4th Edition D&D – Into the Shadowhaunt

Addendum: Having just run the scenario, I got good responses from all of the players involved who each said they had a good time. I gave away the minis they used for their PCs and the dice set that came with the materials from Wizards. I also gave one of the kids the actual scenario booklet to take home since he seemed interesting in using it. He can also benefit from my notes and underlining. I have to say, I had a good time running it. Combat is at least twice as fast as it was in 3.x, and it is also more interesting at 1st level by far. Healing surges functioned very strangely – at the end of the adventure, the players had spent 0, 10, 1, 8, and 3 going around the table clockwise. I still don’t like them as a rule, but in running this scenario they were tolerable.

The main thing the scenario lacked was a skill challenge. It had a trap, a puzzle, and three major combat encounters. I would have really liked a skill challenge, maybe in town (the town they start in was unnamed, which wasn’t a big deal but is the kind of thing that bothers me) as they find out information or negotiate or have other social interactions, or maybe a skill challenge involving reaching the Shadowhaunt, or once they were inside, with climbing or avoiding natural obstacles. Just to showcase the other major kind of encounter that is discussed in the DMG.

On Worldwide D&D Day this coming Saturday, I’ll be running the official Wizards introductory scenario called Into the Shadowhaunt. Since I’m running it, I’ve had the chance to take a look at it before the Big Day arrives.

The last time I ran an ‘official’ scenario was for the re-release of the Ravenloft setting for D&D 3.5. That was a so-so experience. Half of my players seemed more interested in turning evil, and didn’t like that the characters provided were all some kind of Good. I ran the game at the FLGS rather than for my home group, so I also had the disadvantage of not knowing all of the players who would be involved.

Into the Shadowhaunt is a better scenario by comparison. The actual writing is so-so, but I find that I’m really picky when it comes to game-related copy. It is a relatively brief little story with a few encounters – I don’t want to give away too much. The minis were provided, so I got an early look at some of the 4th Edition minis. They seem like they will be slightly smaller, on average, than the 3.5 minis, but they also appear to continue the trend of steadily increasing quality in the sculpts and especially the paint-jobs of the minis that WotC is putting out.

As with any scenario that I run at the FLGS, a lot will depend on the players that I have. I know two of the four players signed up so far, and they are both excellent, so that’ll be a big help.

A big challenge I see is running this scenario in a way that is interesting and engaging for the more experienced of the roleplayers. Its the classic style, with sections in italics for me to read to the players aloud – and I find that its always a better idea to figure out what the key information is in those italicized sections and just describe it more dramatically, or in my own way. I appreciate the consideration for less experienced DMs, but I’ve never found those printed descriptions to be useful for anything but the occasional laugh.

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