D&D organized play: heaven or hell?

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Having started playing D&D in an organized play (OP) setting, I always assumed that was the norm for the game (I have a competitive MtG background). It wasn't until a year or so after I started playing that I got to know the pleasures of an actual homecampaigns. I kept playing OP adventures, but the more I got used to playing homecampaigns, the more I started to hate OP. 

Mostly, this is because you just don't know who you're sitting down with at a table. Your DM might be unspeakably bad, or one (or more) players unbelievably annoying. Because D&D is a group game that lasts several hours, a bad player/DM more often than not ruined the entire evening for me. It speaks volumes for the quality of the game that I continued playing despite these bad experiences with other players. 

What do you think? Have you ever played in an OP setting? Do you like it, even over home play? 
it has its moments.  

As a DM, it's always nice to see how someone else runs their table, and you can learn almost as much from a bad DM (even if only as a cautionary example of what NOT to do) as a good DM.  For instance, I both vastly improved my own handling of skill challenges from having to endure a full Encounters season with a DM that was absolutely terrible at handling them, and I had a lightswitch moment when a great DM was able to deftly navigate a rules dilemma that had confounded us for a year.

As a player, I find it a great opportunity to try out something I wouldn't in my normal group for any of a variety of reasons and without having to suspend our group's regular campaign to do it.  Anything from a new class or build to a feat/power/etc mechanic combo are all fair game.

Plus it's all networking.  With just the slightest amount of social grace or even just politeness you can meet and stay in contact with some pretty nice folks.  Heck, I met the best 2 painters and terrain modelers I know at local organized play events.  Plus, if you meet a few gamers you enjoy, chances are you can team up with them again and increase the chance that your table doesn't have a player that could ruin it all - and if you do, you can all team up and destroy him commiserate over a beer afterwards 

INSIDE SCOOP, GAMERS: In the new version of D&D, it will no longer be "Edition Wars." It will be "Edition Lair Assault." - dungeonbastard

What do you think? Have you ever played in an OP setting? Do you like it, even over home play? 

Homeplay is of course better, but still there are a few things one can get from public games:
- new perspectives
- skills in socializing with new (and sometimes difficult) personalities
- wild stories
- enthusiasm
- connections to other gamers
- expanded rules knowledge
- ideas for improving your game
etc.

Keep an open mind, and look for the bright spots. Honestly, some of my most memorable and entertaining moments have been with players I would never invite to a home game. And I've always found something interesting in even the worst DM's.

Conversely, 'sameness' can eventually affect enthusiasm and creativity. Indeed, this recently caused me to stop one of my home groups (of absolutely wonderful players) that had been together for almost a decade.

I think they have their plusses and minuses.    The biggest plus for me is seeing the different styles of DM'ing, compared to how I do it.    As another poster said, it's a great way to learn new things or emphasize what not to do.

I encourage my players to try to join games with other DM's, just to experience the difference in style.
I ran a lot of games at Gencon and Origins this year.  I've run before but this year I ran LFR until my eyes bled and I picked up a lot of stuff that I would not have gotten without OP.

First, the idea of +yes wasn't a codified rule in my group (telling the group what the highest defense number is so they can just say "i hit" if they attacked anything of that or higher).  I mentioned it at one point during Origins and my players loved it.  I've never looked back.

Another big thing with OP is that you might get to play at type of game that you would otherwise not play.  My big example of this was the Battle Interactive.  I was a little intimidated running the BI as a first time DM but my god was that fun.  High-energy and intense for 9 hours. (And I also had the giant ego boost of being requested by 4 different tables at the BI).

As a DM I would recommend asking for honest player opinions after the session is over and everyone is cleaning up.  There were things, both positive and negative that I learned and if you sound sincere about it the players will respect you as someone who is truly trying to learn how to make it a great experience.  Conversely as a player if the DM seems to be able to take critiques go ahead and do so in a polite way.

I had a... jaw-droppingly bad experience with a DM (among other things he literally fell asleep at the table) during OP as well.  The thing to remember to keep yourself out of the realm of punching babies is to basically turn your attention to hyper-sensitive.  Think about what the DM is doing poorly and exactly how it is annoying you.  Also, think about how you would describe this situation if it happened in a game world (and the players where the PCs and the DM was an NPC).  Those 3 hours were terrible at table but I've gotten a lot of laughs and good times from the stories of that horrible encounter.

Also, shout out to Fardiz, it was fun as hell playing with you at the aforementioned terrible table.  That would have been much less bearable if I had to endure it alone. 
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