So season one of D&D Encounters is over and Drax and his party were victorious…well barely. I enjoyed the program as a whole, with probably the majority of my enjoyment coming from just playing the game of D&D and the people who I shared the experience with rather than the adventure itself. You can find an excellent recap of each encounter at Dungeon’s Master. From my perspective WoTC accomplished their goal with the Encounter’s program as it showcased well what 4th edition has to offer and got people playing the game, particularly new players (we had 2 people in our party who had never played any edition of D&D). Drax’s party really struggled throughout the majority of the encounters. We had one official TPK in session 8, and had the DM not pulled his punches we would have had TPK’s in the final 4 encounters, for example in the final fight he had 2 of the monsters attack the main villain and in one encounter a skeleton fell down a ledge and just didn’t’ get back up. Part of the problem was in party composition as there was no leader and 3 defenders, which is just a really awful combination, plus one of the strikers was a gimped sorcerer (cosmic). I had some minor issues with a few design aspects, as the amount and type of difficult terrain/hazards became a little tiresome by the end, and certainly did not favour poor Drax and his fellow defenders. It often seemed like we would try and slog our way to the villain, fail an athletics or acrobatics check, then fall or take some form of punishment. Then by the time we made it somewhere the villain either had some movement technique or power and puff they were gone, which then began the slogging all over again. Having said that I think you do need to mix up terrain and hazards to add some flavour to battles and prevent blandness in combat from setting in, but I do think there is a balance and sometimes less can be more. My biggest peeve, however, was in the number of monsters with aura effects that did damage. I thought that was fairly brutal for first and second level characters. It is particularly punishing for the defenders at early levels to try and stay standing and occupy the enemy when they are taking automatic damage each round in addition to any damage they might take from having said enemy marked (like a good little meat shield), you just don’t have the hit points. Poor Drax was dropped several times by an Aura effect. I think it would have been more balanced if some of the aura’s had effects other than just straight damage like dazed or weakened. I think Drax is going to hang up his gear and retire from the adventuring life, as I don’t play in LFR, but I can see him involved in some sort of shenanigans in my home campaign as an NPC. If I play in the next Encounters program, which is set in Dark Sun, I think I would like to try another role other than defender. They are using 6 pre-generated characters for the next adventure which I am not that thrilled about as I think one of the best parts about the game is customizing and creating your own vision, like the lovable Drax. What was your experience of the encounters program?