A lost passageway on the upper level of the most infamous dungeon in Faerûn has recently been uncovered. When a patron hires a band of adventurers to brave the dangers of Undermountain, a search is on to uncover secrets of an apprentice of the dungeon’s lost creator – Halaster.
"Undermountain: Halaster’s Lost Apprentice" is designed for five characters of 1st level and is the spring 2010 season of the D&D Encounters official play program.
"Undermountain: Halaster's Lost Apprentice," by Erik Scott de Bie, is the adventure for Season 1 of D&D Encounters. It was released for play in Spring 2010.
Introducing the Encounters. Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition released in 2008, but by early 2010 it was obvious that the game needed a little something extra to get it to the level of success that Wizards required. This would result in two major expansions in 2010 that were each intended to help the game appeal to a more casual demographic that wasn't currently playing it: Essentials and Encounters.
Encounters was an organized play initiative. Wizards of the Coast supplied GMs across the nation with adventures to run on Wednesday nights. Players could either use pre-generated characters or provide their own 1st-level characters. Each night's adventuring contained just a single encounter. These sessions were billed as running 60-90 minutes in length, but a few of the climatic encounters in Season 1 ran 2.5-3.5 hours for some groups.
By running Encounters simultaneously across the nation, Wizards hoped to take advantage of social media; they envisioned people talking about the games on Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, comparing their experiences with those of other players across the nation.
Wizards kicked the program off when they shipped Encounters GMs the first 12-part adventure, a 56-page book called "Undermountain: Halaster's Lost Apprentice." Like all of the Encounters books, this one became an instant collector's item because it wasn't available to the general public (until now). GMs ran the first of the 12 Encounters in "Halaster's Lost Apprentice" on March 17, 2010. The season ran through June 2, 2010.
Overall, the Encounters program would prove extremely successful. Though neither it nor Essentials made D&D Fourth Edition into an unprecedented success story, the Encounters program was well-loved; it got attention on CNN and elsewhere and was successful at drawing players into game stores to play. Eleven Encounters seasons ran through late 2012, before the program took a short break and shifted over to a mixed 4e and D&D Next format in 2013.
About the Encounter Format. "Halaster's Lost Apprentice" set the style that would be used through most of the Encounters Seasons. As noted, it focuses on singular encounters, which are each the center of a (short) night's gaming. Most of these encounters consist of a single, well-defined combat situation, possibly with some background and roleplaying beforehand.
The combats stayed quite fresh in "Halaster's Lost Apprentice" through the good use of different combatant types and enemies, with resources that varied dramatically from week to week. "Halaster's Lost Apprentice" also contains one week of focusing on a skill challenge, showing off the breadth of 4e.
The encounters in “Halaster's Lost Apprentice" are organized into multiple chapters. Though play is considered relatively continuous between most Encounters, when players reach a chapter break, they can take an extended rest and recover their daily powers. "Halaster's Lost Apprentice" arranges its three chapters symmetrically: each consists of four Encounters.
About the Product Tie-In. Most of the Encounters seasons were also linked with new releases from Wizards. These links were more explicit in later seasons, but "Halaster's Lost Apprentice" nonetheless provides a weak link by encouraging the use of Player's Handbook 3 (2010) classes, races, and feats.
Expanding Undermountain. "Undermountain: Halaster's Lost Apprentice" is of course set in Undermountain, the infamous Waterdeep dungeon that was originally described in Ruins of Undermountain (1991). This adventure just barely touches upon Undermountain's vast delves, but it nonetheless shows how the setting has changed with the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (2008) update. The first level of Undermountain now contains "Downshadow," a community peopled by "down-on-their-luck adventurers, criminals, and folk scarred by magic."
Halaster's apprentices, known as The Seven, have long been important to the mythology of Undermountain. City of Splendors: Waterdeep (2005) and The Grand History of the Realms (2007) together name all seven: Arcturia, Jhesiyra Kestellharp, Nester, Marambra Nyghtsteel, Muriel the Misshapen, Rantantar, and Trobriand the Metal Mage. Apparently there was also one more "Lost" apprentice, who appears in this adventure. Sadly, there's not much detail on her, as there just isn't space in the terse Encounters format.
About the Creators. de Bie began writing for Wizards of the Coast in May 2005. Prior to the release of "Halaster's Lost Apprentice," he was mainly a fiction writer, but he would go on to author a number of D&D 4e books in 2010-11; he’s also written Seasons 6 (2011) and 13 (2013) of D&D Encounters.
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.