Custom Adventures? (Inspired by the Underdark Thread)

DarrenGMiller

First Post
I was reading the thread where the original poster was searching for Underdark adventures in a certain style, with parameters regarding creatures encountered (ie. no Drow) and locations of interest that would preferably be included. This led me to the next step.

First, I must say that I am a high school band director and that when we have an idea of what we want to perform for a marching band show, if it has not been published, we contact a company that arranges the music, writes the marching drill, writes the choreography and the whole package. It is expensive, but custom written to my band's strengths and weaknesses and contains exactly the level of challenge I want for my students, with exactly what I want in the show. This year we are performing a Tribute to Duke Ellington, with custom arrangements of "Caravan", "Mood Indigo" and "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)."

Now, would this same thing work for busy DM's? Could the market support the hiring of a writer (or team of writers) to write a custom adventure (or even a custom campaign from 1st through 20th a la Adventure Path)? It could include specific locations and creatures, contain a certain style or mix of styles to match the skills and tastes of the group and DM they are written for and it could avoid anything the DM doesn't want in there. With marching band shows, I had to fill out about a 6 page questionaire detailing the strengths and weaknesses of my band, etc. This could be done in this case as well. The writer(s) could then go right to work and have it written within a few weeks and sent to the DM with notes on how to run it, etc. The questionaire could be filled out online and payment could be made by credit card. Think of it, custom cartography, etc. In one of my other hobbies, model railroading, you can buy a pre-built railroad layout, pre-built, painted and weathered rolling stock and motive power, etc. all ready to run rather than building it yourself. Why not role-playing?

Keep in mind that this is just a wild idea that came into my mind and I am sure someone will tell me they are already doing, or that it is a horrible idea that will never work. I don't know. The other thread just sparked these thoughts. So, what do you think?

Here is the ad text I picture:

ATTENTION Dungeon Masters, Game Masters, Storytellers and RPG enthusiasts of all kinds! Do you have a great idea for an adventure, or maybe even an entire campaign, but you're too busy to write it? Want custom maps for your homebrew, but don't feel like doing more than scribbling them on notebook paper? Maybe you have a big, bad uber-villain to send a party after, but aren't sure how to showcase his amazing abilities. Why not leave the tedious work to us?!?

Role Reversal Productions specializes in taking your ideas and turning them into professional quality products, custom written for you and your gaming group. Whether you want a stat block for a custom NPC, a full-color high-gloss map of your favorite homebrew campaign world, an adventure for your weekly gaming group, or a whole campaign custom written to your specifications, Role Reversal Productions can help. We can even include custom painted miniatures for our custom written adventures!

<INSERT WEBSITE PLUG HERE>

Fill out our easy online questonaire today and one of our writers will draft a proposal and send you a price quote. Can't find an adventure based around your favorite creature? If you can dream it, RRP can build it. Visit our website today and start playing the game of your dreams!


Okay, don't slam me too hard, it was just a wild idea.

DM
 
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It would depend on the price point -- most of the stuff like painted miniatures should be ala carte, and not part of the default package -- but I could see doing this, if the price wasn't massively more than I'd pay for a module that I could convert myself.

I'll likely be filing off the town above the Goodman Games module, The Dragonfiend Pact, since all it requires is a well for a setting. I wouldn't expect this to compete with the $2 that this special discount module was priced at, but Goodman Games' top end for modules is right around $20. I'd pay that for an average-sized custom module with no special extras.
 

Immak Antunel

First Post
I bet an assembly-line style team could get something like this done quite efficiently- Person A looks at the questionnaire, writes up a general outline, passes it to B who lays out the adventure area and suggests monsters to C, who populates the dungeon, formulates strategy, and writes up any necessary stats, while D generates appropriate treasure, and perhaps traps. Somewhere along the line E writes up the flavor text and F gets all the art and cartography squared away, leaving G and H to proofread. I'm probably missing a few steps, but I bet a well-organized group of ten-twelve people with consistent communication could pull this off quite affordably.
 

the Jester

Legend
Immak Antunel said:
I bet an assembly-line style team could get something like this done quite efficiently- Person A looks at the questionnaire, writes up a general outline, passes it to B who lays out the adventure area and suggests monsters to C, who populates the dungeon, formulates strategy, and writes up any necessary stats, while D generates appropriate treasure, and perhaps traps. Somewhere along the line E writes up the flavor text and F gets all the art and cartography squared away, leaving G and H to proofread. I'm probably missing a few steps, but I bet a well-organized group of ten-twelve people with consistent communication could pull this off quite affordably.

But remember, you're talking about selling it to one person. That one sale has to make the money for everyone.

The second issue with it is that I suspect 90% of the people willing to pay for this would need it in, say, a week. :confused: :\ No time to turn it around... no real money... hmm.

Sounds like a good idea, but one that would be hard to make any dough with.
 

Krypter

First Post
Well, as the original poster who wanted a drow-free underdark adventure, I would love to have someone do this for me, but I don't see anyone making money off it. Bespoke production is incredibly expensive, which is why most businesses moved to assembly lines. With the market for a custom module being less than a dozen people, how could you possibly make a profit?

However, perhaps an innovative business technique like the Ransom Model would make this feasible as an electronic-only product. People could bid for a custom module ("I'm offering $50 for a custom module with these specs...") and other people could pitch in variable amounts of money based on their interest ("Hmmm, I like the drow-free concept, but I don't care much for the Araumycos, so I'll pitch in only $5.") Once a set amount of bids is reached, the authors could begin work.

If Denis Detwiller can convince a patron saint to fund his writing of Insylum, maybe this could work as well.
 

Ozmar

First Post
I think the thing to do is to retain the rights to the module and sell it as a PDF.

So you take the design specifications from the single customer. You build it and sell it to them. $20 or $50, you don't even recoup your initial investment. But then you market and sell the module in perpetuity through a PDF retailer while you begin work on your next commission. Over time, it might work to a profitable advantage.

Still, I wouldn't quit my day job, so to speak... :)

Ozmar the Business Consultant
 

Tinner

First Post
Complete module or adventure path with maps and artwork?
No. You'd never make back your investment. Even if you kept the rights to the adventure it would still be dicey trying to find more buyers for an "all-destrachan Underdark adventure.

That said, smaller custom encounters might be viable.
Like - I need a BBEG and his 6 Frost Giant minions for a final encounter set inside a snow-filled crater.
Something like that would be quicker to produce, and you could actually seel it at a reasonable price point that would allow you to recover your costs.

You could probably do a few stat blocks, and a small map, and still price it competitively.
 

DarrenGMiller

First Post
Obviously, it would have to be more expensive than an off-the-shelf published adventure or campaign to make it worthwhile. I will use an example from work again:

If I wanted to use a marching show that was off-the-shelf commercially published, it would cost about $50 per song for four songs, plus about $200-$400 more for the drill (marching forms) and another $100 or so for the choreography. For a total of $500-$1000, I could have the complete package, unwrap it and start teaching it to the band. Unfortunately, I could arrive at a competition and watch the band that goes on the field before me perform the exact same show that I am about to perform. Now, if I play it better than they did, the judges are still looking at it twice (or more) and are getting sick of seeing/hearing it. It also may have parts too difficult or too easy for my students, or a song that is just poorly written or whatever.

For a custom written show just for my band, the music would cost about $2000 total (all four songs), plus about $4000 more for the drill and another $1500 for the choreography, plus another $400 to take care of securing rights to everything to avoid copyright infringement. Now, my show costs about $8000, but it is written specifically to showcase the abilities of my students and to hide their weaknesses. Nobody else will show up with the same show I am performing. For another $7000, I can have the company fly in instructors to do some of the teaching, along with all of the props and stuff to go along with it.

So, to make it profitable, the custom designers are charging about 10 times the cost of an off-the-shelf product. Obviously, the market in RPG's will not support this cost multiplier. However, the Paizo Shackled City Adventure Path sells for around $60. The WLD sells for about $100. If a team of writers were to start such an endeavor, they could produce a custom product for $100-$200 for an entire campaign, complete with all stats, maps, etc. If they each tackled a phase of the project, they could have it ready to play in a month or less. Since they are theoretically (once the company is established) working on a few of these at a time, along with some custom encounters, maps, and other smaller projects for other customers with lower prices, this could be workable, I think. Especially since all of the completed products would be available on the company's website as PDF's on an ongoing basis.

Thanks for the constructive criticism this has received. I don't have the means to start it, but it is fun to dream about.

DM
 

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