What Do I Know About First Impressions? Midgard Chronicles (Organized Play Program)
Warduke Press is an organization that has recently started to run an organized play group for Kobold Press’ Midgard setting. Warduke Press appears to be the next iteration of the Greyhawk Reborn group that has been maintaining a Greyhawk based organized play group, so they appear to have some experience in managing a third party organized play group.
As a point of reference, these are the organized play systems I have participated in one way or the other:
- Pathfinder Society Organized Play (from Gen Con 2008, one of the reviewers or the original organized play rules, ran for three years)
- Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Organized Play (several single day events)
- 13th Age Organized Play (player in the original season of the organized play)
- Dungeons & Dragons Adventurers League (player and DM all pre-season 8)
I wanted to put this out there not because it makes me any kind of authority, but to point out the different organized playgroups I’ve worked with in the past, and how my personal views have been filtered.
The general structure of this organized play looks very similar to Season 8 of the Adventurers Guild, but part of that similarity is because of the “Shared Campaigns” rules originally printed in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Even then, the rules presented in that chapter never made it 100% to organized play.
If you have never looked at them, the highlights include the following:
- Hourly checkpoints, with a certain number of checkpoints per advancement
- Treasure points awarded based on hours of play that can be used for magic items
- Set amounts of gold awarded per session based on the tier of adventure
In addition to these general concepts, the Midgard Chronicles organized play assumes that adventures take place in mainly in the north (the most directly analogous to Norse regions in the setting) and Krakova (a nation bordering the North and recently conquered by the vampires of Morgau).
Some differences from the Season 8 include “front loading” downtime days. Characters get 366 days per actual year, which can be spent on a number of downtime activities, many of which are modified from how they appear in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. While you may be tempted to spend lots of those downtime days early on, you have to pay upkeep for days spent based on your lifestyle (and lifestyle can impose advantage or disadvantage based on the Status score), and if your adventure takes place in a different region than the last region you visited, you have to spend downtime days to “access” that adventure.
Character options allowed come from various WOTC core books, as well as a few of the player facing books that have been put out by Kobold Press. Because this is a Northlands-centric campaign, ancestries and backgrounds have been listed based on rarity, and higher rarity backgrounds impose a penalty to status.The current “legal” books for the campaign include:
- 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook (PHB)
- Xanathar’s Guide To Everything (XGtE)
- Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide (SCAG)
- Midgard Worldbook (MWB)
- Midgard Hero’s Handbook (MHH)
- Margreve Player’s Guide (MPG)
The guide mentions that this will be updated as new books come out. I can’t imagine that Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and the Underworld Player’s Guide won’t make it on the list eventually. I’m also interested to see if the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide stays on the list, with so many of the options in that book being reprinted and revised in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. I don’t know this for sure, but this seems like it might be confusing to have another campaign setting focused guide as a core book for this actual play campaign.
Unlike the Season 8 rules or even the Xanathar’s Guide rules, there are sections that ban or modify how some spells or feats work, and introduce masterwork weapons. The checkpoints required by level are different from the assumed progression in Xanathar’s.
Gold is worded in an interesting manner. While the guide states the assumed gold you gain by tier for adventures, it also specifically mentions that you gain gold based on your actions. The number of checkpoints per level will also modify how much gold a character is assumed to have compared to the base in Xanathar’s. I’m interested in seeing how this is implemented in the official adventures.
Another note is that while magic items cost Treasure Points, non-magic items can be claimed at the end of an adventure and sold, and there will be a set number of some items allowed at the end of each adventure.
Season 8 Controversies
Many players in Adventurers League were not happy with the Season 8 rules. The complaints that I personally heard in my local circles were that they were “salaried” adventures picking up a paycheck, regardless of what happened in the adventure. Other complaints involved classes that use heavy armor, expensive spell components, and spell transcription.
These rules were also introduced the same season as Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, which meant that the season players were searching for a massive treasure and given a business to run, wealth was changed to an abstract. There were also issues with converting existing characters and using previous season adventures.
Without seeing adventures written exclusively for this organized play, it’s hard to know if these will be received in a similar way as the Season 8 rules. The Season 8 rules had to be used for both standard hardcover adventures and adventures written for organized play, as well as working with existing characters and adventures. It will be interesting to see how these are received when they are the rules from the beginning, with the adventures taking advantage of being written for these rules.
Organized Play Pitfalls
So far, in multiple versions of organized play, I’ve seen a lot of programs just get increasingly complicated over time, often and ironically in the interest of becoming more beginner friendly. I’m not sure how to avoid this, other than periodically just resetting organized play and introducing new rules that don’t need to be backwards compatible.
My personal opinion is that Adventurers League has been almost too responsive to player complaints, not because that’s a bad thing, but because different, well, factions within the organized play group want different things, and implementing measures to make everyone happy often ends up making no one happy. It also feels like some rules are changed before they have a chance to actually be implemented and played.
It’s also interesting to me to see a list of changes to how some spells and features work, plus having a “banned” list. I remember that Pathfinder Society Organized Play initially banned all Wondrous Items because their effects were too hard to account for in play. On the other hand, it effectively used checkpoints in some form, because characters needed to participate in three adventures per character level rather than tracking XP.
I’m planning on revisiting this topic once I have a chance to look at a few of the adventures for the program to see how well they account for the rules of organized play. I’m also hoping that people can put their opinions in a “super position,” where they can evaluate these rules for how they work in this campaign, versus bringing biases from how they worked in AL. That may be a big ask, but I’ll be interested in seeing it, regardless.
Organized Player Assumptions in 2021
The last bit of all of this that will be challenging is that in 2021, there are still no real face to face conventions. I’m 100% fine with that, but I’m not sure how that will affect participation in an organized play group. In addition to diving into the adventures, I would love to hear from people that are part of the organized play program itself.