I ran the first session of Adventurer's League (AL) hosted at Voodoo Leatherworks, and it was a smash hit! I started from the top with DDEX1-2 Secrets of Sokol Keep. Since our AL takes place on Voodoo's monthly game night, we had to set up a table in the dungeon proper in order to have enough room.
I had four players, but garnered enough interest that I may very well have six additional players next month, which means I may have to recruit additional DMs, and fast. Three of the players at the table that night were new to Dungeons & Dragons, while the fourth had played 2e but lost interest when her group transitioned to 3e (which is totally understandable).
Historically, I've been wary of using premade characters, but this session totally converted me: they made the game easy for everyone to pick up and play, and they freed up a lot of time typically reserved for character creation. Everyone made the characters their own, so player investment didn't suffer; it's not like how I always thought playing premades would be, where everyone is stuck with a hollow shell they didn't care enough to fill. I plan on making more premades to cover more class, race, and path combinations, and may even tailor-make premades to tie them into specific scenarios, in the same vein as the expertly crafted introductory scenarios for Burning Wheel.
While rooting around in the abandoned Sokol Keep trying to figure out how to relight the beacon atop it, the party was commissioned by the centuries-old spirit of a dead Tyr priestess to exact her bloody vengeance on the corrupt guardsman – Sergeant Grim – who killed Igan, the proprietor of Sokol Keep and her newfound acolyte. Grim wanted to loot the temple to Tyr that the Keep was constructed atop of, and murdered Igan out of greed when he tried to stop him. The priestess of Tyr trapped Grim and his men in the temple, but could not manifest to do the deed herself. She deactivated the beacon atop Sokol Keep, wreaking havoc in the nearby harbor in an attempt to lure a group of adventurers in to do the job for her.
The priestess of Tyr pointed the party to the excavation site in the basement of the western tower, and when they entered the temple they became trapped as well, trapped just the same until they meted Tyr's punishment on Grim. Grim and his men had run out of food, water, and light two days ago, freezing in their metal armor in the bowels of the keep. Understandably, they were quite repentant for what they had done.
But Tyr's justice is blind to the pleas of those he has already judged.
Our CRIT this session came from Dahlia, our wonderfully queer Dragonborn Sorcerer. The party was flush with rations – the typical starting amount is 10 days' worth for each character – which Dahlia realized were potent bargaining chips. She had a fellow adventurer stack four rations on the floor – one for each guardsman, save for Grim. She took one in her hand and held it out to the emaciated guardsmen:
"For each dagger in Grim's back, I will trade you a ration."
Intimidation → Natural 20
Grim collapsed to his knees in resignation; he knew how his men would choose, despite their loyalty. He felt the eyes of his men burrow into the back of his head. The first approached him and pulled his dagger, plunging it between Grim's ribs. His expression was one of pity and grim determination.
"Sorry boss, but what else am I supposed to do?"
He left his dagger hilted inside Grim - barely alive with anguish - and stumbled forward to the toothy-grinned Dragonborn, gorging himself on his reward.
Dahlia took up another ration from the pile. And another. And another. Grim's death was not slow. The priestess of Tyr was pleased that Grim's own men were the vehicle of her God's justice, redeeming them in her eyes. All were released from the tomb, and the party stood guard as Grim's men buried the leader they mutinied in an unmarked grave. They begged that the party set them free, to go their separate ways and nurse their broken oaths. Dahlia agreed.
The fact that they traded their leader for a day's food was punishment enough. Their stomachs could be filled - and would be filled - again and again. A moment's respite for the essence of the man they owed their utmost respect.