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.  This week, Thorne looks at what he sees as problematic changes in the recent restructuring of Dungeons & Dragons organized play (see "Adventurers League No Longer Confined to Stores and Cons").

Though this past weekend marked the pre-release of the Oath of the Gatewatch set for Magic: The Gathering, I found the announcement from Wizards of the Coast regarding the future of its Dungeons & Dragons Organized Play program to have a much more far-reaching effect, at least for those stores that have invested time in building the Encounters and Expeditions programs in their stores.  From where I sit, WOTC just wiped out five years of D&D OP development in one day as it eliminates the two things that made the program successful and made it a viable competitor with Paizo's Pathfinder Society program:

Consistency of time.
I'm not going to consider D&D Expeditions as it always seems an also-ran to the much more heavily promoted Encounters program and, unlike Encounters, Expeditions never had a fixed time to run, one of the strongest points of the Encounters program.  If a store opted to participate in D&D Encounters, it scheduled the event every Wednesday night.  It was easy to tell players, "We run D&D Encounters every Wednesday night."  I realize stores can still keep running D&D every Wednesday night and stores can even call their games Encounters.  However, that is not the same as running a sanctioned D&D Encounters session every Wednesday night and having players know what the store is talking about when a staff member mentions running Encounters.

Without the Encounters brand, and with WOTC allowing, even encouraging, stores to run events on other days of the week, the Encounters brand, which many stores have spent much time and money building upon, will vanish within a few months.  A major reason for Friday Night Magic’s decades-long success is that it gets scheduled every Friday night.  Customers know, if a store runs Magic, there is a 95% likelihood it runs Friday Night Magic.  Until now, customers had that same certainty with D&D, now not so much.

Consistency of events.
Under the Encounters program, stores ran the same adventure every Wednesday night.  Granted what happened and where it went depended on the gamemaster and that week's players, but still, a player travelling from one store to another could be fairly certain that the store was running Horde of the Dragon Queen, Rise of Tiamat or whatever the campaign was for that season and expect that the character they had made to run in one store could fit into another store's Encounter session without too much tweaking.  At least, the player would have some idea regarding what was going on in the game.

Now, given that WOTC encourages stores (and other locales) to purchase and run scenarios from the Dungeon Master's Guild, players have no idea what any given store has running.  Is the scenario low level or high, a dungeon crawl or an urban adventure, heavy on role playing or monster smashing?  The consistency of the program has gone out the window.

Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe WOTC has researched the program and determined that these won't prove problematic.  Lord knows the company has enough data on Magic Organized Play that I would hope they have equally strong figures supporting this decision.  WOTC, please respond to this or send me an email if you do.  Thanks.

On a somewhat related matter, it's always good to see a new product show up from Palladium Games.  One of the few RPG companies from the early 1980s still actively producing products (and not using crowdfunding to do so), I am always happy to see new Palladium products arrive.  A few months ago, we received a copy of their Marines Sourcebook for the Robotech RPG and a week or so ago arrived the latest copy of The Rifter, Palladium's magazine focusing on its RPG lines and one of about only three print magazines still focusing on RPGs.  Well done Palladium.

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