The news about D&D‘s fifth edition, which I covered here, is continuing to come in as Wizards of the Coast announced what gamers can look forward to in organized play. Organized play and D&D go back to the 1980s, when Jean Rabe and the Role Playing Gamers Association (later just known by its acronym RPGA) launched Living City. D&D 3.0 launched with Living Greyhawk as its opening shared world campaign. Gamers also got a chance to play two different campaign styles in the official WotC 3.x campaigns set in Keith Baker’s Eberron: Mark of Heroes and Xen’drik Expeditions, which boasted four different factions.
The company also supported third party games, like Living Kingdoms of Kalamar, a joint production with Kenzer & Co., or Living Arcanis, which partnered WotC and Paradigm. In 4e, gamers explored Living Forgotten Realms and got to try a new experience with D&D Encounters, an in-store only adventure series available on a weekly basis. On May 21, 2014, a press release from the Wizards of the Coast website gave gamers the details on what we can expect to see with organized play as the release date for the new D&D approaches.
WotC announced that its brand-new organized play programs would come under the heading D&D Adventurers League. Players can create their own characters for convention, in-store, and other public events with the help of a (yet to be released) free D&D Adventurers League Players Guide. As in previous organized play experiences, DMs will be able to download pre-written adventurers to run for gamers at their tables; and convention and game-store organizers have been promised regular — likely monthly — content releases.
The Adventurers League opportunities are set in the Forgotten Realms and are planned to tie in to the Tyranny of Dragons storyline, in which the Cult of the Dragon is attempting to free the evil dragon queen Tiamat (and in which the Red Wizards of Thay will be regularly featured). Like with Xen’drik Expeditions, there will be factions available for Adventurers League players to belong to, which will determine loyalties–and rewards. And like in earlier organized play campaigns, players will track their character progression on a log sheet and be rewarded with “certs” — certificates that show their special gear rewards. The campaign is administered by three managers (content, community, and resource), whose identities have not yet been revealed.
Play opportunities will come in three types:
– D&D Epics: adventures that are available at large scale conventions, which are “massive, multi-table events,” according to the press release. The first Epic, Corruption in Kryptgarden, releases at GenCon and is set to impact the direction of the Tyranny of Dragons storyline.
– D&D Encounters: adventurers that continue the weekly in-store play opportunities. These remain casual introductory opportunities, but also tie into the main adventures and core story of the campaign.
– D&D Expeditions: adventures that are designed for convention play, and which, like earlier organized play campaigns, take a character from a low-level to high-level progression. These are set in the Moonsea region of the Forgotten Realms.
Gamer responses so far
The big question from forums discussing the Adventurers League seems to be one not directly mentioned in the press release: will there be a chance for gamers to play along at home? In previous organized play campaigns, home-based gaming groups could download adventures along with their convention and game store cohorts — something especially convenient for gamers who don’t live conveniently close to a game store that hosts weekly games. When asked on Twitter, designer Mike Mearls explained that the Epics, Encounters, and Expeditions would not be for home play, but that home gamers could absolutely grab the Tyranny of Dragons published adventures. Merric Blackman compiled some of those tweets on his blog, noting that while Mearls said home gamers could be rewarded with certs, they couldn’t trade them with other gamers in public events.
Other players remain skeptical of using certs, which had been a headache for previous living campaign administrators. But, as forum members pointed out, we don’t yet know what form certs will take.
When asked about the public play preference by an ICv2 interviewer, Liz Schuh, Head of Publishing and Licensing for D&D, explained, “Stores foster D&D communities, and we want to support play at retail with great adventure content that ties to our main storyline. D&D Encounters is a great way to support stores, players, and great play experiences, and our adventure product is the best way to bring our story to life around the table.”
The Tyranny of Dragons storyline, which launches at GenCon 2014, is expected to run through early 2015; players will hang onto their certs and continue progressing their characters through the next storyline.