Duke Adrian Abdel is a living legend in the city of Baldur's Gate, and much of the city has gathered to celebrate him and his accomplishments. On tis day of festivities, though, the dukes past will finally catch up with him, with dire consequences. Murder ha returned to Baldur's Gate, and brave heroes are the city's only hope to stop the violence.
This Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game adventure is designed to kick off the 2013 August-November season of the D&D Encounters official play program. The adventure comes with one full-color battle map, a short introductory scenario, information on the D&D Encounters program, and statistics to play the adventure using 3rd edition (v.3.5), 4th Edition, or the D&D Next playtest.
Includes the 32-page Adventure Guide, the 64-page Campaign Guide, and the DM Screen that were included in the original printed package, plus the three downloads: the 16-page Launch Guide, the 10-page Event Supplement, and the 24-page Monster Supplement.
"Murder in Baldur's Gate" (2013), by Ed Greenwood, Matt Sernett, and Steve Winter, is the adventure for Season 15 of D&D Encounters. It was released for play in August 2013.
Continuing the Encounters. The fifteenth season of Encounters began on the weekend of August 17th with a special "launch weekend". Participating stores got a 16-page adventure that contained an expanded version of the first week of play as well as player maps, NPC cards, and Bhaal d20s. Because the launch weekend coincided with Gen Con, Wizards was also able to run the event at the con, spotlighting the Encounters program at the world's largest roleplaying convention.
The "Murder in Baldur's Gate" module then went on sale on Tuesday, August 20th. This was another big change for the program. The previous seasons of Encounters had all been distributed as limited edition books that were given freely to participating GMs. Now, anyone could buy the Encounters adventures, but they had to buy them. Encounters GMs angrily declared that this new pay-for-play methodology would be the death of the Encounters program. (It wasn't.)
Meanwhile, selling this season of Encounters also offered some benefits. First, it gave D&D some much needed attention on gaming store shelves during a year where Wizards' schedule was otherwise filled with reprints of classic rule books and adventures. Second, it allowed Wizards to produce a much more comprehensive supplement. Instead of just producing an episodic adventure, Wizards published "Murder in Baldur's Gate" as a folio that contained a 64-page setting book, a 32-page adventure book, and a four-panel Baldur's Gate GM screen. Encounters GMs were saddened to see that cards and other accessories that had been common in previous Encounters adventures were absent, but of course the economics for mass-producing an adventure were very different from making it available on a limited basis.
Besides the core folio, Wizards also produced three additional "Murder" books: the 16-page "Launch Guide" was initially shipped to stores, but then made available as a PDF. In addition, a 10-page "Events Supplement" PDF provided more adventure and a 24-page "Monster Statistics" PDF gave GMs the stats they needed to play.
Though it was produced differently from previous seasons, "Murder in Baldur's Gate" otherwise matched the traditional format for Encounters play. That meant that it was for levels 1-3 (after a few seasons that were a little higher in level). It also meant that individual sessions were designed for just 1-2 hours of play (though those sessions was much of a free-wheeling sandbox than before).
"Murder in Baldur's Gate" was the Fall 2013 Encounters season, running for 12 weeks from August 21, 2013 to November 13, 2013. This followed a week of character generation on August 14 (and the special August 17-18 launch weekend).
Playtesting D&D Next. Season 11's "War of Everlasting Darkness" (2012) marked the end of the traditional 4e Encounters program. Starting with Season 12's "Against the Cult of Chaos", GMs could download a playtest version of the game for D&D Next (D&D 5e) if they preferred (though 4e was still the default game system for seasons 12-14). Now Encounters was taking the next step with Season 15's "Murder in Baldur's Gate". The adventure itself was system-neutral, but Wizards included stats for D&D 3.5e, 4e, and 5e in the "Monster Statistics" book.
This was part of a big push for D&D 5e that began at Gen Con Indy 2013. That same con saw the public release of "Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle" (2013) and 28 huge tournament sessions of "Confrontation at Candlekeep" (2013) — both new 5e adventures.
This move toward 5e saw one other big change in the Encounters program: it was the first Encounters program that was largely gridless, moving away from the extensive tactical maps that had defined the earlier seasons of Encounters play.
About the Encounter Format. With the move away from 4e mechanics, it's unsurprising that the traditional Encounters format was also on its last legs. "Murder in Baldur's Gate" maintained the traditional idea of limiting the amount of play for each week of the season by dividing the adventure into 12 "stages", but these stages were very freeform.
Each of these stages is event-driven, with players deciding which villainous plots they're going to overcome. Unlike classic Encounters, these events didn't necessarily result in pitched tactical battles. Many sessions had no combat — and might even have no dice rolling! This left a lot on the shoulders of the GMs, who had to figure out how to respond when players offered their freeform responses to the week's dilemmas.
The events of the season are ultimately initiated by three NPCs, each of whom wishes to become the new Chosen of Bhaal. This led to the other unique aspect of the season: players got to determine the official result for the world of the Forgotten Realms. Each week, players might set back the plots of one or more of the antagonists; the GMs then reported to Wizards how well each of the would-be-Chosen had done. Wizards collated the results, and at the end of the season announced which of three antagonists has risen to be the new Chosen of Bhaal. (It was Duke Torlin Silvershield.)
About the Product Tie-In(s). "Murder in Baldur's Gate" was described as "The First Battle of the Sundering". This was the major Forgotten Realms event that began with "Murder in Baldur's Gate" and the Gen Con adventure "Confrontation at Candlekeep. It was intended to move the Realms into its next major era, as the two worlds of Abeir-Toril separated.
"Murder in Baldur's Gate" briefly explains the basics of the event, saying that the Sundering begins in 1479 and is a time "when many of the gods designate mortals to be their Chosen" (as Bhaal does here). However, unlike other Realms-shaking events such as the Time of Troubles, the Sundering was a pretty loose scattering of different events. (Thus, it's just referenced on one page in this adventure.) The Sundering continued in the next three seasons of Encounters as well as a series of six novels, the first of which was The Companions (2013), by R.A. Salvatore.
Expanding the Realms. As the name suggests, "Murder in Baldur's Gate" is set in Baldur's Gate, one of the best-known cities of the Realms. Shockingly, it had never before been the main setting of a tabletop adventure! It had certainly been mentioned in dozens of supplements while Volo's Guide to the the Sword Coast (1994) had provided about 20 pages of detail. However, Baldur's Gate had only been the centerpiece of a roleplaying story in a video game.
Baldur's Gate (1998), Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn (2000), and Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal (2001) were all popular computer games for Windows and the Mac that extensively detailed the city. They were supplemented by a trio of like-named novels: Baldur's Gate (1999), Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn (2000), and Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal (2001). Together, those six publications had previously provide much of the Realmslore about Baldur's gate — but in a form that was somewhat inaccessible to Game Masters. Now, many of those computer details finally made their way into the tabletop Realms; the setting book of "Murder in Baldur's Gate" contains 25 pages overviewing the city's geography, 15 pages describing the city's organizations, 14 pages detailing individuals locales, and another dozen or so pages about history and other miscellanea.
As the name of the final computer game suggests, Bhaal had always been important to the saga of Baldur's Gate. This Realms god had died in Tantras (1989), during the Time of Troubles. However, he left behind Bhaalspawn, who might one day return him to life and power; their defeat was a major focus of the later Baldur's Gate computer games. Now, Bhaal is rising again as a new Chosen comes to power. (The PCs can't stop this metaplot event from happening, they can just help determine which of three people takes that mantle.)
About the Creators. Greenwood is of course the creator of the Forgotten Realms. Winter is an editor and author who'd been working with D&D since the '80s. Sernett was the relative newcomer of the group, though his work with Wizards dated back to 2000 and he'd already coauthored Realms publications such as Neverwinter Campaign Setting (2011) and Halls of Undermountain (2012).
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.