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I am thinking of participating in Adventurers League, and if I do it will be my first time to play in it, but I actually am very hesitant on doing so. I am only considering it because my group is about to disband and my DM is trying to port the rest of the adventure over to AL, where he DMs and plays.

My specific concern is:

  • Restriction on the narrative. AL only allows published modules to be played, which means the narrative can only go in the direction the module says. I am concerned about losing my player agency and my ability to affect the world in ways I want without derailing the adventure. Meanwhile, I have been warned that my character's histories (if I make one) will probably not come into play due to the restrictions in AL.

  • What I enjoy: exploring backstories, focus on the storytelling elements, player agency

However, my DM is very enthusiastic about this, so I'm very much thinking that I must be missing something (and I'm pretty sure I have misconceptions about AL floating in my head). So I want to give it a shot. I recognize the benefits of AL: meeting new people, playing more regularly, and most of the group I'm playing with will likely make the jump over.

Is there a way for me to participate in the game while engaging in a way that lets me satisfy my need for storytelling?


There is another question about encouraging RP in AL. This is not the same question because RP is not the same as storytelling. I'd like to find adventures where my characters have motivations, are tightly woven into the story, and has the agency to explore the world and solve its problems according to his motivations. This can be done even through narrating character actions from a 3rd person perspective, without the use of RP.

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    \$\begingroup\$ As the author of the linked RP in AL question, I agree: this question is good, complementary, and not at all the same. (My concern was fostering more in-scene RP, even if those scenes were constrained to exactly those contemplated by distant authors.) \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 May 13 '17 at 13:00
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I have DMed AL for just over a year at a local game store. Your concerns are valid, but your results will depend a lot on the details of how it's run.

First up, AL kind of has multiple "modes":

  • Short Adventure mode (typically 2-4 hours)
  • Hardcover mode (just keep playing until you finish)
  • Convention play (short adventure + some things like multi-table epics)

What you don't get from these modes are story lines driven by player backgrounds. My current non-AL campaign has significant story points and plot for all of characters. I am pulling together every ones back story and making a campaign just for them. At the end of the day, I think it will all work out, but it's a ton of work and it's not drop-in friendly.

That stated, Backgrounds, Ideals, Flaws and Factions are all a part of AL and they do provide sufficient grounds for bringing uniqueness to every adventures. Especially in the scope of the Hard Covers. If you bring a background / history that is appropriate to say Storm King's Thunder and that's what you're running, then there are lots of opportunities for good storytelling within that book.

In one example, I ran Princes of the Apocalypse for several months. My Rogue Assassin had a metal mask melted to her face while trying to steal from a wizard. She barely survived the fireball but the mask was stuck there. With a little prep, I was able to work in the wizard, he was captured by the fire cult, they even have a prison for him. My PC freed him in exchange for fixing the mask. Of course, the wizard can't exactly cast greater restoration, so she was sent to the Lich for help... yeah a Lich, but it worked out, player had learned her lesson and the Lich needed help and the story went on.

None of this stuff broke the game. I didn't have to add XP or gold or treasure, the players had a few significant roleplaying moments and life was good.

In my latest AL group, we're running several of the Tier 1 AL adventures that are all centered around Parnast. The Dragonborn Fighter really wanted to join the Black Hand and we worked it in to the story line. The Halfling Rogue is too darn cute and has suckered everyone in town, so he gets to sleep on couches instead of the barn or tents. The Triton Sorcerer is a sailor and a drunk, during a trek across the desert she began every encounter in the back of a caravan cart inside of a barrel of water.

In fact, having run several adventures in the same place, my characters have come to like the NPCs there. They have taken adventure of the Story rewards and the characters they meet are going to be used for future adventure hooks. My PCs still get to make decisions, they still get to roleplay their way through important encounters, we're still building a story together.

While the AL stories are complete in and of themselves, they really have lots of leeway for bringing character story elements throughout. Yes, you lose the ability to drive the plot completely on the background of some characters, but you do get to incorporate their stories without breaking the rules.

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