Epic Encounters | Enhance your next DnD campaign the easy way

by on June 16, 2024

Despite my penchant for RPGs, fantasy literature, and storytelling in general, I’ve somehow managed to miss the DnD train up until now. But with my sons beginning to show an interest and my advancing years (I’m only 43, but cry me a river anyway) leading me to seek more mellow pursuits to fill my free time, I decided to start not only playing Dungeons and Dragons, but being a Game Master, too. The biggest question I had was where to start not just learning but creating a campaign, and besides the standard Stormwreck Isle starter campaign, the best help I’ve had has come from Steamforged Games’ Epic Encounters box sets, of which I was sent a few to check out.

With a couple of painted adventurers and a set of dice, I created a handful of character sheets on DnD Beyond and just kind of dived in. With a few sets to try right off the bat I was able to string together a fairly decent, albeit action-oriented campaign that allowed me to focus on learning the rules without worrying too much about elements like the setting or enemies.

Epic Encounters

Epic Encounters are designed to be exactly that: one-shot encounters that pit your party against specific enemies in custom maps with preset rules and story elements, which allow you to either play them as intended or insert them into your own campaigns. You don’t even need to use the maps or figures as Steamforged intend, but can alter and manipulate what you have to suit your own campaign.

Epic Encounters

For example, the Camp of the Bandit Twins encounter has 18 28mm figures, a double-sided map, and a booklet detailing the behaviours of each figure and some lore about the area. Essentially it’s designed to be a two-part boss encounter. In the first instance it gives you multiple options to kick-start your role-play, such as having a bounty to collect on either or both of the Villon Twins, the ruthless bandit leaders, a quest to retrieve stolen goods, or a mission of good old-fashioned revenge.

Each figure has its own stats, saving rolls, hit die and special behaviours, and you can use all or none of it depending on your own level of experience. Running the campaign is easy, too, so if you’re only starting out as a GM, the experience is pretty painless. The environmental lore allows for special events and secrets, encouraging your party to explore the landscape and discover things for themselves – but if they do, you’ll be ready. Be aware though, the standard difficulty levels only affect the DC of challenges, and not the combat. Heading in with a low level DnD party is a recipe for disaster, and I’ve found that an average of 4 characters around level 5 have enough of a challenge to make it exciting but not insurmountable.

The other side of the Epic Encounters boxes are, of course, the figures. Cast in grey or beige plastic, they’re all finely detailed and full of personality, and ready for painting if that’s your bag. They’ll take standard primer and, while they don’t need painting, I’ve found that they’re a joy to put colour to.

If you do intend to string a campaign together using Epic Encounters, you can add in special box sets like the Local Legends Tavern Kit, which presents 9 complete Tavern or Inn experiences with a variety of NPCs, mini-encounters, decisions to make, and choices to keep your adventurers on their toes. Again, you can take or leave what you get in the box, but they’re excellent resources to help when you’re starting out or need to throw together a simple campaign for a Friday night session.

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Elsewhere, Epic Encounters also provide smaller episodes. The Cave of the Manticore, for example, is a single boss battle against a huge enemy. And I do mean huge, as the Manticore figurine comes on a massive 100mm base ready to paint or fight right out of the box. Again, the onus is on using your own imagination, but for amateurs the encounter comes with rules and stats for the beast to make the adventure run as smoothly as possible.

Epic Encounters

Perhaps there’s an argument to be made that encounters like these run counter to the freeform shenanigans of a standard campaign, but for newcomers like me these boxes have allowed for some thrilling game nights with a small group that have let me find my feet as a GM, while using other resources to help me learn the basic rules of the tabletop game. For the price you’re getting two detailed game maps and a great selection of figures to help you play, or feed your painting hobby for a while.

As an aspiring GM, the Epic Encounters box sets are superb value. They hit the ground with some decent challenge baked in, but you manipulate every element to suit your own campaign or required difficulty, and they allow you to play and learn while giving you pointers on creating your own campaigns at the same time. If you’ve been playing a while or are just getting into the hobby, Epic Encounters from Steamforged Games come highly recommended by this particular noob.