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Working With Store Owners to Start Organized Play

So, you want to start organized play for the D&D Adventurers League at a store?  Why?  This isn’t rhetorical, this is a question that everyone wanting to organize any sort of organized play must ask.

Why do you want to go through the effort to schedule games, organize Dungeon Masters and players, print out forms, do paperwork, and enter data into Wizards Event Reporter? These questions shouldn’t be asked alone. Every one of these things needs to be discussed with the store owner/tournament organizer of the store that you wish to play at.

WER SchedulingAnyone wanting to start organized play must also talk to the store owner about why the store would like to host organized play. From experience of running events like D&D Encounters and D&D Expeditions, most stores use the programs to get more players in the store. But, these events can also be used to create new players, or bring players back to the game. These decisions help focus the organizer by guiding how the programs should be run to help the store succeed in those goals and make the organized play a success. The store owner and the organizer both need to be on the same page as to what the desired results are, past the obvious–players having fun. This means there needs to be a constant stream of communication between the store owner and the organizer. This doesn’t have to be daily, but should be often enough that both people are on the same page. This is extra important for detailing which person will be doing what at each event, and is doubly important for the scheduling and reporting of events.

The store owner and the organizer need to be very clear about how events will be scheduled, how Dungeon Masters will be organized, and who will be reporting the events. If they are unable to communicate then there is almost no reason to be running anything. The first step is to decide who will be scheduling the events on the Wizards Events Reporter. This person has to make sure that all of the events are scheduled in time to ensure the kits arrive at the store. You can read more information about how stores schedule games: In Store or Store Affiliate Play Options The next step to make sure the DMs are given all the information they need for the events. Besides dates and location there needs to be a way to ensure all the DMs have the adventures in time to learn them beforehand. The person doing this needs to make sure the DMs have enough time to work out any adjustments they may see fit for the adventure. Once the adventures are done they must be reported. And, this needs to be discussed early as well as who takes the information before it is reported. All of these discussions, lead to a well informed and organized structure for starting organized play. Figure this stuff out ahead of time and things become much simpler later on. Early planning makes everything easier. Of course, now you need DMs.

Who Should Dungeon Master?

DnD_DMG_300x300Finding DMs is likely going to be the hardest part of starting organized play. Starting the quest to find DMs should start with the store owner. Store owners know their customers, generally, and are the ones that will have the best idea who the most experienced DMs in the area are. This means that you need to still be talking to store owner. Communication should be a mantra by now—live it, love it, repeat it, and do it. This will be the first and easiest way to start tracking down DMs. You will also need to figure out a way then decide on which DMs would be a good fit for the store and separate them from those that aren’t. This may sound wrong, and this may go against the inclusion that this hobby promotes, but game stores are a business and part of organizing for them is making sure that program doesn’t adversely affect that business. As we all know one of the fastest ways to ruin a game of Dungeons & Dragons is to have a bad DM, and bad DMs can end organized play as well. You need to figure out what to look for in a DM. This means talking with the store owner again—communication. There needs to be a particular set of criteria created for the selection of the DMs. When I am looking for DMs I look for people who love the game, will willingly make time to study and prepare the adventures, are good with people, and more interested in running a fun game than they are playing by exactly what is written. I also make sure the people I am looking at have a reputation for being punctual and responsible. That’s really all that I am looking for. And, often that is all you really need to look for.

Determining Dungeon Master Rewards

Once, you have found the DMs the store owner needs to decide if they will receive anything for running. I have heard of some stores offering discounts, some give store credit, and others imply offer a thank you. I would recommend finding DMs that are happy with a thank you, but the owner may still want to repay them. This primarily needs to be known before play starts so that DMs can be informed before they choose to run or not.

Finding Dungeon Masters

As soon as all of this is cleared up start looking for DMs. Start with the people the store owner knows run games. Once that has started start asking about other people they know. Recommendations tend to be a good way to source other people. Once you have done that, or while doing that, set up flyers in the store to get attention, and use the store website/Facebook page/whatever-they-have to spread the word as well. These are all good outlets to spread the word, but the truth is finding DMs is going to take foot work. The organizer and the store owner are going to have to talk to people, possibly lots of them. The amount of time it takes to find the DMs is going to come down to the amount of time and effort put in to find them, and the pool of players the store has to source from.

Code of Conduct

So, now you have set up the organized play, discussed responsibilities, found DMs, and are still communicating yes?  Everything is getting closer to being ready to start the games, but what are you supposed to do about troublesome players and DMs?  There need to be rules on how to deal with problem players, most stores I have been to have something in place to deal with loud or abusive players and this is even more important when working with organized play. Bad experiences during organized play can wreck the number of participants. I’ve seen this happen, and it’s a downer. You need to have some way to curb troublesome behavior. The store I organize at uses a three-strike system. After three strikes you’re out. The store does need to create these guidelines, and they must be known to all the DMs and players before play begins. After that, there are only two things left.


Set up a schedule. Mark when games will be played, announce what adventures are being offered, and finally what levels the adventures are. The players need to know all of these things, and they need to know them early, that’s right…communication. All of these things must be communicated to the players often. You have to let them know directly after the DMs are told. There is no other option to keep them coming back. Now, there is one problem left. You have to be able to find the players.

Kenny Mahan

I have been playing games for half my life at this point, and Dungeons and Dragons was the starting point.I help organize tournaments and games for local stores, and recently became the Local Coordinator for the Lubbock area.

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Author: Kenny Mahan

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