Saturday, August 4, 2018

Some musings about the complaints in Adventurers League

I have been away from blogging for a long time. I did not have much to say that I did not say on Facebook. However I recently started working on a D&D 5e home campaign and well the crap happening right now in the AL with people upset about the upcoming Season 8 changes had me thinking about the history of some complaints and how they relate to the new changes.

This is a look at a bit of the past of hardcover complaints.

First some history. I was a Regional Coordinator for the Adventurers League from September 2014 until November 2016. During that time I served the Great Lakes Region which comprised the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. I managed a lot of talented and passionate people who knew their areas really well. I got a lot of feedback from them as to what they saw the issues were within AL and I gave that feedback monthly to the Admins.

I also helped moderate the Adventurers League Facebook and Google Plus community. That being said one thing that always stood out was the hardcovers and DM's having issues running them.

  • There was a lack of XP. 
  • There were issues with magic items disrupting play. 
  • There was a league wide issue with way too much gold and nothing to spend it on.

Every hardcover had issues with these things. If you look at the hardcovers they are designed for that sweet spot in group size, that being four to five players. If you run the DD-Series adventurers league modules (DDAL, DDEX, DDEP, and DDIA) you will notice that there are adjustments for the APL (Average Party Level) and this helps the DM's with adjusting the encounter. Say what you will they work either really well or not at all but that math is already done for you.

DD-Series adventures are optimized for a part of five and depending on the tier, an average party level. Any work you need to do as a DM to modify the adventure to handle a group less than 5 or more then 5 is done for you. In fact all of the work a DM needs to do other than prepare to run the adventure is done for them. You got to award bonus XP which helped get to that min/max XP cap that all adventures had outside of the hardcovers.

Going back to the hardcovers (DDHC's) these adventures are written for five players and the chapters are designed for a target level. There are no real adjustments to the adventure for more of less party members. The one thing players and DMs of Hardcovers need to realize is that the hardcovers are not written with the Adventurers League in mind. They are designed so any 5e DM and group can play it with minimal trouble as is. It only bogs down when you add in the limitations DDAL has to adventures.
  • You can not create new encounters.
  • You can not add in treasure
  • You CAN alter encounters as long as they thematically match the adventure.
  • You CAN add in Random Encounters as long as you follow those rules on how they are determined in that particular hardcover. *
  • You can not add treasure to random encounters.
  • You can not string along random encounters or alter them.*
  • Play the adventure in the spirit of the adventure.
* These are never put in the seasonal players guides but Admins have stated these through the years that AL has been going.

When DM's run hardcovers it is common knowledge that XP gains can be huge or they can be almost zero depending on what your party does. Rewards for roleplaying or exploration, two of the three pillars in D&D are non-existant. The DMG offers little guidance on this form of XP. This means the DM has to rely heavily on rebuilding encounters to match their party composition. Part of this reliance falls on random encounters to get XP into the characters totals to level them up so they do not hit a part of the adventure where they might be under the appropriate level.

DMs could add in DD-Series adventures, early on in Adventurers League we stressed this to people with concerns. However in the beginning the hardcovers happened in or near the Sword Coast and the DDEX adventures were all set in the Moonsea region. Anyone who knows their Forgotten Realms geography knows the distance. Well lets take into consideration some players inability (due to no fault of their own) to suspend disbelief to hand-wave that distance. Couple that with the fact that some players did not want their players jumping around between modules and hardcovers. I could go on about this bit but I wont bore you with all the complaints there were.

Adventurers League adventures, especially the hardcovers have awarded a lot of gold, so much so that there was almost nothing to spend it on. This only got worse for when Season 4 hit and with the inclusion of DM Quests even more gold was added in. The real problem here was the lack of an economy to match this increase in gold. There was Fai Chen's Fantastical Trade Faire. Gold as a resource was very undervalued.  

Magic items added to the problem with items like Haziwran, Orcsplitter, Staff of the Magi and other various items that should have been impossible to own yet here they were. Lets not forget bag of beans and the pyramid with the mummy or the deck of many things or all of the other super powerful items that Storm Kings Thunder added to the game that DMs just happened to roll for that their groups now owned and spread into the treasure economy.

I had a Senior Local Coordinator quit over the magic items in Hardcovers entering play and disrupting things in play. She wanted the hardcovers removed from AL play or offer other items in place of these. There were items that should never have left their adventures, they were plot devices that were needed to complete the adventure and then either be destroyed or stay where they were found.

So let us review the problems
  • XP is slow to get in Hardcovers.
  • Gold is in abundance and no economy to take advantage of it.
  • Disruptive legendary magic items outside of hardcovers.
Lets look at the middle of July 2018. A new article appears on the Wizards official D&D site called "Changes to D&D Adventurers League Rewards" and it goes over some of the upcoming changes coming to the Adventurers League rewards for XP, Treasure and Magic Items. These rules were somewhat previewed in the hardcover supplement Xanathar's Guide to Everything. It included rules for Shared Campaign worlds might look into using for their own Organized Play.

Based on previous seasons every time a new Players Guide or campaign changes that effected the play experience there were some in the community that railed against the change. Season 2 saw the Arcane Edicts in Mulmaster and the need to be a member of the Cloaks to cast arcane magic. Season 3 saw racism in full swing in a historically racist location in the Realms. Season 4 was trapped in the mists. Season 7 and the Death Curse had a huge negative reaction as the Admins and WotC had this be a world wide curse. That meant they wanted most of the seasons to be effected by this curse. Outrage led to changes for this season and what I personally felt was a watering down of the Death Curse.

There is a history of railing against any change the admins make unless it benefits the players.

Season 8 shows us that things like Experience Points would be changed to Advancement Checkpoints. Adventures would not award Treasure Checkpoints which can be spent to buy magic items you unlocked during adventures and some expensive gear in the Players Handbook. Gold would be awarded when you advanced in level.

Finally there was the now banned Magic Item list. Most if not all of the items were from the Hardcovers and many made a lot of sense. Others appeared because of them showing up in Storm Kings Thunder with random treasure rolls. 

When you boil it down what did it fix?
  • Hardcovers would not struggle to earn XP
  • Gold was now managed per WotC to more manageable levels
  • Disruptive Magic Items were now going to be removed to take that problem out of the game.
The very things players were complaining about when running Hardcovers were now addressed by the Admins and WotC. They were making positive changes for the most part, changes that would need to take some time to deal with but they were positive and would help with things like Hardcovers or the gold and disruptive magic items.

My personal thoughts are when I look at these changes, the gold is the most restrictive. How we will earn it, every time we level, upsets me still. It changes some things and puts restrictions on casters that require spell components and It is an abstraction that no one asked for. People wanted gold still, they wanted things to spend it on. What we got was the opposite of what the player base wanted. We will have to deal with it and move on, hopefully they listen to some suggestions and make some changes to it.

Hardcover tough love in Season 8

Over on Facebook in the DM Discussion Group for Adventurers League I made a comment to people upset that it looked like players would advance way too fast in Season 8 when playing Hardcovers.

My Post:

"So one of the things DMs of Hardcovers are going to need to do is do some proper DM Prep and not plan the entire hardcover. Those chapters of exploration need to be parsed down some. You need to make any combats quicker in random encounters.

Work on your set piece encounters that are part of the story progression and still make some fights in some of those chapters less of a slog and more of a speed-bump.

You will most likely need to use the slow progression, that is what it is there for.

The worry that Hardcovers will go fast should be tempered with the fact that you do not have to run the whole adventure to get things done. You can add a lot of roleplaying where they might not earn a checkpoint for that hour but they got to roleplay.

As DM you will need to manage the rewards. Not every hour in a Hardcover is going to give the players a checkpoint. You need to learn when and if they accomplished enough of the adventures goals to earn one. More likely than not they will earn one, but that is now your job. Do you reward it or not? You control the pace at which they earn it."

Needless to say, and I called it to some as I posted it, I would get resistance. I did in fact get a lot and some of it was like a smack in the face. I was told I was telling people to skip portions of the adventure. Or that the designers of the product should make the adventure work for them and do all of that work for them.

Some of these comments made me think that people who were commenting never ran a hardcover.

The authors of these hardcovers have no idea what your group looks like when they design the adventure and all of the encounters that go into it. That is what it is to prep the adventure. As the DM it is our job to take what we are given and make it work for the groups we have.

Right now, prior to season 8 you had to read that entire sandbox portion of the adventure to add in all of those random encounters and locations just to get the XP your group needs. You can now run the adventure as it was intended and focus on the story, add in some random encounters to enhance the story you are telling and not have to have your group explore the entire land of Chult or the Sword Coast just so they can be high enough level to not get a TPK

Your Milage Might Very

Saturday, August 31, 2013

GenCon 2013 (Part 2)

Would have posted sooner but I have been dealing with Con Crud that took the form of Bronchitis... Joy.

Day 2 [addition]

One of the things I love doing is finding miniatures for D&D. This year was a mix of both D&D Mini's and figures from the Pathfinder Battles game. I got a lot of player character models and that made me pretty happy. I am usually finding it hard to pick creature mini's I might use so it usually ends up being character heavy picks.

Day 3

We sat down to demo a new game coming out called Hegemonic. I dug it a lot because I understood the mechanics having played other games that had similar mechanics. My friends though not so much. I spent much of this day wandering around and taking pictures of things I saw that I liked and found interesting.

In all honesty I think the Demo could have been preformed better, the booth was small and they were trying to demo two games there. The guy who taught us was not the best at teaching the rules and he named examples from games my friends just never played. It was uncomfortable and my friends put on a good front.

I still want to get this game and play it, even if they will never play it. I can try it at Fair Game.

I had seen this on Friday, meant to take a picture but forgot to run back past it as I was late for something. Star Trek Attack Wing in large scale! It is a shame that they show off this game with beautiful models and then give us crap miniatures that Hero Clix players would use. No offense to the Clix players.

I walked through the D&D Play area quite a bit and snapped some pictures while I walked through there.

I saw Brian James playing Lords of Waterdeep and I believe that is Erik Scott de Bie, and for some reason on the left and cut off was Matt James but you can see his badge, trust me it is him and no I was not stalking I just happened upon this moment.

Then there is the Demon Queen of Spiders herself.

 The plaque at the base of Lolth's statue.

Baldur's Gate giant map.

The only thing I had planned for this day was the Q&A with R&D from WotC. On the pannel that day were Rodney Thompson, Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford and Chris Perkins. It was a full 2 hours of Q&A. There were a few people who missed 4e because of the power structures. A few still had not kept up with the packets. 

Even fewer still thought the goal of the game system was to allow a player with a 1e character and a 2e character and someone with a next character and play together at the same table. We got a lot of good info and I even asked a question about Backgrounds.

Pathfinder continues to have a strong presence at the convention. Good for them.

Fantasy Flight Games showed off more new Star Wars RPG and X-Wing Miniatures game models.

Saturday night came and we played the new Firefly boardgame.

I saw a table for Dungeon Command from Wizards of the Coast that had created 3d versions of some of the tiles. Pretty cool.

I got in a little DM prep for my D&D Next game
 Saw a cool game of Twilight Imperium from Fantasy Flight Games
 There were a lot of X-Wing games happening late into the night.

 Card Halla

At 3am the main entrance is empty.
I attended one more Q&A session with R&D with Wizards of the Coast on Sunday and that was it for my weekend at Gencon.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

GenCon 2013 (Part 1)

Another GenCon has come and gone and this was probably my best one out of the 28 years of going. This year I went with my constant GenCon travel companion Dennis Brown in addition to long time friends Neal Adamski and the Twins (As we call them and better known as Jesus and Julian Zamora.) They also felt this was a great GenCon and we had to pull teeth a bit to get the Twins to go.

This year we stayed at the Omni which is just a block away from the convention center. It is a nice hotel and I like it a lot, it is not our first time there. It was a tight fit getting 5 guys to fit comfortably in one room but it is GenCon and this kind of thing is normal.


I spent the day in the exhibit hall and walked around a lot, this is nothing new as I usually spend my entire convention just walking constantly. Now going into this year I knew that Wizards of the Coast was not going to be in the Exhibitors Hall and it was an absence that was felt all around.

I can only think that this year besides working on the next edition of Dungeons and Dragons they have plans for a big celebration for the D&D Fortieth Anniversary. If they miss the chance to have the biggest presence at GenCon next year that will be a damn shame. They should return the castle back to the Exhibitor Hall properly and have huge events all weekend.

My first days Loot was a nice haul: Star Trek Attack Wing from Wizkids; Star Wars Age of Rebellion Beta from Fantasy Flight Games; Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle from Wizards of the Coast (GF9 Booth) and a Drizzt tee-shirt.

Let me say that this year was a first for me in 28 years. I bought not just one but two tee-shirts. I actually hate tee-shirts with pictures and crap on them but something about watching The Big Bang Theory has softened me up to it and I kind of enjoyed wearing them at the convention.

My first official event was "A Night with D&D" and the Indiana Ballroom Rooftop. This was the party for D&D to kick off The Sundering, launch of the new adventure Murder in Baldur's Gate (Also on sale there). There I scored a copy of R.A. Salvatore's new book The Companions which kicks off The Sundering event. I got several art prints signed by the authors present and had my copy of The Companions signed. Also I picked up Gale Force 9's new Drizzt miniature they had for sale in the ballroom.

My friends were in the Hyatt playing games with another group of friends also here. When I got there many fine spirits had already be consumed and one group played X-Wing from Fantasy Flight Games and my friends I was there with were trying to learn how to play Gears of War from Fantasy Flight Games. It was then Bed Time.

This year there was not a lot of stress as we were not trying to load our plate with events nor trying to pack our nights with a rigorous time frame. I had my Thursday Night booked with my event and the rest was open to do whatever.

Day 2

I spent my 2nd day acquiring even more loot from the Dungeon Hall. I found some nice deals on things like Dungeon Command Tyranny of the Goblins and several D&D Mini singles from dealers like Cool Stuff Inc and Strike Zone Online.

There was a mix of Mini's from WotC and Paizo (WizKids) and I must say the quality of the minis from Paizo are really good. I am looking forward to future releases.

We got to play D&D Next in the adventure Confrontation at Candlekeep. It was fun and I enjoyed it a lot, (I played a Cleric) my friends also enjoyed themselves. We managed to do a lot of damage to the Dragon that attacked the various tables around us representing the various towers of Candlekeep we needed to defend to erect a shield to save the important location. Cudos to Baldman Games who organizes all of the volunteers, I can only imagine it is a stressful task.

At night I chose not to do the D&D Next meetup that got organized and hung out with my friends.

I want to state what GenCon means to me. It is a place I go to see the latest and greatest in this years new releases, demo games in the convention hall and play games with my friends after hours in the gaming area of the convention.

My memories of GenCon are filled with doing just that. From playing Star Wars Miniatures to Lords of Waterdeep and even doing some RPG pickup games in the past. It is about socializing with the people at the con and having people walk up to our table to see what game we are playing.

It is not sitting in a hotel playing games away from everyone, there are exceptions but for the most part I think if we are not in our room sleeping or resting we should be in the con hall. This year a few of my friends agreed with me, there was no arm twisting or appeasement to me, this second night in Indy I was going to be elsewhere and my friends knew that.

I explained my opinion about the convention to them and they chose to go to the hall and I chose to then hang with them and play some freaking games.

We played a new game I picked up on a good deal. DC Comics Deck-Building Game and my friends liked it which made me happy. This is not the typical game that you would see them playing.

We started slow, fighting a few bad guys until finally in the final game with all five of us we played through all of the villains. It was great because those bad guys mess you up when they first appear and Dennis kept saying he did not know how he was going to recover.

Guess what? He ended up winning in the end. He was playing Batman and all that damn equipment he had won him the game.

I used Green Lantern in that game and I really do not like his super power. It is pretty hard to use it early in the game if you are not able to buy cards to solidify the deck you are playing. I was constantly ready to fire off a decent set of cards only for someone else to knock out the bad guy and ruin it for me. It was frustrating but fun!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mekton Zero Kickstarter

Mekton Zero!

So R.Talsorian Games has gone and started a Kickstarter to fund a new version of the Mekton RPG. Mekton Zero as it stands right now I am not sure I will back it, at first I was excited. The first stretch goal made me sad. For those who spent $200 or more they get a bunch of mecha miniatures! Really? You make it a point of calling out the RPG focus and then the real rub, you need to spend a lot of money to get those mini's.

Never fear though, you can buy on for the mini's for a just $10 a figure! I can not help but feel the goal of this Kickstarter is to fund a new miniatures game and not just an RPG. Damage dice markers are $2 a die.

Maybe things will change, but as a long time player of Mekton since Mekton II I am a bit bummed.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Macross-Robotech Re-Image RPG Campaign: Style

So as I go about and make my version of Robotech as I mesh the current Macross concepts into Robotech I am picking and choosing which parts of both universes will make it into my take on a modern day version of Robotech. Do I call it Robotech or do I call it Macross? Zentradi or Zentraedi and Inbit or Invid? It is my choice since it is my game right? Will my players enjoy the game based on my choices?

The Image:
While I work on what makes it into the game universe I also am thinking of the visual look. Right off the bat I will state that in 1985 I got to see Macross Do You Remember Love and fell in love with the change in the art work. In the cannon on the Macross universe this 1984 movie was actually an in-universe movie depicting the events of Space War I but back then that was not the case. Robotech was all the rage in America (Before Akira and Ghost in the Shell overdose) at the time. Macross Plus was years out still and Macross was a TV show in Japan and the first part of Robotech.

The look of Macross DYRL changed slightly. From the first moments on screen we are shown the Zentradi and they look radically different. More organic and at first I do not think I cared for it, but next was the look of the SDF-1 Macross. Gone were the two ships the Prometheus and Daedalus and were replaced by those space ships we saw in the first episode of Macross, the ARMD Space Platforms.

The flight uniforms, the HUD of the Valkyrie, the missile launchers on the wings of the fighters. All the Valkyries had FAST PACKS as a common attachment! Everything looked similar but different and new. The hands of the Battroid went from the rounded TV version to more of an angular mechanical look. Some subtle and some radical like the technology of the Zentradi.

In my game this is the look that sets the Macross portion of my version of this universe. So the Zentradi will look like the DYRL versions, they continue that look in the Macross 7 and Frontier portions of the series so I will stick with that. I like it and just seems cooler. Plus I like that the Males and Females have different technology and ships.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Macross-Robotech Update: Game Systems and Vehicle Sheets

Game System Chosen!

My Macross/Robotech moves along while I come up with ideas [see my previous post] going into this I knew what game system I was going to use and it was more because it is something I familiar with as much as it was suggested by one of my players. While I am using the cover for Mekton II the actual system being used will be Mekton Zeta. [I love the cover art, Ben Dunn is a great artist]

Sheet as a Work in Progress

Specifically I am using the combat system that was contained in the Mekton Zeta GM screen to give a Theater of the Mind combat system as opposed to hex combat. It is quick and fast and used it in the past when I ran my Jovian Chronicles games YEARS ago.

Update: I completed the sheet for it to be functional for me.

Completed Sheet
 I will make some changes I am sure but for right now it looks nice when it prints and will give me everything I will need to run a decent campaign. I decided that the art from the movie, Macross: Do You Remember Love?

About Me

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I was Regional Coordinator for the Great Lakes Region for D&D Adventurers League. I work for Best Buy as a Merchandising Specialist were I set merchandising standards for the store I work for. I enjoys playing games (PC, Console, Board Games, RPGs and Miniature Skirmish Games), reading, watching movies and listening to music.