I’m sure that new players – to D&D and to Organised Play in general – are somewhat confused by the different programs the D&D Adventurers League offers, as well as the restrictions on which adventures their characters can play. In this article, I hope to give you help in deciding what to play and which character to play it with!
A few points to keep in mind:
- You won’t be able to play through every adventure in the D&D Adventurers League with the same character. There’s just too much material. Most dedicated players will have a number of characters and bring out the right one according to the situation.
- Expeditions and Epics adventures are normally rated by Tier. These are hard restrictions on what character levels are legal for the adventure. A first level character can’t be used in an adventure designed for the levels 5-10 tier.
- Every character begins at first level.
At present, there are basically these groupings of adventures, each of which provides an entry point into the league. More will appear as we move into later seasons.
Lost Mine of Phandelver (no tier)
Home Play or Store Play
The Lost Mine of Phandelver can be played as part of the Adventurers League either at home or in a store. Although it doesn’t have a tier, it’s designed for low-level characters and will bring a party of new characters from first level up to fifth level. Basically, if you play Lost Mine, you’re playing through the first tier all with one adventure. Individual episodes of the adventure will typically take several sessions to play through; session length is up to the individual store or DM.
Lost Mine basically stands alone; it’s an evergreen product that doesn’t immediately lead into other adventures. After you complete it, look to move to Phlan or a later episode of Hoard of Dragons (non-encounters version).
D&D Encounters: Hoard of the Dragon Queen (Tier: Levels 1-4)
Store Play only
The D&D Encounters program is played on Wednesdays at game stores around the world, typically in 2-hour sessions. (A few places run it at different times; check the store to find out the details). It’s designed as a good entry point into D&D for new players.
This season will bring a new character from 1st to 4th level by its conclusion. Each episode of the adventure takes several sessions to play through and is “capped” for the amount of XP you gain – this allows people to miss a session here and there and still keep up.
After completing D&D Encounters, you could continue with the full Hoard of Dragons adventure or instead move to Phlan.
D&D Expeditions: Adventures in Phlan (many tiers)
Store or Public Play only
D&D Expeditions are a number of (normally) single-session, 4-hour adventures designed for store or public play. (You can’t play them at home). Eventually, the D&D Expeditions adventures will cover all the tiers of play, but they’re beginning small and working their way up. The initial offering of adventures are set in Phlan, a small town on the northern coast of the Moonsea, not far from the ruins of Zhentil Keep, and deal with other stories related to the main Tyranny of Dragons storyline.
You can play through the Expeditions in any order, but the best starting adventure is Defiance in Phlan, which consists of five one-hour adventures that introduce you to the factions and the various themes of later adventures. (The special format is unusual; a few other Expeditions may also deviate from the standard format).
At present, there aren’t that many adventures in Expeditions; this will change, but if you have played through all those available, your character can move to another story strand… but be careful about the levels.
The first higher-tier adventure, for levels 5-10, will appear towards the end of November; it will be a little bit more (March) before we get the rest. I’ve got the schedule here.
Oh, by the way, “Adventures in Phlan” isn’t the official name, but it describes where the initial adventures are being played. Expeditions may get broader in later seasons.
Hoard of the Dragon Queen & Rise of Tiamat (no tier)
Home Play or Store Play
The major story of the Tyranny of Dragons storyline can be found in these two adventures. Together, they cover levels 1-15. Each episode generally covers one level of play. Although there’s no strict requirement that you have a character of the proper level, it’s probably a bad idea to try playing Rise of Tiamat with a first level character!
The first section of Hoard is what is being used for D&D Encounters. A lot of players will probably move from Encounters to playing the full adventure, continuing from where Encounters ended. Some players may move into the Hoard/Rise storyline later in the adventure from Phlan or the Lost Mine. That’s fine. For the purposes of tracking these adventures, each Episode is tracked separately. It’d be a good idea to move into Hoard at an episode that is about your level.
Characters can move from playing Hoard/Rise into the other programs (particularly the Expeditions line), although I’m sure many will just play the entire story.
Here’s a really bad graphic showing the major (suggested) movements of characters from strand to strand of the story:
Now, as long as you’re in the correct tier, you can play any adventure of the D&D Adventurers League, in any order. It might not always make sense, but that decision is up to you. The main point of the D&D Adventurers League is to provide you with opportunities to play in public with other players; it also allows you to play some adventures (the published ones) at home and then take your character from there to a public event.
However, the short version is that there are two long-playing story strands at the moment. There’s the two Tyranny of Dragons adventures and there’s the D&D Expeditions adventures. We also have Lost Mine of Phandelver as an introductory point that can then lead into either of the major stories. D&D Encounters meanwhile provides an introduction to the major storyline, although you could then move from it to the D&D Expeditions adventures.
I hope this helps you understand how the initial offering of the D&D Adventurers League is set up. It will likely change as Wizards of the Coast get more used to how people are playing the new edition!
I’ve written more on how much XP you get and the Tiers in this article: More information on choosing adventures in the Adventurers League