Dropped into my FLGS yesterday to try and play some 5th edition D&D, and it was a bit unclear exactly how the organised play system was supposed to work. So when I got home I armed myself with a glass of whisky and dropped down the rabbithole. If you want to give the new edition of D&D a try, here’s what I found out…
(Or if you want some dragon-killing action on the side, if you know what I mean. It’s all right. I won’t tell your DM.)
There’s a huge overarching storyline – Tyranny of Dragons (ToD) – which will be lasting over the next six months or so in *everything*.
Video games. Stores. Home play. Written fiction.
You can create or consume as much or little of this story as you like. If you want to play it at home, you can. Just buy the two main adventures Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat, and you’re done. If you want to play those adventures at a store with people you know (or don’t), that can happen too.
D&D Encounters is the pickup game on Wednesdays for stores, 1-2 hours a sesh, and is basically level 1-4 of the main storyline. You can just turn up, be given a pregenerated character (or bring your own), and start playing there and then.
After that, you can either carry on the main ToD storyline at-home or in-store – either way someone needs to person up for a hardback at that point – or start turning up to D&D Expeditions, which can only be played in-store.
D&D Expeditions are 4-hour games set in a different part of the world, but still all connected to the main storyline. If your character is of the right tier (levels 1-4, 5-10, 11-16, 17-20), you can play any adventure in that tier. There are “levelling bumps” for in-store play which will get your character from one tier to another if you miss a few sessions, so it’s easy to continue playing with friends. There are *many* of these adventures, and more on the way.
They all tie into the main storyline, showing the events and consequences of ToD in a different area of the world. After playing a storyline, the DM reports back the decisions made by the players – did they destroy the dragon? Sell out the old man? Eat the tasty basilisk and tell the street traders in the local city just how delicious they were? The majority decisions as reported back then become facts in the history of the world, and may have long-term consequences…
D&D Epics are fifty-plus player world-shaking events. Whatever happens in these gets wrapped into the overall storyline and will affect the world in a big way. There are none scheduled for the UK yet.
You can swap between any of these stories at-will provided you’re the right level. So you could start with Encounters, move to a few Expeditions, drop into the main storyline for a level or few, decide the fate of the world in an Epic, and then have some home play with the character, switching between between them all as you like provided the games they’ve played through are official ToD products.
The adventure in the starter box is also completely legal for organised play. Take the characters who’ve played through it to your FLGS, and they’ll be fine. Or play through it there.
Want to give D&D a try?
Then all you need are an adventure logsheet (to show what happens in the game) and a pre-generated character. Print one of these bad boys and girls out, take them to the store, and you’re good to go.
The store should have both of these available, but I’d print one of each out and take it anyway on the off-chance they don’t.
Wizards of the Coast (the company that make D&D) will only tell people about D&D Encounters events which happen on Wednesday. So if your FLGS wants new people to come in and spend money (they almost certainly do) then they’ll be running Encounters on that night for sure. Maybe another night too, but almost certainly on a Wednesday. So that’s where you start.
Want to create your own character?
Then the free entry level is a copy of the Basic Rules, and a copy of the Adventurers League Player’s Guide (which tells you how to make a character legal for organised play).
Don’t like the character you’re playing with? Any time from level 1-4, you can change anything about them except their name. Class, Race, Stats, anything you like. You don’t get locked into a choice until they hit level 5.
Want more options?
Then buy yourself a Player’s Handbook. The Player’s Guide tells you what’s legal. (It’s pretty much everything.)
Want more or higher level games?
Anything that’s not a drop-in Encounters games (ie the main ToD storyline past level 4 and D&D Expeditions) can be scheduled by your FLGS on any day of the week. It might be Wednesday, it might not. Talk to them to find out what they have on.
If you’re in London, your FLGS is Dark Sphere. Other FLGSes are available.