Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Why D&D Encounters Should Be Done In Other RPGs

Tonight I had some time on my hands, so I headed over to the Malted Meeple a new local gaming bar, to play in a D&D Encounters session. For those who don't know, D&D Encounters is a weekly event sponsored by WotC that is "geared for a casual play audience with short sessions each week." In other words, 1-2 hour long modules that give people a chance to learn and experience D&D without devoting much time. For someone like me, who hasn't played since 2nd Edition (THAC0!), this was perfect.

The game was fun. I played a 1st level Dwarven Cleric who, despite being a healer, experienced a fair amount of combat as we traversed an underground tomb. We succeeded in the end and were nicely set up for the next Encounter scenario. While I think I still need to get used to the system, I would happily play again.

The Encounters scenario followed this basic format:

  • Set-up (Yes, in traditional D&D, we were in a tavern).
  • 3 short encounters
  • Lead-in to the next scenario
This format is great for teaching newbies the basic rules of the game and letting them play enough to get a good taste of it. I have to wonder if this wouldn't be beneficial to other RPGs.

Lets take Call of Cthulhu for example. A typical one-shot scenario runs at least 4 hours, if not longer. If you want to try it out, 4 hours may be too long of a time you want to devote to spend learning a game you may not end up liking. This is especially true at a con, where your time is valuable. Up to 2 hours, however, would be perfect.

This isn't an unprecedented idea. My first experience with Call of Cthulhu were with some 2-hour You Too Can Cthulhu scenarios run by the MU Skulls at Origins. It obviously worked; I've been playing for over 10 years now.

Think of it like this. The games we love flourish when more people play them; lose your audience and the game dies. The way to introduce more people isn't to make them play a 4+ hour game - its to give them a sample of the game and leave them wanting more. This is how D&D Encounters works, and in my opinion, is very successful.

My point is creating shorter, introductory scenarios for RPGs its more likely we'll get more people interested. Yes, there are some out there, but not enough. I'd love to go to a con and play in a 2-hour intro game of Fate, Shadowrun, or 13th Age, and I'm sure others would too.