There is a magic that comes with the hobby we all know and love. Sometimes you can put a finger on just why, and sometimes you can’t. One thing is clear, it’s the community and group setting that helps make that magic happen. Where better to capture that community than your Friendly Local Game Store? It is here that we dice-chuckers congregate to gather our supplies and share in the many games that flow through their doors.
I get excited about organized play – on any level. The fun to be had is endless and, if done right, rewarding to the hilt! If you are the leader of such events, the satisfaction of gathering players, both new and veteran, and providing them a quality venue is second to none.
I get a little giddy when I think about how well the D&D Adventurers League has tailored its machinations to promote Dungeons & Dragons, the stores that promote the game, and also the community that plays it. This is where the focus lies: the FLGS brings players together. The way in which games are conducted, including access to content, record keeping and the all-important loot, promote the growth of a healthy, quality gaming community. The D&D Adventurers League will help you grow as both a player and a Dungeon Master. Captain the play, run a game, or just play. You are going to be better for doing it.
Now that you are convinced, let’s figure out the very best way we can get a D&D Adventurers League party started at your FLGS.
Step one is to contact your friendly local game store. We will assume they offer space for players and are not more than just a retail location. Ask to speak to the person in charge and be ready to make an appointment or come back when it is convenient for them.
Trust me, they are busy and the more user-friendly you are, the better things will be.
There are two things that they need to do to help get things going. First they need to sign up for the game, either D&D Encounters or D&D Expeditions, through the Wizards Play Network. Hopefully they will know how to do this. If not give them this link: http://wpn.wizards.com/. There they can get all the information they need.
Once they sign up and schedule events they should receive and email with download instructions for the adventures and a package with the magic item certifications and swag that is distributed to players in-game. Once this is done, your FLGS contact can give you a password that will allow you to access the DM and event organizer download portal.
Now the real fun kicks in! You have your adventure, the store is involved and goodies are on the way. Set a date that is good for everyone. Then, and this is an important step, begin promoting your game. Make some posters, put your game on the in-store calendar with a sign-up sheet and ask the shop to promote as well using any avenues they may have. Social media, blogs and networks can all be tapped into to get a good first showing for your game.
The date is set, now get ready to run your game. Print out your adventure and maybe the basic rules set for players and dungeons masters. Or download the PDFs to your favorite device and get prepared. Read through the adventure front to back (sorry, I’m still old school) making notes to help you along the way. Familiarize yourself with the D&D Adventurers League Player’s Guide and other available downloads that will help you while running a game as well as rules for the DM and players if you aren’t already familiar with them.
This may seem daunting, but it really isn’t. Typically, you can expect to spend three to four hours in your initial preparation time. Subsequently each week takes around one hour. Of course this will vary depending on your DM style. I personally spend great lengths preparing for any game I run. Thankfully, Wizards has struck the perfect balance between rules complexity and ease of play. It is easy to tailor your prep time to your liking.
Even easier, there is a whole slew of pre-generated characters available on the website that players can use to jump right into the action. This tool can be very valuable! Although character creation can be fun for some people, if you find that you need to walk several new players through that process during your scheduled game time you may end up having a less-than-optimal experience for the other players. It’s the new players that you are trying to get on board. Remember, we were all new players last summer when the new edition hit. So having some characters ready for anyone to play, new or old is essential.
Organize all your resources (including the loot gained from your FLGS). Binder up the rules and adventure sheets, box up your mini’s, cooler your sodas, and wrangle snacks (who doesn’t play with snacks? It’s tradition you know!).
Show up early. Please! On your game date there is nothing wrong with showing up an hour early to get all set up and mingle with other store goers to gain any players who might be interested. It also shows the store and players who attend that you are serious about your game. In future weeks it also opens up a time you are available to have character creation. Not all players like pre-gens, so making yourself available each week for an hour to roll characters is awesome. Be ready also to look over and approve critters that innovative players have already made. The beauty of D&D’s organized play is right there. All characters are made with the same criteria and it would be easy to welcome these characters into your session.
Many, if not all, of the adventures available come with great back stories that are well written. Share those back stories with your players; including all the campaign traits and flavors that are located in the adventure backgrounds can be very helpful for immersing your players in the “D&D experience”. You know as well as I that the Forgotten Realms is chock-full of content and flavor, but not all players will be as invested. Go nuts and share all you know or have reference to. It will help sink your players deeper into the story.
Now the real fun begins: have your game! Keep it slow and steady at first, welcoming questions and explanations to help everyone ease into your game. As your game grows, the pace will quicken on it’s own. For your first game you can hope for between three and five players. But be ready for any scenario. You may get one or may get many. I have experienced both. If you have a huge turn out don’t panic. Get a friend to be available just in case this happens; or if you have a small turn out they can sit as a player.
Based on a few different factors, your game will grow. These include population, store involvement and promotion. It won’t take long, maybe four to six weeks, and you will have a regular group. On average it is fair to say you will gain one player every two weeks with a slight slow down once you reach two to three tables with six players each. If you want to keep it growing to maximum potential here are a few things I have done to promote my game:
- Hang posters at a nearby school or college.
- Ask local coffee shops or other stores to hang posters.
- Give incentive for your players to spread word of mouth promotions.
- Keep your game light hearted and fun so everyone will want to come back!
At this point keep an eye out for those players with natural talent and desire. If done right, your weekly sessions will blow up in popularity. You are going to need more dungeon masters, knowing who has the potential to be one will serve you well down the road.
It’s a bit of a commitment, yes. But the payoff far exceeds the cost. With a little effort and ambition you will have a huge amount of fun playing the new edition of our beloved game.
Roll initiative! It’s time to play D&D with the Adventurers League at your friendly local game store!