D&D Encounters: Legacy of the Crystal Shard (Launch Weekend) – Preview

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on October 29, 2013

legacy-of-the-crystal-shard-launch-weekend-coverIn just a few short weeks we’ll begin season 16 of D&D Encounters. The adventure is called Legacy of the Crystal Shard and it’s part of The Sundering, the ongoing story line that’s running through everything Wizard of the Coast is publishing this year.

As a teaser for the new D&D Encounters season Wizards is once again doing a launch weekend event to kick things off. This is how last season’s Murder in Baldur’s Gate began and it worked quite well. The launch weekend for Legacy of the Crystal Shard is November 16-17.

Although I don’t yet have a copy of the full Legacy of the Crystal Shard adventure (available in stores everywhere on November 19) the launch weekend kit makes it pretty clear that what happens on launch weekend is an expanded version of the first D&D Encounters session. This is exactly how the launch weekend worked last season too.

The Adventure

Although the launch weekend kit only contains the events of the first session, some information is provided for the DM so that they have a good idea of what’s still to come. Based on these details and knowing how last season’s adventure was set up, we can draw some fairly reasonable (and accurate) conclusions about this season’s upcoming adventure.

Let’s first look at the launch weekend itself. The adventurer takes place in the Forgotten Realms, in the region known as the Icewind Dale. Anyone who’s read R.A. Salvatore’s Legend of Drizzt books should be quite familiar with this locale. Likewise the Crystal Shard in the adventure’s title is a direct reference to an artifact that appeared in many of Salvatore’s novels.

When the adventure begins, the PCs are escorting a caravan to Ten Towns in Icewind Dale. They’ve been on the road for a month already so it’s assumed that the characters have some familiarity with each other at outset. They are racing the inclement weather and have at least another five days ahead of them. Without spoiling the encounter, bad things happen on the last leg of the trip (bet you didn’t see that coming?).

After the danger has passed and the PCs have clearly established themselves as heroes to the local townsfolk, they realize that their jobs as escorts is over and they are free to do as they please now that they’re in Icewind Dale. Numerous NPCs approach them with offers of employment and requests for assistance. It’s up to the players to decide which NPCs they’ll help first, but there are three clear options that should get the everyone’s attention.

It would seem that Legacy of the Crystal Shard will follow a very similar format week-to-week as Murder in Baldur’s Gate. There are three power players and the PCs will have opportunity to help or hinder each of them each week. There is a brief outline provided to give the DM an idea of where the adventure is going next.

I should also note that the adventure is compatible with 3.5e, 4e and D&D Next. The monsters the PCs may encounter during the launch weekend are provided in the back of the adventure; their statistics provided for all three editions of D&D.

Maps

legacy-of-the-crystal-shard-player-mapAlthough the actual adventure likely won’t contain encounter maps, the launch weekend adventure does come with one poster map. As usual, it’s a great map that can easily be used by DMs after the launch weekend in their home campaigns.

On the flip side of the map we find the artwork that will adorn the DM screen accompanying the full adventure. It’s a nice advertisement, but I don’t see much use for it. I suppose it’s better than just leaving the other side of the map blank.

Along with the battle map, each kit comes with 20 maps for the players. This should prove useful during the course of the D&D Encounters season as the PCs will likely travel between the various locations in Icewind Dale.

For more maps, be sure to visit our D&D Encounters Map Gallery for all the maps Wizards has provided with the D&D Encounters adventures since the beginning.

encounters-16-map-1 encounters-16-map-2

Promo Cards

legacy-of-the-crystal-shard-promo-card

Remember that the idea of the launch weekend is to get people excited about the upcoming season of D&D Encounters. Hosting it on the weekend, rather than on Wednesday when D&D Encounters is usually played gives new players an opportunity to try out D&D and get a taste of what’s in store this season. With any luck new players who show up for launch weekend will decide to see what happens next and visit the store on Wednesday to play.

In order to entice new players and keep the interest alive with returning players, the launch kit includes 20 flyers/promo cards that the organizers are encouraged to distribute.

NPC Cards

Included with the package are 10 NPC cards (shown below). On the back is a brief description of the NPC along with pointers for how to run them. There are no game statistics printed on the cards.

Similar cards were included in last season’s kit. Unfortunately my FLGS didn’t get copies of last season’s launch weekend kit so I didn’t have the chance to use the cards when I was the DM. In retrospect I really wish I’d had the NPC cards given how many important people the PCs met and interacted with during the adventure. They would have made things a lot easier for the DM and players. I plan to use these this season.

encounters-16-npc-akar encounters-16-npc-baerick encounters-16-npc-davrick-fain
Akar
Kessel
Baerick
Hammerstone
Davrick
Fain
encounters-16-npc-derrick encounters-16-npc-duvessa encounters-16-npc-hedrun
Derrick
The Drownder
Duvessa
Shane
Hedrun
The Ice Witch
encounters-16-npc-hengar encounters-16-npc-stokely encounters-16-npc-mithann
Hengar
Aesnvaard
Stokely
Silverstream
Mithann
encounters-16-npc-vaelish
Vaelish
Gant

Free Stuff

legacy-of-the-crystal-shard-diceOver the past few seasons of D&D Encounters the players were rewarded with a free d20. Each season the 20 on the d20 contained a symbol related to that season’s adventure. This time around the dice are white with light blue numbers. The symbol on the 20 side is a tiny blue crystal shard. Each kit comes with 20 dice.

I’ve found that the dice are a hot commodity and that we haven’t had enough during the past few seasons to ensure everyone gets one. I’d recommend that the DMs not award the dice until the final session. This should ensure that the people who played the most weeks get the reward. But it’s up to each FLGS to decide how they want to handle it.

FAQ

legacy-of-the-crystal-shard-faqProvided with the kit was a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) sheet (click the image to enlarge). It covers all the generic questions you’d expect, including where do I get the adventure (you have to buy it), where are the monsters (you have to download them from Wizards), and how long is this season (13 weeks including the week 0 for character creation, and week 1/launch weekend). The FAQ sheet is also available on the Wizards website.

Instructions

Two different instruction booklets came with the kit. One describes the launch weekend itself, the other describes the season of D&D Encounters. I’ve scanned both and provided them below for your reference. Just click on the images to enlarge.

Launch Weekend Instruction

encounters-16-instructions-4 encounters-16-instructions-1
encounters-16-instructions-2 encounters-16-instructions-3

Legacy of the Crystal Shard Instructions

launch-weekend-16-instructions-4 launch-weekend-16-instructions-1
launch-weekend-16-instructions-2 launch-weekend-16-instructions-3

The Adventure Begins

D&D Encounters: Legacy of the Crystal Shard begins on November 13 with character creation. The launch weekend will happen on November 16-17 (check with your FLGS to see what day and time they’ll be running it). On Wednesday, November 20, the actual adventure begins.

Remember that the first session will cover the same events that happened during the launch weekend so if you don’t play the launch weekend adventure that shouldn’t be a big problem. However, DMs may want to have something else up their sleeve to pass the time if all the players at their table did participate in the launch weekend.

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 to 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.


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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 LordOcampo October 29, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Akar Kessel? He’s still around? Since the Crystal Shard was absorbed when it became one with the Ghost King, I guess the “Legacy” part has to deal with Kessel being “alive” after more than a century.
LordOcampo´s last blog post ..Nuevos usos de los puntos de acción

2 Vobekhan October 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm

As most of my current players are planning on continuing with this season they have asked to either carry their characters over or have new ones of equal level, rather than drop back to 1st level. Having discussed it with my fellow DM we are happy to level the adventure up to accommodate this, and from the looks of the community forums several other groups are too.

Looking forward to this as I’m a huge fan of R A Salvatore’s novel series.
Vobekhan´s last blog post ..D&D Enc Murder in Baldur’s Gate – Session 10

3 dan October 30, 2013 at 5:43 am

I look forward to this event. I don’t know how I feel about the party being given the same party tie-in as in the previous season (caravan guards). Last time it felt almost forced, and I think just asking why the characters were there would have been better. Of course, the offer of a default in the event of a quickly introduced player is OK. It seems like it fits better this time, though, as the description seemed to say the players will still be with the caravan when the event takes place.
It also seems that the faction-heavy style will be present in this season like last, though the area may be more spread out. This may allow for more actual exploration, and possibly combat, as opposed to almost all roleplay. I hope it works out, especially since I will be DM for the first time at encounters.
Any advice for a first-timer?

4 Spykes October 30, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Looks like this is going to be another great adventure like MiBG, except that is will have a bit more traditional encounters instead of the slight departure of the city adventure. Just like last season, I think the Game Day packet is fantastic, but I’m EXTREMELY disappointed in the lack of tactical maps of key locations in the Encounters packet. As I did last season, I foresee spending quite a bit of prep time creating Encounter scenarios each week and their accompanying tactical maps.

I do agree with Dan above in they could have invested the characters a little more that the typical caravan guard role. I will probably work with my players to beef that story line up a little more.

5 Bionic October 30, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Now that I have a better handle on how to DM for my group I think this could be good. My only story concern is that I want my players to be doing heroic things. If the goal is to hook new players, than political back biting is not the way to go.

For Dan, as a less experienced DM my advice would be to get to know what kind of game the group wants. It may also make the players think about what they want from the experience. Feel free to improvise as well. In this last season, the less I cared about what I thought the adventure wanted the more I was able to work in what was actually there. And don’t be afraid to guide them by the nose or by fate if absolutely necessary. Have fun with it. If it’s not fun, change something.

6 Alphastream October 30, 2013 at 10:49 pm

I’m really impressed that they included maps. There was strong feedback for players asking for this. Nice to see Wizards listening and improving the value of the kit.

7 Ameron (Derek Myers) October 30, 2013 at 10:55 pm

@Alphastream
I’m pretty sure there was a map provided with the launch weekend kit for Murder in Baldur’s Gate as well. It depicted The Wide. We’ll see if any sort of tactical maps are provided with the actual adventure Legacy of the Crystal Shard. I’m guessing there won’t be and I’ve come to terms with that reality.

8 Frank Foulis (@DarthJerod) October 30, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Yes the launch event kit for MiBG included the same style maps in the Crystal Shard kit. Also the MiBG only came with 5 face cards, not as nice as the amount we got in this new kit.

9 dan October 31, 2013 at 3:57 am

@bionic: thanks. I hope to take what I’ve read the past two seasons for inspiration on improvisation. I hope to maintain better cohesion with the other DM to allow for more consistent groups, and possibly more solid details to the adventure, including encounter types. Having him as a mentor should help.

10 The Gimper October 31, 2013 at 6:37 pm

“I look forward to this event. I don’t know how I feel about the party being given the same party tie-in as in the previous season (caravan guards). Last time it felt almost forced”

My home group just started MiBG this past weekend, and I haven’t read the adventure (since I’m playing). So I don’t know (and don’t want to know) how it ends, but it seems to me it would be a simple thing to have the players hired by someone in BG as guards for the caravan (it could be the same caravan leader that they worked for going to BG). That gives you an easy tie-in/explanation.

-Rico

11 David Argall November 4, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Now are they going to try to hit us up and make us pay for the module this time?

12 tom Henderson November 6, 2013 at 12:21 pm

this looks similar to the Murder in Baldur”s gate situation.

only 1 map. have to pay for the package. large meta game of limited interest. I ignored the god aspect in MiBG totally. Never even referred to it at all except during the appearance of the baahl spawn at the launch event. the players stopped the destructionof the High Hall but somehow failed to stop the explosions in the mines in the mountain next to baldurs gate. this ignited the remaining explosive gasses inthe mines and blew the top of the mountain. now the PC’s (and all the NPCs) are running for their lives from pompeii!

solved that nasty baldurs gate problem by wiping it fromthe map.

Next up is ten towns… I wonder what havoc I can wreck there?

If I have to buy the adventure I get to do what I want with the module.

I am thinking perhaps bubonic plague…

13 jmb November 7, 2013 at 7:27 pm

@tom Henderson make sure you guys put Baldur’s Gate back the way it was, I was planning on going there.

I’m glad the local gaming shop has been chosen to run this campaign.

“Can I play a dragon?”

14 Diceelemental November 16, 2013 at 5:39 pm

I Ran launch weekend to this today went well, better then Baulders even, looking forward to getting the full adventure this week i hope

15 Justin Yanta November 21, 2013 at 7:58 am

Well I did not get the Launch Weekend stuff till the 19th so that made it a little hard to play. Odd thing was I did not receive the adventure yet either so I hope it will be here soon. We did character creation this week and since the Launch Weekend is the first part we will play that next week.

This week was character creation and we were going to run D&D Next for our tables. We had 10 people show up so it looks like it will be some full groups this season. Since we are playing with the latest packet this is what I saw with character gen:
1. Barbarian has fallen out of favor – Last season we had 5 Barbarians, 2 Rogues, 1 Ranger, 1 Cleric, 2 Paladins and 2 Fighters. This season (based on character generation) we have 4 Paladins, 1 Fighter, 2 Cleric, 1 Bard, 1 Rogue, 1 Druid. I think losing the Resistance against damage and Advantage on attacks really made people drop them for creatures with HIGH AC. Still no Mages.
2. We have Dragons – People are enjoying the new races added. We have 4 Dragonborn, 2 Warforged, 1 Drow, 1 Tiefling. Now we seem to have mostly “evil” dragonborn too (1 Black, 1 Green, 1 Blue, 1 Silver). Again even telling them they will be in the north at Icewind Dale there were no white dragon (resistance to cold damage).
3. Healing Galore but no Mage – Well i think the party will not be fearing death as much as others since we have lots of healing potential (espically at level 2) also the cleirc are 1 War and 1 Life Domain. Now the War Domain cleric might be a little powerful (3 Extra Attack thanks to War Priest). We will see.
4. Tanky Tank – OK the ACs for the group 19 (Warforge), 19 (Dwarf), 18, 18, 18, 18, 18, 15, 15, 14. So looking at the launch day creatures over 50% of the group will be fine as long as I roll 13 or under. Dam.

So I think this will be an interesting season and I want to see how everything will work out. I might have to make some changes to the monsters to make them more of a threat to the party.

16 mysticexarch December 12, 2013 at 9:22 pm

How does the author of this article know all of this information about the module?

I have the pdf. copy that was provided with the playtest packet and it doesn’t have ANY information in it. Just a bunch of random encounters. How does this author know that the players start out as caravan drivers, for example? No information on plot is given in the module.

For reference, I have the 10/14 update of the packet. Is that not he most recent (last?) one?

17 Ameron (Derek Myers) December 12, 2013 at 10:00 pm

@mysticexarch
The materials provided in the DnD Next play test packet are just the monster stats. These are meant to be used WITH the Launch Weekend adventure. Your FLGS needed to sanction the event before it happened and they would have been sent the adventure for free. Unlike the full adventure Legacy of the Crystal Shard, the Launch Weekend adventure is not available for sale. Although it will likely be made available as a download on the Wizards of the coast website in the next month or two (as the Murder in Baulder’s Gate Launch Weekend was).

18 Timothy O. January 13, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Hi there,
I recently purchased Legacy of the Crystal Shard from my local brick-n-mortar game store. Where I live, there are no D&D encounters events taking place. Can anyone point me in the direction of any maps/ battlemaps (products) which would be particularly useful for this adventure? There seems to be a lot of things out there (tiles, etc.), and I’d really like to optimize our tabletop experience!
Thanks in advance,
-T.

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