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Community Spotlight: Emma Hendren on Growing Game Nights

Emma Hendren knows the challenges of managing a game night of size GIANT. Emma organizes the Adventurers League games for 50-70 players every Monday night at the Chicagoland Games Dice Dojo. Hendren is lauded for helping to maintain a large, supportive, and inviting community while juggling the many hats that come with an event of this size.

“I spent eight years in the military, and during that time experienced a wide range of leadership,” said the member who nominated her. “I am continually impressed by how well game days are run at the Dojo.  Not only do they run smoothly for such a large group of people, they run smoothly even if 15 new people show up on any given night.”

In this Community Spotlight, Emma shares her advice for growing and maintaining giant game nights.

Growing Your Game Night. Emma attributes the growth of the Dojo’s game night to visibility in and support from the store. A poster-sized calendar ensures everyone knows about AL games on Monday nights. The Dojo’s staff tell people about the event. Facebook groups – as well as an email newsletter for those not on Facebook – alert players to events.

Getting to the Store Early. When growing your game night and encouraging new players, Emma says it is important to have organizers and DMs available at the venue/store an hour to an hour and a half early. They can talk to people browsing the store to see if they are interested in joining, and they can help new players create characters. (If someone arrives close to start, Emma has LAMINATED pre-gens available and lets new players know they can rebuild their characters from levels 1-4. Laminating ensures she gets materials back to reuse.)

Rewarding Your Dungeon Masters. With such a large number of tables, Emma is constantly rotating and recruiting DMs. The Dojo does not charge players for games and rewards Dungeon Masters with $5 store credit every time they DM, which can be used for up to 50% off a purchase.

Supporting Your Dungeon Masters. Emma also ensures she makes her DMs’ job as simple as possible. Every Sunday, Dungeon Masters can play in Slot 0 games for the adventures they will be running. In addition to experiencing the adventure as a player first, Emma provides a handout of tips and suggestions on tough sections to DM, how to effectively run combats, clarifications for any confusing text or FAQ, etc.

Building in Prep Time. Emma plans her calendar of modules weeks in advance. Dungeon Masters go into a Google Document to sign up for games up to 4-5 weeks ahead of time, allowing for ample time to prep. This also allows Emma to discern future dates that are light on signups, so she can recruit new DMs or rally her existing pool to step up.

Creating a Routine for Content Types. The Dojo offers Tier 1 and Tier 2 content every Monday. Every third week, they offer Tier 3 content. Emma says Tier 3 on 3rd Monday helps people remember. Monthly game days offer epics and content for every tier, including Tier 4.

Training DMs on Inclusivity. Emma trains her new Dungeon Masters first on inclusivity first. Proud of the Dojo’s diverse community, she speaks to the DM about their familiarity with DMing, the Dojo’s code of conduct, and making sure everyone is comfortable at any table… as well as the process if someone is uncomfortable. Next, the prospective DM shadows an experienced DM. Then, they co-DM, DMing a table with an experienced DM as a player, who is available to answer any questions that come up.

Mustering Large Groups. Emma has her mustering system down pat. Two laptops are available from 6:45-7:30pm for players to sign up via Google Form. They fill out their name, DCI number, preferred tier of play, possible tiers of play, and the name of their gaming buddy. (Emma limits players to grouping in pairs for ease of table assignments.) The form also asks if anyone is a full healer, partial healer, or martial class to ensure tables are balanced. As players sign up, Emma is arranging tables. By 7:45pm, the tables are ready to go!!

The Adventurers League Community Spotlight features members of our community accomplishing cool things and sharing their tips to make your AL experience equally cool. If you know someone who makes your AL community better, e-mail [email protected] to tell us why they should be featured in the next Community Spotlight.

Lysa Penrose
Latest posts by Lysa Penrose (see all)

Author: Lysa Penrose

Lysa Penrose’s passion lies in growing and creating a more inclusive Dungeons & Dragons community. She served as Community Manager for the D&D Adventurers League, manages social media for Dungeons & Dragons and Dungeon Masters Guild, and hosts Behold Her, a monthly podcast about women in the world of tabletop games. When she’s not gathering and engaging communities, Lysa writes for RPG publishers including Wizards of the Coast and Kobold Press. She's also showrunner/cast of Tales from the Mists, a gothic horror series on the D&D Twitch network. Learn more about Lysa’s D&D adventures, shows, and other creative endeavors at

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