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I am currently involved in DDAL05 , the fifth season of D&D Adventure League from 5th Edition. I heard Season 4, Curse of Strahd, followed a linear path from Tier 1 - 4 (5?) of sanctioned play. So characters who entered at level 1 were able to follow along all the way through to the end.

The Storm King's Thunder season seems to not be the same. I started a character at level 1 when DDAL05-1 launched. Played until it was level 3. I expected the next module to continue from there, but it started with Tier 2, which begins at level 5, making my level 3 character legally unable to join that module.

So we made level 5 characters (which I do not think is allowed by Adventure League standards?) since we are playing this on a Virtual Tabletop and it was the DM's purview considering the awkward release schedule of the modules.

We have 3 more modules to play with those (currently) level 5 characters until the next module released returns to the level 3 plotline of Tier 1.

What the heck is going on and why? Is this common for Adventure League?

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This is common in AL

I actually didn't run or play in any Curse of Strahd Expeditions, so hadn't known that they were released in tier order. But each of the first three seasons (Tyranny of Dragons, Elemental Evil, and Rage of Demons) were released in a "mixed' order. For instance, season 3 modules were for levels 1-2, 1-4, 5-10, 11-16, 1-4, 1-4, 5-10, 5-10, 5-10, 1-4, [missing one here], 1-4, 5-10, 1-4, in that order.

Why would they do this!?

Remember that AL characters are legal across seasons. If you end this season with a level 10 character you really like, you might not want to wait until the last quarter of season 6 to be able to play them again!

So what do we do?

Your instinct is right: the new character you created at L5 to play the tier 2 module is not AL-legal. You were looking for ways to play a higher-tier AL module than you had an AL-legal character to play. In general, you've got three routes in that case:

  1. Use the catch-up rule to spend downtime and "skip" a level. You can only do this from 4-5, 10-11, or 16-17. (Edge case, not immediately useful to you, but it's kinda-common in AL.)

  2. (a) Play some other AL-legal material to gain your character XP. This includes other seasons' modules, any of the hardcovers, and Lost Mines of Phandelver (from the Starter Set). Maybe some convention stuff I don't know about.

    This carries the unpleasant continuity problem of having your character pop back and forth across the Realms, but it'll get you any amount of XP you're willing to "earn" outside of your main storyline.

    (b) Or run some AL program(s). This gives you "GM XP" which you can spend at will on your own AL characters. Avoids continuity issues, but maybe you don't like GMing or don't have the players/time to run an AL table.

  3. Make a character of whatever level you like (as you did) and go ahead and play with your friends, knowing that it's not an AL-legal session (for anyone). Nothing wrong with that, just that now you and your friends can't bring those characters to other AL sessions.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Might be worth specifying in bullet 3 that if any character is non-DDAL, the whole game session is non-DDAL. In the OP's case, it sounds like they all had non-DDAL characters for the module, so it's moot, but it's a point worth making for future viewers of this answer. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Jan 7 at 21:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @T.J.L. good catch--thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jan 7 at 22:02

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