Dear Adventurers League, It’s Not Me, It’s Definitely You: A Break-Up Letter From Players

This is an open letter from Adventurers League players (through the voice of their established player characters) to D&D Adventurers League, in response to the new changes for season 9.

I didn’t want to write this.

I really didn’t want to write this.

I didn’t want you to find out through a letter, but after all we’ve been through, I just couldn’t bear to do this face to face.

I won’t draw this out… it’s over. I wish I could say that I’m sorry, that it’s not you, it’s me—but the truth is the exact opposite: I’m not sorry, and it is you. You’ve changed, and not for the better.

This past year has been hard. You’ve become controlling, focused on ‘fixing’ my problems and not looking at your own. You called it ‘balancing’, but let’s be honest: it was punitive. I have tried to be patient, but every time you open your mouth, it’s to ruin something else. The last time adventurers took this much damage was when our character sheets were burned in the Satanic Panic.

You took away a lot of the things that I enjoy; things that I had spent a lot of time earning, had incorporated into my life, and which no one else thought were problematic. You could have found another way, and I suggested many to you. Instead, you chose to simply destroy what you didn’t like. And we both know that the coupons and gift cards you gave me to replace them were not appropriate compensation. Even GameStop would have given me more for my legendary artifact sword.

You took away my money. Rather than give me things to spend my money on or use otherwise plausible methods to curb my spendthrift nature, you opted instead confiscate my earnings and force me to work again to earn them back as credit toward things that met your approval. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the living allowance you gave me was meagre, restrictive, and patronizing; I could have invested that dragon hoard in things I need, like better armour. As it is, I’ve been eating kobold meat a couple days a week just to survive on the stipend I’m receiving.

Remember when we started out our relationship? You promised me that we’d do things according to the rules we both agreed to, the ones written in the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide. But flipping through those books, I see nothing about ACP, TCP, or any other acronym that you’ve insisted we adopt. In fact, even when you trialled these new rules in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, they didn’t appear like they do now. This isn’t the essential D&D experience that you promised to preserve. Not even close.

Of course, it hasn’t all been bad. While I never had trouble with math (especially simple addition), I really appreciate how you helped me break down my advancement goals into neat milestones that I could make reliably, rather than leaving it all to the vagaries of fate. The five-step process might have been pared down a bit, but at least I only had to do it once. And I appreciate that you eliminated competition for the magical items that my friends and I encounter in our journeys. I mean, it’s not like I don’t constantly run into other people who had obtained the exact same item from exactly the same events… however that works.

But even these benefits doesn’t make up the problems you’ve created, especially when it comes to making new friends. It was already hard with all your restrictive rules; you turned away my friends, the eladrin war wizard and the duergar battlerager, for no good reason. But all these other rules you’ve brought in lately have made it all the harder to find new people to hang out with. They simply can’t keep up, since plate armour, familiars, and resurrection are all well beyond their means.

Of course, you figured this out, too. That’s why your latest rules will severely impact how I hang out with new friends. Yes, I know I can go along for the fun (and maybe even get you to dispense some of my hard-earned money), but I won’t be able to enjoy those heavily emphasized story awards. And just in case I thought about doing it because the bandit leader has a magic sword I want, you’re also going to keep me from laying claim to new treasure? You know that I can’t pay the rent with altruism and goodwill, right?

Oh, sure, I can avoid some of these restrictions if I give up everything I’ve worked so hard for and reinvent myself as I was at the start of my career. Right. As that nonsense came out of your mouth, I thought, “Surely you’re joking”. But I knew you weren’t. You’re always serious when it comes to new and creative ways to rob me of the rewards for my time and effort. I suppose I should be thankful that you’re finally being honest in saying that you just don’t want me around. Not that I can figure out why; I understand that some people have not treated you very well, taken advantage of you, but I’m not one of them, and I can’t let you continue treating me like I am.

Some of my friends suggest that you have a plan, that I should wait and see how you execute these new restrictions you’ve mentioned. But I’ve given you the benefit of the doubt too many times now. I’d hoped to see some contrition from you after the last wave of restrictions you rolled out. (“Sorry I messed everything up, here’s 1,000 gp and your sword back.”) Alas, I see nothing of the sort here, and you’ve too thoroughly destroyed my trust in you to believe the new season will have anything for me.

Maybe if you ever listened to people, I’d have a little more faith. Oh, you say that you are listening, but since 70% of reviews for the last rules document you released have all given a one star out of five rating, and your apparent course is to double down on this bad strategy instead of compromise (or, better yet, reverse course entirely), I’m not seeing any reason to believe in you. And truth be told, even if you did reverse course now, the damage has already been done. How can I ever get invested in our relationship again when eight months later you might slip back into old habits and throw out more of my hard-earned equipment and forbid me from meeting more new people?

I don’t recognize what you’ve become, and I don’t like what you want me to become for you. You and your bizarre ultimatums have destroyed the spirit of our original relationship. We were partners once, but now you treat me like an employee, a subcontractor employed by Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro. It isn’t healthy in any relationship, and it’s past time I put my foot down.

This one-sided, abusive relationship has gone on too long. I can’t do it anymore. As angry as I am at your betrayal, I genuinely wish you the best. If you ever decide to give up your misguided ways, show true contrition to someone who’s been loyal to you for years, and disavow and reverse your mean-spirited revisions, send me a message. Until then, I’ll be looting lizardfolk in Saltmarsh. At home. Without you. Maybe taking a level in gunslinger.

Yours no more,

A former AL adventurer


Taylor “Ipsimus Arcanus” Reisdorf is the self-styled archmage at Dungeon Master’s Workshop, with weekly publications right here every week. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.

23 thoughts on “Dear Adventurers League, It’s Not Me, It’s Definitely You: A Break-Up Letter From Players”

  1. This announcement they’ve released killed my DDAL drive, and not a True Resurrection in sight. I’d settle for a Reincarnate, or heck, even a friendly necromancer at this point.

    But no. This letter had to be written, and it’s a much better one than I had in mind.

  2. Absolutely fantastic write up, though I fear it won’t really change much. Wizards is too stubborn and has too many mindless supporters.

  3. Are the AL Admins and Managers intentionally trying to sink the ship, or just wanna-be dictator spores flaked off of Trump and his facists? They couldn’t have ruined a Good Thing any quicker had they tried (and I wonder if they did). What is wrong with WOTC and Hasbro in letting this happen? Good thing PF 2.0 is coming out because if WOTC lets AL ravage their userbase like this (or worse encourages it), 6E is gonna make 4E look good! (Did Disney buy the company or something?!)

    1. It isn’t the admins so much as WOTC. Chris Lindsey was brought on during season 7 as a “liaison” from WOTC, and WOTC has been handing down directives about how they want stuff done with very little room for change since then. You can actually see the change when they brought him on. Season 7’s AL Death Curse implementation went through several revisions, and the only thing the admins had to do was make sure it worked with what was in ToA. The implementation improved a lot from the first draft.
      Season 8, the admins were allowed to make almost no changes, as those rules had been mandated by WOTC and Chris. They had to lobby hard just to get TCP to gold implemented.

      1. Wizard’s bread and butter has been, and will always continue to be, Magic the Gathering. All they know how to do is, with each new edition, to force new rules, restrictions, and other dictates…all because they found that a few players had found ways to play the game that they never thought of, and now feel they must dictate that “No, that was never how the game was supposed to be played. THIS is how it is to be played, the way WE envisioned it to be!”

        So that is exactly what they did for Season 8, and now for Season 9, because they would rather see ALL of us miserable then for some of us to have fun.

    2. They decided to follow the Obama/Hillary Leftists and make sure noone gets what they work for. Everyone gets the same thing. Take from the people that work for it so they are even with those just coming in. Doesn’t matter if you work harder than everyone else… That dragon hoard should be given to the people not the hero.

    3. Yes, Disney bought WotC. If you remember, ilithids are owned exclusively by WotC/Hasbro. However, there was a Disney channel series about teenaged monster hunters and one of the monsters they hunted was…an ilithid.

  4. 1) Thank you for writing this.

    2) This crap is all being dictated by Hasbro. The do not care about FLGS or existing players.

  5. I’d like to add in the Order of Champions. It’s a new 5e Shared Campaign played out online after the Explorer’s Guild banned online play. We have games across at least three servers and serve 500+ members and we’re growing. We’d love to welcome more into the campaign if anyone is looking for an AL alternative.

    Please join our man Discord at https://discord.gg/bxcjCR6 for more info~

    1. I am happy to encourage people to check this out, especially since Order of Champions has approved my adventure, Temple of the Primordials, for organized campaign play.

      It’s funny, I originally wrote that to be an Adventurers League module, but they released S8 rules literally the day after I put the adventure up on Dungeon Masters Guild, and there was no way I was changing it to follow S8 rules. Now their successors have reaped the benefits of it instead.

  6. May I introduce you to Living Arcanis, a Living campaign that has been around since 3.0. You can download the free primer and 8 intro adventures at RPG now.

    If you want to talk more about the campaign let me know

  7. It was always a controlling and abusive relationship.

    Like many people in trapped in such it just took you time to realize what it was, and that the problem was never with you.

    1. When Adventures League came about, I was all for it. I was thinking “YES! Finally! An outlet for those who feel trapped in a bad group with a bunch of people no one else want to play with, but don’t want to leave because they fear they’ll never be able to find another group to play with.” But now I feel that a lot of those players gave up one abusive relationship for another. Yet now, instead of a couple of players who treated the rest of the group like crap, it’s now an entire organization that is doing it.

  8. Dude, you are so incredibly late. I’ve been saying this for two decades now. I remember when D&D was fun and about creativity. I haven’t seen any in years. I have yet to see anyone run anything homebrew, it’s all about modules and Adventurer’s League crap. I’ve gone all the way back to 1st edition just to have fun.

    Why can’t I play an enchanter? Why can’t I play a character who goes on adventures to collect the items to create his/her own megamagimacguffin. Why must I just fork over tokens, points, and money for things that I could have collected myself?

    No matter how many times people have tried to get me to play, I’ve said no because it wasn’t real. I got the same thrill for D&D as I did for the old TV sitcom The Charmings….none at all.

    I’ve finally settled on just going old school back when the game was fun. And for a while I had a 1e group (had to cut that because of scheduling) and then even an old Atlantean Trilogy (again died because of scheduling.) I really do miss playing good stories and engaging with the plot. You know…”Games of the Imagination.”

    1. Dude! The Charmings?!? Has it really gotten THAT bad??

      ::Looks at the 13 abandoned character sheets gathering dust because there was never any 4th tier support::

      I hereby withdraw the question…

  9. I can understand your frustration, but some of your comments are kind of off base.

    First off, the Season 9 rules weren’t finalized when this was written. In fact, they’re still not finalized. But, from what have come out in clarifications, you are no more hampered by “not getting magic item unlocks and story awards” for playing a season 9 adventure, than you are for playing “Shackles of Blood” (a season 3 adventure) which had no story awards and the magic item unlock was an evergreen item. Same thing for a LARGE number of older adventures.

    The old adventures often gave you magic items which are now on the evergreen list, so… you play those, you get no unlock, season 9 or not. So, in that sense, Season 9 adventures are just “more business as usual.”

    The only thing is, you can play a “special way” and make a seasonal character, just like you could volunteer to play “meatgrinder mode” in season 7. An optional thing with a reward for doing it.

    Now, as far as the complaint about gold: they didn’t really take away your gold, they just took away your income. So, a character that might write this story wouldn’t necessarily be eating “kobold stew” unless… they were already hurting for cash. In that regard, obviously the previous seasons weren’t helping them if they’re hurting for cash. Whereas season 8 gives a guaranteed income.

    I had one of those characters that had limited funds and very few magic items in the old days, they existed. Just like you were at the mercy of the fates about how much XP you earned, you were also at their mercy for the gold and treasure you earned. Some adventures gave you very little, in fact at least one I played tended to have a NEGATIVE amount of money earned.

    Season 8 was a way to balance things out because OTHER PEOPLE didn’t live up to the spirit of things, and maybe you didn’t run into those people… but you run at a convention for enough and you run into them. Boy howdy. People with multiple legendaries at tier 2, with a log sheet that proves it, but you can suspect (but not quite prove) that the DM either didn’t exist or was a willing participant in this… “odd style of play.”

    Any organized play that exists will run into this sort of thing. Living Greyhawk definitely had rebalances that happened. You kind of expect them.

    (and part of the mechanics of any RPG is that … “mechanics happen” so the criticism of “ACP doesn’t appear in the books” feels a bit weak, because war-mage and battle-rager didn’t appear in that PHB too, but a new book came out that described them and they were accepted.)

  10. Boy howdy. People with multiple legendaries at tier 2, with a log sheet that proves it, but you can suspect (but not quite prove) that the DM either didn’t exist or was a willing participant in this… “odd style of play.”

    So what??? I mean magic items, while nice, rarely affect the game that much. Even if you have a Vorpal Blade at T2, you have to crit and then the DM decides if the blade decapitates the creature or just does damage. He could up the hitpoints, make it a tier up in difficulty. This game is about being social and telling a story. There is nothing, no single legendary (outside deck of many things and a few others that cause major disruptions) that make someone a god. I mean you can only have 3 items attuned anyways. Plus finding DMs that are fair and balanced at an AL game is pretty difficult as well. Most DMs get in a little mean-spirited group with each other about killing players and that IS NOT WHAT A DM is for!!! It is to direct a story and make things a challenge. If you die because you were an idiot and attacked a Dragon at level 4, then yeah you deserved to lose a character. However if there is a dragon you have to fight at level 4, your DM is a jerk. You also have these DMs that become player characters and use DM rewards to have all these amazing items, they dont allow you to obtain in adventures. I like TP, but I feel 4 a game is limiting. I like ACP, because I have sat at games for an entire night and received nothing. However, taking away magic items at the table is dumb! There should be one to a party member and an unlock for those that didnt receive it. TP should be double the ACP. Again you can only attune 3 items at a time, and items that arent attune able, are simply functional items. Googles of Night comes to mind, you just get to see in the dark. Seasonal play is a joke. I hate it in Diablo 3 and I hate it in AL. I just want to have fun and play a game with Characters I have already given hundreds of hours to.

  11. A while back I played in DDAL. At the time I was going through chemotherapy as a diabetic and wore a constant glucose monitor. Well the DM was high strung. He got angry and freaked out when the monitor sounded. I contacted WOTC and they essentially said that is so sad thanks for sharing. I still play 5e but only use my home brewed adventures and setting. I will not be involved with WOTC organized play again. Like the author it is WOTC and not me.

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