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Community Spotlight: Online Roleplay & the Red War

With rumors of a Red War on the horizon, this Community Spotlight is all about the members of the Adventurers League who spearheaded roleplay amidst the factions. Do we have them to thank for what’s to come… or to blame? Origins Game Fair will reveal all with the Red War epic!

These organizers sparked groups across multiple channels for members of their faction to discuss the Red Wizards occupying Mulmaster and what to do about a foe in hiding. They share the insights they’ve learned about encouraging roleplay between sessions and continuing the game between games. The organizers also share some of their favorite moments from the roleplay leading up to the Red War and their characters’ thoughts as it approaches.

Representing the Emerald Enclave: David Hopkins, whose gnome Tick Tary Tanner (pictured right) started this ruckus with a bold declaration, and Dungeon Master Shawna Lynne!

Representing the Harpers: Tosh Le, a DM, organizer, and encounter editor, and J. Connor Self, a DM and organizer for the North Central Illinois Adventurers, a former local coordinator, and an administrator for cons galore (Gamehole Con, Gary Con, Ziege Con, Who’s Yer Con, and Nexus Game Fair). He also is a new author of AL adventurers and helped start the D8 Summit Charity Convention.

Representing the Order of the Gauntlet: Marshall Miller, an enthusiastic AL DM around Atlanta, GA, running weekly at Gigabites Cafe, for his faction Discord group, charity events, and local conventions.

Representing the Lords Alliance: Garrett Colon, a DM at stores, game days, conventions, and an organizer for PAX East and Unplugged with the Role Initiative. He’s also a former senior Local Coordinator and an adventure writer.

Representing the Zhentarim: Ben Heisler, who runs conventions in the Atlanta area, including DragonCon, and helps organize, promote, and run other smaller conventions including a series of book-in-a-weekend conventions like “Weekend in Barovia.” He’s also penned some adventures for the AL and the CCC program along with his “much more talented wife” Paige Leitman.

Starting & Encouraging Online Roleplay

What’s In a Name? The simplest gestures can make a world of difference in encouraging roleplay. Garrett says remembering to call each other by character names is huge. He also suggests having a tell to say “I am out of character”, which makes it easier to have in-character interactions kept separate from player ones.

Integrate Roleplaying and Backstory. Even in a 4-hour game at a convention, Marshall says the Dungeon Master can integrate characters into the story. He suggests asking players for their backgrounds and appearance at the start of the game. Incorporating those small aspects can go a long way to getting roleplaying strated, he says.

Gaming Away from the Table. Marshall says it is important to provide communication spaces away from the D&D table to encourage player-to-player roleplaying and that those spaces should be easy to access and well known. David adds: “D&D is one of the few games where you can ‘play it’ even when you’re away from the table. The narrative can run throughout the day inside your head. I’m constantly thinking about the space between the modules.” Shawna says her local stores have had success with Facebook group chats which are easy and accessible.

Create Fun Controversy. J. Conner says nuance might better reflect real life but “nothing fires people up more than a strong and simple stance on an issue.” His main character Talint was vocal and sometimes controversial in the Harpers groups, providing something to which other characters could react strongly. David likened the discussions to “a Model U.N. for the Adventurers League.” “It was important to create something that was over-the-top and controversial, where you could make an argument for or against the declaration,” he said.

Games Within Games. J. Conner had success creating quizzes within the Harpers groups. Taking advantage of deep Harpers lore, he used the roleplay groups to help others learn more about what it means to be a Harper via trivia contests. Winners were gifted copies of AL modules with Harpers secret missions.

Players Can Inspire Stories/Roleplay Too. “If you’re trying to tell an interesting story, you don’t need to wait for permission,” David says. “You throw it out there, and see if people respond to it. DMs inspire players, but players can inspire DMs too. One of the best lessons from D&D is that the answer to ‘can I do something’ is ‘you can always try.’ So try something.”

Plethora of Platforms

Facebook Groups. All of the faction roleplay organizers lauded Facebook for its popularity as a platform and its ability to spread announcements. Members enjoyed not having to download or create an account for another platform or software. Ben harnessed Facebook pools for the Zhentarim. “With the Zhentarim described as a family, I felt it was really important for everyone to have a voice,” he says. “This meant we need to do things democratically.” Polls helped generate discussions, and Ben created press releases from the Zhentarim Mercenary Company to share their views with other groups.

Google Forms. A couple organizers started using Google Forms to gauge interest in roleplay but swiftly graduated to Facebook Groups as interest grew. J. Conner’s trivia games were hosted on Google Forms.

Discord. As conversations grow, many of the organizers found Discord to be the best platform for discussions, with its ability to host phone calls, its searchability, and its customization options. The Lords Alliance created channels divided by rank or to welcome newcomers. The Harpers created channels for trading, mentorship, and discussion. The Order of the Gauntlet creative channels like an entrance hall and a hall of deeds for members to announce their successes. Tosh recommends pairing a Facebook group with Discord to balance the latter’s biggest flaw: “Its exclusivity,” he explains. “If you don’t have access to a Discord, it is very hard to find it.”

Memorable Moments & Takeaways

Garrett’s most memorable moment from the pre-Red War roleplay was the Faction Summit, a fan-organized gathering on Discord where members of all faction met to discuss how they could work together.

For Tosh and J. Conner, the most memorable moment was the “Open/Secret Harper scandel.” “Essentially what happened is that we (the High Harpers) created a poll, wherein people would discuss whether or not the Harpers should reveal themselves in order to display their full strength to the Red Wizards,” Tosh explains. “The vote originally had an Open Harper majority, and thus our plan proceeded, and yet within the span of only a couple days, the majority flipped! This put a wrench in our plans as several high-ranking Harpers had already revealed themselves. However, we then realized the solution! High-ranking members, who were of such a strength that they could fend for themselves, could reveal that they were Harpers in order to throw the Red Wizards off of the scent of those who chose to remain hidden. While this idea eventually worked out, it was certainly a surprising moment when the Harpers initially voted to leave the safety of secrecy.”

Marshall enjoyed seeing how the different factions reflected different character personalities. “You head over to the Lord’s Alliance and there’s political debate among nobles, you hit up the Zhentarim and everyone is being shady and trying to take advantage of the situation, and then you take a swing over to the Gauntlet and see everyone loudly discussing righteousness and good deeds. The Gauntlet folk are definitely a very colorful and charismatic bunch (I may be a bit biased.)”

David was moved by player characters swearing fealty to his PC who started it all, Tick Tary Tanner, and by the funeral and eulogies when Tick Tary was assassinated.

The Red War is Coming

Ah, but it is all fun and games until the Red Wizards of Thay notice… Rumors swirl that a war is coming…

“I’ve spent a lot of sleepless nights wondering if the people we’ve come around to seeing as the ones we need to protect are going to face the worst of the repercussions and/or fallout from this war. With whatever happens, we need to be ready to be decisive, act quickly, and not flinch from what needs to be done. The black blades are coming out, and there will be plenty of red before the job’s done.” – Ben Heisler, Zhentarim

“Prince Doran Hightower sits in his family’s home in the Thunder Peaks, various Lords’ Alliance members moving about as preparations and talks continue. “The Lords’ Alliance members that have congregated at my family’s home have been ready for whatever may come. My fellow members have spread out to train militia, gather intel and resources, keep an eye on the Red Wizards, and more… But no matter what we do to prepare, an all out war with Thay is foolish. This Lords’ Alliance contingent from day one has wished to help restore Mulmaster to what it once was, and war with Thay is no way to do it. We continue to call for all factions to sit at the table, along with the Thayans and other leaders of Mulmaster, to bring about a true rebirth of the city. But if war is to come? We are prepared to do our part to protect the citizens of Mulmaster and civilians across the Moonsea from the fallout, and crush this war under our boot swiftly and with as little bloodshed as possible.” Doran’s face saddens for a moment, touching a worn pin on his cloak. “As an aside, and of my own opinion… Tick Tary Tanner was a good man. Foolish, but even in his death he did the best that he could to keep people safe. I truly hope the Thayans do not try anything more foolish. My weapons are sharp though, and my family’s motto still holds true: ‘Our strength is absolute’. I pray I do not have to bring my strength to bear in the cities of Mulmaster.” – Garrett Colon, Lords Alliance

He pauses for a moment, stroking his clean chin with a sense of simultaneous patience and speed. A light breeze of mellifluous music drifts lazily through the room, like a songbird in a golden cage. “Dark moments are on the horizon.” The hooded figure rumbles. His voice is most certainly not exactly what you were expecting, containing a deep baritone within a, by the looks of it: slight body. “You should be wary of who you trust, but that does not mean that you should alienate them.” He then stands up from his chair and from just under the hood you notice his mouth upturned in a bright gleaming smile, which, but for a moment you cannot help but think of anything except for its radiance. “For friends are what we shall need in this upcoming war.” Then with a flick of his hand, the study vanishes and you’re left lying outside upon a bed of brilliant sunflowers.” – Tosh Le, Harpers

“In character, Talint (Genasi Evoker 20) presents the strong resolve of an explosive French revolutionary.  He is the Jean Valjean of his story, sold on the slaver’s block in Calimshan to a family and profession that redeemed and empowered him.  While openly focused and ready, secretly Talint is very worried.  The experience offered the insight that the other factions have fallen from their ideals, and he isn’t certain the Five Faction experiment is working.  Talint is convinced from his experiences in Season 2 and DDAO’s shared by Alan Patrick that Thay continues to work for itself at the expense of the people of Mulmaster (that is what Thay does), even flagrantly defying Mulmaster’s laws and customs in pursuit of dark magical power, and Thay has threatened to blow up the city if forced to leave it.  He is also convinced that certain powerful personalities among the Five Factions seek to reinforce this perverse order of things.

Talint plans to offer the people of the Zhent Ghettoes citizenship as they deserve, but this would likely be opposed.  And seeing as war seems inevitable at this point without the shedding of innocent blood, Talint has been making preparations to transport as many potential casualties (particularly the disenfranchised people of the Zhent Ghettoes) to his Astral Veranda if conflict threatens to take the lives of the citizenry.  On the Astral Plane, time doesn’t pass the same, and hunger and thirst are not as serious a consideration.  Talint intends for relocate these people to other areas – using his considerable wealth to procure food and supplies for them.  Talint is also secretly preparing to unseat the power bases of the Alliance Tyrants who have turned a blind eye to the enslavement and suffering of the common Mulmasterite to protect their own power and influence.” – J. Connor Self, Harpers

“The recent campaigns against the Cult of the Dragon, the elemental cults, the demon lords, and other manifestations of evil were not what we had expected. The politics of those situations was lost on Gauntlet leadership and there was an expected long-term commitment to our areas of operation that we failed to uphold, as we saw in Mulmaster recently. 

I worry that our previous methods of dealing with large scale campaigns will carry forward and plague us greatly when dealing with future challenges – especially those of a larger scale than the past conflicts. We’ve been managing dealing with the ramifications so far, but we may not be so fortunate with future incidents.

That being said, I think we are quickly beginning to confront the realities of the world in its current state and we are realizing the mistakes that we have made. It’s incredibly important for the Gauntlet and Faerún in general that we gather what we have learned from the past years of conflict and conduct specialized training, develop additional combat capabilities, and properly organize our institution for war and not temporary policing. 

We’re continuing to follow our core doctrines as always and put aside all occurrences of narrow outlooks to avoid retreading the same ground that we have in the past. We continue to place emphasis on our faith as the greatest weapon that we possess.

One incredible feature of the Gauntlet is that the many faiths and experiences of our members gives us the opportunity to reflect on those experiences and train our troop in those ways. This learning helps us gain the breadth and depth of knowledge to adapt to the ever changing form of evil in Faerún. Our recent focus on cutting-edge tactics against offensive magic is performing well past expectations.

So rest assured, we of the Gauntlet stand in unity with extraordinary faith and bravery. We are ready to enact swift retribution against any who would perform evil deeds.”

– Nadarr Linxakasendalor, Righteous Hand of the Order of the Gauntlet” -Marshall Miller, Order of the Guantlet

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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