Encounters is nothing like that.
I don't say this to complain. Wizards of the Coast intended for Encounters to be modular - players should be able go into any FLGS and jump into the game, because they know exactly what's going on from the WotC website. This naturally leads to a more "railroaded" experience - no matter what you do, the same battle will ensue and the same outcome will be achieved (barring, I supposed, TPK).
|All aboard! Next stop... DOOOOOOOOM!|
(In unrelated news, isn't this a cool picture?
It's based on the Eberron setting - aka Steampunk D&D.)
However (there's always a however). If the party's decisions are going to be railroaded, the writers of Encounters need to realize that non-combat situations rapidly start to lose their appeal. For example, this week we were (apparently) tracking down our two NPC allies who had been captured by the drow. There was an obvious trail of blood. Our DM guided us to use skill checks to "find the NPC." Spoiler alert - he's at the end of this trail of blood. The other NPC will be were there are the most bad guys. It's Encounters, not rocket science.
After we find the NPC and he gives us the obvious exposition, we proceed to the area most heavily populated with drow. By this time, we are pretty sick of skill checks and are ready to jump into battle. But wait! Cries the DM. Don't you want to start by setting traps for the drow? Uh...no. Or, yes. Whatever gets us to killing things faster! So combat was delayed again, while we destabilized key parts of the cavern to... Crash down on drow skulls? Close off escape routes? Prevent them from flanking us? Honestly, I still don't know the reason we did all that.
There is a table at my FLGS that consistently finishes their Encounters module ahead of all the others, simply because their DM chooses to skip most of the non-combat bits. And why shouldn't he? The only good thing about a railroad is that it gets you to where you want to go as quickly as possible.