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A Growing Appreciation of Modules

I have noticed something about my gaming habits over the last few years. I've come to appreciate modules more and more. Perhaps it's because when I first started to play D&D my DMs wrote everything themselves. And that's what I learned to do. And so, I turned my nose up at those pre-written modules. And then I joined a D&D group where we played part of the Shackled City AP and ... I liked it. A lot. I even wound up running it for another group years later and it was a hit. Now that my eldest is starting to play D&D, and free time is at a premium, I find myself using prewritten modules more and more. They're not perfect* but I've found them to be a good starting point. Change a villain here, tie in some backstory there, and we're good to go!

So I'm just wondering who here has had similar experiences as myself. Or have you, kind reader, sworn of anything pre-written for good?




*Module: A large monster lives in this room.
Me: But how does it get out? How does it hunt or eat?
Module: shrug
Me: But that makes no sense! Rewrites
 

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aco175

Legend
I have done more of that myself. I no longer work on developing a game world and just play in FR since it is developed already and I can still work on local items as needed. I has a side campaign that turned to the main campaign and went with the elemental evil adventure. There was some side adventure I wrote, but a lot stayed with the published adventure.

The next campaign is likely the Essentials box with another campaign set in Phandalin. I will write some stuff and side quests, but a lot will be based directly. I like having this and will likely continue.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Your experience and mine are similar. I use published stuff for games with my kids. I still sometimes write my own, but I'm more of an OSR guy for that, so there's not a lot of rules baggage. Even then, I will quite happily steal bits, scenes, NPCs or whatever out of published modules to use in my own stuff. Why reinvent the wheel every time?
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I've had roughly the same experience, along roughly the same trajectory. Early days with D&D and swearing off modules, then getting older, having less time, etc. I tend to use modules as starters, fill out the NPCs with more motivations, goals, rivalries, and the like. Wind up the PCs and let them loose in the sandbox. For my other main game, Call of Cthulhu, I'm using modules more often. I still have to rewrite stuff, customize it to my group, etc, but it's more module heavy for sure. There's something like 40 years of adventures and the latest edition is fully backwards compatible. It also seems harder to come up with a good mystery and/or horror scenario than your stereotypical snatch & grab of D&D.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I used to love writing my own material, but my time has been overtaken by too many other real-life activies to have the time and desire to do it anymore. Right now, I'm struggling to put together a "5-room" adventure for my PCs for use in the VTT; something in the past I might whip up in a single night.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
I think sometimes when we write our own stuff it comes with our likes and prejudice. It tends to fit what we’d want. If your gaming group is the same as you then that works.

My suspicion is that the new modules scratch some itch’s that home written stuff doesn’t. Maybe because they are written collaboratively, or have been through play testing. I never would have thought to put something like Chwinga in a game for instance but my players love them.

I always remember as a DM how nice it is to read and discover something new too. Then translating that for my group. A module encourages you to learn a bit, and push your boundaries.

Ive found the process of the set up for Roll20 easily helps me learn the module, and is a very good process for editing anything I think is too strong/too weak, or needs expansion.
 

corwyn77

Explorer
I've never been one to create campaigns 100% myself. I'll either use a premade world and let the players more-or-less sandbox it (FR, Harn, Banestorm, Deadlands) or I'll have a canned campaign/adventure path and fill it, needs be, with side stuff suited to the specific PCs.

I really like the Savage World Plot Points for this - They provide a main campaign, and usually enough "Savage Tales" that I can pick and choose the ones I want, or let the PCs wander where they want and just pick something that is set nearby, and still have plenty of room to fit in character-specific stuff and even tweak the main plot some.
 

Think I'm the opposite here. When I was young, in Junior High and High School, & probably even before that in elementary school, I ran both modules and created my own dungeons. There was no thought given to any long connected campaign. After a break, I started playing again in the mid-90s, I ran more modules and supplemented them with a few adventures I'd written myself. Nowadays and for the better part of the last 10 years I've run very few modules. I've found my attention span for reading is pretty limited and my reading comprehension isn't the best anymore either. So by the time I search for a module of suitable level, read it two or three times if its even worth running, and modifying what I need, its just easier and quicker to write my own. I retain the information better and because we don't play for more than 3 or 4 hours every other week it would take us a long time to get through even a short module. I don't prep anymore than 3 or 4 scenes at once.
 

I have huge issues running modules. The moment I see names of cities or characters that sound dumb, I cast them aside and write something myself. I have a very low tolerance for that sort of stuff. If I don't believe in what I'm reading, and if it doesn't evoke images and an atmosphere, I can't get invested, and don't see why my players would care either. Plus the moment I'm annoyed by the design of somebody elses map, it just wants to make me draw it myself. At which point I might as well do all the rest.

To me, working on an adventure is 50% of the fun; the other half is running it. So by using another person's writing, I feel like I'm robbing myself of half the fun. Plus most of the time I feel like I could do a better job at it. I'm not saying I'm a better writer, but I like my own writing better.
 
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ccs

41st lv DM
I like modules just fine. Always have.
Sometimes I can use them pretty much as-is, some times I need to make some changes. Some I just ignore. Some I've simply plundered for ideas & their maps....
 

So I'm just wondering who here has had similar experiences as myself. Or have you, kind reader, sworn of anything pre-written for good?
I had that epiphany in about sophomore year in college. (puts it about 1991.)

I like modules for setting-rich games in short runs. Vaesen, for example... the process for writing adventures is straight forward... but the setting isn't, and my adventures didn't feel right to me. I wasn't "getting it." and 3 of the 5 modules were excellent. The 4th was not going well - players lead themselves down the wrong way, then they had a 3 week off break due to player in hospital. (She's fine. Sans one internal organ, but fine.) The 5th looked like a rehash of one of the others. This is an issue for me with all "monster of the week" type games.

So... doing silly stuff for now. With Talisman Adventures, I know the kind of wonky fetch quests it should need. So, while adventures would be nice, they're hardly needed, and in two weeks, I should have my Talisman board game for actual "inspirational draws"...

I've not needed modules for SG1, either. but I've advanced a few timelines. Nor, for Star Wars, but I do like the ones I've used. My favorites being the one for Force and Destiny (In the playtester credits), and the Otherspace and otherspace II for WEG.

WFRP, The Enemy Within has a good reason it's been redone for each edition: It's that good.
I've always used Traveller's published adventures... but now I appreciate them more. I no longer think of them as a crutch, but a springboard.

I now have come to rely on modules more, simply because 40 years GMing I'm rehashing ideas in various ways every time.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
I LOVE moduels. (Shut up Adventure League DM!).
Okay way back in 1E I would run Modules 60 to 70%. Some times because they were interesting, other times my homebrew (like some of my beer) went sour. Still other times, we had multiple DMs and I would like to finish an adventure. And like others I do have a problem with fantasy names. I just change them at the table but at the write up I use the original. This is made easier since I got D&D Beyond.
 

Campbell

Legend
I am a huge fan of the more open ended modules like Castle Amber and Keep on the Borderlands that basically just present a location and situation. Even the original Ravenloft is fairly good. Red Box Vancouver also has some phenomenal modules. What I am not a fan of are these campaign or story in a box modern adventures that encourage more linear play.
 

Marc_C

Solo Role Playing
Modules are excellent canvases to start with. I always do re-writes. I'm currently modifying a Ghost of Saltmarsh adventure to fit into my Freeport campaign.
 

When I was a kid just getting into D&D, I was terrible at running modules. I wasn't a great DM, either, but I was particularly bad with modules. So I decided modules weren't for me. It wasn't until 2e came along that I started improving. The Avatar trilogy of all things was where I started learning how to properly run a module. It was so railroad-y and tied to the books that I had to make changes to fit it to the PCs and the campaign, to bring it to life.

I have slowly been going back and running those old modules, to make up for lost time. After my current campaign ends, I'm thinking about running the Slavers series or something like that.
 

I was always a writer of setting and scenarios in the beginning. But as the years have gone by (since 1979), I have gone from writer to editor & adapter. Settings went first, because there are a lot of great settings out there that just need details filled in, but I've also found the value of scenarios in pdf with the ability to add electronic sticky notes and highlighting.

My time is too valuable to waste writing from whole cloth; I just edit and fit existing material to my needs.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
For me it is all about the quality of a module and what determines that quality is mix of interesting setting/premise and adaptability. As such, I LOVE modules but only Basic D&D and 1E modules. In my experience all "official" modules from 2E onward were pretty horrible (though the only 5E modules I've run were adaptations of earlier edition adventures). Dungeon Magazine adventures, on the other hand (that range in length from a single-encounter to near module-length adventure) from the 1E and 2E period are amazing - if not as written, then as a source for creating your own mosaic of an adventure. In fact, I just ordered some back issues from the late 80s and early 90s to fill gaps in my already large collection.

I can't remember the last time I wrote an adventure from scratch where I wasn't taken at least some element from an adventure module (IRON DM being the exception). Sometimes it is just the map of the cool location. Frequently the thing I change the most are the motives of the NPCs (and sometimes their names - but I have a higher tolerance for the quirky than some).

I don't think I have written an adventure as written since I was teenager though.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I did like some the Savage Tide adventures from 3E Dungeon as well - but I didn't run the whole path. I just picked and chose the ones I liked and filled the gaps with other stuff.
 

For me it is all about the quality of a module and what determines that quality is mix of interesting setting/premise and adaptability.
Problem for me with the current 5E adventure paths is the length. I haven't read any of them cover to cover, or ran any either but I have read bits and pieces. I don't have the time or ambition to read a 200-300 page module only to find out its not worth running. I will say though that IME quality is usually relative to the group that plays it, although there are some that are so poorly written that nothing can save them.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Problem for me with the current 5E adventure paths is the length. I haven't read any of them cover to cover, or ran any either but I have read bits and pieces. I don't have the time or ambition to read a 200-300 page module only to find out its not worth running. I will say though that IME quality is usually relative to the group that plays it, although there are some that are so poorly written that nothing can save them.

You need to do a little "grad student reading," by which I mean the approach to lots of reading I learned in grad school: professors assign a lot more reading than you can literally get done in the allotted time, in addition to your own independent work and reading, so I got good at doing the kind of reading that familiarized me with ideas and let me know I needed to dedicated more time to reading in depth or moving on.

When I started the Ghost of Saltmarsh adventure path (which someone sent me, I was just gonna adapt the 1E modules myself) I didn't bother reading ALL the adventures. I read the first (though I guess I was already familiar with the first two) and I didn't look closely at the later ones until after we'd already started the first one - deciding quickly if I wanted to use them or incorporate something from somewhere else.

Confession time: I probably haven't read any D&D book cover to cover and/or in entirety (including the core rule books!) since the 90s!
 

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