Major Changes Coming to D&D Encounters: DMs to Pay for Adventures

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on June 13, 2013

murder-in-baldurs-gate-coverAfter 14 seasons the free ride is over. Starting in August, with Murder in Baldur’s Gate, the D&D Encounters program is changing… significantly. Some of the changes are good, some are bad. I leave it to you to decide where you stand and whether or not these changes will affect your involvement with the D&D Encounters public play program.

The big news is that the adventures will no longer be provided to you or your FLGS for free. DMs will now be required to shell out $34.95 to purchase their own copy of the adventure. That’s right; if you want to be the DM and run the adventure for the public play program it will cost you, or the people in your gaming group, 35 bucks for each copy of the book.

If you’re like me one of the reasons you’ve volunteered to DM for D&D Encounters over the years is because you got the materials for free and when it was all over you got to keep the adventure. So why would I suddenly be willing to pay for the same thing I used to get for free? How do I not see this as a slap in the face from Wizards? Give me one good reason why I would even consider buying the adventure? Read on and you’ll find many good reasons.

First and foremost the adventure is compatible with 3.5e, 4e and D&D Next; no more of this “download the D&D Next conversion” step that’s required today. It would seem that all three editions are given equal treatment in the adventure. The book itself seems to be more than just a run-of-the-mill adventure like we’ve been getting. Here are the specs currently available online:

Murder in Baldur’s Gate: Sundering Adventure I (product description)

  • 96-page hardcover (size 7.09 × 9.06)
    • 64-page setting book describing Baldur’s Gate and its inhabitants
    • 32-page adventure book
  • Four-panel, foldout DM screen keyed to the adventure
  • Illustrated folder

There’s no mention of separate maps, but if you’re running this for 3.5e or D&D Next the 1-inch grid maps aren’t necessary so I don’t fault Wizards for not providing them. If you’re running this for 4e you’ll have to draw them out yourself or use dungeon tiles.

One thing that I noticed about the Murder in Baldur’s Gate cover image Wizards provided on their website is that there is no D&D Encounters banner, logo or anything to indicate this is part of the public play program. If you didn’t know better you’d think this was just another D&D hardcover like so many others on the shelf, and I suspect that’s what Wizards wants. Although their hope is that this adventure be played Wednesday nights at your FLGS there doesn’t seem to be the structure or format that we’ve come to recognize or expect from D&D Encounters. Could this be the beginning of the end of D&D Encounters or is it just a new and different way to present the materials while making a few bucks in the process?

Regardless of what direction the D&D Encounters program is heading, there will still be some support for the public play component beginning with the launch weekend. Murder in Baldur’s Gate begins on August 21, but during the weekend before that (August 17-18) there is a special introduction adventure that sets up the new season. This adventure is free and will be included in the kits provided to your FLGS. The kit will also have a few other items of note.

  • 2 copies of the short introductory adventure
  • 2 packs of non-player character cards for the DM
  • 20 exclusive player maps
  • 20 exclusive Murder in Baldur’s Gate d20s

Launch weekend coincides with GenCon so many of the DMs and players will likely be in Indianapolis and will miss the fun at the FLGS. The good news is that the launch weekend adventure is running all weekend long at GenCon (using the D&D Next rules) so people at the convention don’t have to miss out.

Murder in Baldur’s Gate is just the beginning. The next five seasons of D&D Encounters (assuming that’s what it will still be called) will follow the events of The Sundering, the next big crossover event at Wizards of the Coast. The heart of The Sundering will occur through six novels, each covering different characters and locations throughout the Forgotten Realms. However, from what Wizards has hinted, players will get to help decide the outcome of The Sundering based on the results of their play experiences during the five adventures. I’m sure we’ll hear more about this soon.

So there you have it. You know what I know. D&D Encounters is changing. The adventures will be sold like any other book to anyone who wants to pay up. DMs no longer have exclusive content so be mindful of players who seem to know too much about what’s going on.

Personally I’m really hoping that my FLGS will reward offer the longstanding DMs by eating the cost of the books and giving them to us for free, or at least at a significant discount. After all, I know that some DMs have brought in a lot of players and those players have in turn bought stuff and generated revenue for the stores. As long as the public play program continues to provide the FLGS with revenue it might not otherwise receive I think they can absorb the cost of a coupe of books every 13 weeks.

Based on what we know so far what is your reaction to this news? If you’re faced with paying $34.95 for the adventure or quitting D&D Encounters what will you do? How many people think that this is going to outright kill D&D Encounters? How many people think that making the adventure available in 3.5e, 4e and D&D Next might actually bring new players to D&D Encounters and public play?

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1 ramanan June 13, 2013 at 10:46 pm

I’d be curious to see if making the adventures playable with 3.5 will get more people out. It seems like that edition is still pretty popular. (Though I’m also guessing most people who like 3.5 have moved on to Pathfinder at this point.)

The module itself sounds like a pretty nice splat book, but $35 seems a bit pricey.

Would this change bring Encounters more in line with Pathfinder’s public play stuff? They sell their Pathfinder Society books to anyone, right, with the exception they’ll run games in stores? (I honestly know next to nothing about Pathfinder.)

I wonder if Wizard’s is trying to move away from the super structured nature of the Encounters adventures. I enjoy coming out and playing, but I feel like they paint a very shallow picture of D&D for new players because of the constraints of the program. D&D Encounters leans heavily on problem solving by combat, and usually feel very linear / railroad-like because each session has to lead into the next.

I’ll be pretty disappointed if Encounters fades away. I enjoy meeting up and playing on Wednesdays.

2 DM Marcus June 13, 2013 at 11:00 pm

I have been DMing Encounters for our FLGS since Lost Crown of Neverwinter and I agree that the main incentive to do that was so that I’d have some cool free stuff. I don’t see me buying my own public play stuff for WOTC’s benefit, the store’s benefit and the customer’s benefit. Lose a DM; lose (in our case) about 18 players.

3 Tom Mueller June 13, 2013 at 11:09 pm

It’s about 2 months too soon to make a decision, but what I’ve read has me looking forward to a new, more free-form campaign format. After so many seasons of one-shot adventures, my Encounters players are ready for a longer form game. Besides, is there anything else for 4e on the publishing schedule?

4 LordOcampo June 13, 2013 at 11:28 pm

It’s what we can expect from the whole 5E idea: a money-grabbing scheme for Wizards of the Coast. That Pathfinder set looks prettier every time I look at it while reading news from WotC.

5 Stephanie June 14, 2013 at 12:02 am

I’m out. I’m done. I already was taking this season off from Encounters, but Wizards has just lost a lifelong DM and one of their staunchest supporters.

At this point, I’m tempted to convert my Lost Crown adventure for Dungeon World and run that, hopefully sell some DW books and help get rid of the drunk elephant that is Hasbro/WotC.

6 Joe Lastowski June 14, 2013 at 12:07 am

First off, I’m guessing that this came about when they saw how many folks who didn’t live near gaming stores wanted to buy copies of the Encounters adventures. Somebody at Hasbro said “Hey look, we can monetize this. How about we do that right from the get-go!”

As for the multiple editions, I like the theory of that. However, if that means they provide less support for all editions, or do something silly like not including edition-specific stats for each monster & challenge, I’ll be upset. I don’t mind pulling up the 4e Adventure Tools online to get monster stats for a 4e game, but if I have to buy the reprinted 3.5 Monster Manual or slog through those awful playtest documents to find the NEXT monster stats… I will not be a happy camper.

The one hope I have for this, though, is that WOTC has realized that NEXT is nowhere near as appealing as they want it to be (nor will it be, if they keep up with the current basic system), and that maybe they’re accepting the idea that 3.5 and 4e are pretty solid systems that still deserve support.

7 Keldor the Burnanator June 14, 2013 at 12:11 am

For me, the biggest hit here is not the money… although that will be an obstacle, its not the end of the world. Between stores and players, coming up with $3 a week shouldn’t be too hard.

What seems hard to swallow for me is the exclusivity of it all. Participating in organized play meant you got something special! Wizards asked people to step up and be ambassadors for the game. In exchange, you got something cool and something special that no one else got. Now what are you? Just someone with $35 bucks.

Also, it was a way to get people to actually show up to organized play! Want to play this special content? Cool, come out to your local game store and join in! Now I’m sure we are going to see people running this in their basements, privately with their buddies any old night of the week. It takes away from the idea that organized play is being part of something bigger and better than the sum of its parts.

For now, overall, I’m going to say thumbs down… I feel like they broke their own cardinal rule: Don’t split the party.

8 Greyson June 14, 2013 at 12:17 am

It appears that the store bus the materials, not DMs. Store managers/owners might pass this cost onto the people that okay on the season. Or, they might not. it did not seem to explicitly say DMs must pay for this material.

I think it’s about time Wizards of the Coast charged money for this content. Thirty-five dollars is a small price to pay for content that brings people into the store.

I like this new approach to the program. And I especially like the adventure being presented in three rules iterations. Great idea.

9 Ladybam June 14, 2013 at 12:19 am

Since I buy most of the books anyhow it’s just more money I spend on my hobby. As Derek knows, I will gladly run this or any other adventure. I was very sad to see Lair Assualt go, but encounter finishing it would suck big time. Keep some free play happening. LFR is slow down, now this, were is WOTC taking DnD. Guess we should here some after this weekend of Orgins and more after Gen Con

10 Sunyaku June 14, 2013 at 12:38 am

Meh. Our FLGS has mostly switched over to playing LFR instead of Encounters. Some will buy in, but this will only further encourage such trends. We have enough experience and skill in the Madison gaming community that if WotC vanished off the face of the Earth tomorrow, people could easily step forward to produce their own quality content to run for our fellow gamers. Many of us have been sorely dissapointed at the lack of originality in the Encounters campaigns over the years.

11 Matt June 14, 2013 at 12:47 am

According to the WPN page, you would still need to download the conversion document for this one:

“Three Ways to Play!

The adventure can be run using v3.5 Edition, 4th Edition, or D&D Next rules. The conversion document for the adventure will be available by August 10 on at”

12 Jeff B. June 14, 2013 at 1:06 am

I’ve never run or played any of the public organized play/RPGA events because I don’t know of any shops nearby that run them. I’ve always been interested in seeing the materials for these events, and wouldn’t mind paying for them. I might actually buy these books if they’re made available where I can get them. I guess it’ll be an adjustment for those who have been participating for free, but it sounds like the material they have planned is pretty substantial.

I guess it could be construed as a moneymaking plan, but I have a hard time making that rationale. That’s because they’ve released what is essentially a complete game, hundreds of pages, in the Next playtest materials, which are updated regularly. So I don’t begrudge them.

13 Jack Skellington June 14, 2013 at 1:24 am

Stephanie, what’s Dungeon World?

14 Spykes June 14, 2013 at 3:45 am

You guys are crazy overreacting and I think this article is incorrectly reporting how much the adventure is going to cost each time. This INITIAL adventure is packaged with the 64 page campaign guide and the new Dungeon Master’s screen. In 4e, both of those would have cost you $35 easily. You won’t need those materials every time a new season rolls around. Wizard’s has to look out for the retailer’s as well as promote their new products. I would bet that this is a one time deal for the launch of 5e and that future adventures will go back to free or at least much cheaper.

15 Cent June 14, 2013 at 4:58 am

If Spykes is correct, and this is a one time purchase for the core module, then this might not kill Encounters. If $35 is just the initial buy in, and subsequent seasons continue to require similar purchases to play Encounters, then I’d wager that Encounters is basically done.

Suffice it to say that Wizards needs to provide some additional details ASAP.

16 Vobeskhan June 14, 2013 at 6:07 am

As far as I am aware the Campaign Guide is specific just to the Murder in Baldur’s Gate adventure/season as having sanctioned the following season (Legacy of the Crystal Shard) and its Games Day event it appears that each subsequent season will follow suit.
As a huge Forgotten Realms fan I will most likely buy the products anyway but as our FLGS is more wargame and MtG orientated they struggle to order in D&D stock, so I may have to rely on Amazon and such.
Even though we were late to the Encounters party (joining with season 8 – Elder Elemental Eye) and this has introduced over a dozen new customers to the store itself, I do think that this may well be the final nail in the coffin that sees the program die in our store, which will be a real shame.
If the adventures are going to be on general sale there will be no incentive for players or dm’s to attend anything other than the Games Day events and then just run games at home whenever they wanted rather than the regular Wednesday sessions.

17 Andy June 14, 2013 at 6:49 am

“all three editions are given equal treatment”

“If you’re running this for 4e you’ll have to draw [the maps] out yourself”

Do you think this would seem fair if you applied it to other editions? “If you’re running 3.5 you’ll need to come up with the monster stat blocks yourself” 🙂

18 froth June 14, 2013 at 9:54 am

Interesting read. I think most DMs run Encounters to keep the maps moreso than the adventure. I doubt anyone ever runs them twice. So to see a ‘season’ cost 35 bucks and not even have any battlemaps is kind of crappy. In the end it doesn’t matter much to me; nobody will pay to run this at my FLGS. It isnt really organized play at this point, its a 35-dollar 5e playtest.

19 Moe Tousignant June 14, 2013 at 10:13 am

This is just the first published Next Module that was announced like a year ago. It has nothing to do with public play or encounters. It’s a mod you buy at the store just like any other module you’ve been able to buy for years.

20 JSollars June 14, 2013 at 10:38 am

Honestly, this decision leaves me scratching my head.

I thought the primary purpose of Encounters was to bring new gamers into the fold. I, for one, was brought back into the DND fold via Encounters after a very long lapsed period of playing other RPG’s. I started with Season 4 (Phantom Brigade) and I continue to play or DM every season since then. I even got my Brother in Law and my 14 year old neice into the action, they both play every week now as well. We all patronize our sponsoring FLGS for books and dice and such, and we all wave our own DND insider acccount subscriptions.

Paying to play discourages casual gamers, it appeals more to certain groups who will pony up the cash and play within their own group only, rather then welcoming newcomers.

I also see little point, from Wizards POV, in supporting 3.5 (or even 4e for much longer). If a new player did come in and get hooked, but it was with a group playing under the 3.5 rules, the new player is out of look as far as buying the core books, with the exception maybe of the revent reprints but that only goes so far. It’s not making a new customer who would support the product going forward.

I also dislike the idea of losing the excellent poster maps. Keeping the maps was a big reason I continued to DM the majority of the seasons. It also made running each session a breeze. I see losing the maps as dropping one of the major incentives for experienced DM’s to run games, as well as make it harder to run each session (and therefore could also lead to each session being less fun for the players, leading to less player retention from week to week, and less newbies becoming new customers for WotC).

I have no issue with WotC making money off of Encounters by selling the adventures. We have all seen the modules being sold online for big bucks. I would just prefer to keep the current format and let Wizards sell the advbentures to others after the current season ended. I also think including poster maps would generate more sales either way.

21 Alain Royer June 14, 2013 at 10:57 am

I didn’t know that those adventures were in fact D&D Encounters adventures. I have pre order the Sundering Adventure 1 on dec 2012 and Sundering Adventure 2 on mar 2013. We don’t have any LFGS near by that have a D&D Encounters game running, so it will be a first for our group.

35$ is not much when eBay at ~100$ was the only way to get those adventures for us.

22 Stephanie June 14, 2013 at 11:33 am

Jack Skellington: Dungeon World is a story-driven new game based on the concept of collaborative storytelling. It costs $25 in print, $10 in PDF, and the entire thing is available in SRD format online ( It’s fun, lightweight, and gives people a taste of “old school” high fantasy adventures without the crunchy mechanics. It is, for me, the best new RPG that’s come out recently, and I’d be pretty excited to run a weekly game of it, if I had 3 other GMs who could do it as well.

23 Erik June 14, 2013 at 12:00 pm

As Moe Tousignant pointed out – this is not the next D&D Encounters module, it is the first of the planned adventures. Of course you’ll have to buy it as you would any of the modules that WotC released.

This module starts “The Sundering” adventures and will be followed up by Legacy of the Crystal Shard in November.

I don’t know if the Encounters is changing or not, but this adventure at least isn’t part of the Encounters program.

24 Ameron (Derek Myers) June 14, 2013 at 12:32 pm

@Moe Tousignant & @Erik

According to the article on the Wizards Play Network in the D&D Encounters section (which I’ve linked to at the end of the article above) Murder in Baldur’s Gate will be the Encounters adventure. Of course, since it will be sold to anyone with $35 it doesn’t have to be used as a D&D Encounters adventure if you don’t want it to be. But if you’re playing D&D Encounters this will be the book to use.

  • The six novels and five D&D Encounters seasons spotlight the impact of the Sundering on different places and people of the Realms.
  • This D&D Encounters season uses the Murder in Baldur’s Gate adventure product that is sold through your store.
  • For your store, this means that Dungeon Masters will need to have a copy of the adventure product for the 13-week season.

25 PistolPete June 14, 2013 at 1:00 pm

i agree with a lot of the points raised. but without some more details it’ll be hard to know the impacts. IF they are treating this as some kind of a “adventure setting” type of thing like VorRukoth/Gardmore Abbey/ Menzoberranzan where it can serve as a jumping off/home for the PC’s to be used beyond the encounters season, then the cost seems reasonable imho. but i really like going to my FLGS on wed nights versus someone’s basement on a saturday afternoon.

26 Joe June 14, 2013 at 1:09 pm

I’m even okay with losing the exclusivity of Encounters… as long as it’s after the fact. In the same way that they fully reprinted the DM-Rewards-only “Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan” many months later in Dungeon magazine, they could sell a season after it was over. Lots of folks in my area have re-run old Encounters seasons in home games afterward, because some of them had decent replay value and fun stories.

It does feel like WotC is sticking a knife in the back of the folks who have been helping them out since the beginning, though. If stores need to pay for the products, then they’re asking the already barely profitable gaming stores (anyone in the business knows you don’t open a gaming store to get rich, you open it for love of the hobby) to shell out at least $35 (or $70+ if you run multiple tables at your store) for each new season. If the cost gets passed on to the DMs, then WotC is basically saying “Hey, all you people who have championed our product and worked tirelessly on the front lines to bring new people into this hobby, all you folks who’ve made our product come alive in the minds of your players… we’re going to charge you for the privilege of doing that now, while simultaneously giving you less for your money than we used to give you for free.”

It’s just shady all around. I understand it’s a business decision, but it’s a hurtful one, and I don’t think it bodes well for future interactions between WotC and their base.

27 froth June 14, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I don’t understand why they are even bothering to call it Encounters. Its really just buying a module and running it at your game shop. There should be something to make it exclusive in some way. At least a discount to DMs running it at a store or some kind of freebie. Sheesh they cant give a few of these away? I am sure they are going to sell a lot of these FR retcon playtest modules, as many people seem more than willing to pay to playtest 5e. People are already hot and heavy for that Ghostpear Castle Gencon adventure, whining that they cant buy it. And a lot of FR fans I am sure will buy the adventures that erase the 4e Realms.

28 Alton June 14, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I am not sure what to do with this information. I am confused on the way things will be presented. I have mixed feelings on the whole thing. I agree with some of the above that Encounters will no longer be an exclusive in store play only. Buying the module will allow players to keep home and play with their friends. They can play anywhere and anytime they like. People like me and my store will definitely suffer in the following season.

What if a DM buys the module, but then misses a week of play? That FUBARs the whole adventure.

A few things really bother me about this change:

-reporting!!! why do we even have to sanction the events anymore. There goes public play.
-no in store gaming…no new players, and the store would not make anymore money.
-DMs will not want to come out and volunteer anymore…no incentive.

Good changes

-more accessibility for those areas that have no encounters in their towns. I have been chatting with a few people who ask me for copies of the adventure so they can play them also; people who have not played D&D for awhile.

I guess that’s it for good changes. Sad to see it go this way. I found the program was becoming extremely solid and wonderfully playable. Nice maps, solid adventures and a great chance to meet new players.

29 Christopher Hackler June 14, 2013 at 2:57 pm

I don’t play encounters but really like accessibility of the adventures. I would enjoy all the Lair Assault adventures packaged together as well. I can understand that DMs who run the game at the FLGS was at least somewhat attracted to the opportunity because of the free adventure. Seems like something that could have been worked out both ways with a little thought. Wizards could have used the goodwill from the gaming community, but this isn’t the way to get it.

30 Amadorn June 14, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Pathfinder Society remains free… I’m not going to pay WOTC to use me as advertising material.

31 MartianAlien June 14, 2013 at 4:30 pm

I suspect there are a few things in play here. WotC has promoted Encounters to the stores as a way to get customers in to buy D&D products. The Encounters kits cost money, both for WotC to produce and retailers to order.

I suspect that WotC has had some push-back from retailers. Encounters may be bringing people into the stores, but there has not been any new (actually new, not reprints) D&D products to sell. Outside of brand-new players getting into D&D, whatever edition players may prefer, they’ve had plenty of opportunity at this point to pick up whatever books they choose. This change means there’s a new product – edition-neutral, even – on the shelves that retailers can point customers towards.

And for those who are thinking that it’s only for this particular season, indications are that future seasons are following the same parameters. Legacy of the Crystal Shard has the same format and price ( ) and as mentioned above by Vobeskhan, it’s the following Encounters season.

I’ve been DM’ing Encounters since the middle of season 2 (Dark Sun), acting as coordinator for the past couple years, and I don’t see myself continuing under those terms. I’m not enough of a fan of FR to want to repeatedly spend money on these adventure+sourcebook releases.

32 Robert June 14, 2013 at 7:50 pm

It’s only $25 on Amazon. As someone who has never had the opportunity to participate in Encounters in a store, I’m happy about this change.

33 Michael June 14, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Well, not surprised but in the end I can’t say much all they really put out for 4e was more and more mechanical stuff. There was little setting information and most of that was under subscription anyways. I’m not sure how many people showed up in stores and such, but the pack seems like its aimed for multiple groups which what little experience I have shows is really limited to one group generally.
I would have suggested limiting them to PDFs and then offered maps at a much lower cost. Personally, I got surprised when I as told GM was charging a dollar per session. Not so much of a problem, but I wasn’t actually very interested and was just joining to fill out group, ended up new person (who the GM let make a HYBRID for very FIRST character!!! arrg!), wasn’t told until after 1st session, and finally it conflicted with a game that I already was in. So having to shell out 5-6 to play for a module doesn’t interest me. Sorry, kinda got off topic.

Anyways, unless they learned their lesson from 4e and Hasbro listens, I doubt things will really improve in DnD Next. I guess we’ll see.

34 DM Marcus June 14, 2013 at 9:49 pm

DMs and the FLGSs are the disc-jockeys playing WOTC’s music. They are the front line that talks this product up to the public. Radio stations don’t expect to have to go out and buy a song in order to play it. The record companies are glad to send the music to the stations in order to get airplay. They supply the station because each play is an advertisement for their product.

That’s what public-play DMs are doing also.
WOTC… What is our new incentive to tout your product?

35 Alphastream June 15, 2013 at 2:34 am

There have been many changes to organized play programs over the years, and running the programs is expensive. At various times the RPGA charged for adventures, including in 2000, when it went from free to $10/scenario (and a $30/year membership). Around that time the RPGA was reportedly only covering half its costs through membership, had only half the budget it was requesting ($1M instead of $2M), and had 76,000 members.

The closest parallel program is Pathfinder Society, which does charge (less) for its (much smaller) adventures. Many organized play programs (Shadowrun, etc.) charge for their adventures (often providing a discount for DMs running in a certain setting, such as conventions).

No doubt the cost will be an issue for some. But, there have also been many wondering why Wizards didn’t charge for the adventures and many asking to be able to run the adventures at homes or other public spaces. We will have to see how this pans out. Across the years the emphasis has shifted between store, convention, and home play. This seems less to hurt gamers and more likely to be insufficient incentive to focus on the store. You bought the adventure… why come to the store every week?

As for the cost, I can only say that it should be well worth the cost. I wish I could share more as a playtester, but I can’t. From the publicly available information it seems to be like a combination adventure and also a sourcebook similar to the excellent Neverwinter campaign guide. It should be useful not just for this season but for use in many adventures and campaigns across the years.

36 Chris June 15, 2013 at 9:20 am

A well run store shouldn’t be hurt by this change. If the D&D Encounters generates enough revenue to cover the cost of the materials, I’m sure a smart owner will absorb that cost. If the revenue isn’t there, other opportunities should be considered. Fortunately, stores and players have the ability to organize events through Facebook, Google+, MeetUp, Twitter, etc. Granted you lose the advantage of the program advertising provided by the WoTC web site, but I don’t know how much traffic is being driven to a particular store through that media.

This change provides a great opportunity for FLGS and players to experiment with other systems new this year: FATE Core, Dungeon World, Fantasy Flight Star Wars, ShadowRun 5th Edition, Numenera, 13th Age. Stores could also encourage groups to play other established systems like Pathfinder, FFG Warhammer (Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, etc). Why tie your sales and customers to the whims of one company? I ran D&D Encounters for over 2 years, but have been wondering if there is an appetite for some diversity.

37 anarkeith June 15, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Alphastream makes some good points. I DM’d multiple seasons of Encounters and enjoyed the swag. The store enjoyed customers. Not sure how much WotC got out of it.

Making the material available to the general public answers the problem of players without an FLGS. It expands the user base (in theory.)

That said, DMs are the key to the growth of the game and a program without some incentive is a problem, I think.

38 ArdRhi June 16, 2013 at 10:27 am

I stopped with D&D years ago because it just got more and more complicated and difficult to play. I have first edition copies of most of the original hardcover guides, and I haven’t touched them in over 25 years except to move them.

If you don’t like what they’re doing, don’t play their game. I’d rather run an XDM campaign now anyway — the system is dirt simple and a lot more fun.

39 Feeroper June 18, 2013 at 1:05 pm

I see a lot of ruffled feathers here, and I think with a change like this, that is to be expected. However, after marinating on this the last couple days, I’m looking forward to this.

My main reason is due to the assumed quality upgrade. Although I have really enjoyed encounters to date, I think this will bring the program closer to something we had with “Against the Cult of Chaos” which was excellent. I myself had intended to purchase this module since they announced it last year at Gen Con, so I’m happy to see I can get right into using it. The added setting book is also quite beneficial.

I also think it will be good for those that can’t access Encounters elsewhere.

In terms of drawbacks, I can certainly see where the worries come from, and I don’t think we will know for sure how this will ultimately affect things for the program going forward. However, imo, I’m happy to see what it brings to the table.

For those saying that Pathfinder Society is free, it most certainly is not. A single session of PFS is about a $4 PDF, and on top of that, no maps provided, you either have to make your own or buy their flip mats (or other compatible map). I’m not knocking PFS at all, just pointing out that there is most definitely a comparable cost associated.

40 B.J. June 18, 2013 at 6:33 pm

I’m not quite sure how to feel about this. I’m torn. The material sounds cool and could provide some neat materials to be used in-game. However, the cost could keep me away.

Our FLGS started to charge players $5 a session a couple of seasons ago. I do not fault them for wanting to monetize the process, but it has hurt numbers. We dropped down from two healthy, full tables to one table of about three players. There are a couple of other regular D&D games running. Those games have always cost $5. Many of the Encounters players fled to those game when the store started charging because they felt like they got more bang for their buck in those games. Which was true. They got to keep their characters and got to advance with their characters beyond the 8-10 weeks they gt keep them in Encounters. Plus, their sessions are longer.

The shop doesn’t seem terribly interested in keeping the program alive and I’m sure they won’t lend any assistance in purchasing the new books. I’m sure the purchase will be up to me and I have to say I’ll go the cheapest route I can (hello, Amazon).

I’ve also been looking for a way “out” of doing the Encounters program. I love it and it got me into to D&D. However, I miss playing. Those couple of other regular games running on Wednesday night are always looking for an odd player here or there. This mightily tempts me to use this as a jumping off point to enter one of those games.

41 Sunyaku June 18, 2013 at 9:28 pm

So, our FLGS is a premier store that runs 8+ tables a week… one kid’s table at 4pm, 3-4 adult tables at 6:30pm, and 3-4 adult tables at 8:30pm. In the last six months, the 8:30 slot has shifted toward a weekly LFR (one sessions split across two weeks) rather than encounters, just because people have been so dissapointed with starting at level one over and over, the storylines have been weak, and as a beginner’s event, the combats are generally not tactically interesting. With this change, I imagine even more tables will shift over to LFR. However, I do like the idea of WotC monetizing more adventures. For example, I know a lot of people would like to buy Lair Assault materials, and as others have noted, it would be nice for people with no FLGS to be able to buy Encounters materials… hell … I’d buy materials from a couple seasons I wasn’t able to run. There are some hardcore fans who buy everything who will buy this too, and may choose to run encounters, but this will stress our DM base… running games is a lot of work, and people volunteered their time in exchange for the swag. If the swag isn’t coming from WotC, I doubt our FLGS will spring for it… the shop is surviving, but they’re certainly not made out of money… so if DMs aren’t “getting” anything out of it, then they will run the content that THEY want to run, not the content WotC wants folks to run… and if Wotc’s new release strategy is ignored in this way, they may have fewer sales. I don’t know… I guess we’ll have to see what value Wotc is going to provide for the cost that will be imposed. If it’s not worth it, people won’t buy it, and a lot more tables will run something else.

42 Alphastream June 19, 2013 at 12:38 am

I had an interesting talk with a local store owner who runs a successful store. The store has been a part of the Encounters program from the beginning, but also recognizes the revenue brought by D&D and other RPGs (and the far greater revenue from M:tG and wargame minis).

The store is considering covering some of the cost of the adventures, which to me indicates the owner’s belief in the value of the program. We also talked about other potential models, but there was an understanding by the owner of where Wizards is coming from. Vault of the Dracolich has sold twice on E-Bay for more than $100. Some stores have been collecting kits and selling them rather than running them. And, programs must change. Change and failure are necessary parts of achieving success.

I am confident we will see adjustments to the program. Like others, I want to see more of an incentive for DMs to run the adventure (whether they buy it or the store does) so that being a DM in a public place for random/new/casual gamers is encouraged over just buying it and running it at home. Public play isn’t just marketing, but also a ground-level bolstering of our hobby across many different aspects of the richness of play.

43 Mike Trosen June 19, 2013 at 3:46 am

Total fail on WOTC’s part but anyone who knows much about them should have seen this coming, eventually. The makers of the greatest money sink ever devised, aka Magic: The Rip-off-ening, finds another way to put the financial burden for their marketing program onto the consumers.

If you purchase these packs, you’re deserving of getting ripped off. All you’re doing is enabling this type of BS behavior from WotC.

44 Hodor June 19, 2013 at 6:17 pm

From a non-DM’s (player’s) perspective, I think this will negatively impact Encounters overall, if the program remains. I can see some scenarios where it wouldn’t matter but it I believe it will be highly dependent on the FLGS, the local D&D gaming community, a philanthropic DM, or some combination thereof.

I picked up and read the 4e PHB 1 this January and played my first D&D game the following month which turned out to be an LFR module at my FLGS on their monthly game day. Wanting to get more into D&D, I was dismayed to find there weren’t any consistent groups running ongoing campaigns, LFR, or otherwise at my store. I was, however, fortunate to find Encounters being run. It really helped me learn how to play (still learning too) and seems like a good environment to test out new characters.

Since then, I’ve purchased and read the PHB 2, PHB 3, Essentials: HotFK, Essentials: HotFL, and the Rules Compendium. I also picked up a D&D Insider subscription. If the changes to Encounters were made before I started playing, I might have chipped in some cash if it were like $5 or so for the season only because I had already invested in the PHB 1 and I was really eager to play at the time.

Knowing what I know now and from my experience, I might not be inclined to do so currently. This is mostly on account of the game attendance at the FLGS. There have been a number of instances where it’s only been me and other times where there’s as many as ten other people aside from the DM. So, either the game gets called or we rush right into the encounter ignoring story and RP while everyone only gets 1-2 minutes for their turn to keep on schedule. I don’t imagine anyone would want to pay for that experience nor would it make for a good introduction to the game, in my opinion. If it matters, this is in a major metropolitan area where there are 2-3 WPN stores within reasonable distance and the scene is the same for all of them.

I think Keldor brings up a good point. There isn’t an incentive to go out to FLGS for this program anymore, if this will be the state of things. Like I mentioned previously, it may continue work for the reasons I listed above but it’ll be circumstantial, I’m assuming. I just don’t understand why WotC wouldn’t change the system to provide a couple of complimentary adventures for DMs running the program while still offering it for sale for those who don’t have access to WPN FLGSs and/or just want to own it? This would allow them to continue bringing in new business as the current state provides while tapping a new revenue stream. Here’s to hoping there might be some last minute changes which will be a win-win situation for everyone.

45 Shawn June 19, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Alphastream hits the nail on the head vigorously and often. For some reason, those without a firm grasp of reality, or who are deliberately trolling, do not give WotC the same right to make money that other companies get. WotC goes out of its way to provide game stores with a way to make money also–sometimes to the point that it is unwise: the stories of stores taking free content and selling it on ebay instead of actually running it are well-established. I have seen multiple stores in my area do exactly this.

D&D (and most other RPGs) are unique because there needs to be a GM facilitator for the game to happen. So the tightrope to walk for RPG companies is treating those gamemasters as both valuable resources and consumers at the same time. No other OP program on the same scale as Encounters just gives away content.

Other OP programs also don’t act as a gateway into competitors’ offerings like Encounters does. The percentage of gamers who start with D&D and move on to other games is so much higher than those who start with another RPG game and then move to D&D. WotC has not shied away from this reality, to their credit, even though few cut them any slack for taking on that role.

46 Fellow Sworn June 21, 2013 at 10:22 am

As a player whose become heavily interested in D&D though the Encounter’s program, this heavy-blow is lightened by the hope for quality and a little more than what we’ve been consistently given with the free adventures.

As for the cost, as I player I wouldn’t mind shelling out a few bucks and if the same option (this is important) was allowed, I’m sure players would be more than willing to help out the DMs.

Also (and I might get flak for saying this), if this is really a big problems for DMs, if their store is unwilling to cover any fees and the DMs themselves are on tight-budgets. All the DMs could pool in for one book and have it photocopied. And always, when the need arises, the internet will provide PDFs (that’s not to say that DMs should not try to cover the costs. Wizards makes some good stuff)

47 dude June 22, 2013 at 2:12 am

well i learned on the encounter program and hope is does not go away. its a steady game to play in the middle of the week. show or no show their is still an encounters game. but a lot of people already wouldn’t dm when they thought they had to pay and it was free. i guess now the guy no one wonted to DM has his day, he will buy the material so he can finally be DM and get revenge on the better players. thank good for home games and other systems…who i wont name here….p a t h……………….

48 Shawn June 22, 2013 at 1:40 pm

This is a very complicated issue. I could write an entire book on just the issues with Organized Play and marketing in the RPG industry, and some of the decisions that need to be made by the companies in the RPG industry in order to stay in business.

But there is one thing that is pretty simple. WotC has given away 14 seasons worth of content, including not just adventures, but maps, minis, tokens, dice, and lots of other stuff. They have done this despite the fact that it has not necessarily turned into sales for themselves. They have done this, first and foremost, in an attempt to bring people into game stores, where the hobby might have a chance to grow and thrive–for everyone.

Now that they found that they might need to change the program in order to keep it going, there is obviously going to be some concern. It is the Internet, which is an outrage-producing machine. It is only natural. But I find it hard to imagine that between the game stores, the DMs, and the players, some sort of resolution cannot be reached. I always considered gamers pretty imaginative folks who could solve problems. At my store, I will continue to DM Encounters, because I would have brought the product anyway. Some game stores already charged a small fee or asked for donations to help pay for space. Some required a purchase of something to take part in Encounters. I know players who have already said that since they were going to buy it anyway, they would let the DM volunteers use the adventure throughout the season, and then give it back to the purchasing player at the end of the season.

Another thing is pretty simple. You can claim outrage or sadness at this, and claim that you are going to go play a different games OP program. However, someone is still going to have to pay for those materials, because WotC was the only one giving away the content for free. In fact, they still are giving away other OP content for free. Want to play Living Forgotten Realms? You can get about 1000 hours of free materials at the LFR website. Want to play in the Dark Sun setting? You can get free material (about 24 four-hour adventures) from the Ashes of Athas campaign for free.

I honestly do feel bad for players who will not get to play Encounters anymore because of this change. Hopefully people will be able to make it work. If 5 players at a table could find a way to pay $1 per week to play, that more than covers the cost of the adventure. Figuring going to a movie takes about the same time and costs ten times as much, I think that is a decent value.

49 Blast you all June 24, 2013 at 9:31 am

As a store owner who hosted D&D Encounters for nearly 2 years, I can absolutely say that THIS IS GREAT! For every comment above mentioning that they’re “done”, “finished”, and “out” I can only congratulate you all. The thought of running a mid-week event which conflicts with new comic book releases (a ridiculous portion of the entire setting to begin with), makes me cringe at this point. Not only did the “dedicated” players not have a concern with getting everything handed to them for “free”, but they could care less about the overhead which goes into hosting something as intrusive as encounters for “free” (again, I reiterate “free” – if any tournament organizer can constitute their time in sanctioning and arranging these events equal to “free” then they’re full of it).

So I conclude with this:
If you want to engage in any activity which has product support backing it, then do everyone involved a favor and make a purchase. If you can’t constitute that simplicity, then stay home and don’t waste the time of TO’s or store owner’s. We don’t need it. Wotc has handed you “free play” for a very long time, so get over it. If you have a minimal group of 4-6 players then divide the DM book among everyone (you really can’t afford $5.80 – $8.75 each?!?). Sound fair? No? Then move along to Pathfinder or something else and let us know how the “freebies” are with any company besides WotC.

Goodbye and farewell.

50 Ameron (Derek Myers) June 24, 2013 at 10:28 am

@Blast you all
I absolutely see where you’re coming from. Personally I try to purchase something from my FLGS on a regular basis and I’m a huge advocate that the other participants do so as well. I realize the store doesn’t make anything from 12 chumps who show up to play, take up space, and don’t give back to the store or the community. We actively invite customers to join us and we strongly encourage the D&D crowd to try other games. Charging something for D&D Encounters doesn’t seem out of line, but I know at my FLGS we’d likely lose half or more of our regulars even if the fee was something minimal like $2/week. Given our current numbers that would kill the program.

51 Chris June 25, 2013 at 6:39 am

@Blast you all
Wow.. I have to wonder if the Friendly in FLGS applies to your shop. It sounds like all the D&D Encounters players in your comic store are treated as bad customers and you certainly made it clear they are not welcome in your store.

52 Chet June 25, 2013 at 10:50 pm

It sounds interesting and a lot of work seems to have gone into it. but yes, the FLGS should get at least a discount or some ‘swag’. That cover art is incredibly dissapointing. Atrocious. 4e was by far the most esthetic , dynamic, and a rich color palette. Some may argue too heroic. But it was supposed to be. This is trying to get back to the drab earth tones. Which is fine. I know they’re trying Next to get back to the old look most likely. however this just looks bad. The covers and artwork were OK for 3.5e, if not broing. But these PC’s are just standing there. Wow. Exciting. And they look like they just stepped out of a Pathfinder book : ( Maybe the WotC D&D Art Director quit. I’m a graphic designer, that’s why I’m sensitive to that. Think about what music album covers used to be. They set the tone for the overall experience.

53 Alphastream June 26, 2013 at 12:19 pm

I think Blast is just being honest. Gaming stores do value the relationship with gamers and do care about them (they are themselves gamers, that’s why they ended up in this usually-not-very-lucrative-business). But, imagine how frustrating it is for them to run a program every week, giving table space to D&D when the Encounters players purchase so little? Near them are likely CCG or minis wargamers that are the store’s lifeblood.

Many stores don’t support encounters because the profit on D&D is so low. This change may be, in part, to help change that relationship. I really can’t fault any store for being honest about wanting that change.

I will note that for a new group, Pathfinder is equally expensive. Once the adventures are purchased, then they can be re-run at no cost (but that is true of any program). For something like D&D’s 4E Living Forgotten Realms or Ashes of Athas, there is no cost at all.

54 Bryce Lynch July 12, 2013 at 9:54 am

I’ll show up and run a free poor adventure because I like to run D&D. I won’t do that if I need to shell out $35 for the privilege of marketing for Wizards and driving sales to the store.

I wish Wizards would just be honest. Just say you’re killing off Encounters and shifting to a Paizo model.

55 CommanderCrud July 12, 2013 at 10:22 am

It always makes me laugh when people get so angry that a company is trying to make money. How dare they! I guess Wizards could have just let TSR go bankrupt and let D&D die off instead. Those greedy bastards.

56 Dracoprimus July 13, 2013 at 1:24 am

I don’t so much mind WotC making money from the program, but, as a DM, to go from getting the module for free, to having to pay $35 to run a game for others, is at a minimum a big leap. Especially for a program that has gotten pretty stale. The FLGS I go to, has gone from 4 Encounters tables, to maybe 2 if we’re lucky. If the DMs have to start paying for the material, then we’ll be lucky to have 1 table, if at all. Evevn if the store starts charging $1 per person per session to buy the module for the DMs, they’ll only be able to do that for 1 DM. I KNOW the store won’t eat the cost.

57 Matt July 24, 2013 at 11:01 pm

I’ve DMed since about the start of Encounter, and this just sucks.

Wizards has slapped me in the face for the last time. I’m going to advise all of my current players (24) and anyone else that comes into my store to move to Pathfinder. At least Paizo is honest with its fans and isn’t dropping support for its current edition any time soon.

I look forward to watching DnD Next fail due to gross-incompetence from Wizards.

58 Dracoprimus July 25, 2013 at 2:13 am

Of course Paizo isn’t dropping support for their current edition, they have no other choice. Pathfinder is based off of 3.5 OGL. In order to do a new edition, they would have to completely change the game engine.
I don’t have anything against Paizo, but it seems the WotC hate has led many to see Paizo as some white knight who will save RPG gaming from the evil money grubbing WotC.

59 Alphastream July 25, 2013 at 2:18 am

Matt, there is no great evil company nor any great white knight gaming company. The staff of Paizo is largely made up of people who worked at Wizards and really liked their time there. The staff of both companies hang out together and are friends. At some point in time Paizo will need a new edition. And everything we can blame one company about, we either can or someday likely will be able to blame the other about. For example, look at the forthcoming Paizo Adventure Path card game. Isn’t it pretty much an RPG played with cards? You buy sets of cards and to keep playing (and level up) you have to buy new sets of cards. And, honestly, I bet that game is a ton of fun. I know the designers and they are great people who love great games.

There just really aren’t evil entities at work here. Both Wizards and Paizo are fantastic companies with great people. Both companies have the necessity (in a tough market) to try new things. Paizo isn’t evil for charging for its Pathfinder adventures and neither is Wizards.

60 Dracoprimus July 25, 2013 at 3:50 pm

So many people forget that the primary purpose for ANY company is to make money for the owners. The main difference is how much of dick are they at doing that. And THAT answer is subjective.
My main issues with this is going from distributing the modules for free to the DMs to a $35 product. If they went to a $10-$15 module first, to ease into it, that would be different.

61 LordOcampo July 25, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Ok, let’s make this clear: a company is supposed to make money. So far, so good.

But while there are no evil shrouded villains and white knights in tabletop gaming, WotC has a reputation of treating their customers like crap. We are never forgetting nor forgiving that they made PAYING DDI suscribers almost beg for weeks before giving word on the status of Builder updates. WotC lost all respect from me since that moment. Paizo on the other hand, seems to understand the basic principles of PR.

62 Scott August 18, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Being a store owner let me just say this… D&D Players don’t buy anything. If we’re lucky they buy one book every few months (or from Amazon rather than me) and when they come play on Wednesdays they all have a great time…but I’m left with cost of electricity, AC, rent etc and they bought $10 worth of sodas.

I love D&D and the players, but seriously it is not a money maker and to add the cost of a book for each DM puts it into the negative.

Just my two cents….

63 squirbells August 22, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Scott –

I know a gaming store near me and they have given the D&D players the cold shoulder. They (the store) wouldn’t obtain the FREE encounters modules (and when they did they kept it for themselves.) The word is that the store didn’t like the fact that D&D players took up space and played for free. As opposed to the seemingly endless amounts of people playing Magic the Gathering/Pokémon,etc….i.e…$$$$. I said – Well if you want to buy stuff…HAVE SOMETHING we can buy. Other than dice and maybe a copy or 2 of the PHB…there’s nothing to buy. Sure if your into warhammer your good to go. Or Hordes/warmachine. Where are the miniatures (like -REAPER?) So when I used to go there….soda and chips were my only purchases (well other than the occasional brush or citadel paint.)

As for – Murder on Baldurs Gate – My DM purchased a copy. He’s not too keen on the lack of battlemaps so we’ll see what happens. We’re currently playing under DnD 5 rules…seems a bit weird to me. I prefer 3.5 or 4. But then again I’m out socializing and rolling dice. 🙂

64 Kashiro August 23, 2013 at 10:29 pm

People seem to forget that the Encounters program got to the point of just seeming to be a way to promote the current book they where trying to sell towards the end of 4th.

We had several long time DM’s (playing since the AD&D days) and who had run Encounters since the beginning flat out quit about the time Elemental Chaos came out, they all pretty much said they all where tired of pushing whatever book had been tied to that season. Came across like MTG in which only the current material was legal for play. Lost a lot of players when those guys walked. Granted sales of 4th pretty much came to a halt after Elemental Chaos.

As far as the Baldur’s Gate goes, the few players that have stuck it out are not liking the new format after just one session. The man who DM’s it says it feels to him he is being forced by WOTC to run a regular campaign in weekly sessions of an hour or so, said it took him longer then that to prep it as the adventure just gives guidelines and he has to do the rest of it (finding stats and building the actual encounter plus map of some sort). Many of the players asked if he would switch the Wednesday game to Pathfinder Organized Play.

I don’t see this lasting long if no changes are made.

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