D&D Adventurers League: Which adventures should I play?

I’m sure that new players – to D&D and to Organised Play in general – are somewhat confused by the different programs the D&D Adventurers League offers, as well as the restrictions on which adventures their characters can play. In this article, I hope to give you help in deciding what to play and which character to play it with!

A few points to keep in mind:

  • You won’t be able to play through every adventure in the D&D Adventurers League with the same character. There’s just too much material. Most dedicated players will have a number of characters and bring out the right one according to the situation.
  • Expeditions and Epics adventures are normally rated by Tier. These are hard restrictions on what character levels are legal for the adventure. A first level character can’t be used in an adventure designed for the levels 5-10 tier.
  • Every character begins at first level.

At present, there are basically these groupings of adventures, each of which provides an entry point into the league. More will appear as we move into later seasons.

Lost Mine of Phandelver (no tier)

Home Play or Store Play

The Lost Mine of Phandelver can be played as part of the Adventurers League either at home or in a store. Although it doesn’t have a tier, it’s designed for low-level characters and will bring a party of new characters from first level up to fifth level. Basically, if you play Lost Mine, you’re playing through the first tier all with one adventure. Individual episodes of the adventure will typically take several sessions to play through; session length is up to the individual store or DM.

Lost Mine basically stands alone; it’s an evergreen product that doesn’t immediately lead into other adventures. After you complete it, look to move to Phlan or a later episode of Hoard of Dragons (non-encounters version).

D&D Encounters: Hoard of the Dragon Queen (Tier: Levels 1-4)

Store Play only

The D&D Encounters program is played on Wednesdays at game stores around the world, typically in 2-hour sessions. (A few places run it at different times; check the store to find out the details). It’s designed as a good entry point into D&D for new players.

This season will bring a new character from 1st to 4th level by its conclusion. Each episode of the adventure takes several sessions to play through and is “capped” for the amount of XP you gain – this allows people to miss a session here and there and still keep up.

After completing D&D Encounters, you could continue with the full Hoard of Dragons adventure or instead move to Phlan.

D&D Expeditions: Adventures in Phlan (many tiers)

Store or Public Play only

D&D Expeditions are a number of (normally) single-session, 4-hour adventures designed for store or public play. (You can’t play them at home). Eventually, the D&D Expeditions adventures will cover all the tiers of play, but they’re beginning small and working their way up. The initial offering of adventures are set in Phlan, a small town on the northern coast of the Moonsea, not far from the ruins of Zhentil Keep, and deal with other stories related to the main Tyranny of Dragons storyline.

You can play through the Expeditions in any order, but the best starting adventure is Defiance in Phlan, which consists of five one-hour adventures that introduce you to the factions and the various themes of later adventures. (The special format is unusual; a few other Expeditions may also deviate from the standard format).

At present, there aren’t that many adventures in Expeditions; this will change, but if you have played through all those available, your character can move to another story strand… but be careful about the levels.

The first higher-tier adventure, for levels 5-10, will appear towards the end of November; it will be a little bit more (March) before we get the rest. I’ve got the schedule here.

Oh, by the way, “Adventures in Phlan” isn’t the official name, but it describes where the initial adventures are being played. Expeditions may get broader in later seasons.

Hoard of the Dragon Queen & Rise of Tiamat (no tier)

Home Play or Store Play

The major story of the Tyranny of Dragons storyline can be found in these two adventures. Together, they cover levels 1-15. Each episode generally covers one level of play. Although there’s no strict requirement that you have a character of the proper level, it’s probably a bad idea to try playing Rise of Tiamat with a first level character!

The first section of Hoard is what is being used for D&D Encounters. A lot of players will probably move from Encounters to playing the full adventure, continuing from where Encounters ended. Some players may move into the Hoard/Rise storyline later in the adventure from Phlan or the Lost Mine. That’s fine. For the purposes of tracking these adventures, each Episode is tracked separately. It’d be a good idea to move into Hoard at an episode that is about your level.

Characters can move from playing Hoard/Rise into the other programs (particularly the Expeditions line), although I’m sure many will just play the entire story.

Here’s a really bad graphic showing the major (suggested) movements of characters from strand to strand of the story:

Now, as long as you’re in the correct tier, you can play any adventure of the D&D Adventurers League, in any order. It might not always make sense, but that decision is up to you. The main point of the D&D Adventurers League is to provide you with opportunities to play in public with other players; it also allows you to play some adventures (the published ones) at home and then take your character from there to a public event.

However, the short version is that there are two long-playing story strands at the moment. There’s the two Tyranny of Dragons adventures and there’s the D&D Expeditions adventures. We also have Lost Mine of Phandelver as an introductory point that can then lead into either of the major stories. D&D Encounters meanwhile provides an introduction to the major storyline, although you could then move from it to the D&D Expeditions adventures.

I hope this helps you understand how the initial offering of the D&D Adventurers League is set up. It will likely change as Wizards of the Coast get more used to how people are playing the new edition!

I’ve written more on how much XP you get and the Tiers in this article: More information on choosing adventures in the Adventurers League


  1. Bryan

    Merric, is there anything official that states the D&D Expeditions: Adventures in Phlan (many tiers) can’t be played at home?

    I just sent a message to Robert at http://dndadventurersleague.org/2014/08/faq140808/ , hopefully he can get back to me/us to let us know. IMO it seems like an odd restriction if a person gains the material by DMing at a store etc, then can’t DM it at home but can DM other packaged content designed on the same rules.


    • merricb


      “D&D Expeditions is a public play program. Private home play is not currently supported with D&D Expeditions. Players wanting to participate in D&D Adventurers League play at home should pick up the storyline adventure available in stores (for Tyranny of Dragons, the first adventure is Hoard of the Dragon Queen). All rewards earned in the adventure are official for the D&D Adventurers League.”


      • TT

        How will this be enforced? If I play Defiance in Phlan at home and then show up at my game store with the character I played, how would the DM know? And why would the DM care? When I DM a game at a game store, I don’t pay any attention to where the character came from. I don’t even check to see if it’s valid — I trust the players.


    • Callan

      I would say it’s basically how they intend to make a profit. It’s like the old shareware models where you’d try the first episode for free, pay for the other two. Here Expeditions is the free episode and they want you to buy storyline adventures if you want a home play that is compatable with AL. It seems a fair compromise to me.


  2. Chris Heard (@heroeszone)

    Just a quick note: the D&D Expeditions adventures that are currently available — Secrets of Sokol Keep and Shadows on the Moonsea (and also Corruption in Kryptgarden, though that’s only for big conventions) — are part of the Tyranny of Dragons storyline, as are the five Defiance in Phlan delves. They aren’t included in Hoard of the Dragon Queen or the Rise of Tiamat, but they are part of the same overarching event.


  3. Rob Wallace

    Merric, help me understand something. So, my home game is gearing up to play HotDQ and RoT. We’d like to bring our characters to 20th level. If we are all part of the AL, would we be able to “port” our characters over to the later Expeditions in Phlan to finish the story line, so long as they are AL legal, or do we need to work our way up from level 1 in store play?

    Some of us are doing both, but some aren’t, and you know rule #1: never split the party.


    • merricb

      As long as all your XP is earned through the legal adventures (and tracked on the log sheets) you can absolutely use your characters in any Expeditions adventure. The three home-play adventures are HotDQ, RoT and the starter set’s Lost Mine of Phandelver.

      It may be some time before there are level 17-20 Expeditions adventures, however. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the release schedule is like in later 2015. It is quite likely that we’ll no longer be in the Tyranny of Dragons storyline once the Tier 4 adventures get released, but your characters will still be legal.


    • merricb

      Public play involves any D&D Event in a public space – conventions, libraries, etc. Store play is only in a store; however, it seems that a store can sponsor D&D Encounters in a public space (especially if the shop is otherwise busy on Wednesday evenings).


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