Today, we’re joined by Robert Adducci, the D&D Adventurers League Community Manager, to talk about the ins and outs of running an organized play game. He’ll also be joining as co-host for tomorrow night’s #RPGchat on the same topic. Dive in and ready your questions for tomorrow!
Running an organized play game can be different than running a home game, with these 5 tips for running organized play you’ll be set to run games at conventions or stores for your favorite organized play program.
Know the Rules
It pays to know the core rules for your game and many organized play programs have a subset of rules for the game to make sure that tables all over the world are playing similarly. In the D&D Adventurers League there is a Player’s Guide which has some changes from the standard D&D rules and character creation. Print out a copy of the campaign rules and keep it with you for easy reference.
Know the Adventure
For most organized play games you’ll have about 4 hours (although this can vary from 2-8 hours) to play. Make sure you know the adventure well so you don’t have to be reading the adventure while you’re running it. Know the monsters and their abilities and spells, again, so you spend less time flipping through books at the table. Highlight the adventure printout, write notes in the margins. Prepping printouts before hand can help, especially with spells or similar abilities.
Know your Players
Many times in organized play you won’t know your players before hand so you can learn their likes and dislikes by looking at their character sheets. Do they have a lot of weapons? They probably want to fight. If their highest skill is Persuasion, they probably want to have interactions with non-player characters, if they have a detailed backstory they likely would like that to come into play (make it happen!) and so on. Write these details down to remind yourself. If you’re playing D&D Adventurers League write down the following for each character at your table, Name, Race, Class & Level, Background, Faction, Passive Perception, Flaw (for awarding Inspiration).
Know your Pace
As you’re running the adventure keep an eye on the clock for two purposes. The first is pacing, many conventions or store slots only have a certain time for the game to happen in. Try to stay within that slot to respect your players time and other con attendees time (as they may have the table after you). Secondly is the spotlight. Try to move the spotlight to every character at some point in the adventure really allow them to shine in the area that you noticed from the Know your Players section above. Most organized play programs have details that need to be handled at the end of the game, such as awarding loot, experience points and other rewards, set a timer for 20 minutes before the end of your slot to make sure you can finish up in time.
Know when to Break Free
Organized play is all about having a shared experience. The adventures are meant to be run mostly as written, but if your players go down a different route than the adventure suggests, roll with it. This is what makes RPGs different than other entertainment media! Don’t force the characters down one path, improvise. Using what you’ve been give in the adventure, craft the narrative to combine what the players are doing with the flow of the adventure to make a unique experience. This is why Knowing the Adventure (see above) is so important, it allows you as the DM to react to players’s crazy ideas, which they always have!
Robert Adducci is the D&D Adventurers League Community Manager. He is a die-hard Dark Sun fan and the founder of the Burnt World of Athas website (Athas.org). Robert was born in the deserts of Athas, aka Phoenix, AZ, but now lives in the cool climate of Colorado with his wife, a new little adventurer, and two animal companions.