D&D General Adventure hype and meeting expectations

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Supporter
One of the weird things about my Dungeons & Dragons 5E journey is how, as the years have gone on, I've become more and more disappointed with the official Wizards adventures. I'm a big fan of published adventures, and in the early years of 5E, I greeted each new adventure with anticipation.

And I had a great, wonderful time. The early adventures are hardly flawless, but the themes and ambitions were big, and I found that even when others might struggle, I could make them work and make them into magical campaigns. (I've run the entirety of Tyranny of Dragons three times, I love it so much - despite some things underdeveloped and also hurt by being developed under the playtest rules).

Then came Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. And, while I consider the first chapters one of the triumphs of adventure design, after that it turns into an unfocused mess. I've also run it three times, having a lot of fun with it, but it required a lot more work than Tyranny of Dragons - and also drew heavily on my knowledge of Waterdeep and the Forgotten Realms.

I admire ambition. I'm okay with things not working 100% perfectly. But I expect the company to learn from its mistakes, and do better next time. And it's been a very patchy run.

There is a level of "this adventure isn't for me". And that I get. But often, I look at adventures and see fundamental structural flaws with their design. Or haphazard editing. Or a complete disregard for the source material. (I think both Shadow of the Dragon Queen and The Shattered Obelisk can be accused of that).

The Wild beyond the Witchlight may not be for me, but I can see the artistry that Will Doyle and Stacey Allen brought to that book. (Will is, in my opinion, one of the most gifted adventure writers). Other recent adventures? Poorly managed, lacking in ambition, or if they have ambition, not the skill or oversight to pull it off.

Hype is a funny thing. I went into The Shattered Obelisk expecting a book where the obelisks would be front and centre, and so, so important to the plot. I don't think that's what we got, and the "revelation" about the Obelisks doesn't feel that special. (In fact, it lowers my expectation for a follow-up, since they way they get used doesn't feel like foreshadowing at all.) But Hype makes you Stupid. And I'm not paying that much attention to what the designers are saying, so I may have missed something that would have tempered my expectations.

I look at Rime of the Frostmaiden and think, "the three villain structure worked a lot better in Legacy of the Crystal Shard". That shouldn't be my response!

The choice of Wizards to publish adventures as hardcover books has opened up a lot of possibilities not available to those published as instalments. You can see some of those ambitions realised in Curse of Strahd and Storm King's Thunder. Imagine those books published in the Paizo Adventure Path format - in six separate instalments! They'd have to be majorly reworked. (And while I have problems with both, those are minor compared to the joy both have given me).

One of the aspects of our hobby is that it is so rare for designers to write big adventures. So, people don't get many chances to develop that skill, or learn from their mistakes. I would hope, however, they'd learn from the mistakes of others!

Now, I'm sure some of this is grumpy old man syndrome, and I do look forward to the new Vecna adventure. I just want Wizards to show me stuff I haven't seen before. To be ambitious, and to pull it off!

Cheers,
Merric
 

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Zardnaar

Legend
I've stopped buying the adventures
Last one was probably Wild Beyond the Witchlight.

They've never really been good tbh with the odd exception. They look great but you can't really trust reviews of new releases either since it takes so long to get through one.

Starter sets are a lot better but a snall adventure is just easier than lvl 1-10 or whatever.

Early in the edition you're probably more lenient on an adventures flaws. I like PotA more than the internet for example.
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Supporter
Early in the edition you're probably more lenient on an adventures flaws. I like PotA more than the internet for example.
Princes of the Apocalypse has a lot of things going for it. I've only run it once, but it's one I'd love to try again.

Cheers,
Merric
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Princes of the Apocalypse has a lot of things going for it. I've only run it once, but it's one I'd love to try again.

Cheers,
Merric

It's probably easier fir a good DM to make that adventure better than what it is. Early on its also pretty good. Might be less good later.
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Supporter
It's probably easier fir a good DM to make that adventure better than what it is. Early on its also pretty good. Might be less good later.
It's the middle section that most concerns me. The late encounters are great.

Cheers,
Merric
 


The early adventures are hardly flawless, but the themes and ambitions were big, and I found that even when others might struggle, I could make them work and make them into magical campaigns.
This is exactly how I feel - particularly of ToD (I should add I do not have CoS or ToA which also get much praise)

@MerricB given how much you love ToD (which I do to) and your appreciation for SKT, how come you've never meshed those two together given how compatible their stories are?

By the way I'm impressed with how quickly you get through material. Kudos!
 

Quickleaf

Legend
I’ve had a similar sense of the adventure offerings coming from WoTC. While I haven’t run as many as you - I’m picky & also don’t have a consistent inperson group anymore -I’m running Rime of the Frostmaiden online. Thanks to my experience & knowing what to look out for & reading reviews years after it released, I’ve been able to adjust my prep to better integrate the 3-villain/arc structure. But a less experienced GM, or someone not following the trends as closely and getting the book when it released? That would be a rough ride, I imagine.

I guess WotC feels they have to be more conservative with their adventure design because at their scale a failure is a huge number? It’s a mystery to me - of all the publishers I’d imagine they’d be the most interested in providing a good learning template adventure to onboard DMs.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I cant speak exactly to the quality of WotC adventures, but have been using Paizo adventures for a very long time. None of them have been perfect. Every single one has had points I've had to adjust, rewrite, adapt for my groups. I see that as price of admission and dont blame the material alone. I do play a part in how the adventure turns out on the table. Something I think many folks dont consider.

That said, the amount of work I have to do to run a published adventure can vary, and the truly bad ones are basic rewrites. The more mechanical problems, logic holes, bad story beats, etc.. the worse my rating will be. I will voice that in discussions, but i'll be fair about it too. The main point is I look to the community for not just reviews, but advice on running the adventures too.

Finally, the material itself isn't going to carry an epic feeling. You as the GM need to bring it. I have been in a number of games as a player where the GM just isn't prepared and doesn't seem to be into the material. I have also seen these GMs turn around and complain about how the material was bad and to blame for the lackluster experience. If you are going to GM a published adventure, step up to the plate and swing for the fences. These things do not run themselves.

Another last thing, WotC is at a disadvantage in that they dont publish adventures as often as Paizo. If I dont want an X theme adventure, I just wait a few months and I will have a different adventure path option. I do see an inherent advantage in providing a lot more thematically for folks than might be offered here for 5E and D&D.
 


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