The 5th edition is now “out and about”. Most of us by now have at the very least the Starter Set, or the Basic Rules PDF. Many of us also have our proper PHB’s in hand (that’s Player’s Handbook for any of you new to these things). I have been very excited by this new edition, taking part in some of the playtesting, and pre-ordering all my books the moment they went up on Amazon. (For a little background, I’ve been playing D&D, and other RPGs, for about 28 years now. I’ve played every edition, but chose not to buy the 4th edition books. Just wasn’t my idea of D&D).
I went to FanExpo Canada specifically to jump in to Adventurer’s League play from the beginning, but things are not what they seem, and I was a bit let down in the end.
My regular gaming group hasn’t jumped on 5e yet (I’m hoping to run Lost Mine of Phandelver with them) and I’ve been itching to “get my 5e on!” so yesterday I went to the last day of FanExpo Canada expressly for the purpose of playing in one of the Adventurer’s League Epics events. I made this decision rather late (a few days before) and by then the signups on Warhorn were closed. I have to say at this point that this was my first bone of contention with Adventurer’s League play. No where on the FanExpo site (that I could see) nor on the Adventurer’s League site (that I could see) did it say to go to warhorn.net to registers and sign up for this FanExpo event. If it was on one of those sites, it really wasn’t obvious. I only found out about Warhorn by messaging the Adventurer’s League people via Twitter and asking them about registration for games. They were the ones who pointed me to Warhorn , even though registration on Warhorn was closed!
In the end, I had to take my chances. The cost to get in to FanExpo on the Sunday was $40, plus $15.50 to take the train to Toronto. $55.50 and I might not even get to play. :-/
By the time I got to the convention centre and found my way to the desk for the games it was about 11:45pm, and the games were starting at 1pm. The sessions were all (as I feared) full, but some very helpful volunteers assured me that it was likely (even probable) that some people who had signed up via Warhorn would not show up, and if I left my number they would message me if a spot became available. (Thanks sooo much to those volunteers!). Fortunately I got my spot, and was teamed up with four great guys (three from Ottawa and one from Thunder Bay) and a great DM named Brian Conway (really, he was a great DM!).
Much fun was had, but sadly we only got through 4 of the 5 parts of Defiance in Phlan. None-the-less I had an enjoyable time, and I’m glad I went.
Except… except that so far Adventurer’s League play is not quite what I thought it was going to be. In fact, it has been a bit frustrating and disappointing.
When I sat down Brian asked me if I planned to join the Adventurer’s League and I told him I wanted to. He game me a DCI membership card to fill out (he took the part with my info) and an adventure log sheet to fill out. I had already created my own Level 1 Wizard before coming, and decided to make him my first Adventurer’s League (AL from now on) character. I filled everything out, got my DCI number, and proceeded to play my first ever organized league play of a D&D adventure (I never took part in and any “Living X” organized play.)
At the end of three hours (I will post about our actual game session later) we finished up, shook hands and thanked everyone for playing, and Brian for being a great DM, and parted ways. I hopped back on the train home to spend the rest of the evening with my wife and son, eating dinner and playing “Transformers”.
Which brings us to today, and my AL/DCI frustration.
Brian told me I would need to log in and start my DCI account using the activation code that came with my card. And here I encountered the first annoyance. When trying to activate my DCI number using the email address I gave my DM when I filled out the info card (which is his responsibility to send in to WotC) the DCI site kept returning an error, telling me that there was a “problem” with the email address I was entering. It wasn’t a very helpful error, and, yes, I was entering the email address correctly.
A quick Google search found a few other people encountering the same error, especially within the last few weeks. The hypothesis was that if you were using an email address that was already in the WotC system somewhere it would return this error, and that using a different email address would work. I tried using a different address, and sure enough it accepted it. Great, I’m in, except that now my DCI account is, by necessity it seems, linked to a different email address than both the one I gave the DM on my DCI registration card, and my pre-existing Wizards account. I really hope there is some way to merge the two. :-/
Now on to frustration number 2: Mr. Unknown Unknown.
After registering my DCI number I went to update my personal information and noticed that it had my name as Unknown Unknown. I tried to change this, but for some reason the First Name and Last Name fields are NOT editable. The other fields were. I easily added my address and phone number, but unless there is some other way to fix it, I will forever-after be known as Mr. Unknown Unknown. (I wonder… is this a known bug in the system, or an unknown one?)
Alright, whatever, maybe that can be fixed. Okay, now I’m in, time to add the details of my official AL character, and the results of my very first, exciting session! Wait… hmmm… interesting. I see nothing in the DCI site about D&D 5e or Adventurer’s League. So, how do I track that info? Isn’t that the point of a DCI membership?
I logged in to the Wizards D&D community boards (with my other account, the one DCI wouldn’t acknowledge while registering) and found a thread called “Purpose of DCI Registration” wherein I learned that, apparently, there is in fact NO purpose for a DCI registration for AL purposes beyond (maybe) letting stores and WotC track who played at which events (if the people running the event bother to ask for and report that info). It seems that WotC goes out of its way to track Magic:The Gathering results via DCI, but D&D Adventurer’s League? “Pfftt… what you guys thing you’re important to us?”
It would seem that we’re on the honour system here. You could fill out your Adventure Log any way you want and it won’t matter because NO ONE is tracking it. There is no repository for this. The only official thing you might get is a certificate for a magic item (I didn’t get any of those at this event BTW).
So, why bother? Why did I spend $55.50 to go play Defiance in Phlan? Yes, I got to play an adventure I couldn’t play elsewhere, with great players and a great DM. It was a fun experience, and I am happy and grateful for the opportunity, but I was lead to believe that I was starting down a path of something awesome and inclusive (and exclusive at the same time) with DCI membership. The chance to have my character matter over the long run. The lure of Adventurer’s League is the main reason I went! That’s not the case though. Maybe it was meant to be, or will be, but right now, at the biggest D&D launch since 3.0, it doesn’t matter.
I am disappointed by the Adventurer’s League. I’ve got a :-/ face on at the moment. I really hope there is more to this that empty marketing. I hope the DCI tracking has a point to it beyond numbers. In the meantime, I’ll try to find more AL events in my area and see what happens. Don’t let me down, WotC! I left when 4e came out, and now you’ve got me back, don’t mess it up!
P.S.: Thanks for D&D 5e! So far it is awesome and I am really loving it. The PHB is beautiful, and I wish I didn’t have to wait so long for my DMG.
For more information about playing in the Adventurer’s League, go to their website here: http://dnd.wizards.com/playevents/organized-play