• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is coming! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

D&D 5E AL Season 5 without AL


Space Jam Confirmed
Hi. Sometime lurker, first time poster.

Next month, I will be starting a campaign arc as DM using the Season 5 Tiers 1 and 2 AL adventures.

I returned to D&D earlier this year after a 20+ year hiatus. I started up again as a DM in February 2017 with a group consisting of three completely new players and one who, like me, had not played since the 90s. We play once or twice per month, and are just wrapping up LMoP.

Once we finish LMoP, I'm going to transition them into AL Season 5. However, we won't be playing under official AL rules and I'm not logging the games or anything. I just like the adventures in this season and find them easy to use. So, for example, they'll probably hit level 5 before we finish the tier one adventures, but we'll be playing them anyway - I'll just make them a little harder when necessary.

In this thread, I'll share reports on how these adventures go, and also I'd really welcome any advice as it's my first time using AL material, and I'm still in my first year as a 5E DM.

The players (they're all 4th level):

Two Hits Millie - Female wood elf rogue (arcane trickster, Emerald Enclave)
Klegg - Male human fighter (champion, Order of the Gauntlet)
Black Wizma - Female high elf wizard (evoker, Harper)
Tordek Hornbrewer - Male human cleric (Life domain, Order of the Gauntlet)
Boiled Oysters Malloy - Male dwarf fighter (champion, Lords Alliance) - occasional drop-in player

I will be allowing them one use of the "rebuild before level 5" option after we finish LMoP but before we start Season 5, so we'll see if anybody wants to change anything.

The Campaign

Season 5 adventures were released in a staggered schedule, alternating between the tiers. We will be running the tier one adventures in order, and then moving on to the tier 2 ones.

The Adventures I'm Not Using

DDAL5-01 Treasure of the Broken Hoard - This is the standard "5 one hour adventures for level 1 players" for this season. Most of these one-hour adventures look quite fun. Unfortunately, I'm not going to include them in my campaign. It's not because of the level issue; I could fix that. It's a story issue. This adventure is totally divorced from a storyline standpoint from the rest of the season. It begins with the party in Parnast, investigating nearby incidents of giant activity. Then DDAL5-02 the party...journeys across the Anauroch desert to arrive in Parnast for the first time. What happened there? Between having to re-work both the difficulty level and the continuity issues, it's easier just to skip this one.

DDAL5-06 Beneath the Fetid Chelimber - This is a straightforward if somewhat uninspired trek through the swamp. There's is nothing terribly wrong with it in and of itself, but unfortunately it only works as a set up for DDAL5-07, which is a hot mess.

DDAL5-07 Chelimber's Descent - A hot mess. I'm not going to belabor it; if you'd like you can read the reviews for it on DMSGuild; I'll just say that the reviews are correct.

DDAL5-06 & 07 can be safely skipped without really impacting the plot of the season. Literally the only important thing about them is that in Chelimber's Descent the party finds a book of rune magic. So that book just has to be placed somewhere else.

In order to fill the gap created by excluding the Chelimber adventures, I will be plugging in the one-shot "Into the Belly of the Beast" by Jeff C. Stevens (great swamp-based adventure available on DMSGuild). Again, not using AL rules, so adding this is fine. The rune book will be inserted into this adventure, and I will also put in faction assignments for the Harper and Emerald Enclave characters into this adventure, since their missions were jettisoned with the Chelimber stuff.

So the campaign will looks like this:

Session 1: DDAL5-02 The Black Road
Session 2: DDAL5-03 The Uninvited Guests
Session 3: Into the Belly of the Beast, Part 1
Session 4: Into the Belly of the Beast, Part 2
Session 5: DDAL5-10 Giant Diplomacy
Session 6: DDAL5-12 Bad Business in Parnast
Session 7: DDAL5-16 Parnast Under Siege (Mid-season finale)

Session 8: DDAL5-04 In Dire Need
Session 9: DDAL5-05 A Dish Best Served Cold
Session 10: DDAL5-11 Forgotten Traditions
Session 11: DDAL5-13 Jarl Rising
Session 12: DDAL5-17 Hartkiller’s Horn

I have another 3rd party one-shot, Bastion of the Frost Lord by M.T. Black, as a potential drop-in as it fits the campaign thematically. I may add it before “In Dire Need”.

Will provide updates as we go!
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad


I was planning to do something similar with a mish-mash of Season 1 and 2 Expeditions around the time Season 3 rolled out. I got inspired with a little world building and ended up running a homebrew campaign instead, but the idea still appeals to me. I was hoping to add original content to these modules such that the PCs would be presented with an opportunity to turn the dragon and elemental cultists against each other.

With the latitude to make changes to mechanics/narrative as a non-League game, you could easily integrate other seasons' modules into your lineup, as well. Could be good for side-questy stuff, or just a change of scenery. I'm not actually familiar with S5 Expeditions or Bastion of the Frost Lord, so I can't even begin to speculate how your story will develop, but I do look forward to your updates. Good luck!


That guy, who does that thing.
I'll disagree with you about Chelimber's Descent, but if you know your group is more into killing the monsters and taking their stuff, then sure, you'd be better off swapping that out for a more traditional module -- traps and puzzles aren't necessarily appreciated by all groups.

But given that your characters are already going to be 4th level by the time you introduce them to the Season 5 storyline, I think you're putting more Tier 1 mods in front of them than they strictly need to get to Tier 2 -- unless you're adjusting for the Tier 2 Season 5 mods being balanced for level 8 rather than level 6 characters and thus needing to be 'downshifted' for a party playing the series 'in order'.

My local (non-FLGS) group just finished the Tier 1 mods in Season 5; hopefully your group will have a better experience than ours -- we finished the Tier 1 mods with two players choosing to stop playing rather than move on to the Tier 2 mods, and then discovered, with a seriously weakened party, that the adventures were not geared for our power level. You shouldn't have as many problems with that, not running this as an AL game, but I'll be curious to see how it goes.



Space Jam Confirmed
But given that your characters are already going to be 4th level by the time you introduce them to the Season 5 storyline, I think you're putting more Tier 1 mods in front of them than they strictly need to get to Tier 2 -- unless you're adjusting for the Tier 2 Season 5 mods being balanced for level 8 rather than level 6 characters and thus needing to be 'downshifted' for a party playing the series 'in order'.

You're exactly right about my thinking there - most of the Season 5 Tier 2 mods are balanced for level 8 characters, but it seems unlikely given the XP on offer that my players will reach level 8 even by the last session.

I'm sorry to hear you had a bad experience - did the players quit because of the quality of the adventures themselves? Something I should look out for?


That guy, who does that thing.
I'm sorry to hear you had a bad experience - did the players quit because of the quality of the adventures themselves? Something I should look out for?

I doubt the adventures will cause your players to leave solely based on their quality, but if you've got existing issues with your players, it's possible something in them might make things worse. For example, while many will cite portability and replayability as key features of Adventurers League play, one of our players simply got tired of the fact that most of the other players seemed to have already run through the modules multiple times before our group got to them, spoiling a lot of his sense of discovery.

Your mileage may vary, of course.



Space Jam Confirmed
OK, we've wrapped up LMoP. Season 5 of AL without AL will start on Monday with The Black Road.

A few notes heading into session 1.

The characters are already on the Sword Coast, but fortunately they're mostly new players who have not seen a large-scale map of FR and won't notice anything amiss geographically when I tell them they need to cross the Anauroch Desert to get from Phandalin to Parnast.

They have some magic items from LMoP; we'll see how that affects play.

Two-Hits Millie (Female Wood Elf Arcane Trickster) - She has Boots of Striding & Springing and a Ring of Protection +1. Also has the Black Spider's Spider Staff, which I changed into a rod and nerfed a bit. It can't be used as a weapon, but it can cast Spider Climb or Web.

Black Wizma (Female High Elf Wizard) - Has a Cloak of Protection +1, Orb of the Warmage +1, and The Glassstaff (which I also nerfed. It grants a +1 AC and can cast Mage Armor once per long rest - no Shield spell). Oh, and she has a tressym familiar.

Klegg (Male Human Fighter) - Has Talon (+1 longsword) and Dragonguard (+1 breastplate, advantage on saves vs dragon breath weapon)

Tordeck Hornbrewer (Male Human Cleric) - Has Lightbringer (+1 mace, glows bright as a torch on command, extra 1d6 dmg to undead)

They finished LMoP VERY close to hitting level 5, so they will almost certainly do so after The Black Road.

I offered the "remake before level 5 option", but nobody bit. The fighter did say he intends to take a level in Sorcerer when they level up (Wild Mage) so that should add amusements.

I'm going to see how the CR balancing plays out as suggested for this one, since they are still Tier 1. They are higher than the suggested level, but there are only 4 of them, so the adventure suggests encounters should not be modified ("Average"). I kinda think they'll mop the floor, but I want to see how it goes as a learning experience.
Last edited:


Space Jam Confirmed
I love the names some of your players have their characters! Does "Two-Hits Millie" live up to her moniker?

Yeah, Two Hits Millie dual wields short swords and prides herself on downing foes in one round by landing two hits. She very occasionally does this.

Black Wizma (first time player) is a criminal mage who tries to project an aura of being very gothic and intimidating, but at one point the party bumped into her old mentor and he revealed that back home growing up her nickname was actually Pink Wizma because she loved to wear pink clothes and bright ribbons and was considered a goody two shoes.

Tordeck Hornbrewer (the only experienced player, but all his experience was from 20 years ago) is the result of the player trying to give his character "the most D&D name I could think of."

Klegg (another first time player) I think named his character that because the character does not have a high intelligence score and it seemed like the name of a guy who hits stuff.
Last edited:


Space Jam Confirmed

We started with a little epilogue for LMoP, a summary of their accomplishments and what the consequences of their actions or inactions (such as completely refusing to deal with the orcs at Wyvern Tor) turned out to be. Each player got a customized letter from their faction referring to past events and laying out hopes for the future. I introduced them to what the factions meant, and also the concepts of reputation and downtime, which we've not previously used. Klegg's player presented us with some refrigerator magnets he made to commemorate LMoP (each magnet has a map of a place we visited).

The Black Road is a really well-regarded AL adventure and it's easy to see why. The writing is very strong - the text boxes provide memorable specificity and evocative flavor without running too long, the encounters are varied and interesting, the pacing is hard to screw up, choices matter, and enemies and NPCs behave in a psychologically plausible manner.

Plenty of hand-outs with this one. Everybody gets a message from their faction. The Emerald Enclave message arrives in the form of a talking fennec fox, which delighted Millie. The desert environment is very well-described, and the players like their desert gear with face-masks and pitch under the eyes. Azam and especially Hsing the pseudo-dragon were well-received. I didn't dump a bunch of background plot on them from the get-go; they know nothing about the Ordning. The found a statue in Wave Echo Cave; they now need to escort that statue across the desert to the Shrine of Axes in Parnast.

First night caravan is ambushed by goblins and we test out how this CR situation is going to play out. Fight was easy, but not comically so. I also did a not-great job with enemy tactics. Party takes a shoot first, ask questions never approach and coup de graces five sleeping goblins without questioning any of them. Arcana checks reveal goblins were carrying a bag of giant toenails.

Friendly parlay with Zhentish mercs mid-wasteland reveals there's a hobgoblin toll booth up the road.

Great sequence with cloud castle causing a sandstorm. Players come up with some fun ways to save the caravan, including scrambling to daisy-chain the wagons together with rope and using mage hand to lead a panicked camel to safety by its reigns. They manage to save three out of four wagons and three out of four camels, but don't lift a finger to help the drivers, who are all killed except Azam. Klegg vows to find that flying castle one day and "get in there and f*ck them up." I threw in a mini-tornado which threatened to suck the characters into the air, resulting in Tordeck holding the wagon with one hand and Wizma's foot in the other as she nearly blew past him into oblivion. Everyone rolled really well on their checks here except Klegg who was blowing one thing after another.

Climax is hobgoblin check point and here is where being fourth level and having some solid magic items made this quite easy at the suggested CR level (hobgoblin captain & three hobgoblins). Another handout here: Bad Fruul's forces have a mammoth skull banner ("It's adorable" - Millie). Wizma used her familiar to successfully scout the tollbooth and learned that most of the "hobgoblins" were straw dummies. Invisibility and spider climb were then used to move the rogue and the fighter into strategically advantageous positions for a possible surprise attack. Tordeck and Wizma tried to sneak within bow range of the main gate, but Tordeck did get spotted and challenged. Rather than pay the 15gp, the players opted to attack (the Order of the Gauntlet players had it in for the humanoids after hearing that a caravan of pilgrims had been attacked previously). Surprise round for Millie and Klegg had the foes immediately back on their heels and two hobgoblins down from a sleep spell. Hobgoblin captain dueled Klegg atop the battlements and did put up a bit of a fight, but with his men taken out pretty quickly the party was soon able to swarm and overcome him. Again, this fight was not comically easy, but given the resources generally at the disposal of the average 4-member 4th level party, you'd have to go max difficulty, rather than "average" if you really wanted to do a tough fight here. Hobgoblin captain had a really sweet pair of Bracers of Archery with nice flavor description which Millie now owns. This time, players do interrogate a prisoner but the hobgoblin is pretty disciplined and won't spill much except that they work for a clever hill giant named Bad Fruul.

There is a whole bunch of potential content to use if the party opts to either pay the toll or sneak around the roadblock, but that didn't end up coming into play here.

Adventure concludes with party arriving in Parnast, statue intact, and meeting priestess Chandra Stol and entrepreneur Ragnar Redtooth, NPCs who will be recurring characters for the season along with Azam and Hsing. They'll get a more detailed look at Parnast next time, when we play Uninvited Guests.

Rating: A. The Black Road is a great adventure. If I have any criticism, it's that the recommended difficulty for the fights for fourth 4th level characters didn't really hold up, but I kinda new that going in and it was more on me to have fixed that if I wanted to.

Playing time: About 2 hours 30 at a leisurely pace.

DDAL5-03 The Uninvited Guests
Everybody leveled up, so they're now all level 5 and I really will have to enhance the fights moving forward. Klegg is now a Fighter 4, Sorcerer 1 and I'll need to come up with a story explanation for that next week.
Parnast kinda gets a more thorough description later in the season, even though characters are based there from next episode onward. In particular, there are a couple of sidequests (“Stables” from Bad Business in Parnast and Sinkhole from Parnast Under Siege) that there is no particular reason to delay, so I'll be making those accessible during 5-03, 5-10, 5-12, and 5-16.
Last edited:

Remove ads