Interview with Robert Adducci
Thank you for your time, Robert.
It means a great deal to our readers to understand what Wizards of the Coast is doing and to obtain a better understanding of the happenings in the realms of Dungeons & Dragons. We know that in July 2014 Wizards released D&D 5e to outstanding success. 5e’s flavor brought players back to the feel of classic D&D, but feels new and fresh. The Player’s Handbook has gone through several printings already and the reception to each subsequent product has been outstanding.
Before we get into Dungeons & Dragons too much, though, can you let our readers know who you are, what your role is with Wizards of the Coast (D&D specifically), and how you got into roleplaying games?
Robert: Thanks for having me. I’m the Community Manager for the D&D Adventurers League, which is the organized play program for D&D. I got into RPGs in 1990 when a friend’s cousin ran a completely freeform fantasy RPG. I loved it and then shortly thereafter found out about D&D and picked up Frank Mentzer’s Basic D&D (the old red box).
How did you get involved with Wizards of the Coast?
Robert: In February of 2014 Chris Tulach, the D&D Organized Play Program Manager put a call out for people that would be interested in helping out with D&D organized play. I emailed him and sent in a resume. I was involved with some organized play previously with the Ashes of Athas campaign and did some social media and community management with some RPG related companies and projects. With my experience and some great recommendations from folks in the industry, I landed the job.
What style of RPG adventures do you personally enjoy the most?
Robert: I like immersive adventures where I can really learn about the world I’m playing in. When designing adventures I really enjoy putting in small details that tell something about the world or its history.
What is the “D&D Adventurers League”?
Robert: The D&D Adventurers League is the organized play program for D&D. It’s a way to play in a shared campaign with people in stores, convention, online, and at home. You can take your character to any of these play locations and continue the story no matter where you are.
How do stores get involved with Adventurer’s League?
Robert: Stores need to be a member of the Wizards Play Network. After they join they can schedule games via the Wizards Events Report and start hosting games. To find out what kind of games they can host, stores can visit our In Store or Store Affiliated Play Options Article.
If you and your gaming group are interested in playing the D&D Adventurers League sessions, but cannot make it to the local gaming store to play, what avenues do they have to participate?
Robert: One of the great things about the D&D Adventurers League is that, in addition to store play, you can also play at conventions (and other public locations), online, or at home. You can find out where to play on our Get Involved page.
What is the primary difference between D&D Encounters and D&D Adventurers League?
Robert: D&D Adventurers League is the overarching program, while D&D Encounters, D&D Expeditions, and D&D Epics are different types of adventures within the D&D Adventurers League. D&D Encounters are adventures that are based on the current season’s published hardcover adventure. For the current season, Rage of Demons, the adventure is Out of the Abyss. Anyone can purchase Out of the Abyss, but stores that schedule D&D Encounters get a free pdf which consists of a condensed version of the Out of the Abyss adventure. D&D Encounters are scheduled to play in two hour sessions on Wednesday nights over a period of several months and span several levels of play. Groups can play the free version and then move on to the full version if they want.
D&D Expeditions are shorter adventures that can be 1, 2, 4 or occasionally 8 hours. Each adventure is heavily themed for the storyline season and are often related, but not so much that you have to play them all; however, it rewards those who do with a fantastic narrative. We’re really leaning toward the 2 hour adventures as those seem to be what people like the most.
Right now Wizards is releasing various storylines that are attempting to tie the overall D&D experience (i.e., tabletop RPGs, board games, books, and video games) together. How does the D&D Adventurers League fit into that overall scheme?
Robert: We have been given an area of Faerûn (the Forgotten Realms) called the Moonsea. Each time a storyline season starts we create the D&D Expeditions and D&D Epic adventures in the area that are related to the storyline season. For example, this season, Rage of Demons, is all about demons coming out of the Underdark and infecting everyone they come in contact with a type of madness. We were given a demon lord and that particular demon lord is infecting the area around the city of Hillsfar with their madness. So our adventures all feature regional locations as well as stories themed with demons and madness.
How are the specific adventures chosen for the D&D Adventurers League?
Robert: The program administrators, of which there are six, all collaborate to come up with an overall narrative for the upcoming storyline season. Then Travis Woodall, the Content Manager, writes a story narrative that includes details about the city where the season takes place and our narrative. From there all of the admins pitch a whole slew of adventure concepts for the season in short 2-3 sentence “blurbs” with some details, such as adventure length and level range. From there, Wizards of the Coast picks the concepts that they like to make up the season. In the past few seasons we’ve had between 14 and 16 D&D Expeditions adventures plus one D&D Epic. Following that, Bill Benham, the Resource Manager, chooses adventure designers that can design the adventure and the work on the adventure begins.
How does one become a writer for the D&D Adventurers League?
Robert: Wizards of the Coast provided us with a small group of freelancers who had done work for previous organized play programs or had designed adventures for Dungeon magazine. We started with them and then also put out an open call for designers last year. For the open call we ask for the designer’s resume, examples of their published work (if any), and also a short design test. We’ll likely be putting out an open call early next year, so keep an eye on www.DnDAdventurersLeague.org.
Is there anything in particular Wizards is looking for in regards to writing style or content for the submissions?
Robert: We really want people that can follow directions well, know how to use a Microsoft Word Template, and really know the setting and tone for organized play. You can read a few details from Bill Benham’s Open Call for Designers Wrap Up article.
Rage of Demons marks the third official storyline for D&D 5e. What has been your favorite storyline thus far?
Robert: For me, each storyline has gotten better and better. I really enjoyed the Elemental Evil storyline, but the Rage of Demons season has really brought out wonder and excitement that I crave from D&D.
Which individual sessions from D&D Adventurers League have you enjoyed the most?
Robert: I really enjoy when a table really gels together to create a great story. At this year’s GenCon I had the honor of being the Dungeon Master for a great group of All-Access players. I was the DM for the same group for 4 adventures. I did my best to weave a continuous story together through all 4 adventures even though they weren’t necessarily directly tied together. Between that and my table of great roleplayers, I think everyone had a transcendent weekend of D&D.
What is the overall fan reaction to the D&D Adventurers League?
Robert: We’ve had fantastic positive reaction to the D&D Adventurers League. There’s been a huge influx of new players that are just getting into D&D as well as players who are returning from a hiatus and are really enjoying a new edition that feels like their old favorite.
How on earth do you coordinate all of the creation, editing, and distribution of the sessions?
Robert: The admin team, which consists of Bill Benham, Travis Woodall, Greg Marks, Claire Hoffman, Alan Patrick, and myself have worked together now for a year and a half. Bill and Greg work together to make sure the adventure designers are chosen and on task, Travis and Claire edit and develop the adventures, I make sure they get sent out to playtest, and then Alan or I make sure they get put online for DMs to download on time, so it’s really a team effort.
What is your greatest accomplishment, or the thing you’re most proud of since taking on this massive endeavor?
Robert: I’m most proud that people are noticing that the campaign staff, including us Admins as well as the Regional Coordinators and Local Coordinators, are available to answer questions and help people. At nearly any hour of the day or night you can reach out to us on social media and usually within minutes someone will get back to you. Usually that reply will come from campaign staff, but often knowledgeable members of the community will reach out to help as well. If really feels great to be part of a growing cohesive community.
What lessons have you learned from past process mistakes?
Robert: We’ve learned that keeping in constant communication between ourselves as the Admin Team and the community as a whole is vitally important. At any point if communication stops the ripple effects that has are always troublesome.
We have heard of D&D Epics Encounters. Can you enlighten us to what those are?
Robert: D&D Epics are interactive adventures that feature multiple tables working for a common purpose that often have major ramifications for the season’s storyline. With season 2, Mulmaster Undone, the adventurers were not able to prevent the cults of Elemental Evil from causing major damage to the city of Mulmaster with their devastation orbs, thus Mulmaster is in serious trouble. The effects of that adventure can be seen in some of the Rage of Demons D&D Expeditions adventures.
Are the D&D Epic Encounters adventures available for fans to run at home?
Robert: In order to really have an epic experience the D&D Epics need to have around a dozen plus tables playing simultaneously. Most conventions, let alone stores or home play, can’t handle that many tables at once, so no, currently D&D Epics are not available for home play. We are however happy to announce that D&D Epics have been approved for expanded distribution. We recently had WorldRPGCon in Brazil, FanExpo Canada, and DragonCon, host the Blood Above, Blood Below, the Epic for Rage of Demons, and in the coming months RoleCon, in Moscow will host the adventure as well. In general, to host a D&D Epic, a convention must have hosted a D&D Expeditions Premier previously and have the ability to have a dozen-plus tables of simultaneous play. In addition the convention should be in a position to support the D&D Epic as it should be and really put on a great adventure for the players.
Can you enlighten us with any future themes or storylines we might see in the future? Or is there anything you’re really looking forward to?
Robert: Unfortunately, until Wizards of the Coasts talks about future storylines we can’t say anything about future seasons. However, I will say I’m very excited about the next storyline season and I think many D&D fans will be too!
Anything else you’d like to let our readers know prior to ending our interview?
Robert: I’d like to encourage people who are interested in play[ing] D&D to take that first step and get involved. You can reach out to us on social media to ask any questions you may have and to learn about D&D. The best way to reach us is as follows:
- Wizard’s D&D Adventurers League Resources
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert we really appreciate your time and look forward to seeing more greatness from Wizards of the Coast and Dungeons & Dragons 5e! Thank you for everything you do for the community and gaming in general.
Robert: Thanks for having me, it’s been fantastic!