When It’s Over…

I loved this song back in the day, but the music video sure hasn’t aged well…

Last night I finally got to play Adventurer’s League at the local gaming store for the first time in maybe a year, patiently waiting since for my kids’ school activities to end for the school term, and getting my character dusted off and ready to go.

But it was a terrible night. The adventure module we played, something from Season 7 Tomb of Annihilation, was poorly designed, and our DM was just an inexperienced kid who tried his best but hadn’t prepared enough.

The worst part though were some of the other players. I sat in the farthest back, surrounded by a number of “power players” (including one dad who brought his teenage daughter), who kept talking over me and one another. They kept pushing the rules envelope, and the DM didn’t really have the confidence or experience to make decisive choices about allowing this, or saying no to that, so the power players ran roughshod over the game. Within the first hour, I checked out, and spent the evening on the phone, venting on Twitter (rant since deleted) and hardly said anything for the rest of the night. I was all too glad to leave when it was over. The module had been scheduled for 2 hours, but we stayed almost for 5.

And yet it was more than that. The gaming store, which thankfully weathered the pandemic, still felt very different. Overly-complicated food menu, unfamiliar staff, flashier “gamer” vibe, etc. The large community of AL players I used to know back before the pandemic has almost entirely disappeared, or play their own table exclusively leaving occasional players like me at the “little kids table”. Where before we usually had 4-5 tables a night, and I knew all the senior DMs, I recognize almost no one now. That goes double for the other players.

In short, the local AL community really sucks now, and the gaming store isn’t what it used to be. When I last played during the pandemic, it had also been a bad experience, though not quite as bad. So, I just chalked it up to the occasional bad night. They happen, and you move on.

However, it’s clearly become a pattern and I finally had to face the fact that the local gaming community that I once knew is over. The pandemic and WotC’s tinkering with AL rules drove off a lot of committed players, and in a sense gutted my local community. Further, I’ve lost interest in newer D&D rule books,1 and our local regional Discord channel is very quiet now.

As I wrote back in the day, sometimes it’s better to just not play D&D than subject yourself to a frustrating and disappointing experience, but I kept trying through the pandemic hoping things would eventually recover. They haven’t. And as with Magic, I have to face that sunk-cost of investing any further in it, and give it up.

Never say never, of course. Even if I don’t like the community now, who know how things will look say five years from now. Maybe I’ll find another, healthier AL community someday. But for now, I’m putting that hobby on a shelf for the foreseeable future.

Contrarily, playing at home with my kids has been a lot of fun, and my daughter’s friends want to play with us too, so while my local gaming community has faded away, I suppose a new one is being formed right under my nose.

1 The new Mordenkainen’s book somehow just feels flat, homogenized, and takes a lot of fun out of playing certain character builds. I did get Witchlight and Candlekeep Mysteries, but have hardly cracked open either book since.

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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