D&D General Campaign Source Books vs. Adventures

fjw70

Adventurer
With the discussion going on around Spelljammer and Dragonlance I am curious what you prefer: campaign/world books or adventures.

Personally I prefer adventures. With adventures I can pick it up and play (after doing some reading). i don’t really use campaign source books very much. I might use some of the content. I am really liking the model with Spelljammer and Dragonlance. Adventures I can pick up and play with enough setting info to get a feel for the setting/world. I am hoping Planescape follows a similar model.
 

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As much as I loved 2e era TSR and the insane amount of material available for each setting with modules released as follow-ups, I think WotC has handled reintroducing Dragonlance well by releasing an adventure with enough setting background to run it and then punting to DM's Guild for the heavy lifting to fill in the blanks on the rest of the setting. I think by providing an adventure up front, they help set the tone for the setting which makes it easier for inexperienced DMs to read the additional material and get ideas on how to use it.
 


Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
If I'm buying a book today? Adventure, I'm going to get way more actionable material out of it.

But, that's misleading, because wikis have collated the information I would normally get out of sourcebooks, so I can do directed research fairly easily. I love a good sourcebook, I have several arriving at my house shortly. That said, they're older edition ones, because I haven't been largely impressed with the modern versions of them.
 

Voadam

Legend
Generally setting sourcebooks. I like setting material a lot. It is good to have a number of adventures, but I already do for 5e and I find myself interested much more in getting more setting material type stuff as discretionary spending purchases.

If I only had Icewind Dale I could run it in its default Forgotten Realms with the information there and in the 5e PH. But if I did and was setting it in the Realms instead of my homebrew mashup setting I would be glad I have a decent FR background from 1e-3e sourcebooks and have a number of them to draw on.

Nothing wrong with getting introduced to a setting by an adventure, my first FR product was the 1e N5 Under Illefarn intro module which I feel is decent with a little bit of dwarf and elf history tie in, but I really liked the 2e Forgotten Realms Adventures sourcebook for getting a sense of more FR things.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I love campaign books, but I want adventure modules. WotC has put too much emphasis in the recent past on adventures that span the life of campaign. I’d rather the old 1E method of a drop-in adventure to make it easier to build your own path, or fill in a block when you need an adventure like next week but don’t have the time to do it yourself. Some of the recent books - Candlekeep, Radiant Citadel are along those lines, but I’d rather buy one adventure I’ll use than half a dozen I won’t for one I will.
 

It kinda depends, but I think setting based adventures are the ideal. For example, Murder in Baldur's Gate was a short AP style adventure that also gave us details about Baldur's Gate and its surroundings. Even after running the adventure, the DM can use that resource for future adventures.
 

Rabbitbait

Adventurer
I love campaign books, but I want adventure modules. WotC has put too much emphasis in the recent past on adventures that span the life of campaign. I’d rather the old 1E method of a drop-in adventure to make it easier to build your own path, or fill in a block when you need an adventure like next week but don’t have the time to do it yourself. Some of the recent books - Candlekeep, Radiant Citadel are along those lines, but I’d rather buy one adventure I’ll use than half a dozen I won’t for one I will.
I really liked how Return to the Tomb of Horrors did it in 4e. It was a full campaign, but there were gaps in the action (so for instance, between one chapter and another it was expected that characters would have gone up a couple of levels and time would have passed) . This meant you could easily plug in other material or pure character building. It meant you got the great overarching adventure, but room to breathe and make the campaign your own.
 

I prefer great adventures more than great campaign sourcebooks, but I prefer merely okay-to-good campaign sourcebooks over merely okay-to-good adventures.

I guess you could say, adventure desirability scales quadratically with quality, while sourcebook desirability scales linearly with quality. There's a point, somewhere in the "very good but not quite great" range, where the two intersect.

I think part of the reason this happens is, it's harder for me to riff off of a weak adventure, but delightfully easy to make use of a well-crafted one. By comparison, most of the value I derive from a campaign sourcebook is in the broad strokes, which allow me to fill in the filigree (something I am generally quite good at.) So a campaign sourcebook has to be really quite poor for it to cease to have value to me, whereas it is very easy for a cool adventure premise to be undercut by crappy mechanical implementation (something I am not as good at improvising around.)

Since I generally expect most adventures to be only average in quality, this means in general I will prefer the campaign sourcebook. But if I really like a particular adventure, I'll cling to it like nobody's business.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I think @EzekielRaiden has the right of it. If I’m buying an adventure, I’m getting it so I don’t have to do the work myself - it should be good to go out of the box, and be worth the purchase price. If I have to bend it into shape to make it work, I probably would have better putting together something myself.

At the same time, I also agree with @Rabbitbait. A megadventure can have spots in it where its possible to insert a side quest or two between the story points and it can still work. I had that happen with Ghosts of Saltmarsh - in between the various chapters I was able to throw in a few side quests to personalize the campaign and I was able to work it well. The characters weren’t on a doom clock/railroad and there was time and space enough between events to add in what I wanted. I could have ran Ghosts straight without these side treks, but adding them in didn’t derail the game or expected advancement rate or muck with the story arc.

Unfortunately, I can’t speak to 5E‘s Tomb too directly (or 4E for that matter) - I’ve had an awful experience with the former and none with the latter - but with a large portion of it being a hexcrawl, I don’t think it allowing for side ventures is a bad thing, as long as it doesn’t feel incomplete and leaving the DM out to dry with large gaps of “and something happens, make it up until the party is X level”… and then the book picks up with the next part of the story.
 

Rabbitbait

Adventurer
Unfortunately, I can’t speak to 5E‘s Tomb too directly (or 4E for that matter) - I’ve had an awful experience with the former and none with the latter - but with a large portion of it being a hexcrawl, I don’t think it allowing for side ventures is a bad thing, as long as it doesn’t feel incomplete and leaving the DM out to dry with large gaps of “and something happens, make it up until the party is X level”… and then the book picks up with the next part of the story.
5e's Tomb of Annihilation was absolutely brilliant and might just be the best campaign I have run, but did not really have much room for personalisation. Yes you could insert side-quests, but given that the majority of the adventure is coming across trouble in the jungle it does not leave a lot of room for a characters back-story to come into play. There is a lot you can do at the start before you go into the jungle, and probably a bit in the lost city of Omu. Once you are in the tomb itself there isn't really any opportunity to insert anything else.

HOWEVER - the campaign is brilliant for providing little self contained adventures that can be pillaged for use in other campaigns.
 

aco175

Legend
I tend to default to FR over the 4e era so I just want adventures and not world building unless it is part of the adventure, such as developing Neverwinter in the new Phandalin book next year. I have not bought any of the new books that cover other worlds though.

If a new setting world is coming out, I can see having half and half material in order to play. The new Dragonlance book should have some core rules covering gods and history to that setting since it cannot default to FR or base assumptions for D&D.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
I generally far prefer setting sourcebooks, but given the low "what Micah Sweet wants" quotient of WotC's recent setting offerings, I guess a good adventure is all I can reasonably ask for.

The DMsGuild is killing it though. Keep on keeping on!
 


If I'm buying a book today? Adventure, I'm going to get way more actionable material out of it.

But, that's misleading, because wikis have collated the information I would normally get out of sourcebooks, so I can do directed research fairly easily. I love a good sourcebook, I have several arriving at my house shortly. That said, they're older edition ones, because I haven't been largely impressed with the modern versions of them.

I bolded that part because this is how I ran my Mystara campaign last year. I'm pretty much in the same boat.
 


Steel_Wind

Legend
A full campaign of interlocking adventures - and it's not even close.

That doesn't mean that I won't cut parts of the adventure, alter here and there, and add things over there. I do that all the time and consider it to be fun. Thing is, I only have so much time to homebrew -- and I also spend a LOT of time on custom battlemaps and creating and modifying overhead token art and sound effects.

I got only so much time available. Home brewing a whole campaign is not something I do much anymore.

What I do is in accordance with the time I have available and my motivation to do so. Typically, this is exceptionally high as I prep the campaign for play in Foundry and in the first ~3 months or so of a campaign. It tends to drop sharply after that. I may "get it back" -- and I may not, too. I've been doing this long enough to know my own patterns.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
In terms of official 5E stuff I'm actually getting use out of, it's pretty clearly adventures - and for me, Tomb of Annihilation, Out of the Abyss, Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden, and other adventures also serve as sourcebooks. Out of the Abyss is arguably a better sourcebook than it is an adventure.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I love campaign books, but I want adventure modules. WotC has put too much emphasis in the recent past on adventures that span the life of campaign.

That's what DMs Guild is for. They opened that market up to individual creators and small companies, so they could focus on larger products. This makes a lot of business sense - WotC is big, and is geared for big projects. Small projects are going to represent a poor choice for them, from an opportunity cost perspective.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
campaign/world books or adventures
It’s world books by a mile. As long as there’s a good bit of adventure seeds, interesting locations, useable NPCs, etc. Either way I’ll have to put in a heap of work to use the content. I don’t do railroads, so everything ends up a sandbox. The PCs go left when they should have gone right in the first five minutes with a world book, I have the rest of the world book to use. The PCs go left when they should have gone right with a module, well I just wasted all that time and money. Sure, I can part it out and use it later, maybe, but it’s less work to get immediate use out of a setting book. Especially if they have location-specific random tables. Oh, I love me some random tables.
 

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