On a trade road to the city-state of Tyr, a caravan is assaulted by a deadly obsidian shardstorm, forcing the survivors to band together and navigate the wastes to safety. But the force of nature that destroyed the caravan is under the malevolent control of the being known as the Wastewalker, who will stop at nothing to see the end of those that escaped his initial wrath. Can the heroes reach the Ringing Mountains before it’s too late?
"DARK SUN: Fury of the Wastewalker" is designed for five characters of 1st level and is the summer 2010 season of the D&D Encounters official play program.
"Dark Sun: Fury of the Wastewalker," by Nicholas K. Tulach, is the adventure for Season 2 of D&D Encounters. It was released for play in Summer 2010.
Continuing the Encounters. "Fury of the Wastewalker" continues the precedents set by Season 1 of Encounters, "Undermountain: Halaster's Lost Apprentice" (2010). In doing so, it truly set the direction of the Encounters organized play program for the next few years. To start with, “Fury of the Wastewalker” is made up of 15 individual encounters, each of which was intended to be run on an individual Wednesday for 1.5 to 2 hours of play. Again, the full adventure was divided into three chapters, with the end of each chapter giving players an opportunity to refresh their daily powers.
Rather than continuing on from "Halaster's Lost Apprentice," though, "Fury of the Wastewalker" instead reset the Encounters program, giving players the opportunity to play new 1st-level characters in a new setting. This also created a new starting point for players interesting in joining Encounters for the first time, an important point for a program that was intended to bring new (or lapsed) players into D&D 4e—although players could choose to come and go between individual sessions if they wanted. These qualities established the model for Encounters through its eighth season.
There were three changes of note between the first Encounters program and the second. First, where "Halaster's Lost Apprentice" was published as one book for GMs, "Fury of the Wastewalker" instead appeared as three books, one per adventure "chapter." Second, "Fury of the Wasteawalker" was much more closely tied to a new book being released by Wizards at the same time, a practice that would continue to be the case throughout the first 10 seasons of Encounters; this would turn the Encounters program into a mini-history of the latter half of D&D 4e's production period. Third, players were required to use the pregenerated characters shipped with the adventure. This was because the Dark Sun books for 4e had not yet been released, so players had no way to create them on their own.
Writers at DungeonsMaster.com suggest that the gameplay and content of “Fury of the Wastewalker” was also quite different from that found in “Halaster’s Lost Apprentice.” Where the first season of Encounters was a simple dungeon crawl, it also depended more on actual knowledge of the setting of the Forgotten Realms (and Undermountain). In contrast, "Fury of the Wastewalker" provides a less common sort of D&D adventure, but it simultaneously does a better job of presenting its setting to the players with no prior knowledge required.
About the Encounter Format. "Fury of the Wasterwalker" follows the same general format as "Halaster's Lost Apprentice." Each week's adventure focuses on a single combat encounter, with some opportunity for roleplaying surrounding the encounter. There's also a long skill challenge in this adventure, but it goes with a combat (unlike in "Halaster's Lost Apprentice," where week 3 could be run entirely combat-free). Despite the combat emphasis, some slight advice is given for “roleplaying past encounters”—an expansion of the Encounters format that Wizards would push even further in the many seasons ahead.
About the Product Tie-In. This time around, Wizards of the Coast was highlighting its third campaign setting for D&D 4e, Dark Sun. This adventure series was part of an impressive marketing campaign that showed Wizards' support for 4e at its height.
It began with "Death in the Arena", a Dark Sun preview at Winter Fantasy 34 (2010), on January 28-31, 2010. The preview was repeated in March at Pax East, while Wizards also hyped the setting in live chats. The play of "Fury of the Wastewalker" itself began on June 9, 2010. By the time participants had two weeks of play under their belt, on June 19, they could pick up the "Bloodsand Arena" adventure from Free RPG Day 2010.
Finally, on August 17, a whole series of Dark Sun publications appeared: Dark Sun Campaign Setting (2010), Dark Sun Creature Catalog (2010), and Marauders of the Dune Sea (2010). Following weeks of previews through Encounters, players could now dive into the full setting. Players at GenCon could also participate in the RPGA's Dark Sun Arena event and pick up a promotional cloth map. The "Fury of the Wastewalker" season of Encounters ended a few weeks later, on September 15, after its fifteen-week run.
Overall, this campaign was an intriguing and innovative way to build attention and interest for an upcoming product—a campaign format that Wizards would use in different forms throughout Encounter's 4e run.
Expanding Athas. One of the most exciting aspects about Season 2 of Encounters was that it returned to Athas, the world of Dark Sun. This popular 2e setting had premiered in Dark Sun (1990) and had been updated, though admittedly not to everyone's liking, in Dark Sun, Expanded and Revised (1995). Its 7-year run (1990-96) was a long one for the 2e era, and it disappeared only when TSR started ruthlessly cutting lines prior to its near bankruptcy. Dark Sun was certainly one of the three most requested settings for 3e and 4e, alongside Birthright and Planescape, and thus players were thrilled to see it return 14 years after its demise under TSR.
Most of "Fury of the Wastewalker" focuses on the harsh environment of Athas, including its deserts, mountains, and jungles. It's a nice depiction of what makes that game setting different from most others. The adventure ends at the gates of Tyr, which gives players the opportunity to continue afterward in one of Athas' most important locales.
Whoops! The difficulty of the first encounter was high, resulting in quite a few TPKs, so the Wizards Play Network issued a notice that DMs should adjust the difficulty appropriately. So, uh, adjust the difficulty accordingly.
About the Creators. "Fury of the Watewalker" is Nicholas Tulach's only official full-length contribution to D&D, though he's written several several organized play scenarios for Living Greyhawk. He freelanced for Wizards of the Coast from 2009-11 while working as an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.