Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  With Gary Con coming up this week, Thorne looks at the launch of Dungeons & Dragons: Curse of Strahd.

When is a launch event not a launch event?  When it is the Death House adventure to launch the newest release for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Curse of Strahd (see "'D&D: Curse of Strahd'").

As mentioned in a column a few weeks ago (see "Rolling for Initiative--WOTC's Changes to 'D&D' OP: A Death Knell for the Program"), Wizards of the Coast had drastically changed the way its weekly D&D Encounters sessions run. Instead of providing a launch adventure that ties into the new 5th Edition campaign (such as an adventure for Rise of Tiamat or Princes of the Apocalypse), and making sure to give players a reason to come to D&D Encounters every week at the LGS by providing the store materials that players could not find anywhere else, WotC now directs stores to the new Adventurer's Guild section online, where they can purchase D&D 5th Edition adventures to run, in order to promote the rules set.

Curse of Strahd is the first release for D&D 5th Edition to hit the shelves since the new program took effect, and the roll-out for it has been, shall we say, interesting.

First, stores were told that as in the past, they would receive an exclusive adventure to run to boost interest in the release.  Ok, great.  Then stores were told, "Nope, you will receive the Death House adventure that is found as an introductory adventure in the back of Curse of Strahd, but only stores and those who buy the book will have access to it."  OK, not so great but acceptable.  Then, a few days ago, stores learn that the Death House adventure, touted as available to only them and those who bought the book, is posted as a PDF on the WotC website for anyone to download.

Stores that contacted WotC were told that this was a mistake and should never have happened.  However, as of last Friday, the adventure was still posted on the WotC website.

To make up for it, and to restore some of the exclusivity for the launch event, stores were then told that they would be receiving exclusive magic item certificates to give out to players in the event.  OK, that's something special.  However, two different communications came from WotC about the certificates.  One email to a store from WotC Customer Services said stores should receive the certificates along with the adventure and other items in the file sent out this week.  The other communication comes from the WPN and says a D&D Adventurer's League Local Coordinator would contact stores and arrange for them to receive the aforementioned certificates.

As you might gather from the wording of the previous sentence, this is the first I and many other stores have ever heard of an Adventurer's League Local Coordinator, whom I gather is a local volunteer who will co-ordinate D&D events in a particular area, rather like the old RPGA Living City and Living Greyhawk coordinators did.

Posting a query to the WPN did get a quick response on Facebook and the certificates in less than an hour, along with a note indicating stores should run Death House and Curse of Strahd as we have run the other campaigns in the past as regular D&D Encounters sessions, which appears to contradict what the WPN said elsewhere.

A very confusing launch overall.  However, since WotC does run the best organized play operation in the industry, I expect these glitches to get fixed before the next D&D launch.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of