How Do You Feel About Published Adventures as a GM?

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
All things considered, I still find it more important for ME to be happy than other people. :)

You can always try to advocate for the most utilitarian option that brings the most happiness to the most people, but sometimes it's OK to be selfish and just advocate for what you really want.
Oh, we know. Like Pepperidge farms we cant forget. Y'all post about it every day here at EN World. In nearly every thread.
 

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prabe

Tension, apprension, and dissension have begun
Supporter
All things considered, I still find it more important for ME to be happy than other people. :)

You can always try to advocate for the most utilitarian option that brings the most happiness to the most people, but sometimes it's OK to be selfish and just advocate for what you really want.
The moment the published adventures keep me from running the games I want to run, I'll call them a bad thing.

I'm not holding my breath.
 


TheSword

Legend
It does feel like not a day goes by without a new thread specifically criticising something WotC has done or said.

Everything from why they picked Greyhawk for the next DMG to why they publish Campaigns at all. Even how they could have done a much better job on the not-as-yet published 5.5? That one really confused me.

Watch the fact that Chris Cocks hasn’t published his home Kara Tur game get called out as cowardice and double standards because he’s keeping the best setting to himself/incapable of publishing it properly - depending on your ideology.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
Since you are clearly calling me out without saying so, let me help:
It does feel like not a day goes by without a new thread specifically criticising something WotC has done or said.

Everything from why they picked Greyhawk for the next DMG
Read the OP. I was asking why. I legitimately wanted to know since it seemed off to me.
to why they publish Campaigns at all.
That's a disingenuous misreading of that thread.
Even how they could have done a much better job on the not-as-yet published 5.5?
That thread was about what we might have wanted, which it was clear what we weren't going to get. Again, if you bothered to read the OP, you would understand the context.
That one really confused me.
Because you did not read the OP, which i am guessing is pretty common given your complaints.
Watch the fact that Chris Cocks hasn’t published his home Kara Tur game get called out as cowardice and double standards because he’s keeping the best setting to himself/incapable of publishing it properly - depending on your ideology.
This one wasn't me.
 

TheSword

Legend
Since you are clearly calling me out without saying so, let me help:
I wasn’t calling you out specifically. But as you seem to be saying you aren’t opening threads with an anti-D&D negative spin?
1. I am looking forward for the pop cultural D&D fad to end and for it to slip back into the Geek Domain. I can't really articulate why. I don't begrudge anyone playing and liking D&D, but when NPR covers it or Converse licenses it, i cringe.
I am starting this thread because I don't want to rain on folks' parade who are excited in the Fireside Chat thread. […]

While I am not surprised that it appears 2024 is just more of the same 5E, I am a little disappointed anyway. I guess there was a part of me hoping WotC was going to innovate rather than tweak, even with all the evidence to the contrary. Obviously, that is a "me" problem, but still. […]
So, I was very, very wrong. I was sure they would have created something new with appeal directed at GenZ players. Not the first time I have been wrong. Oh well.
After sitting down and reading through the Dragonbane rulebook last night, I have realized that I just don't want to pour through 1000 pages of rules to run/play D&D anymore. Therer is no reason that 5E (or any other edition for that matter) can't be presented in a concise, complete, robust form like Dragonbane.
I feel like it is fairly common for folks to decide they are "done with D&D" at some point (or multiple points!) and to leave for other games. It is also fairly common IMO for those same people to eventually come back to D&D. […]
Throughout my gaming career, the driving force that has pushed me out of D&D every few years has just been a frustration and exhaustion with D&Disms by and large -- the tropes, the expectations, the limitations and the rigidity of it all. I always seem to eventually get tired of dealing with D&D (in whatever form it is at the time) and try and find other games to run.
But here is the thing: I really, really don't like running modules and I absolutely hate reading them (especially WotC and Paizo style modules). I still default to modules when learning a new system (Shadowdark, for example) just to get a sense of the design intent. But if I like the game and I "get it" I prefer strongly to just run the game. […]
These were OP comments from the half dozen threads I was talking about. I read them all. I wasn’t just throwing mud. Sure there was a question in there too. But each proceeded from an inherent criticism that you invited people to challenge or agree with. When folks ask what the tiring thing is, I think this is what is being talked about. The constant criticism (non literary) of the hobby they enjoy.

Post what you like. There have been some good conversations had. I’m just saying it can seem to be starting from a negative place. Then it generates further negativity from others.

Anyway I’ll shut up about it now. I tried to make the point more obliquely but you questioned it 🤷🏻‍♂️
 
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Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I wasn’t calling you out specifically. But as you seem to be saying you aren’t opening threads with an anti-D&D negative spin?







These were OP comments from the half dozen threads I was talking about. I read them all. I wasn’t just throwing mud. Sure there was a question in there too. But each proceeded from an inherent criticism that you invited by people to challenge or agree with. When folks ask what the tiring thing is, I think this is what is being talked about. The constant criticism (non literary) of the hobby they enjoy.

Post what you like. There have been some good conversations had. I’m just saying it can seem to be starting from a negative place. Then it generates further negativity from others.

Anyway I’ll shut up about it now. I tried to make the point more obliquely but you questioned it 🤷🏻‍♂️
I see. You are interpreting anything not gushingly positive as negative, as opposed to as the conversation starters they are.

I don't know what to tell you.
 

aramis erak

Legend
I'll note that I did not feel that the big book WotC 5E adventures I ran saved me any time; what they saved me was effort, not time.

I find the adventures for STA and Dune (both by Modiphius) likewise aren't a big time saver, but they're a big effort saver.

As in, if I can't think of a good adventure, reading the collections, I pick one to adapt. It's then just prepping the needed NPC stats.

The adventure I wrote for my STA group, which ran 3 sessions (I'd expected 2) took me about 5 hours to write. But it played out over 10 hours, and so was slow writing, but still better than 1:1.
The next one? one hour of reading. It'll take 30 minutes of prep, I figure. It's one of the "Mission Briefs" — so it's not a fully written out adventure, just a 3-act structure with a couple paragraphs each — and thus needs a good bit of work. Not a lot, as noted, I expect half an hour. Making needed props may add another half hour. The actual read for the adventure was 5 minutes; finding it within the mission briefs ebook was about half an hour. (Two of them in that book are suitable for my current group.)
 

pemerton

Legend
Most of the discussion in this thread seems to be about D&D modules.

When I play FRPGs of a D&D-ish nature (eg 4e D&D, Torchbearer), I will use modules for maps, NPCs and situations. Here are three examples from 4e D&D play:


Here is an example from Torchbearer 2e - the module is the T1 Moathouse, as adapted here:


I also use modules/scenarios in non-D&D-ish play.

I have used some Classic Traveller scenarios, but as presented they were pretty boring so I spiced up the situation: I added Aliens (TM) to Annic Nova; and I buried the complex in Shadows beneath 4 km of ice and made it the site of a contest over knowledge of ancient alien technologies and psionics, with the complex itself more of a backdrop:



In both cases, I more-or-less shared the map with the players, as exploration was not really what play was about.

Generally, the closer a published module/scenario is to a situation than to a plot, the more useful I find it. This is how I used various scenes from the MHRP Civil Wars book: GMed first MHRP session on Sunday

The consistently best situations I know are for Prince Valiant, and I've used lots of them. One of the most complex and most interesting is The Crimson Bull: Prince Valiant actual play

For play where the focus is more on character than on situation - eg Burning Wheel - pre-authored scenarios/situations are less use, although I did have some success adapting the d20 scenario Maiden Voyage to BW: Maiden Voyage (Penumbra d20 module)

I also run plenty of sessions with no pre-authored scenario or situation, using systems that make it easy to establish situation and opposition on the fly.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Anyway, enough about me. How do you feel about published/pre-written adventures? Do you run them as is? Strip them for parts? Don't even consider them? When you run an adventure of your own design, do you "write it" before play? If you do use pre-written adventures, what kind of "prep" do you do with them?
Red Hand of Doom looked awesome, and it’s the one adventure I wish I’d gotten to play or run in 3e. There are a handful of Dungeon magazine adventures that were really good and I enjoyed (e.g. Umbra and Dragon Delve)….but they are buried in so many really bad ones. And I've heard good things about PF2e's Abomination Vaults. You definitely have good taste!

I usually use short modules or steal adventure sites / dungeons from long adventures - good area design is the most time intensive (for me), so I look for locations that are well done & modular.

I’ve also run a few long adventures (e.g. AD&D Hellbound, AD&D Dragon Mountain, 5e Tomb of Annihilation). For example, currently running Rime of the Frostmaiden, which is also a really big adventure like Abomination Vaults (though probably structured a little differently). My prep for RotFM has looked like this...
  • Listen to Others: I liked the premise, but then read/watch a bunch of reviews (I normally don't play enough such that I'm running stuff fresh off the press) to identify the adventure's weaknesses – main one being it is 3 disparate storylines that need to be better interwoven (edit: No Fun Allowed's YouTube review series on RotFM helped quite a bit). What I looked for was: is my excitement around this idea strong enough to overcome the apparent deficits I'll need to address. If yes, I go forward. If no, that's not the adventure for me.
  • Read & Take Notes (Don't Rush It): I spent a month before starting the game just reading the book & taking notes & thinking. Probably a 20-hour process spread out across 4 weeks, so I had to really be invested in the core ideas and be able to just enjoy the process like I might enjoy reading a novel. It was a pleasure, not a burden – if I didn't have that feeling, none of the rest of this would work. Not cover-to-cover (e.g. I skipped keyed area descriptions), but enough from each chapter to get a sense of the flow and problem areas. The most important thing I'm looking for is what the adventure actually IS, not what it says it is. For example, Tomb of Annihilation was billed as a hexcrawl with a ticking clock – already a conceptual mismatch that would require some design work to resolve – but in actuality it's a loose jungle point-crawl to level PCs in preparation for a ruined city and tomb delve. RotFM was marketed as "modern horror like The Thing" but the feel I took away from it was much more "arctic expedition with undertones of a wand-widling wild west & ancient civilizations (with some touches of horror)." It's more about discovery than anything else.
  • Look for Problem Areas: Specific problem areas I noticed in RotFM (some of which I was looking for in advance) – compelling character hooks, mismatch between tone and execution, problematic themes, and mechanics that just don't do what they're intended to (survival, avalanches, lack of discovery in exploration).
  • Write Down Key Clues: I don't complete this on my first read, but part of my note-taking is written down key clues that the players need in order to reach the conclusions the adventure drives them toward. This also takes the form of my writing questions when I realize there's a disconnect between Clue A and Clue C – in those cases when I go back over my list of clues, I fill in those blanks with my own ideas. For RotFM this became a list of 16 clues.
  • Create/Find Resources: When I ran AD&D's Dragon Mountain (a pseudo-megadungeon that's actually a running conflict with kobold clans), I realized it's very vertical with multiple entrances, but all the maps were plan view; so I drew my own vertical map to help orient myself. With RotFM, I realized that I would need a hex map (which became a combo of found/created) and that I'd need a travel times map between the Ten Towns (found on Alexandrian blog). I took notes on early ideas for exploration roles. I rewrote how avalanches work. I added Discoveries to the random encounter procedure. This is probably more a comment on WotC adventures than Paizo's, but if there are areas on the map that aren't fleshed out which definitely need it (e.g. Dwarven Valley), I fill in the blanks with found/created stuff.
  • Leveling Up As Story: I try to figure out what the best leveling mechanic is for that adventure. Part of this is also understanding what the evolving story of the adventure looks like as the PCs level up. For my (sadly prematurely ended) Necropolis/Hamunaptra sandbox without an overarching story, I used a re-tooled quest-based XP system. For RotFM where the eternal winter is getting worse, I am using clearly articulated quests (which involved jotting down the book's quests for each location) with escalation of cold/encounters/events at each level.
  • The Characters' Impact: Once I had the barebones near the end of that month, I started tweaking things based on the info I was getting about the PCs. For example, one of my players wanted to play a frost-themed fairy, so I changed some stuff to play up Auril the Frostmaiden's fey side. Another player wanted to play a deep gnome, so I sketched out what the Underdark of Icewind Dale looks like, with explanations for why people don't just go underground to seek shelter from the eternal winter.
 
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