Many years ago, Evard came to Duponde to destroy his rival Vontarin, a powerful wizard who lived in a manor at the edge of town. The two mages met near the walls of the abbey of St. Avarthil and dueled all night long with black spells, laying the old monastery in ruins with their magic. In the morning, the surviving friars found Evard dead in the wreckage and buried him in the town’s graveyard. Vontarin was never seen again.
Now, almost fifty years after his death, Evard’s final curse is about to descend on the town and everyone within it.
"Dark Legacy of Evard" (2011), by Richard Baker, is the adventure for Season 5 of D&D Encounters. It was released for play in Spring 2011.
Origins. Discussions of this adventure began in Summer 2010. The Encounters season was still three-quarters of a year away, but the designers had to come up with a name for the adventure—although all they knew about it at that point was that it would be linked to the upcoming Heroes of Shadow supplement. Baker pushed for the name "Dark Legacy of Evard" because he felt that it was evocative, but not specific enough to "tie his hands" when he got around to writing the adventure.
Baker knew early on that the adventure would involve the Shadowfell. More details were settled in a concept meeting with Mike Mearls and Greg Bilsland. Mearls came up with the ideas of a villain pulling a town into the Shadowfell, with the town itself being the main location for encounters. Baker built on this seed to produce the finished adventure.
Continuing the Encounters. "Dark Legacy of Evard" largely follows the updated Encounters format used for "March of the Phantom Brigade" (2011), the previous season's adventure, having been produced for use in Wizards of the Coasts' Encounters organized play program. Each week of play is meant to be a single encounter, taking 2 hours or less to play. Characters can take short rests between encounters, then extended rests at the end of each chapter, each of which contains several encounters. In "Dark Legacy of Evard," the chapters are 4, 5, and 4 sessions long respectively, for 13 total weeks of play. The entire season of play was published in one book, for Encounters GMs only.
"Dark Legacy of Evard" ran from May 11, 2011, to August 3, 2011.
About the Encounter Format. In "March of the Phantom Brigade," Wizards had begun focusing on encounters that included more than just combat. That trend continued here, with Baker including frequent skill challenges that had a real impact on the combats that followed.
Baker also continued to experiment with how individual encounters were linked, something else that had been innovated in the previous season of play; thus, weeks 2 and 8 both include decision points that directly impact the following week's gameplay. Baker had wanted to go further, creating a "sandbox" where players could move freely between four or five possible sessions. He ultimately decided that the Encounters program couldn't support that idea because the program would involve groups at different tables being at different points in the adventure—yet Encounters would return to this precise idea in Season 12's "Against the Cult of Chaos" (2013).
About the Product Tie-In. As with the previous two seasons, "Dark Legacy of Evard" continued to tie into the Essentials line for D&D 4e. As a result, the pregenerated PCs are all Essentials builds—the exact same characters from "March of the Phantom Brigade," as it happens. However, this season of Encounters also ties in with Player's Options: Heroes of Shadow (2011), which was Wizards' first post-Essentials release, supporting both Essential and classic 4e builds. Heroes of Shadow featured Evard as the creator of shadow magic in the Points of Light world, so he was a natural focus for this adventure.
"Dark Legacy of Evard" also tied in with another shadowy sourcebook: The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond (2011). That supplement had included a "Despair Deck," which could be used in this adventure.
Finally, "Dark Legacy of Evard" continued to support Wizards' collectible Fortune Cards (2011-12). Three more cards were made available to players as they gained renown: Cunning Plan, Lack of Scruples, and Countering Fate.
About the Homage. This new season of Encounters didn't include an explicit homage to an older D&D adventure, as the previous two seasons had. However, Evard (who was newly featured in Heroes of Shadow) was actually quite an old name in D&D. Evard had first been mentioned as the originator of "Evard's Black Tentacles," which dated back to Dragon #67 (November 1982). Just a month later, in Dragon #68 (December 1982), Gygax explained that Evard was an NPC from the Greyhawk campaign. One of Evard's spell books was described in Dragon #82 (February 1984), in an article by Bruce Heard, but Evard still didn't get as much attention as most of Greyhawk's wizards during the AD&D days.
That changed a bit with the release of 3e. Evard was mentioned as an enemy of Mordenkainen in an article by Erik Mona and Gary Holian that appeared in Living Greyhawk Journal #0 (August 2000) and also received a mention in the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer (2000). Then in Dungeon #107 (February 2004), the Paizo staff (finally) gave Evard a full write-up as a "Critical Threat." Evard's inclusion in Heroes of Shadow and "Dark Legacy" just continued his upward trend of recent years.
Expanding the Points of Light World. "Dark Legacy of Evard" was the third of three Encounters seasons in a row set in the Points of Light world, showing how well Wizards was supporting it during mid-to-late 4e days. This adventure largely focuses on the town of Duponde. Unfortunately, the placement of Duponde within the Points of Light world is somewhat problematic, primarily due to contradictory information within the adventure about what river Duponde sits upon, and where it's located. It appears that Duponde should be located where the White River and the King's Road intersect (but that necessarily ignores references to Duponde being on the Nentir River and to Duponde being a few days north of Harkenwold).
The remaining problem with this placement is that the "Reavers of Harkenwold" adventure from the Dungen Master's Kit (2010) says that the town of Albridge is located in the same place. Clearly, GMs will need to ignore one of the two towns (or decide why one town has two names or why two towns are extremely close together).
Future History. Evard was simultaneously receiving some attention in Wizards' online magazines. The "Student of Evard" Theme appeared in "Character Themes: Born from Shadow" in Dragon #400 (June 2011), while "Evard's Shadow" in Dungeon #192 (July 2011) was offered as a sequel to "Dark Legacy of Evard."
About the Creators. Baker was a very long-lived employee at TSR and Wizards of the Coast, as well as a major contributor to D&D 4e. However, "Dark Legacy of Evard" and Heroes of the Elemental Chaos (2012) were his last two major products for the company before he was let go in December 2011. He has since been working as a freelancer, where he returned to the Encounters program with Season 14's "Search for the Diamond Staff" (2013).
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.