Dungeons & Dragons Details New Organized Play Program

Dungeons & Dragons Details New Organized Play Program

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The new D&D Adventurers League will include three new types of play: Epics, Encounters, and Expeditions.

Following their recent announcement of the new editon's full lineup, Wizards of the Coast has announced the new structure of organized, public play for Dungeons & Dragons to debut at Gen Con late this summer: The D&D Adventurers League. Wizards is building on the shared-world experience they've been touting with their Tyranny of Dragons storyline, saying that this will be its "entire public play taking place in the same ongoing D&D campaign." Billed as a story-first approach to organized play, emphasizing fast and easy recording of character development over time. The main focus of that ease seems to be involving characters with specific factions for bonuses, as detailed at PAX East, and using what will be called "certificates" - physical sheets that say your character has a particular magic item or story-based benefit. These events will take 14-18 weeks of play, and with players building up to higher levels over time, and eventually transition to new stories with new characters. As previously announced, the storylines will take place in the Forgotten Realms setting.

As part of the announcement, Wizards has unveiled a new store and event locator for players and a revamped Wizards Play Network for retailers.

The program will include Epic events at major conventions, weekly Encounters events at stores, and Expeditions play for regional conventions. Alongside this new infrastructure, Wizards has announced that it will add dedicated staff to handle the new play program, an organizer, community manager, and developer-editor for the adventures.

The new jewel of organized play for D&D appears to be Epic events, which will take place to kick off the game's new storylines at major conventions throughout the year. These will be extended-play events with multiple tables of players which will shape the general course of events in an overall Adventurers League storyline. D&D Encounters, the current organized play program, will continue on Wednesdays, but it sounds like the production value of Encounters will go way up. Players will receive folios of special character sheets and swag aligned with their in-game factions, and stores and DMs will receive free chunks of published adventures, along with unrevealed swag associated with the ongoing story. Finally, D&D Expeditions will be ongoing, campaign style play at conventions and stores. While Expeditions details are scarce, it sounds much like the structure of the old Living Forgotten Realms or Living Greyhawk games, in that instead of an episodic approach to adventures it deals with an organized, ongoing storyline.

If you're not familiar with all the new developments in Dungeons & Dragons, then you can read up on all the new product details and release dates here and get some in-depth analysis on whether the new D&D will be a mistake or a masterpiece here.

You can read the full Adventurers League Announcement at Wizards of the Coast.

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This sounds wonderful; I'm a fan of organized play when done right, and I think that WotC can do it. I loved running Encounters, and we got a pretty great turnout (at least 2-3 full tables a season), but I know every DM there was pissed when we had to start buying our own modules. We were already spending our time prepping and running the games because we love to play and bring people into the hobby, and charging us to be the marketing arm was too much.

I do hope they break the exclusive ties to Forgotten Realms, though; I know it's a popular setting, but there's so much more to D&D than the "fantasy kitchen sink" of FR. The Dark Sun Encounters season was really popular because people didn't know there was such a thing as post-apocalypse D&D, and they were excited to try it. Having an occasional Encounters season, Expedition module or Epic event in a different setting would show off the variety of D&D, and be a great selling point for the inevitable books about those settings.

Also, here's hoping that they tie these "adventurer logs" into an online system where people can build characters, trade items and learn about factions. Online support from WotC has been severely lacking, but setting up a system here could do wonders to keep people engaged in the events, help them find groups, encourage them to buy splatbook X for the upcoming Epic event, and act as a gateway to paid D&D Insider subscriptions.

EDIT: Read the entire thing on the WotC page, and now I'm both excited and confused.

Progression and Rewards

All D&D Adventurers League play is supported through a certificate system. Some items and rewards are only awarded through certificates, but the main purpose of the certificate is it unlocks the ability for you to trade the item to another character. Magic items are rare and special treasures in D&D Adventurers League play, and we want them to feel as such through representation as a cool certificate.

Since when has magic been rare in the Realms? There are +1 swords all over the place, wizard guilds in every major city, and the literally thousands of adventuring parties that roam the Realms all have at least a wizard and cleric. I get what they were going for with rarity, but either they are only counting epic level items or people are going to have bricks of certificates in about a year's time.

Advanced Play: D&D Expeditions

If you like a deeper dive into a "convention-style" campaign experience, then D&D Expeditions is for you. Set in the Moonsea region of the Forgotten Realms, you'll explore the storyline as it affects the denizens of that area of Faerūn. Here, you'll get to take your character from its humble beginnings to the heights of high level play, and have a chance to really influence your region through your character's actions and the actions of your faction.

Adventures are delivered digitally as PDFs to stores and conventions requesting them, and debut at selected conventions around North America throughout the storyline. If you play in a debut of an adventure, you'll have the opportunity to give feedback and shape the ongoing storyline. In addition, these adventures will be supported with kits that contain the certificates for the magic items and other special stuff that characters can earn through play.

We expect that D&D Expeditions will become the public's D&D campaign, growing and changing as events resolve and new threats emerge. Each storyline visits a different area of the Moonsea, affecting some change there, and all the factions are involved. For Tyranny of Dragons, we'll be setting adventures in and around the town of Phlan, an old fan-favorite from the days of Pool of Radiance.

Reading between the lines, it sounds like Encounters going to be taking a backseat to the Expeditions, with the former serving as a springboard for the latter, and quickly discarded. That's an interesting move, because it means they are expecting enough new players or old hands who like low-level play to keep Encounters running simultaneously as weekly events (it says that Expeditions encounters are available on request, and if they want it to be the public face it can't be convention-only or limited to a couple of adventures a year).

Honestly, I'm not sure what the advantage is for setting it up in three categories; my own two cents, I would have set up Epic as the special event games, and kept Encounters as the ground-level campaigns. It's easy enough to run games set in the 5th Edition version of the Heroic tier (first 10 levels), and that way you maximize the chances of getting a full table of both old and new players, with the module and table demographics adjusted to provide a suitable challenge for everyone. That way, new players don't feel like their playing the training-wheels version, but instead are right in there, having fun with the experienced players and forming the social connections to get them to be regular players (read: regular consumers of RPG products). Meanwhile, the characters carry over and can be used for multiple seasons and at these Epic events, giving some nice continuity.

Thunderous Cacophony:

I do hope they break the exclusive ties to Forgotten Realms, though; I know it's a popular setting, but there's so much more to D&D than the "fantasy kitchen sink" of FR. The Dark Sun Encounters season was really popular because people didn't know there was such a thing as post-apocalypse D&D, and they were excited to try it.

I actually completely expect this kind of thing to come back as they launch new settings - but they've been very clear that Forgotten Realms is the new default.

JonB:

Thunderous Cacophony:

I do hope they break the exclusive ties to Forgotten Realms, though; I know it's a popular setting, but there's so much more to D&D than the "fantasy kitchen sink" of FR. The Dark Sun Encounters season was really popular because people didn't know there was such a thing as post-apocalypse D&D, and they were excited to try it.

I actually completely expect this kind of thing to come back as they launch new settings - but they've been very clear that Forgotten Realms is the new default.

The problem with that is they are also clear that "While you'll still find D&D Encounters emphasizing play for the casual player (starting characters at 1st level) you'll find it's become an introduction to the main storyline." If it's supposed to be the way to segue new players into the FR Expeditions, there's not a lot of room for experimentation, unless they set up a way to introduce first-level characters (with these new faction packs and whatnot) into Expeditions so that those who are interested in that play don't have to wait a couple months for the current non-FR Encounters season to run out before they can even begin their own adventure.

Also, regarding the freebies, I noticed this:

We'll introduce this storyline by adapting a portion (levels 1-4) of the first adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen, for play at D&D Encounters. This adventure adaptation will be available as a complimentary PDF for stores that schedule D&D Encounters, who can then pass it along to their Dungeon Masters. After you've finished playing that portion of the adventure, you can continue play by picking up the rest of the adventure from the store or play in D&D Expeditions (described below)

Possibly throwing a bone to the stores that often host this, but if WotC wants free DMs to run all this for them, they shouldn't charge us to keep running Encounters, especially when they imply that Expeditions will be free. These need to be really hefty chunks (I don't know what the level range is for Hoard of the Dragon Queen in it's entirety, but if 1-4 isn't enough for some sort of resolution I'll be quite angry), and there needs to be plenty of them if we have to skip around. The 10-week season of past Encounters was pretty good.

Great article, Jon! I was happy to see the new Store Locator app.

I have been running encounters for the last 10 seasons though I have done so with the full support of my FLGS.

I'm very excited for the roll out of this new program, though it is clear to me that WotC is polishing already existing events. Encounters will obviously get a face lift; Epics sounds like the Lair Assault events though with more ties to ongoing IP wide story lines (we've already seen examples of this with Lair of the Dracolich and Confrontation at Candlekeep adventures created for multiple tables); Expeditions sounds like the successor to LFR and LG, though it will be confined to the Moonsea region of FR.

I'll be interested to see the digital component of the program, both for players and DMs. I'm figuring the FaceBook reporting App WotC has been using for D&D Encounters will see some use here.

I'm also interested to see how this new program will support / include 'sanctioned' private home games.

All and all though, a very exciting announcement!

 

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