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5E How Wotc can improve the adventure books.

jasper

Rotten DM
Since Robus and others are on a tear about Icewind Dale having some problems, What are some things Wotc can do to improve the next adventure book?
1. Encounter difficulty included. Hard, Easy, Deadly. And MAYBE some suggestions like Adventure League does to adjust the level.
2. 5 and 55 year review. As a 55 57 year some of printed maps are hard to read. Either lighten up on the dark colors, or white grid lines if you go dark. The story should be reviewed by both a 5 year old and 55 year.
3. A little bit more world building. Waterdeep Heist was not great. It was not Oceans 11. But it did have a full chapter for Waterdeep.
4. Minor. Page listing for monsters Ex Orc MM 246
5. Have the Marketing team read the book. Waterdeep was not Ocean's 11. Icewind is too cold.
6. Better binding.
Next person.
 

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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Include a disclaimer

This module is just a starting point. As a DM you need to make it your own and adjust for your group. If you disagree with how some material is presented or assumptions made, change it! Fantasy is not and cannot always be realistic, nor would most people want it to be.​
In addition, you may need to rebalance some encounters here and there based on your group because no module can ever encompass all possible options. Remember, this is a game of interactive fiction, which means that every table can and should have different experiences but the goal is to have fun.​
 

Shardstone

Adventurer
A game is defined by its stakes. The better the stakes are, the better the game. This applies throughout life, and while you do not need amazing stakes, you need stakes.

5E adventures have stakes, but they don't really care to go into detail about the stakes.
  • In Rime of the Frostmaiden, we have the winter-focused stakes, how the winter-focused stakes aren't really fleshed out, and in some places, are forgotten. Its been two years of almost total night and severe cold, but the responses from the people living here AND the environment don't do a good job of showing just how bad two years of apocalyptic winter are.
  • Compare this to Curse of Strahd, where Strahd is a constant threat, corruption is a constant threat, and everywhere the player's go, they see the corruption of Strahd in different levels. In the above, the contradictory information makes it so the stakes are cheapened; in Strahd, where the stakes are fully fleshed out in different ways, the stakes are intense.

Rime of the Frostmaiden is not a terrible adventure, but it is not as good as it could have been. This applies to Storm King's Thunder (which does a poorer job of establishing stakes as compared to Frostmaiden), the Elemental Evil adventure, and so on.

Now, this is overarching stuff. There's a lot of smaller things I'll discuss later (if this thread doesn't die) when I have more time about improving adventure design, but overall, WotC needs to always make sure the premise is gripping, the stakes are high, and that it is not only plausible, but interesting that it is the PCs who need to handle these problems. This is where some adventures, like Tomb of Annihilation, fail. In ToA, an apocalyptic Death Curse is wreaking havoc in Faerun. A powerful, ressurected adventurer hires a group of level 1s to solve the problem. In a world like Faerun, where adventurers are fairly common, why resort to sending these low-level PCs into a dark continent with no information? The NPC doesn't tell the party about the undead, nothing on Chultan history, or about any other dangers they could face - she just teleports them there and says "Have at it." This is a poor opening to an equally poor adventure, and the adventure would have been a lot better if the stakes were more sensible for the PCs.

For example, when I played Tomb, and I played it for 2 years, it would have been cool if all the players were ressurected and were desperately looking for a way to break the curse. Or maybe the players are related to the NPC, either through backstory or current events. Or if the NPC was getting desperate and had already sent out a bunch of parties already, and now resorted to sending level 1s to solve her problem.

To a lot of people, this kind of stuff is fun for them to come up for themselves. For me, it is too. However, when you pay $50 for an adventure, you expect the adventure to be GOOD, COMPLETE, and requiring MINIMIAL NARRATIVE DESIGN on the part of the DM. There will always be narrative design required; this is D&D after all, and this is where the fun comes in! But if the opening hook is weak and the stakes are non-existent, it makes me wonder why I bothered buying the adventure in the first place (other than for stripping it of parts, which is a valid reason!).
 


robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
Since Robus and others are on a tear about Icewind Dale having some problems, What are some things Wotc can do to improve the next adventure book?
I guess I should buy a copy... just so I can say I have it (and I'm sure there are parts to strip...)
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
5. Have the Marketing team read the book. Waterdeep was not Ocean's 11. Icewind is too cold.

Because people in marketing have an interest and understanding of climatology and ecology such that their review of how cold Icewnd Dale is would be useful?

It is not marketing's job to review/edit content for scientific plausibility.
 

Shardstone

Adventurer
Remember that there are new DMs attempting to run these adventures and the more "clever" you make them the harder it is. And telling new DMs to "make it your own" is like telling a new skier to just go to the top of the mountain and find your own way down! :)
I do find it VERY strange how the idea that adventures and modules are "moddable" by those who buy them somehow clears said adventure of all criticism. It seems as if the onus is on the consumer, then, and not the producer to make the content great.

Again, Frostmaiden is a valid adventure. It has flaws, but it works. But it could be better. There seems to be a consistent culture in these threads, though, that doesn't think that WotC SHOULD do better, and that we the consumers should instead be better. That seems backwards to me. Why should I pay $50 for an adventure that does not meet my standards? That's half a $100! That's a lot of money to pay, and I find it a little bit elitist almost when people say "Well just change it!" I already bought it, and now I have to change it?

There's something else too. A lot of people seem to be content telling us that our complaints don't matter, or that they are overblown, or that we are, in everything but name, crazy for wanting some of these changes.

Overall, what I see is a dismissal of new DMs, a dismissal of critics, and a dismissal of ideas, which is very disconcerting :(
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Because people in marketing have an interest and understanding of climatology and ecology such that their review of how cold Icewnd Dale is would be useful?

It is not marketing's job to review/edit content for scientific plausibility.
Waterdeep Heist Oceans 11 meets D&D Um no it was treasure hunt where you could NOT keep the treasure.
Descent. Mad Max meets D&D. See you can spend $50 on a war machine mini. War machines are used in how many chapters?
Icewind Dale. It freaking cold like the 80s movie the Thing. It is horribly cold. Page 20 Cold Weathr gear for protects from extreme cold. For only $10. Um 10 gp.
 


robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
Overall, what I see is a dismissal of new DMs, a dismissal of critics, and a dismissal of ideas, which is very disconcerting :(
That is, sadly, a common claim: D&D is not hard to learn, apparently, so if you're struggling then it's your fault. I think many have forgotten how intimidating this game can be. There are seemingly endless rules, options and numbers that all come together at the table where you have the entertainment of 4 other people also resting mostly in your hands. It's quite a lot. And adding rejigging a poorly assembled adventure to that mix is just too much to ask of new DMs IMHO.

Sure people are muddling through and going to the school of hard knocks, but it's led me to a point where I no longer want to invest in WotC adventures because they're just too much work for little reward.
 

Galandris

Adventurer
I Why should I pay $50 for an adventure that does not meet my standards? That's half a $100! That's a lot of money to pay, and I find it a little bit elitist almost when people say "Well just change it!" I already bought it, and now I have to change it?
Many people go by 1 gp = 100 $. Since they expect PCs to pay 5 gp for a rumor, a full module at the price of a TENTH of a rumor is a steal.

I think the main "flaw" of the game is trying to please too many reader: I don't think they did a bad job, but for example, they tried to make the Ten-towns usable outside of the context of Rime AND to provide a contained adventure, they want to provide horror elements AND have light-hearted adventure, they want to have a sandbox adventure but also let DMs run an easier story...
 


Zaukrie

New Publisher
Let us know what CR an encounter is......lots of stuff lately seems to completely ignore this. It is very important for newer DMs, and somewhat important for the rest of us.

INCLUDE AND INDEX

In Rime, I could really use some kind of diagram that shows all the encounters, the level, the story arc....something that would help me tie it together. For example, this one I found online for Phandalin is very helpful.
 

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robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
Let us know what CR an encounter is......lots of stuff lately seems to completely ignore this. It is very important for newer DMs, and somewhat important for the rest of us.
Yeah - there's way too much "make it an entertaining read" and far too little of "make it easy for me to prep and run". I think a bunch of reviews of WotC adventures are "Wow that was a fun read, 5 stars!!!" Very few are post-run (because people like to review things when they first come out naturally and it takes too long to run for a fair review to come out before a bunch of people have taken the plunge and bought it).
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Waterdeep Heist Oceans 11 meets D&D Um no it was treasure hunt where you could NOT keep the treasure.
Descent. Mad Max meets D&D. See you can spend $50 on a war machine mini. War machines are used in how many chapters?
Icewind Dale. It freaking cold like the 80s movie the Thing. It is horribly cold. Page 20 Cold Weathr gear for protects from extreme cold. For only $10. Um 10 gp.

So, with the exception of the first item, which might actually be a marketing failure, the rest seem like... poorly articulated criticisms of the quality of the products, which, again, marketing really isn't in charge of.
 

Remember that there are new DMs attempting to run these adventures and the more "clever" you make them the harder it is. And telling new DMs to "make it your own" is like telling a new skier to just go to the top of the mountain and find your own way down! :)
There are adventures aimed at inexperienced DMs, such as LMoP. This is not one of them. Most DMs are not inexperienced, and will not consider basic level stuff appropriate. I have been DMing for 38 years. I do not want newbie content.
 


MGibster

Legend
Because people in marketing have an interest and understanding of climatology and ecology such that their review of how cold Icewnd Dale is would be useful?
That's the first thing they teach you in Marketing 101!

Edit: There does appear to be a number of players who care about this kind of verisimilitude in their games. I am not one of them.
 

HawaiiSteveO

Explorer
  • include suggestions for NPC / monster tactics if combat takes place
  • describe NPC / monster appearance and unusual features or even expressions
  • bullet point entries for areas without all the extra verbiage
  • areas linked together as needed
  • reference page #‘s for MM etc 👍
  • don’t repeat things like ’See Poisons in Chapter 7 of the Dungeon Masters Guide’ over and over 😡 (257 DMG)
  • give summary at start of each chapter
  • include stat blocks for all at the end of the book in short form
  • designer notes indicating intent, concept behind portions of the book
  • easy to read, direct and to the point
  • no filler, pages and pages of random encounter tables etc DM has to read up on all those critters and be ready to play any one if them based on random roll - ugh
There was an amazing thread at paizo site I read years ago, wish I bookmarked it. There were some fantastic ideas on making books read and go.
 

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