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.

No comments:

Post a Comment

About Me

My photo
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.