Xanathar’s Guide to Everything is now available at WPN stores around the world, and on dndbeyond.com, and probably Fantasy Grounds. In a week or so, it’ll become available through other outlets. It’s a superb book, well worth purchasing regardless whether you’re a player or a Dungeon Master. There are a lot of new player options, although it’s the Dungeon Master material that makes me very happy.
What really caught my eye was Appendix A, Shared Campaigns, which describes parameters for running campaigns which have many players and many DMs, where players can take their characters from DM to DM. In other words, the structure of the D&D Adventurers League.
The appendix suggests a number of rules for running such a campaign, many of which that aren’t currently used in the DDAL.
The wonderful Mike “SlyFlourish” Shea, asked on twitter about this. The official DDAL twitter account replied:
So, are we going to get some major changes to the D&D Adventurers League next season? I suspect we may be, though nothing has yet been confirmed. These rules might also be for a complementary campaign that could start up… but my gut says they’re for the main programme.
Let’s have a look at what these changes might be, based on the content of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
No More Experience Points
Appendix A describes a system where, instead of XP, characters achieve “checkpoints” for every one hour the adventure is meant to last. (If an adventure is rated at 4 hours and they only take 3, they still get 4 checkpoints. I expect that it’s only for the longer-form hardcover adventures that the actual time taken applies).
For level 1-4 characters, every 4 checkpoints attained allow one level to be gained. For level 5+, it’s every 8 checkpoints.
The original design of D&D 5E was that each of 1st and 2nd level took one 4-hour session to complete, while later levels took two sessions. This system extends this to levels 3 and 4, and maintains the original intent for later levels.
The real benefit of this is that it allows groups that enjoy roleplaying to not feel left out after they spend hours having a very enjoyable and productive time talking to NPCs, only to be told they got 0 XP for the session. Or, if a group is encountering a lot of environmental challenges rather than monsters (such as in Tomb of Annihilation), they still are progressing as a result.
Drawbacks? Well, it doesn’t reward actually achieving things. If you spend time drinking in a bar instead of going on the adventure to slay a dragon (and the dragon burns down the bar?), do you still get the checkpoints? I suspect you do.
On balance, and thinking of some sessions where the players have complained to me about the low XP rewards, I really like this system and I hope it’s implemented.
No More Gold in Adventures?
This is an interesting one. Adventurers get gold every time they gain a level, representing the gold they’d get in the adventures they’ve been on, but not in the adventures themselves.
It’s obvious why having a standardised amount of rewards is useful, especially once you consider the Convention Created Content and the larger array of adventures that will be created.
As an ancillary to this, the lifestyle of the character is determined by their level – from Modest (at first level) to Aristocratic (at 17th level).
No More Magic Items in Adventures?
No gold in an adventure isn’t a big change – gold tends to just pile up after the first few levels. However, the way magic items are rewarded? That’d be a big change.
At present, each DDAL adventure gives out one specific magic item. It’s set by the adventure designer (with the consent of the administrators). Want a whip of warning? There’s one adventure with that item in it. Play the adventure, and have the other players agree to give you the item, and you can have it.
The drawback here is that some players have characters that just get every item on offer; although there are rules for spreading them around, it’s rarely a good idea for a monk to pick up a magical two-handed sword. And, if you’re very unlucky, you never get an item you need.
The proposed system in XGE gives you “treasure points” after each adventure. You get more treasure points for playing higher-level adventures. As with checkpoints, it’s determined from the expected duration of the adventure.
Those treasure points can then be exchanged for the magic item of your choice. There are a set of campaign specific tables that list the items available, how many treasure points they cost, and the character level you need to be. I think that treasure points can’t be saved up – they must be spent immediately that an adventure ends.
The advantage of this system is pretty clear: it gives everyone a fair opportunity to get magic items that are useful to them. The disadvantage? Characters take the best magic items, and we get a lot of broken characters.
I think the benefits outweigh the disadvantages, especially if the DDAL is careful with the lists. This is one we’ll have to wait and see.
Purchasing Potions and Scrolls
The last section actually calls out that the D&D Adventurers League allows adventurers to purchase magical potions and scrolls. Really? I didn’t know that! I guess that when this goes live, it will apply.
A 5th level scroll (the highest level) costs 1,000 gp. A potion of invisibility costs 5,000 gp.
Do I like the players being able to spend their money to purchase consumables? Absolutely. Scrolls can only be bought by characters that can cast the spell in question, so that removes one of the major issues with it.
Conclusions? What does this all mean?
Those are the major things I spotted in the Appendix. There are other good bits of information there – like guidelines for designing a shared campaign adventure – but these are the changes that would have the greatest impact on the campaign.
How might the changes be made? My suggestion would be that existing characters keep their current level, magic items and treasure, and just start gaining new levels, items and treasure by the new rules. I would not like everything to become retrospective and characters having to redo all their magic items. Too messy; too complicated!
How to deal with someone who has gained half the XP to reach the next level? Perhaps they begin with checkpoints, or perhaps everyone just is set to 0 checkpoints at the level they’re at. The latter would be simpler, although frustrating for those who are almost at the next level.
I know that there will be many people who don’t like the new system. The Pathfinder Society uses a variant of the checkpoint system for gaining levels; the magic item system is – as far as I know – not used elsewhere, but my knowledge of other Shared Campaign systems is sketchy at best. There are definite drawbacks to the new system, but I think it’s very clear from the text in XGE that Wizards feel strongly about making the game cater to more gaming styles.
As it says in the book:
Playing time might seem like an odd way to measure experience awards, but the concept is in keeping with how a shared campaign is meant to work. A character played for 10 hours reaches the same number of checkpoints, whether the character went up against a dragon or spent all that time lurking in a pub. This approach ensures that a player’s preferred style is neither penalized nor rewarded. Whether someone focuses on roleplaying and social interaction, defeating monsters in combat, or finding clever ways to avoid battles, this system gives credit where credit is due.
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Appendix A
Those are strong words. I expect in the near future, we’ll discover that the D&D Adventurers League is changing – and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything shows what it may be changing to.
This isn’t confirmed yet. I may be jumping at shadows. I just suspect this will come to pass.