In 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.
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.
Although 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.
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.
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.
The Ice Witch
Over 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.
Provided 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.
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
Legacy of the Crystal Shard Instructions
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.