Roleplaying is my favourite thing that I never get to do.
Sharing complex problem solving in narratively-driven and physically safe environments is something I think everyone should partake in. And once you're in the hobby, it's difficult to get out.
But why would you want to?
'It's really depressing. but I've been playing for 30 years.' Andrew Callaghan picked up Dungeons & Dragons when a friend at High School introduced it to him in 1988. 'I was pretty much hooked straight away.'
Despite a brief sabbatical during the game's 4th Edition, Andrew has been playing and running games of Dungeons & Dragons for longer than some of our readers have been alive. Myself included.
Andrew picked up the hobby again when he played at PAX Australia in 2017.
These days, he is one of the team responsible for heading up the Dungeons & Dragons Adventurer's League at Good Games Melbourne.
'The issue was I really wanted to get back into the game, but there was a real dearth of people wanting to DM.' Andrew said. 'I tried to get into another 5e night that was around, but all the tables were full constantly.'
'I got fed up, and I said “I'm just gonna DM it.”'
Adventurer's League is the the Organised Play version of Dungeons & Dragons. It has a stronger focus on balance and player flexibility than a regular game, in an effort to make the hobby more accessible to people with busy lifestyles, and those unable to commit to a regular game. 'In Character Creation, you're limited to the standard array that's in the Player's Handbook, or the point-buy method.' Andrew said of the differences. 'They take out as much randomness as possible. With point-buy, everyone has the same tools at hand.'
The restrictions on character creation are in place to both hinder attempts at making the “ultimate power build”, as well as reduce the barrier to entry for new players.
'When you choose what character to make, you're restricted to published books from Wizards of the Coast, and you can only use the Player's Handbook and one other book.'
The biggest draw-card of Adventurer's League is the flexibility players have on when and where they play, and who they play with.
'You can go to a different Dungeon Master and different people if you want,' Andrew said. 'There is nothing stopping anyone from starting an Adventurer's League in their own home, and then taking those characters elsewhere.'
'The character you make and run in Melbourne, you can take over to Perth and run there. Or when you go over to GenCon, or PAX, you can use that same character.'
To people used to the more traditional format of roleplaying, Adventurer's League likely sounds a little strange. After all, how do you keep characters in check- how do you stop players from altering their stats, or showing up with a fully leveled character decked out with magic items? Wizards of the Coast do have a modicum of experience when it comes to Organised Play, and their ongoing changes to the format of Adventurer's League reflects that. They are dedicated to making Adventurer's League the most balanced and accessible way to experience Dungeons & Dragons.
With the current season of Adventurer's League, -Season Eight-, Wizards have introduced further changes. Primarily, they have removed Experience Points and replaced them with Adventure Checkpoints (ACP), that players use to level up their character.
This streamlined approach to character development goes hand-in-hand with the addition of Treasure Checkpoints, which allow players to buy specific items unlocked based on the adventures they've played in.
'Previously an adventure would drop a suit of magic armour that everyone would argue over,' Andrew said, 'now everyone gets a Treasure Checkpoint to buy the suit of armour- if they want it.'
It is up to the players, with the assistance of online tools, to keep a log of their Adventure and Treasure Checkpoints.
Having recently run Dungeons & Dragons demo tables at PAX Australia, Andrew and the rest of the Melbourne Adventurer's League team are super excited for the new players that will be coming along for their first time.
'If you have friends that already play, it's a fantastic group activity.' Andrew said. 'Adventurer's League means there is a Dungeon Master available- you don't have to pick someone for the task.'
League isn't just limited to groups of like-minded friends, either.
'If you want to try it solo,' Andrew said, 'there is a zero-cost commitment to coming and trying it out. You can use a pre-generated character and see what it's like. All the Dungeon Masters are experienced with new players. And other players are more than happy to help newbies at the table.'
Since April, the Melbourne-based Adventurer's League has grown massively, filling up to 8 tables of would-be heroes every week. This growth is solely attributed to the efforts and passion of Andrew, Luke and Jame, who run the event as the lead Dungeon Masters.
'One of the best tools has been a Facebook group,' Andrew said of their process. 'If it's a publicly available event, we use Warhorn as well. Between the two, we make announcements, control sign-ups, and have an understanding of expected demand. It helps us determine our table numbers in advance, as well as the number of Dungeon Masters we'll need.' Andrew and the team have learned a lot from running big, weekly events like Adventurer's League.
'The biggest struggle is supply and demand.' He said. 'You can almost never get as many Dungeon Masters as you need. If you find you're growing, recruit Dungeon Masters and have them on standby.'
Dungeons & Dragons remains a gateway drug to the larger world of the Roleplaying hobby, and stands above it's peers as the most social. We are lucky that Organised Play programs like this exist, so to grow the scene in your area, speak to your local Good Games store today about hosting an Adventurer's League!
'We couldn't have grown as much as we have without the support Good Games has given us.' Andew said. 'You guys have been incredible with supplying us space to get things going. The support of the staff has been invaluable.'
Good Games Melbourne - Tuesday 6pm
Good Games Box Hill - Monday 6pm
Good Games Chatswood - Wednesday 6pm
The Games Capital - Wednesday & Thursday 6pm
Good Games Ipswich - Sunday 11am
Good Games Coffs Harbour – Wednesday-to-Saturday (times vary)
Good Games Cannington - Monday-to-Friday 7pm
Good Games Chicago - Sunday 12pm
Good Games Albury - Thursday 6pm
Good Games Adelaide - Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 6pm
Good Games Maitland - Thursday 6pm
Good Games Hurtsville - Wednesday, Thursday 7pm
Good Games Central (Sydney) - Wednesday 6pm
Good Games Town Hall (Sydney) - Wednesday 6:30pm
Good Games Fraser Coast - Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 6pm