If you are interested in trying out Dungeons and Dragons, but don't have friends who play, D&D Encounters is a great way to get started. The creators of D&D have made arrangements with game shop owners all over the country to host these events - they provide the materials, and the shop owners provide the space. People volunteer to be Dungeon Masters (who run the game and play the monsters) and players can just show up at the appointed time. No experience is necessary, and the creators even provide characters to play. More experienced gamers also find D&D Encounters fun because it's a set weekly game that, conversely, will not fall apart if you don't show up. You can make a lot of new friends and recruit them for your home games, as well.
D&D Encounters is divided into 13-15 week "seasons," and in each weekly session you complete one battle or "encounter." I realize that the name makes Encounters sound vaguely like a service where lonely gamers can meet a friendly yet discreet short-term companion. Trust me, it's not. At least, not that I've noticed. The downside of Encounters (besides the lack of prostitutes) is the same with any published adventure - player decisions/choices often have little impact on how the story develops. In other words, all roads lead to the top of the mountain... or into the dragon's den. For players who love combat, though, this is great - if your DM allows it, you can cut the role-playing almost entirely and get right to the "hack and slash."
This session we played the third encounter of the season, entitled "Web of the Spider Queen." The Spider Queen, or Lolth, is the goddess of a race of evil elves known as the drow who live in the Underdark, a vast network of subterranean caves and tunnels. Our mission, since we've chosen to accept it, is to find a magical amulet to prevent the drow from overrunning the nearby town. I'm playing a healer this season - while healers don't hit as often or do as much damage, they are an essential party member. At least, that's what I told myself to justify the fact that I had to use most of my healing on myself. Still, my party survived in fairly good shape, which is all that matters... right?
You can read more about D&D Encounters on the official website. Next week: Will Sri's character survive another session? Stay tuned!