On June 12 we begin season 14 of D&D Encounters: Search for the Diamond Staff. As usual, the initial session (week 0) is designated for character creation. The adventure itself runs eight weeks, from June 19 – August 7. It’s convenient that the next week 0 will fall the day before GenCon. I’m sure that was intentional.
You once again have the option of playing this season’s adventure as printed using 4e mechanics, or using the conversion kit and trying the D&D Next play test mechanics. Personally, I’m going to encourage some of our groups to try D&D Next this season.
The adventure itself takes place in the Dalelands of the Forgotten Realms. The events of this season’s adventure happen right after the events of the D&D Game Day adventure Vault of the Dracolich (happening everywhere on June 15 and previewed tomorrow on Dungeon’s Master). On Game Day a group of adventuring parties acting together launched a coordinated assault into Dretchroyaster’s lair and stole an artifact called the Diamond Staff of Chomylla.
This season’s adventure begins when the PCs are hired to accompany a sage on an expedition to the ruins of Uvaeren in the Cormanthor Forest near Mistledale. He hopes to gain access to the Vault of Song, one of the lost ancient libraries. He plans to use the Staff to bypass the magical wards and gain access to the library and its secrets. However, word has spread quickly that the Staff was stolen from the Dracolich peaking the interest of many evil doers, all of who want the Staff for themselves.
The Staff is stolen during week 1 before the PCs realize that there is any real danger and spend the rest of the adventure tracking it down and fighting against three different factions that all want the Staff for their own nefarious purposes – the Shadovar, the Zhentarim, and the Cult of Dragons loyal to Dretchroyaster (yes, more cultists). The adventure reaches its thrilling climax with a two week battle inside the Vault of Song.
For the second season in a row the adventure does not start at level 1 (and there was much rejoicing!). PCs begin this adventure at level 4 and will advance through to level 6 by the end. Every class and race is fair game so be creative and play the character you want to play. Although there are no restrictions on themes and backgrounds, it makes sense to try and pick something that works within the framework of the adventure.
Players not familiar with the Forgotten Realms who are struggling with a reason why their PC is in the Dalelands can find suggested backgrounds and adventure hooks in the Character Creations section of the adventure including details by race and class. Talk to your DM and come up with something that works.
I would certainly allow players to use the same character they played during the D&D Game Day during this season of D&D Encounters. Of course, the Game Day event uses D&D Next rules so that would only work if the you’re using D&D Next for the upcoming Encounters season.
For experienced players using 4e rules, why not try something outside of your comfort zone this season? Alternatively talk to some of the other players and come up with a shared history between your characters or common theme for the party. Perhaps you’re all the same race or you’re all divine characters who worship the same deity? Use your imagination and have fun.
No pre-generated character were provided this season, so DMs will have to either make some of their own or they can use the level 3 pre-gens Wizards provided last season (all of which are available in the Dungeon’s Master Pre-generated Character Library).
Challenge by Level
The adventure is broken into three chapters. Considering how grueling this past season’s four-encounter chapters were, this will likely comes as a welcome change. At the end of each chapter the PCs get an extended rest and level up.
With shorter chapters and fewer encounters between extended rests, the party will seem really powerful every week. To offset this advantage a little bit, each week’s combat encounter is above the party’s level. This will encourage players to employ decent tactics and play smart. Anyone who gets drunk with power will find themselves out of healing surges and daily powers before they know it.
- Chapter 1 – Week 1; level 5 encounter; PCs level 4
- Chapter 1 – Week 2; level 5 encounter; PCs level 4
- Chapter 1 – Week 3; level 6 encounter; PCs level 4
- Chapter 2 – Week 4; level 7 encounter; PCs level 5
- Chapter 2 – Week 5; level 6 encounter; PCs level 5
- Chapter 2 – Week 6; level 6 encounter; PCs level 5
- Chapter 3 – Week 7; level 7 encounter; PCs level 6
- Chapter 3 – Week 8; level 9 encounter; PCs level 6
Once again Wizards has provided us with great maps. Two double sided poster maps for a total of eight locales. My only criticism (and it’s a pretty minor nit pick) is that the maps are not set 50/50 on the page. One map on each side spills over exactly 1 square beyond the fold. Come on Wizards; really! Table space is at a premium in my FLGS and I imagine so at most shops. I only want to display what’s needed. More importantly I don’t want to create a new fold 1 inch from the existing fold just to show that one extra column. As I said, it’s a minor nit pick but it bugged me. Next season gave all the maps equal space; don’t encroach on adjacent maps. Otherwise, thanks for eight more great maps.
NEW: Wizard has provided two great Dalelands maps for this season that you can download form their website (or just use the links below).
Be sure to check out our D&D Encounters Map Gallery for all the maps that provided over the past 13 season.
Last season we got free d20s that showed the symbol of the Ashmadai cult on the 20. This season we get another d20. It’s clearly crafted from the same mold as last season’s dice (slightly larger than a traditional d20). The colours are different and the 20 displays a different symbol, some kind of tree or plant. I’m guessing it’s a Dalelands symbol. If anyone recognizes the symbol and can tell us definitively what it is I’d be extremely appreciative.
It’s up to the coordinators at your FLGS to determine how to distribute these rewards. At one of my FLGS they awarded them to anyone who played four sessions; at another they gave them out to anyone with an active DCI number. Since 20 dice are provided with every two copies of the adventure there should be enough to go around for the regulars, regardless of how they’re awarded.
The Adventure Begins
D&D Encounters: Search for the Diamond Staff begins on June 12 and runs through August 7. Any groups that decide to run this season with D&D Next rules should encourage players to come out for week 0 to create characters and start to get a sense of the new rules. Creating characters for D&D Next doesn’t take long and there’s something very satisfying about creating characters in a group like we did before the age of Character Builder.
Be sure to visit Dungeon’s Master every Thursday for our ongoing weekly coverage of D&D Encounters. Also be sure to listen to Recounting Encounter, the weekly podcast in which Marc, Craig and I provide our post-game reports. We’re also going to try and have a few special episodes this season where we interview some of the creative forces behind D&D Encounters and the D&D public play program. Recounting Encounters is now available in iTunes!
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.