I was not really looking forward to it, to be honest. My experiences the previous week had me feeling that I would get to the game and be very frustrated by the players. Instead, I was extremely pleasantly surprised by the PCs and the characters they portrayed.
I almost flubbed things by not letting the players introduce themselves. In 4e, nobody cares, but in Next… yeah, it matters. It matters who you are and what you care about– or it should!
We got underway by about 1:30, with 7 players and 2 GMs. As a result, we had 2 tables going. Mike (the other GM) and I had an intra-NPC scene at the beginning, where the Main Important NPCs introduce the adventure and then get the party going into the delve.
This season starts with a little dungeon delve, then a teleport to the Bloodgate, and a big devilish deal option, followed by the party getting sucked across space into the megadungeon Doomvault under Thay. The rest of the season is dedicated to stomping the Doomvault. The dungeon delve on Saturday went into a series of Elemental Nodes– there are 4 of them in a nod to the Temple of Elemental Evil.
My table took the Air Node, while Mike’s tackled Water. My guys were slammed around a lot– rather than rush for the key that they needed, they spent a good long time fighting the elementals that were guarding the key. By the time they reached the Bloodgate, one of them had already been unconscious, and another had been down to 1 hp. They had the option to run for it, maybe even taking a hit or two on the way there and back, but they chose to fight instead.
The other party went stealthy, with the druid transformed into a fish for added protection from the element of water. They stomped all over their elemental node, got the key, and made it to the Bloodgate early. They were there for a round or so before we arrived (mainly due to Mike spending time drawing his map), and then my party showed up, triggering another combined-table scene.
At the end of that scene, the PCs decided to make a deal with the devil Baazku, and my party was tasked with completing it. The guy who was supposed to do it (the monk who’d been down to 1 hp) beat everyone’s initiative, ran up, did the thing, and boom– the encounter was nearly over. We wrapped up and were done by 4 PM. The other party rescued two of the four sacrifices– it remains to be seen if those sacrifices made it through the teleport or not.
Like I said– I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome, and I’m actually looking forward to this season of the game.