A Memory, an Announcement, and a Memorial

Memorial Day is about the remembrance of the soldiers that have paid the ultimate price for their service. While it seems a strange time for an announcement, there is a point to it that will become apparent by the end of this post.

With the pandemic opening rules in place, Gamehole Con has made the decision to close. The announcement I am making here is that our Border Kingdoms modules will still be happening. We will see if they make an appearance in Virtual Gamehole Con or if it will go into DMsGuild.com straight away. This leads me in to the Memory…

When we started writing modules in the Border Kingdoms, I introduced an NPC that was a Harper. A spy named Guthryn B Law, who has since become the right hand of Mage Rymdyl after she was raised during the first season. He is one of our recurring NPCs in the Kingdoms, and all of the authors this season were told he was there for their use with a single rule. He remains, no permanent damage is done to him, and he cannot be eliminated. I told them why, but I realized I haven’t shared it with the players in general.

Back during 4E, we had Encounters… it was our store version of AL before there was AL. During these outings at Pegasus Games in Madison, I met a young man that had moved to Madison with his girlfriend after serving in the Army to complete his degree. Playing at a table with him at those events, I could tell that he was a good match to my personality and play style as well as my group. So I offered him a seat at our table.

Blaine was a rather magnetic young man with a rather wicked sense of humor. He was so magnetic, there was even a report that had made the news when his entire unit on maneuvers in basic training were struck by lightning. Everyone was okay at the end of it, but a single strike broke off to connect with all of them. (Some of these stories were provided by his family, but in listening to them I remember him telling me a few of them.)

Blaine in Uniform

During his years in Madison playing with us, there were many awesome stories that spawned from those games. Even as I was working on my remote writing options for NaNoWriMo, he helped me in getting an iPad and all of the accessories I needed to make it a viable option for what I called Public Authorin’ at the time. He was that kind of helpful friend to everyone he knew.

In that time he completed his degree, married his girlfriend, secured a job in his field, and moved to Chicago. A lot went down, but he was still part of our group. My intention (especially once we got our place in Door County) was to schedule a “ZombieMiniCon” where the players from my home game would come together for a weekend to have fun, campfires, and play games. The goal was to bring him back for one of these events.

After returning from a three week cruise we took as part of our 25th Anniversary, we found out that Blaine had passed away. In speaking with his family, we found out he had issues with PTSD from his time in the military that he lost his struggle with. So the military that had caused him to enter into my gaming community and therefore into our lives, took him from all of us (family, friends, gaming community).

That year, we introduced the Hall of Heroes where anyone can add in a player from their table that is no longer there with them. His name was the first added to it. The idea was following the induction speech for Lou Reed to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where his partner said (and I will paraphrase here), “some cultures say a person dies three times: the first is when their heart stops; the second is when they are interred; and the third is the final time someone says their name.”

Along those lines, when I was writing a module in the Border Kingdoms that first year, I was determined that his long-time character name Guthryn would be represented. But that wasn’t enough from what I was feeling. That only spoke the name Blaine Law to those of us that played with him. Thus I extended the character name to Guthryn B Law. And I made him the most recent character with that name, a rogue. It was thus the Harpers assigned a spy named Guthryn B Law to a position watching for unchecked power in the Border Kingdoms.

And to speak to the issue of PTSD and its effect on a person, he is helping Mage Rymdyl to come to terms with hers. He is a source of strength, personality and compassion in the realms. It also means that at least once a year I get to feel like I am playing D&D with him again.

This has also had several effects on me personally as well as our local events. We have added Stack-Up.org to our charity partners for charity events – a foundation that covers trips and gaming care packages for disabled vets. There is a direct correlation between gaming and PTSD recovery that makes this group a fitting memory of him. This is also another motivation to one of our other charity partners Jasper’s Game Day that helps to fund mental health services and suicide help lines in local communities. And finally it has reminded me that if I have a friend I haven’t heard from lately that I should call them to check in. Just a single call saying, “Hey, I was thinking of you. How’s it going?”

Every year when Memorial Day comes around and I am reminded (mostly so that I don’t show up to work when the office is closed), I am also reminded of one of the most outgoing and unique young men I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know.

So this year, when you are running or playing through the Season 3 Border Kingdoms content and you are dealing with Guthryn B Law, you now share the same history and importance of it as I do. And as all of our authors do as well.

Our Event Plans During This Outbreak

Yesterday, as Doc and I were setting up the space for the Charity Epic, we were discussing the playspace with Jess, the manager at Noble Knight. All of our venues came to the same realization that we had – that for the safety of our community we needed to suspend our public play events for now. Misty Mountain Games and Noble Knight Games have both suspended events in their playspace. Pegasus Games is still open, but MadDnD has made the decision to suspend public play events until the threat has past.

This doesn’t mean we will stop having events. There is a schedule for this entire year including Hero Camp and charity events through the year. That includes the Marathon Charity Event at it’s new spot in our summer lineup. Once those venues are open for public play again, we will resume our schedule. And until that point, we will still be doing what we can to encourage your Adventurers League character still tell their tales.

The charity events have been branded under 25th Hour Events, and we started a Discord server for the purposes of grouping the tables together for planning leading up to the Marathon Events. We also used it for coordinating the crew of the Lost Talent, a pirate ship of characters with a similar theme created to play in charity events. We are opening that up for players looking to get together for playing games online. For my Tuesday night show on 20 Sides to Every Story, I run a group of our local players through a game using Discord video chat to pipe into the Twitch stream. Either through voice chat or video chat, anyone can easily set up a game of D&D. It is all theater of the mind without a tool like Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds, but it is something anyone can do.

https://discord.gg/zWXEmjV (edit: made link non-expiring for now)

If you don’t have it yet, DnDBeyond is a great way to create your character sheets online and share them out to the DM, etc. You do need to own the content you are using on that platform, so anything other than the SRD would have to be purchased on DnDBeyond. Without a subscription anyone can make up to 6 characters. Otherwise there are plenty of form-fillable PDFs that can be used with a shared Google Drive.

These measures will help us to keep our games, our characters, their stories, and our community going in the upcoming weeks. It should be of note that yesterday we watched 7-8 tables of players come together (some of them new to our community, and even D&D as a whole) and took an effort to help wipe down tables between games and do the effort to help protect our neighbors in the gaming community as well as our own players. We rolled with the changes in the format to account for safety, and the removing of some of our standard items like Fai Chen’s Fantastical Faire. That tells us that the community is strong and will come through the other side to sit at a table and roll dice together again soon.

Once the playspaces have opened again, we will be sure to plan a proper party to welcome everyone back. Maybe it will be enough of an event that Fai Chen might make an appearance. Or maybe Mahati. Yeah, that wily old cat would definitely show his face.

Suggestions for Our Open Play Events

With our Charity Epic still on the books for March 14th, we wanted to post something in regards to suggestions to keep everyone safe during our Open Play events at public venues. Everyone in this community is important to us, so we want to offer the safest environment we can during this viral outbreak. With that in mind, here are some suggestions we have come up with…

  • If you are sick please stay home. Especially if you are showing symptoms of this current outbreak.
  • Wash your hands frequently and for 20 seconds. Time yourself once at home, it seems longer than you think.
  • Don’t touch your face unless you just washed your hands, especially around your eyes.
  • We are suggesting theater of the mind to avoid many people touching minis and maps.
  • If possible as the DM, print out copies of each player handout in multiples to give one to each player.
  • If you have to cough, do it into your elbow, NOT your hand.
  • Don’t share your dice and/or minis with people.

For our events, we cannot assure players we will have hand sanitizer available. With the current shortage, there is just none to be had. If anyone finds a stockpile and wants to work out getting it to us, contact me. Until we run out of antibacterial kitchen cleaner, we will work to disinfect the tables before each game. My supply of cleaner and paper towels is significant, but finite.

Any events, such as our Fai Chen’s Fantastical Faire, where multiple paper inventory (certs) are being placed out are on hold until the viral threat has passed. We will offer optional instances of these in the future to make up for the lack of them currently.

This situation is updating daily, and will be constantly evolving during the course of this situation. Keep eyes here and on the emails from our Meetup group for evolving plans in the future.

Official Season 9 AL Rules! DM Rewards

There are a lot of fun stuff for DMs in the official Season 9 DM Rewards document, here are the important parts…

Note, if you’d like to earn these by becoming a DM for MAD D&D – reach out to us! We’re always encouraging more DMs to support our community! Email lance@lancelarsen.com!

DM Reward Points

What are DM Reward Points? In Season 9, DM Reward Points are used as a Thank YOU to all of those in our awesome community that make each and every game possible by Dungeon Mastering for your community!

There’s only one semi-confusing point from the DM Rewards document for this season, there are Season 9 (“S9”) specific “Campaign Rewards” – so the way to earn DM RPs (“DM Reward Points”) should be tracked separately, and are earned as follows…

DM’ing the Following DM RP
(General)
DM RP
(S9)
Season 8 or earlier AL module+1
Any CCC module+1
4 hours from pre-Season 9 Hardcovers +1
Season 9 AL Module
“Avernus Rising” or “Oracle of War”
+1
4 hours from Season 9 Hardcover
“Descent Into Avernus”
+1

What can I spend my shiny new DM RPs on?

DM RP
(All)
DM RP
(S9 Only)
Reward
1+1 Level and Tier level of Gold **
1Gain a Magic Item awarded by a
module you DM’d ***
VariesEverything from slightly infernal Pets,
to new very infernal Familiars,
to Season 9 Magic Items, to Vehicles!
Check out the Season 9 DM Rewards
“Campaign Rewards-Inglorious Redemption”!

** Tier specific amount gold specified in Official Season 9 AL Rules! Magic Items, Gold & Leveling!

*** Noting, Forgotten Realms characters can only gain items from Forgotten Realms adventures, and Eberron characters can only gain items from Eberron adventures.

DM Rewards from Previous Seasons

What do I do with Advancement Checkpoints from last Season 8? Convert them to DM Reward Points! 8 AP = 1 DM Reward Point

What do I do with Treasure Checkpoints from last Season 8? Spend them on your characters, as they go away officially in Season 9. Noting the Magic Item Tier limits for Season 9. As discussed in Official Season 9 AL Rules! Magic Items, Gold & Leveling!

DM Quest Rewards from previous Season? DM Quests rewards that unlocked character options (such as Oathbreaker) can be used as normal.

Official Season 9 AL Rules! Character Conversion

Here is the official Season 9 Character Conversion document, but here are the important parts…

Advancement Checkpoints: Gone. You MAY gain a level for any character that had any unspent.

Treasure Checkpoints: Spend them if you want, but no more Treasure Points. Yay! See Magic Item limits in our previous article: Official Season 9 AL Rules! Magic Items, Gold & Leveling!

What if my character has more Magic Items than my Tier limit? Choose the ones you want to keep, up to your Tier limit. When you go up to the next Tier, you can re-add one of those items back to your character. Reasonable.

What if my character has FEWER Magic Items than my Tier limit? You get more! Choose a number of permanent magic items from those that the character unlocked by adventuring up to your character’s limit. Very reasonable.

What if my Tier 3 character (or below) has Legendary Items? Only allowed for Tier 4, but items are “held in reserve” and may be reclaimed once the character reaches Tier 4. Fair.

What about Magic Items with Persistent Effects, ie. Tomes of Understanding, Manual of Golems, etc.? They DO count towards the Magic Item Tier limit. You MAY remove them and their effect if you desire. Common sense, nice.

Official Season 9 AL Rules! Magic Items, Gold & Leveling!

Season 9 officially kicks off September 17th!

I’m VERY excited about these rule updates -and- after reading this, I believe you will be too! Enjoy my summary below!

Here are the latest AL Players Guide v9.0 and AL Dungeon Masters Guide v9.0, I encourage you to read them yourselves!

Magic Items!

In my not-so-humble opinion – magic items rules are COMPLETELY correct this season. I have to say, this is what I’ve wanted the rules to be for Magic Items since waaaay back in AL Season 1. Simple. Fair. Easy. Common Sense. Very reminiscent of pre-Adventure’s League organized play.

How do I get Magic Items? If you find it in an adventure, you can keep it!

In fact, for general magic items found during play everyone in the party can take it — with the only caveat that you are limited to a number of magic items by the “tier” of your character as follows…

Character TierMagic Items **Rarities Allowed ***
Tier 1 (1st-4th)1Common to Rare
Tier 2 (5th-10th)3Common to Rare
Tier 3 (11th-16th)6Common to Rare
Tier 4 (17th-20th)10Common to Legendary

** Note, this only limits permanent magic items – no limit on consumables, ie. potions.
*** Only Tier 4 can have Legendary Magic Items, but if you find one before Tier 4 you can take it as one of your items -when- you get to Tier 4.

What if have my maximum number of magic items and I find a better one? Ditch it and take the new one!

Hallelujah Hallelujah… Did I mention common sense rules? Yes, yes I did! Very useful in getting rid of obsolete items or those that have been destroyed or have no magic remaining.

Leveling Up Your Character

When does my character level up? You don’t have to track XP, you don’t have to track Advancement Points. Simply, you MAY level up after every AL adventure.

So if you play one AL adventure (no matter the length of the module; 2-hour, 4-hour, etc) at the end you MAY level up to level two. After five, you MAY be level five. After twenty, you MAY choose to be level 20!

Why do I keep saying MAY? Because “you can decline to gain a level”.

So, for example, if you already have an 8th level Barbarian that you play in Tier 2 (5th – 10th) games and want to keep playing your Wizard at level 4, so you can keep playing a Tier 1 storyline – you can! Common Sense again? Yes, yes indeed.

What if I’m playing in a hardcover adventure books? Simple, you either gain a level when your DM tells you’ve gained a level -or- after 4 hours (for Tier 1) or after 8 hours (for Tiers 2–4). Again, with the option of declining to level at your discretion.

Gold and Treasure

Ok, was I the only one that thought Treasure Points took the fun out of looting dungeons and ransacking goblin hovels? Nope – thank Moradin, and the other dwarven gods, they’re GONE!

To summarize, you can earn a maximum amount of gold -per- level of the character.

This being the only reason that you wouldn’t want to “decline to gain a level” (as talked about above) as you will assuredly hit your gold maximum.

Make up a fun reason in game in case you ever hit your limit. Maybe you tithe every thing above that to the local church of Tymora! Hail Tymora, goddess of luck!

I will in fact have my players explain what they are doing with the gold they earn past the limit and eagerly await the shenanigans they conjure up!

Either way, here are the ‘gold’ and ‘downtime days’ info from AL-S9 rules — and an expanded table to give you the full amounts you can have all the way up to level 20!

Character LevelGold/Hour
(Minimum/Hr)
Gold
Max/Level
Downtime
Days/Level
Tier 1 ( 1st – 4th )20 gp (10 gp)80 gp10 / level
Tier 2 ( 5th – 10th )30 gp (15 gp)240 gp20 / level
Tier 3 ( 11th – 16th )200 gp (100 gp)1,600 gp20 / level
Tier 4 ( 17th – 20th )750 gp (375 gp)6,000 gp20 / level

Think of the Hourly Gold Award per hour as guideline for your DM, not as an “elf agenda to provide the working adventurer a living (or in some cases un-living) wage” 🙂

What are my GP, Downtime Days and Magic Item maximums at each level?

Character LevelMagic ItemsGold MaxDT Days
1st (Tier 1)180 gp10
2nd1160 gp20
3rd1240 gp30
4th1320 gp40
5th (Tier 2)3560 gp60
6th3800 gp80
7th31,040 gp100
8th31,280 gp120
9th31,520 gp140
10th31,760 gp160
11th (Tier 3)63,360 gp180
12th64,960 gp200
13th66,560 gp220
14th68,160 gp240
15th69,760 gp260
16th611,360 gp280
17th (Tier 4)1017,360 gp300
18th1023,360 gp320
19th1029,360 gp340
20th1035,360 gp360

Miscellaneous

So again, check out the AL Players Guide v9.0 and AL Dungeon Masters Guide v9.0 yourselves! There are a couple other cool things such as…

Renown Items: Once you renown level is high enough, you can get a +1 weapon, +1 shield, +1 rod of the pact keeper, or a +1 wand of the war mage. Note that these do count against your maximum Magic Items count. But no more excuses that you don’t have a +1 weapon when that monster that is immune to non-magical attacks comes for you!

Faction Items: Once you are high enough level in your Faction all factions can get a Ring of Protection, Harpers can get a Ring of Free Action, Order of the Gauntlet can get a Ring of Fire Resistance, Emerald Enclave can get a Ring of Animal Influence, Lords’ Alliance can get a Ring of the Ram, and Zhentarim can get a Ring of Evasion. Note that these do count against your maximum Magic Items count.

New Season 9 “Character Creation Unlocks”: Lingering Legacy of Evil, Plane-Touched Wings and Inherited Malevolence…. whhaaaa… pretty cool.

So, overall – very very happy with Season 9 rules!

Simple. Fair. Easy. Common Sense.

Look forward to playing them with my awesome MAD D&D community!

Keep an eye on here to watch for the latest in AL news!

DM Tips & Tricks “How to Make Non-Player Characters That Your players Will Like”

Nice short article on “How to Make Non-Player Characters That Your players Will Like” – good advice for DMs from www.DMDave.com.

Specifically liked the following quote from the article…

‘…In a situation where a PC might know someone able to help the party, their player can declare, ‘I know a guy.’ The player invents the NPC, sketching the guy’s background and relationship to the PC. (This rule assumes the gender-neutral usage of ‘guy.’) Now the party can reach out to the new character. To determine the NPC’s reaction, the player who created the guy makes a Charisma check. … found this simple and very loose mechanic invites players to create critical NPCs and continue developing (revealing) backstory as they play.’