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Adventurer’s League from Behind the Screen

 

Editor’s Note: On Monday, we ran this article from The Angry GM, which you should read first. Over the course of this week, a number of opinions and discussions have cropped up here and there around the internet. However, only one individual got into direct contact with us to express his opinion of the article. He had, initially, many points of disagreement and was actively defending much of the Adventurer’s League program and Encounters specifically. Such enthusiasm and, if I can say so, tenacity are rare. So rare that we offered him an opportunity to write a rebuttal article which we would run on The Mad Adventurers Society in equal standing with the original post. That was Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday morning I received a Tweet from him:

https://twitter.com/voltramax/status/649110915464368128

He then submitted the following article, which, aside from correcting some minor grammar and adding a bit of clarity, I have elected to run as written:

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Yesterday I was dismissed from my position as the only Adventurer’s League Local Coordinator for all of New Mexico. The reason for my dismissal was speaking honestly about the issues players have with the Adventurer’s League and for engaging The Mad Adventurers Society in a dialogue about what it’s like for those of us who are running the Adventurer’s League.

Before I was dismissed a Regional Coordinator told me not to write an article that The MAS so graciously offered to allow me to submit. Now that the Adventurer’s League has turned their backs on me, I’m only encouraged to submit a response to The Angry GM.

Bravo to The Angry GM for stirring the pot so well. My fellow Local Coordinators had their panties in such a bunch they made gigantic threads on Reddit and our secret Facebook groups. This is the first time they’ve had critics they couldn’t ignore.

This quote, “Encounters is okay, but let’s be honest, it’s a marketing scam and involves as little effort as possible on WotC’s part,” is entirely accurate. That is the sentiment that my DMs have expressed to me and one that I ignored in order to do my volunteer duty as a Local Coordinator.

Participating stores receive packages from Wizards of the Coast which include folders for DMs and players along with certificates for magic items. Each of the folders and certificates have a code inside or on them that are used to get exclusive items for the Neverwinter MMO. Besides having a magical item that DMs at conventions cannot deny your character, there isn’t much of a purpose to the official materials outside of the MMOs, which is the most disappointing part.

The restrictive play style of Adventurer’s League has been described by my players and DMs as, “Video games on paper.” WotC doesn’t appear to be focused on selling the books and playing materials so much as they are trying to get subscribers to their MMOs. It’s as if they are abandoning the creativity of D&D in favor of moving to the cash cow of electronic entertainment.

As for, “involves as little effort as possible” You should know that the entire Adventurer’s League is made up of volunteers. We get nothing out of the league except for lectures and reprimands from Regional Coordinators.

Coordinators don’t get official materials, shops do, so the entire Adventurer’s League is actually useless because shops should already be getting everything. I became a Coordinator because WotC was ignoring the shop and I wanted my community to be represented.

One time I got excited about my shop getting a box of +3 Great Sword certificates and talked about it on the private Facebook group. A Regional Coordinator said that the Rage of Demons store package doesn’t come with +3 Great Swords and that I need to be careful about spreading rumors. After having my store owner take a picture of the certificates and posting that on the private Facebook group to prove I wasn’t spreading rumors, I was told by my Regional Coordinator to no longer post in the private Facebook group or engage with other RCs online because they have an unearned sense of superiority and entitlement, and that the LCs just have to put up with it, for free.

During Elemental Evil and Rage of Demons I was a play tester. That’s when it really sunk in that WotC isn’t paying much attention to the testers either. Often they would make simple, first time DM, errors.

In Rage of Demons characters meet a lady who is beating up a drow and trying to tie it up. She asks the players to help her tie up the drow. Of course, being decent people, the PCs told her to let the drow go. She refused and, of course, a fight started. This is an adventure for four, level eight characters. Her stats are that of a commoner with a magical rapier. Needless to say she was red misted in one hit.

I brought this up to the league as a learning experience about how not to make rookie DM mistakes; like making an important, yet pushy or aggressive NPC who can’t kill the entire party. They told me to stop talking about it because I was hurting the writer’s feelings.

After the NPC was red misted the adventure was over. She was the hook that gave the PCs their mission and she was gone because whoever wrote the module treated it like a video game where players cannot effect the world they live in. This is D&D, it’s all about player agency.

That’s why the DM is a creative person and not a computer. They’ve got to be able to change everything based on what the characters do. Once you start railroading people into following your overly specific story, you’re no longer playing D&D.

The very helpful guy at my local store wrote it best when I told my group what happened with my dismissal from the league,

“I don’t want my hand held by an NPC or GM throughout my game. Give me a story I can care about and I’ll follow it through to the end. I don’t need magic items or kickbacks to keep me coming back. Give me free will to move through the world and I’ll make the decision to follow the story arch that intrigues me and my party. Whoever got their feelings hurt in that post must literally have no creative bones in their bodies and don’t do homebrews. Go play Skyrim, this is D&D.”

Those pre-generated characters were fan made but they did go through the official channels before being released, just like we do with play testing and module submission.

By the way, module submission only allows for a single page for an hour long adventure. Yet, they tell us to get done with 17 pages of material in an hour, with a bunch of fluff role play that players aren’t into because it doesn’t match their character idea and then we end the session with a fight that normally lasts another hour.

WotC needs to understand how D&D is played and why people like it. It’s not about rolling dice, it’s about agency and empowerment for the players — getting to flex their creative muscle and deal with difficult situations that make them think in a safe environment.

D&D players should be building their confidence and learning to think critically, not just blindly following a fetch quest and doing everything they’re told to do like in a video game.

Compare what Penny Arcade or Critical Role does to what the Adventurer’s League puts out. My players were psyched after watching Rage of Demons from PAX. Then, when we actually played, it had none of the cool stuff from Penny Arcade. If they can’t even get people who are paid to play D&D to run through the lame modules, why would they force it on the usual player?

It’s honestly a relief to no longer be in the league. My store runs homebrews, homebrews of official book adventures, and PvP events. People are so hyped to play those. At the convention we had a tiny room with three tables next to a giant gaming room for everything that wasn’t D&D. So many people went to our room to play D&D we had to make constant character sheet runs to local printers. The other game room ended up having to give us most of their tables so we could add more players. The store running the convention sold out of PHBs. All of this was homebrewed and tailored to the people who were sitting at the tables. On the last day of the convention I selected the two most experienced players, made them team captains, had players line up along the walls and describe their characters for the captains. Then the captains drafted PCs to their teams. It was a 30 vs. 30 PVP battle. Now our store has double the amount of players it had from last year and we’re already one of the largest groups in the country. We’ve run out of room. People love the homebrew games.

Adventurer’s League is player repellent bat-spray.

(2:14pm October 2nd, 2015 – Editor’s Note: See this instead as it is publicly available. Click the Storify link in the upper left to go to the entire exchange.)

 

(11:43am October 2nd, 2015 – Editor’s Note: Removed)

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