The state of "PHB +1" for Adventurers League in December 2019: Season 9, Eberron, and Extra Life

: Dungeons & Dragons

I'm continuing my series of articles on character creation in Adventurers League. The basic concept of "PHB +1" is not changing—see Adventurers League 101: The "PHB +1" rule for details—but season 9 of Adventurers League (Avernus Rising) and the new Eberron campaign (Oracle of War) are each exploring some new ideas for character creation options.

Season 9: Avernus Rising

Avernus Rising is the title of the ninth season of Adventurers League, built around the new hardcover adventure Baldur's Gate: Descent Into Avernus. It is the first season since Rage of Demons to have a name that differs from the featured hardcover adventure.

With Avernus Rising, Adventurers League organized play covers eleven hardcover adventures and hundreds of standalone adventures available through the DMs Guild. Wizards of the Coast asked for changes to encourage DMs and players to focus on the new hardcover and the content released to support it.

Originally called "seasonality" (a term that was later dropped to avoid confusion), the League came up with a set of incentives for players to create brand-new characters for Avernus Rising, and DMs to run current-season adventures. Two of the incentives are universal exceptions to the "PHB +1" rule: players can create Aasimar characters without taking Volo's Guide to Monsters (VGM) as their +1, and players who create characters using the default Tiefling race from the Player's Handbook (PHB) can replace their Infernal Legacy trait with the Winged trait from Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide at 5th level without taking that sourcebook as their +1. (The Avernus Rising rules also allow Aasimar to gain wings at 5th level but that option is a League creation, not present in any sourcebook.)

With Avernus Rising, the Adventurers League officially designates characters as being "Forgotten Realms characters" or "Eberron characters". Certificates and DM Rewards will now be explicitly labeled as being eligible for Forgotten Realms characters or Eberron characters. Older certificates and DM Quest rewards can only be used with Forgotten Realms characters unless explicitly noted in the certificate or reward, as Amy Lynn Dzura confirmed in a Facebook comment.

The second Eberron campaign: Oracle of War

Wizards of the Coast released Eberron: Rising From The Last War (ERFtLW) in November, providing a host of character options:

  • Four new character races: Changeling, Kalahstar, Shifter, and Warforged
  • Variant races: Human and Half-Orc races that replace some traits with traits associated with having a dragonmark, and a variant Orc race with different traits from the version in VGM
  • Reprinted races: the Bugbear, Goblin, and Hobgoblin races were reprinted from VGM
  • New subraces for Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, and Halfling with traits associated with having a dragonmark
  • The first new full class for 5th Edition, the Artificer class, with three subclasses

Wizards of the Coast updated the Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron (WGtE) with the final versions of the new races, variant races (except for the variant Orc), and subraces; they also added the full Artificer class but only a single subclass, the Alchemist. They also removed some content, such as the Greater Dragonmark feat, that did not make it into the final book.

The second Adventurers League campaign set in Eberron, Oracle of War, officially starts this month; Gamehole Con 2019 featured four preview adventures for the campaign.

Unlike the Forgotten Realms campaign storylines, Oracle of War will not allow players to use Eberron characters from Embers of the Last War and adventures from Embers of the Last War are not legal for Oracle of War. Amy confirmed in a Facebook comment that Embers of the Last War will continue to use the previous ALPG and ALDMG but use the updated content from WGtE, making both Eberron campaigns entirely self-contained.

Some other notable elements of Oracle of War:

  • Like Embers of the Last War, Oracle of War is not tied to a hardcover adventure; all of the core adventures will be available on the DMs Guild, starting with The Night Land.
  • Oracle of War will have Epic multi-table adventures set in Eberron; the first epic, The Iron Titan, premiered at Gamehole Con 2019.
  • Oracle of War expands on the idea of having side quests outside of the main storyline, similar to the Encounters in Sharn PDF for Embers of the Last War; Oracle of War will have a PDF of "salvage missions" as optional side quests to enhance the main storyline.
  • Oracle of War also continues the trend started in Embers of the Last War of not using the "PHB +1" rule; only the PHB and ERFtLW are legal sources for creating Eberron characters for the new campaign without special campaign documentation.

The FAQ in the Oracle of War DM's Guide notes that WGtE is not technically considered a legal source for Oracle of War, but that the final version of WGtE doesn't contain any character options that aren't also in ERFtLW so those options are legal. Options from the playtest version of the WGtE (such as the Greater Dragonmark feat) are not legal for Oracle of War.

The exclusion of Xanathar's Guide to Everything (XGE) from the list of available sources has been a controversial choice, but the League admins are using Oracle of War to test concepts which may be used in future League seasons or campaigns. Amy clarified in a Facebook comment that the Artificer will have access to the spells in its spell list from XGE without having special campaign documentation. Shawn Merwin, one of the Oracle of War admins, hinted in a Facebook comment that new character options may be unlocked through playing Oracle of War adventures as well as through certificates. If this is true, this will be the first time players can gain new character options without using certificates or DM Quest rewards.

Extra Life and Adventurers League

For the past three years, the D&D team at Wizards of the Coast and the Adventurers League admins have given away AL-legal certificates to people who donate money for Extra Life. Many of the certificates feature unique pets, trinkets, magic items, and more, but some certificates have granted exceptions to the "PHB +1" rule for character creation. There is no comprehensive public record of which certificates exist, so I haven't written about them until now.

This is the first year the League admins created new subclasses for Adventurers League play by creating new custom Warlock patrons for their certificates. This is not the first time certificates have created a new character option: the Cleric of Kelemvor certificate allowed players to create a Cleric with the Death domain before the Dungeon Master's Guide was released, so it had the complete text of the subclass on the certificate for reference. But this is the first time AL-legal certificates have created character options that are unlikely to see publication outside of the League.

Two notable AL-legal certificates were sold as part of Mirt's Charity Auction at Gamehole Con 2019. The first is the Child of the Elements certificate, which allows players to create a Forgotten Realms character using the Genasi race—the only character option from the free Elemental Evil Player's Companion PDF which hasn't been reprinted in another AL-legal source—without taking Elemental Evil Player's Companion as their +1.

The second is the A Visitor From Elsewhere certificate, which allows players to create an Eberron character using the Firbolg, Goliath, Kenku, or Kobold race from VGM, and makes the subclass options from XGE available for that character. (The in-game explanation on the certificate is that the character is from Waterdeep and wakes up near the town of Salvation with no memory of how they got there, but the character is still an "Eberron character" in AL-legal terms.)