Last night was the first session in the new Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons I’m running with a local group in Sugarhouse. We’re playing at a sweet little game shop where I’d been running the D&D Encounters for the duration of The Elder Elemental Eye campaign season. I think things got off to a fantastic start.

Everybody showed up on time and prepared, which is always nice. We’ve been trying to work out a slightly earlier meet time (a difference of about half an hour), but I have my email password configured to expire every seventy-two days, and it’s customary that it temporarily shut down my email at the worst possible time, every time.

Rather than starting the party together already, the characters were all visiting the town of Haliartos for the Pandemoniad, a festival honoring Athena. During the week of the Pandemoniad, the masters become slaves and the slaves become masters. There are numerous feasts and competitions, and everyone from all walks is allowed to join.

At least two of our adventurers were former slaves, so the festival particularly resonated with them — I laid out the events of the next few days of the festival, starting with a music and poetry competition that the characters were all waiting for the start.

With a party-wide Perception check, I alerted the party to a couple things — someone in the crowd started shouting “murder!” and another, “thief!” Two of the PCs saw the guys who robbed them, everyone noticed their money missing, and they all saw a bloodthirsty thief standing over a fallen man in the crowd.

To kick off all the dice-rolling and such, I gave the party a Skill Challenge to pursue the thieves across the town. They first had to navigate the crowd, then chase the thieves through an area of market stalls, there was a short, mad sprint through an open area, and the chase concluded in a rundown part of town — the thieves’ hangout.

Once cornered, the thieves turned on the characters, and everyone had a chance to try out their new powers and abilities in a claustrophobic melee. Notably, the group’s warden suffered two near-fatal backstab attacks, and took well over fifty points of damage over the course of the fight, mitigated by the shaman’s bear spirit.