Major Changes Coming to D&D Encounters: Adventures Sold Exclusively as PDFs

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on December 15, 2013

scourge-of-the-sword-coast-preview-coverBeginning with D&D Encounters season 17 Wizards of the Coast is taking the program digital. The adventure Scourge of the Sword Coast will only be available from as a digital download. No word yet on how much it will cost.

It also sounds like this adventure will only support D&D Next rules. As of yesterday (December 15) the D&D Next rules are no longer available as a free download from Wizards of the Coast. But don’t worry; they will be available at for digital download as well! And no word on how much they will cost either.

So beginning in February DMs will have to shell out for the adventure (in digital format) and for the rules (also in digital format). If DMs want hard copies it will be up to them to print off of the materials at their own expense.

The only thing wizards is still providing for free is the Launch Weekend kit which will come with a hard copy introductory adventure, special d20s, player maps, NPC cards and all the other goodies we’ve received over the past few seasons.

Personally I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have to pay for the adventure. I’m still not happy about it, but after seeing the final product for Murder in Baldur’s Gate and Legacy of the Crystal Shard I felt like I got my money’s worth.

Making the materials exclusively digital is going to take some getting used to. I imagine the reasons Wizards had for going digital were primarily dollars and cents. By eliminating the expensive costs of printing and shipping adventure booklets I assume Wizard stands to make a lot more money. Of course going digital means that people are a lot more likely to share one copy than all DMs buying their own, but that’s the nature of the beast and I’m sure they’ve taken that into account.

Personally I’m still a pencil and paper guy. I like having the tangible pages on the table in front of me. But I realize a lot of gamers are going digital. With my home group five of seven players stopped printing character sheets and just have them handy on their tablet or laptop when we play. Giving DMs a high quality, high res, searchable PDF version of the materials will actually make things easier for a lot of DM. So as much as I’d prefer to have a nice copy of the adventure and campaign book in my hot little hands, I can’t fault Wizards for opting not to give me that option anymore.

As far as the adventure itself, here’s what we know or can extrapolate based on the few details we have so far. It sounds like D&D Next will be the only system supported for this seasons of D&D Encounter. That would make sense if Wizards is hoping to make a few extra bucks by forcing new DMs to pay for the rules download. On the other hand, if they keep providing 4e and 3.5e conversion notes it will encourage players to purchase 4e source books or the recently released reprints of the old 3.5e books. But we’ll see. My money’s on D&D Next exclusive for the next little while as Wizards tries to get all players on board leading up to the official release next summer.

The adventure continues the Sundering storyline (no surprise there). It takes place in and around Daggerford (South of Waterdeep on the SwordsCoast). The events in this new adventure are connected to events in Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle. This seems like a good way to promote the Dragonspear Castle adventure which coincidentally enough is also available for digital download from (funny how that works, isn’t it?).

The adventure won’t contain a rigid structure as the older season of D&D Encounters did; rather it will be a free-flowing series of events that the PCs can interact with as they see fit. This is how things are set up in the current Legacy of the Crystal Shard adventure and it’s working pretty well so far. It does mean that DMs have to keep an eye on the overall timeline and keep players moving at a reasonable pace. It may also mean a bit of railroading to ensure the adventure is completed within the number of weeks allotted for the season. The season begins with the Lunch Weekend on February 15-16. After that the players have 12 weeks to get through the adventure (Feb 19-May 7).

My hope is that the PDFs will be made available for purchase at least a few weeks before the adventure is set to being. In both of the previous seasons I didn’t get my copy of the materials until a week before I was expected to run t. That didn’t give me enough time to read everything before the first game and I felt like I was playing catch up all season.

I’m sure this change of direction will cause a lot of people involved with the public play program to kick and scream, and whine and complain. I reserve judgment until I see the price point of the PDFs, the quality of the materials, and the support (or lack thereof) for editions other than D&D Next.

What do you think of this move to PDFs only? Do you think it will help or hurt D&D Encounters? If it goes D&D Next exclusive will that make you any more or less likely to participate in D&D Encounters?

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1 camazotz December 15, 2013 at 4:38 pm

I’m confused….is this the official third module in the six module series that started with Murder in Baldur’s Gate? Does that mean that modules 3-6 are not going to be in print, or is the Encounters deviating from the print series? If this is the third Sundering module, and they’re already abandoning print for it, then I may have to revise my estimate of what D&D 5E’s chances of success are. I can get everything Pathfinder in print or PDF as I see fit; not having a print option for D&D’s books seems like a bad idea. Hopefully I’m misunderstanding this, though. Also, curious what the price point will be. $35 for a print module with the screen was okay, but an equivalent price for PDF could be problematic, I would think.

2 LordOcampo December 15, 2013 at 4:40 pm

All I say:

Good~bye Encounters 🙂

I wonder, though: is this a measure of how bad the D&D branch of WotC is going in the economic sense? Because this means a dire need of cutting costs.

3 Brian December 15, 2013 at 5:19 pm

And so it continues. Have they learned nothing? While they are continuing to create waves in the development phase the game still feels lacking to me. The same old issues with the big six still exist. Best of luck to those running the system, but I have since given up on this franchise.

4 Vobekhan December 15, 2013 at 5:26 pm

I just noticed this myself on the sales solicitation flyer for Scourge, and must say I have mixed feelings.
I haven’t minded having to buy the last two modules as I would have done so anyway with them being Forgotten Realms adventures, but the terrible delays in shipping and bizarre release dates being only a day before the season’s have been due to start have led to us also running out of synch.
Hopefully as Ameron notes above, going digital will negate that problem and the powers that be will have them available early enough to give DM’s time for adequate preparation.
Speaking of preparation, this (for myself at least) will include needing to print the adventure out at my own cost as I dont have access to digital formats at our FLGS, so I too hope the price is reflective of this. £20-26 (inc P&P) for hard copy adventures (despite not being hardbound) wasnt bad but I’m hoping an official pdf version would be a little less.
The flyer says the adventure will be available for purchase, but the wording regards the playtest rules is “available for download” so maybe they’re just moving the hosting of the downloadable material.
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

5 Feeroper December 16, 2013 at 12:13 am

I have mixed feelings about this and will wait to see how it plays out. However, I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come for future products.

One of the unusual things is that the average FLGS will now have less incentive to host this now. No module being sold, and no rule books associated with the system being sold (if it is only D&D Next). I know my FLGS will be on board but I gotta think that some may have to think twice when there are no shortages of Magic players and other competing games out there.

I’m also concerned about the release timing, it’d be nice to have some room for preparation, but we’ll see what they decide to do.

6 Kiel Chenier December 16, 2013 at 12:31 am

See, this I can get behind.

Thus far, the new D&D Encounters seasons have been good times for players, but a logistical nightmare for anyone but the most seasoned Dungeon Masters. The books are heavy on prose, but very light on actual game instruction. I imagine one buys a pre-made product for its ease of use, but these new ones have felt like the exact opposite.

If they’re published digitally (for less than physical retail), it at least incentivizes and encourages DM’s to make their own notes, their own maps, and their own layouts. You’re forced to hack it, or else print out 80+ pages of content.

7 Naomi B December 16, 2013 at 11:06 am

This sucks. I didn’t mind taking the print copy and making it digital. But if I have to pay, why make it digital. No Maps, No nothing…. NOT HAPPY.

8 Hutchimus December 16, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Isn’t this what people have been saying D&D needed to do; branch out more into digital sales and offerings? Plus, I’m sure the price will come down from what they charged for MiBG and LOTCS. Seems like it’s hard for WOTC to please a lot of the blogosphere.

9 Greyson December 16, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Love this digital idea. I’ve been running my home game digitally for two years and I and my players love it. One of my first questions when MiBG and LotCS came out was, how can I get this on PDF? Looks like I won;t have to ask that question come February for Season 17 and I like that.

I don’t know if this will help or hurt D&D Encounters. It will help me prepare and run the game. I hope others can embrace this. If not, print the adventure out and carry around the paper. While I don’t worry too much about cost, I do worry about delivery timing. The deliver of LotCS material was stoopidly slow.

D&D Next exclusive is a non-issue for me. We’ll press forward with D&D 4th Edition. Conversion is super easy and D&DI’s Adventure Tools make it a snap to get the right creatures.

Bring on the digital adventure!

10 D.B. December 16, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Between the distribution schedule BS this season and now going PDF only, D&D Encounters is just one big middle finger to your FLGS.

11 Arcanist Supreme December 17, 2013 at 7:06 am

I hate this. I was hoping they would continue the trend of beautifull printed adventures with the amazing DM screens. As a hardcore FR collector, this sucks. I will buy it anyways, but it won’t be as nice.

12 MartianAlien December 20, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Actually, the flyer doesn’t mention any hard-copy intro adventure for the Launch Weekend event, just a poster map. And there’s just the single Encounters kit – there’s no separate kit for Launch Weekend. From the flyer:
D&D Encounters Scourge of the Sword Coast kit (Materials for 20 participants*):
• 20 Promo twenty-sided dice featuring the Scourge of the Sword Coast season symbol
• 20 Player maps
• 2 Packs of NPC cards
• Poster to advertise the program
• Poster Map
• Instruction document
*Please note that the Scourge of the Sword Coast adventure is not included.

13 carldot34 December 21, 2013 at 5:12 am

Piracy amongst friends, rather than piracy for profit, will be rife, I would imagine. I have never encountered piracy for profit in PDF but I have seen lots of sharing amongst friends.

14 Kashiro December 26, 2013 at 10:07 am

The last two adventures where over-priced for what they are and now no print product with an over-priced pdf and add to this having to pay for play-test rules ? Do the words “epic fail” come to mind ?

15 Frank Foulis January 5, 2014 at 12:34 am

WotC has stated that the Store Owners who registered for SotSC season will get a free download of the adventure materials. That should stop the concern that DM’s have to fork out cash.

Source was a Twitter Comment to clarify things.

They said they are encouraging that stores run Encounters with D&D Next but that it is about the overall experience of playing D&D and DMs can play with whatever rules they want.


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