For anyone who hasn't been playing D&D Encounters this season, it's been pretty brutal. My group of mostly experienced players has been hanging on - although we're not always great about synergizing. The mostly-newbie table at our game shop, however, has experienced TPK (Total Party Kill) twice already. Yikes.
Session 4: We descend deeper into the tower, which is clearly going to lead us into the Underdark. I mean... clearly. We came to a room divided lengthwise - on one side, a set of iron doors and the only way ahead. On the other, the lever to operate said door. Of course, villains (globins and drow warriors) were lurking on both sides of the room. To avoid being pinned between the two groups of bad guys, we decided to bend one of the central tenets of D&D: "Don't split the party." Three of us went for the lever, while the rest of the party headed fro the door. My svirfneblin warpriest, Tassen, used all of his ability to heal to keep one of the tanks alive - naturally, the other tank went down for the count. The only reason we survived was that the D&D gods saw fit to boost our party with a couple of NPC allies - the heir to the throne and her bodyguard, magically teleported to us by the benevolent (?) wizard we're working with. Sadly, they were teleported out again between this combat and the next. Happily, several of us leveled up after this session, so we were ever-so-slightly more badass.
Session 5: Once again, we faced a weridly-shaped map this session - three interconnected corridors formed a square with a slightly larger area. In that area, a drow spellcaster (one of the bosses, no doubt) took pot-shots at us from behind a porticullis before eventually running away. The battle lasted three long rounds, and we essentially bottlenecked in one section of the map. I also decided that I am completely fed up with the Cloud of Darkness power that these drow a-holes keep dropping on us. This may be because I incautiously charged into the fray and ended up, along with our goblin spellcaster, taking up the majority of damage for the party. Eventually one of our tanks managed to King's Castle to get me out of harms way (and take my place). Still, my character was down to zero hit points by the end of the encounter - luckily, it was FINALLY time for an extended rest. In going forward, I think I need to realize that I am NOT playing a defender - and that just because I'm a melee character doesn't mean I have to rush into the middle of the fray.
Why is Encoutners so tough this season? I think Wizards is recognizing that while these session are aimed at bringing new players in, Encounters is really becoming a venue for experienced players to get their game on. At the same time, I hope this isn't discouraging new players from joining in. Maybe there could be two levels of difficulty, and players get to decide while they want to play...? Just spitballing, here.
For much more comprehensive recaps, check out this blog: http://dungeonsmaster.com/dd-encounters/.