‘Halaster’s Lost Apprentice’ is one of the D&D Encounters seasons that nominally ties into the forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. Nominally tied, because the dungeon and lore used in the Encounters are linked to Undermountain, which receives two products in the Fourth Edition line.
The season is structured as twelve interlocking encounters and it is advised that a party will complete each encounter in 90 minutes to two hours – so there is a substantial amount of material in this product. The party is ideally five first-level adventurers, and substantive advice and mechanics govern progression and treasure acquisition during the Encounters. This guidance was required for the organised play aspect of the game when it was originally issued, and some gaming tables may find it interesting and fun to play under similar strictures to replicate the experience.
The title excels however, when removed from the organised play structure. All of the Encounters are very straight-forward and could be easily run by a novice DM. As players progress sequentially through the season, they are introduced to the mechanics of Fourth Edition in a purposeful manner. This is not to suggest that this product is only for beginners; quite the opposite in fact. Experienced DMs will find a good skeleton for a short series of adventures, and can add their own flavour, tinker with the opponents, and also with the motivations of the NPCs. Whilst this would require additional investment of time in terms of planning, the results (especially if the DM could blend this with content from the AD&D boxed set ‘Ruins of Undermountain’) would be worthwhile.
The design of the title is clean, with statistics boxes clearly able to be read, and organised with quick reference at the table in mind. The maps are likewise presented in an unambiguous manner, but for full use of these the DM will require set of Dungeon Tiles. All of the artwork is of a high standard, and these elements combined make for an enjoyable and streamlined read.