will change next week as one of my players rolled up a Dragonborn Elementalist).

True, they get no daily but their At Will is a 10-range attack that does 1d12+Con+Cha plus a kicker from their element of choice.

A Fire elementalist who uses his Encounter can be scary. 1d12+1d6+1d10+Con+Cha plus it targets 2 creatures.

And being a Con based spellcaster makes them quite durable as well. The Dragonborn in my group has an 18 Con to start and can add his Con bonus to his healing surges as per his racial traits. 30 HP at first level, and each surge heals 11 hp (more than a third of his total hp each, not to mention the extra 1d6 from Healing Word).

They might lose out at higher levels but for herioc tier gaming they look pretty darn awesome to me.

10 Andrew February 29, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Is there any place to download play trackers? We didn’t get any this season in either of our kits.

11 Ameron (Derek Myers) February 29, 2012 at 2:56 pm

@Andrew
Surfing the forums I found this link to the official tracker.
http://wizards.com/dnd/files/ElderElementalEye_PlayTracker.pdf

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