D&D Virtual Play Weekends

Chris Tulach discusses the latest way to play D&D online every month, whether you’re on Discord, Fantasy Grounds, Roll20, or Zoom.


UPDATE: APRIL’S VIRTUAL PLAY WEEKEND!

April’s D&D Virtual Play Weekend will be packed full of ancient threats in icy climes, non-English gaming opportunities, and more mysteries than you can shake a deerstalker at!

Following on from the two Candlekeep Mysteries adventures that previewed in March, a further four stories from Faerûn’s most storied library will be added to the April event. All of those adventures will be in the tier one and tier two ranges (for 1st to 4th level, and 5th to 10th level characters), making them a great way for any player to get involved.

“Our Candlekeep Mysteries previews were wildly popular in March and we’re expanding on those stories. We’re offering at least six adventures from Candlekeep Mysteries in April, including the two that we ran previously,” says Chris Tulach, Product Manager for D&D Play. “The adventures taken from that book are all very different and are a lot of fun to play, so you can expect them to be a regular feature for Virtual Play Weekends for a while.”

Chris also suggests that playing the Candlekeep Mysteries adventures during April’s Virtual Play Weekends is a great way to get started in the Adventurers League Masters Campaign. The Candlekeep-based adventures have a loose tie-in to the Dreams of the Red Wizards storyline, which is the focus of the current Masters Campaign, so joining via them is the only way to enter that campaign with a 1st level character.

In March, Baldman Games also expanded its pool of Dungeon Masters from outside the United States to include a Portuguese speaking Discord server featuring largely Brazilian D&D fans, while also offering tickets to a couple of Spanish-speaking tables. Thanks to that continued increase in non-English speaking DMs and players, other countries and languages are joining that roll call.

“Pandemic or not, Dungeons & Dragons connects everybody in the world. Following on from the Portuguese-only Discord server we opened up in March, we’re opening a German-only server in April,” Chris says.

And as if that wasn’t enough, players involved with the Adventurers League seasonal campaign can also play a brand-new adventure in April. Volatile Thoughts (DDAL 10-08), which is part of the Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frost Maiden, Plague of Ancients storyline, debuts that weekend.

“There’ll be eight Adventurers League seasonal adventures in total to play across the weekend, so you could make a whole weekend of play with just the seasonal campaign and be able to catch up with that storyline completely,” Chris advises.

The next D&D Virtual Play Weekend takes place on April 16-18, 2021. You can register and buy tickets at The Yawning Portal, find more player and general event information at the Baldman Games website, and find Dungeon Master information here.

 

MARCH’S VIRTUAL PLAY WEEKEND!

As social distancing continues to impact our ability to get together in person, how we connect with one another has evolved. The success of online virtual play offerings at events such as D&D Live and D&D Celebration proves there is a desire for more opportunities to share our love for all things Dungeons & Dragons. One new resource offering further remote options is D&D Virtual Play Weekends. This program allows gamers worldwide to gather once a month as part of this “mini-convention” for D&D tabletop play.

D&D Live has its roots in being a streaming show, where influencers from our community stream actual play games that connect with our fall storyline. The 2019 event, which highlighted Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, went beyond that streaming show to become an in-person convention with sets, vendor merchandise, and a fuller attendee experience,” explains Chris Tulach, Product Manager for D&D Play.

“When in-person events were necessarily cancelled or postponed in 2020, we decided to pivot to a fully virtual event for D&D Live. We only had around eight weeks to put that together but we were really ambitious with our plans. By the time we got to D&D Celebration and the launch of Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden, we were ready to create a full-on event with its own online portal, interactive maps, all the usual cool streaming content, and a liveplay offering.

“I knew that we needed to keep this momentum going because people were excited to be gathering virtually with their friends to experience D&D again. And they were really happy that we were helping to make that happen. As far back as July 2020, I pitched a monthly play event, which eventually became D&D Virtual Play Weekends.”

First Steps

The monthly program of D&D Virtual Play Weekends began in November, allowing friends from around the world to play new Adventurers League content for the first time from the comfort of their own homes. The Yawning Portal website was set up to handle registration and ticketing, with organization and table assignments available on Baldman Games’ Discord server.

Games at the events are typically either two or four hours’ long depending on the booking—although time slots can be longer to account for the virtual play format or if games run over on time. All Dungeon Masters are vetted and approved by Baldman Games, with DMs compensated through the sale of tickets at their table.

“If you haven’t played D&D in a while or have never played at all, you can book a seat at a table that’s specifically designed to help you learn. These ‘Intro to Dungeons & Dragons’ games are discounted, so instead of paying $8 for a two-hour game, you only pay $4 to learn how to play D&D,” Chris explains.

“We currently have four main platforms that people are using to run games. If players have no familiarity with virtual tabletops, they use Zoom or Discord; otherwise, they’re using either Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds. Following our November event, we added games that teach players how to use those tools.”

While most games are played in English, D&D Virtual Play Weekends feature players from all over the world. And the Yawning Portal website already offers tickets to D&D games played in other languages, thanks to an increase in the number of DMs.

“Since we’ve been able to expand our pool of Dungeon Masters from outside the United States, we’ve expanded our reach. We have a really strong Brazilian contingent of gamers that love to play, and there are a couple of DMs who run games in Portuguese. We also have a couple of Spanish-speaking tables as well.”

Beyond The Adventurers League

The storylines of the D&D Virtual Play Weekends have so far largely followed the seasonal campaigns, including Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden, an alternative campaign set in Eberron, and a D&D masters’ campaign called Dreams of the Red Wizards. However, Dungeon Masters can now submit their own adventures from outside of the D&D Adventurers League.

“Our primary focus is on Adventurers League play, but we’re slowly allowing Dungeon Masters to run other D&D content and we’ll continue to expand that in the coming months,” Chris tells Dragon+.

“We’re also going to allow that content to be edition agnostic. If someone wants to run a first edition D&D game, they can run an adventure in first edition. As long as it’s Dungeons & Dragons they’re playing, we don’t mind. We want players who are interested in those legacy editions to be able to join us, too.”

The Virtual Play Weekends are also looking to take a leaf out of D&D Live and D&D Celebration’s playbooks and host panel content. These would likely run once a quarter instead of being a monthly addition, with the first one taking place in March.

“Our panels will focus on giving DMs advice, possibly doing a deep dive into one aspect of Dungeon Mastering, with tips and tricks from content creators and influencers in the community,” he reveals.

“The first of these will be right around the release date of Candlekeep Mysteries, and while it won’t focus on the book itself it’ll be thematically linked to it in some way. We’ll bring some of the content creators who worked on the project to talk about the adventures and adapting them for your games at home.”

Rolling Forward

“We’ve seen incredible growth in the first few months of this program. What’s so exciting is that it’s largely being driven by word of mouth. People are asking their friends to come and play with them, so we’re growing organically, which is the best way to expand. And when the people that are being brought in are being referred by other folks, they’re likely to stick around,” Chris says excitedly.

“We have just finalized our dates for D&D Virtual Play Weekends for the whole year and we don’t plan on deprecating the program once everyone is able to play in person once more. When we come out of the other side of this, we expect the way that people engage with their favorite games is going to change. We believe people are going to be more comfortable with a blended experience: playing in person, but also playing online sometimes for convenience.”