Recently, I alluded to a change in hobbies toward Dungeons and Dragons Adventurer’s League. It all started one night at the local gaming store when I had yet another losing night drafting Magic the Gathering. One of the store clerks, who is a fellow Dungeons and Dragons fan, told me about Adventurer’s League. I had vaguely heard of it before, but he helped explain how it works and why it was worth a look.
Adventurer’s League exists to solve one of perennial issues with Dungeons and Dragons: finding a game. It’s a program that provides drop-in games at any game store or event that offers them. AL has stricter options for customizing your character,¹ but you gain portability in that you can bring it from one drop-in game to another, and can track progress between them using a standard logsheet and the baseline rules. Larger conventions regularly host AL sessions too, if you’re part of the convention crowd.
Getting started with Adventurer’s League isn’t too difficult, especially if you’ve played D&D 5th Edition. You need at minimum:
- An Adventurer’s League logsheet (to track your character’s progress across sessions)
- A character sheet
DMs can help you walk through the rest, or address questions you have. However, it’s also really helpful to review the Player’s Guide first so you get familiar with some of the terms and how progress is tracked. Having access to a player’s handbook for D&D helps too. If you can’t afford one, there is a more limited, free version provided by Wizards of the Coast that you can download.
My first AL session ever was a large multi-party event that was also a charity fundraiser. The DMs who volunteered to conduct the event were super-helpful in answering my questions, the people in my group were great, and the adventure was pretty darn fun, especially since it was part of a larger war campaign involving other groups at the same event and we all had to coordinate with one another to liberate the city of Phlan.
The subsequent sessions I played were much smaller in scope, and the players were different since it was a drop-in campaign, but it was still a lot of fun. One session was a battle against local undead forces, while the next session was a role-playing adventure to help raise funds for a local orphanage. D&D Adventurer’s League benefits from a large collection of quality-written adventures from DMS Guild, and these can be surprisingly fun and creative. Often times, they’re one-off “mini adventures” from larger campaign settings such as Barovia or Waterdeep.
With AL, you don’t get to go as deep into role-playing as you would a home-campaign since your character drops into an adventure for maybe one session, but I found if you lighten up a bit and just go with the story, you can still have fun role-playing your character without heavy commitment either. However, you’re 10-page backstory may need to be trimmed down to 3-4 sentences to make it fit into whatever campaign you wish to play. 😉
My current character, linked here in DnD Beyond, is a Sun Elf named Qisandoral Ariesstanus or “Qi” for short. He started as a throw-away NPC character in my home campaign with my kids but he soon grew on all of us and I decided to make an AL-version of him. He is the elf version of Mr Spock or Sam the Eagle from the Muppet Show: very stiff and deadpan in an amusing way.
Compared to a more competitive environment like Magic, AL is much more collaborative. People are there to work together and have a good adventure, so they’re inclined to get along and solve the adventure rather than try to one-up one another. That doesn’t eliminate the issue of problematic players (and I’ve met a few over the years), but I found those incidents pretty rare, and such players don’t last long. The rest of the players are great people, and I always walk away from an AL session having had a good time.
Adventurer’s League is also very budget-friendly, which as a working father with kids is great. I can’t vouch for money spent on game-store food, but that’s another story. ;p
I can’t praise AL enough. If you’d like to play D&D or looking for a gaming event that’s easy going, friendly and cost-efficient, definitely give Adventurer’s League a try. You have nothing to lose, and many adventures and loot to win! 😀
P.S. One thing I have noticed is that AL is still a relatively new program, so rules do change from season to season, especially with how progress is tracked. If in doubt, your DM can help you walk through any updates or rule changes if need be.
¹ For example, AL uses something called the “PHB+1 Rules” which means that when create and customize your character, you need to stick to the rules of the original Player’s Handbook plus one other book (e.g. Xanathar’s Guide to Everything).