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The RPGA (also called the Role Playing Game Association and the RPGA Network at various times), was initially part of the organized play arm of TSR, Inc and then Wizards of the Coast. From 1980 to 2014, it organized and sanctioned role-playing games worldwide.
Frank Mentzer, one of the first full-time employees of TSR, Inc., the original publishers of the Dungeons and Dragons game, conceived of the Role Playing Game Association (RPGA) in order to promote quality roleplaying and to allow fans of roleplaying games to meet and play games with each other. Mentzer founded RPGA in November 1980 primarily to run tournaments at gaming conventions using TSR's top sellers: AD&D, Gamma World and Top Secret.:13
At each tournament, a Dungeon Master and four to eight players would play a 4-hour adventure supplied by the RPGA. Each player was given a pre-generated character with a background, equipment, and some limited information about the other characters at the table. At the end of the adventure, the players and Dungeon Master would select one player at the table as the "winner" of the adventure, based on his or her knowledge of the rules and role-playing ability. All players were awarded experience points based on how well they did in competitive events, and could add to that experience point total at the next event, allowing them, over time to advance to higher levels.
Membership was originally paid by a yearly fee, and included a subscription to Polyhedron magazine. In the early years, membership was largely limited to North America, but in 1989, the RPGA Network branched out into Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the U.K., Israel, and Australia.
In 1997, Wizards of the Coast acquired the RPGA when they purchased TSR, and RPGA subsequently changed their approach to tournaments. Instead of presenting single adventures that were not linked to any previous or subsequent adventures, RPGA conceived of a long-term endeavour, called a living campaign, where the actions of the players would have an impact on the overall campaign story arc.:13 The first campaign of this type was Living City, a series of adventures set in the city of Raven's Bluff.
Unlike previous RPGA tournament play, where players were given a pre-generated character, Living City adventures required each player to provide their own character. Previously, experience points had been accumulated by the player, but now experience points were accumulated by the player's character. Bringing the same character back to subsequent adventures allowed that character to accumulate more experience points and greater powers.
In order to have an effect on the overall storyline, at the end of each adventure, the players would send the result of their play to RPGA headquarters for compilation. Success or failure by a majority of players would result in a change to the campaign storyline. For example, if most players in a particular adventure succeeded in lifting a curse, the curse would not appear in future adventures.
Living City proved to be a popular concept, and in the first decade of the twenty-first century, RPGA created a variety of living campaigns. The largest was Living Greyhawk, played by thousands of people around the world from 2000 to 2008. At this point, RPGA had members on all continents of the world except Antarctica.
In 2002, RPGA membership became free, but the subscription to Polyhedron was no longer included as a membership benefit because the magazine had been bought by Paizo Publishing, who then published it as a section of Dungeon.:13
In 2014, WotC shut down the RPGA, replacing it with the D&D Adventurer's League.
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- Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.
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