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5E How Wotc can improve the adventure books.


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der_kluge

Adventurer
If we're talking more broadly, I'd have to say that the index in the PHB and DMG actually, and completely suck.

My other biggest criticism of the PHB (for example), is that the rules are just buried in places. As a long-time DM, but new to 5e when I first picked up these books, I wanted "the gist" of the rules. That was --impossible-- to find. Stuff like +dex to damage for ranged weapons is buried in the middle of a paragraph. The MM lists "vulnerability" for monsters, but doesn't actually describe what that means anywhere. So, I wish I get something very brief at the beginning of sections that just gives me "the gist". Just list out the most common rules for combat, or spellcasting, or whatever, in those sections, so I don't have go digging through paragraphs of text to find the thing I need. It's infuriating.

If we're talking about modules, that's a whole other kettle of fish. Like my earlier complaints (and I really agree with @Zaukrie here), a flowchart would be super helpful, so I can get a sense of what the thing expects of me overall. I've never cared for published modules, because they just don't speak to me. The general feel of the typical D&D doesn't jive with my proto-medieval mindset of what I typically run. So, I'm probably not their target audience. Also not gonna shell out $50 for a book I'll never run, since I always create my own campaigns, I don't need theirs. I'd rather have small, insular locations and things that I could use for my own games. I really wanted to like "Tales of the Yawning Portal", but I pretty much didn't - but something like that would be more useful to me.
 

fearsomepirate

Adventurer
a) Use cross-references. A D&D adventure is not a novel. It is a tool, a utility, a device for running a game. When you mention that the party is about to fight a minotaur, put (MM 223) in the text. When you mention that the Minotaur King sits upon his throne in Room 33A, if his stat block isn't on that page, tell me where the heck it is. I do not remember who Fartbutt Sillyname is, because it's been 30 pages since he was mentioned (and thus months of real-world time). Tables, maps, inserts with important information, all that junk should be referenced whenever it's mentioned.

b) Print a grid on your map. Every single adventure should be published with an optional map pack, too. Or a deluxe edition of the book with printed maps bundled with it.

c) There need to be meaningful consequences for failure, and failure should be something other than a TPK. In a storybook adventure, might mean you don't get some dope & epic magic armor, IDK. I know what you're thinking, "I can handle all kinds of stuff!" But newbie DMs can't, and storybook campaigns should give some guidance. For example, "If the party somehow loses the dragon egg, Lord Chuckwagon will be very cross with them and not send any Veterans with them to help face evil, mutated flumpf terrorizing the village." Most adventures I've seen don't really picture failure in terms other than You Have Died, Adventure Stops Here.
 

Haffrung

Adventurer
Hire the Alexandrian to run a week long training seminar for their designers.
They don’t even have to do that. All the advice they need has already been captured time and again in WotC DM Guides and other sources of expertise on adventure and campaign design. The problem is not an institutional ignorance of effective adventure design - the problem is the spotty and ineffective application of that knowledge.
 

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! :)
So you want an Intermediate style Adventure, something with more DM direction than Rime?

That is a good Product request idea.

DMing is easier than skiing. A flop session or campaign does not result in physical injury. Not liking something in an adventure is step one in "making something you own".

If you think the "tone" in the Adventure often downplays the darkness and starvation....great...step1 complete: Have a take.

Step 2: think of ways to let your players experience your take.
Step 3: Keep on trying, to do better.

Out of curiosity robus, what Adventures have you used, and have you done any Adventure Conversions from other RPG systems?
 

SuperTD

Explorer
Use encounters that mix monster types. 95% of the encounters in recent books seem exclusively focused on what's narratively appropriate, not on what makes an interesting encounter. I don't want to fight 4 duergar for the tenth time this dungeon - let me fight creatures individually at first to learn how they work, then start mixing and matching foes so I have to adapt to their new way of fighting, and make my own.

Nearly every fight in modern adventures seems to fall into one of two camps - a single large monster, or 3-10 of the same monster. I recently took a look at an old 4th Edition adventure, and in that nearly every encounter had at least 3 different minion roles (lurkers, skirmishers, artillery, brutes, etc.), making each fight notably different to the one before. 5e may have committed to boring monster design, but it can still make the encounters interesting with just a little more effort.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
Out of curiosity robus, what Adventures have you used, and have you done any Adventure Conversions from other RPG systems?
I’ve run (in various forms) LMoP, ToD, RoT, SKT, OotA and Dragon Heist. The last being the straw that broke me :)

I’ve not tried adapting anything yet.
 

Yenrak

Explorer
For my purposes, the published adventures have worked really well. I think the great innovation was the flow chart. It really helped. They should publish, at least online, indexes so you can look stuff up more easily.

I tend to chop the adventures up and blend them with one another. The campaign I'm DMing now started in Icewind Dale doing SKT, they made their way down to Waterdeep so we're doing Dragon Heist, and since they're on the hunt for Artus Cimber and the Ring of Winter, I'll bring in ToA. I may make the defeat of the Frost Giants a trigger for Auril, so we might end up in Rime after that.

So perhaps one fun thing to do would be to include tips for this kind of thing explicitly. In SKT, the hunt for Artus Cimber is kind of a red-herring and a dead end. But such things could instead say, "If you own ToA, consider allowing your players to pursue him down in Chult."
 

Try something from Tales from the Yawning Portal, or Saltmarsh. You might enjoy those more.
I, know, I like smaller Adventure offerings then the Pre-Packaged Campaigns, WotC releases for 5e.

I might also recommend reading some other company's adventures and adventures from other systems.

I wonder if a 1e style 64 page adventure might fit you better, or something like the Banewarrens adventure done by Monte Cook in 3e.

Directed Campaigns from Monte Cook for his Invisible Sun System is $125 or so for a customized campaign arc with props.
Wizards of the Coast can't scale up to offer something like that, without a hiring a lot more designers.
 


It doesn't say that. Rime of the Frost Maiden does give a lot of advice though.
More then other WotC offerings of the past.
What do you think needs more details?
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
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.

1. Fairly good suggestion, but would only apply to well balanced parties of a certain size. Adding a variable table for each encounter uses too much space.
2. -
3. Too much worldbuilding, and the module becomes too specific to a specific setting. These books have kept it vague enough that you can conceivably drop them in your own homebrew world.
4. This uses too much space, hard pass. If you really need this, download the D&D Beyond app, way more convenient than flipping through the MM.
5. The marketing team reads the book. Don't blame them for falling for their excellent marketing and buying a book that is not 100% faithful to its title.
6. Agreed, but I swear I'm the only person here who hasn't had binding problems yet. Maybe I just treat my books nicely?

Only thing I actually want is an index at the end for key NPCs, events, magic items, etc.
 
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Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
The marketing of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist was quite misleading in terms of what was actually in that adventure. But otherwise I think it's been reasonably on point.
 


I say make the adventures shorter. Consider all the classic adventures, they were 32, 64 or 96 pages. These mega adventures that have been put out for 5E, Ive read through bits and pieces, used very little here and there but have never run any start to finish. Theyre just too big for me to justify reading, then prepping/modding & running for 6-18 months. Besides CoS, from the reactions Ive read, I havent heard anyone say that the other 5E adventures were great or modern classics. I just think theyre too married to small release schedule so they try to cram too much into an adventure and they probably suffer from it.
 


Haffrung

Adventurer
I say make the adventures shorter. Consider all the classic adventures, they were 32, 64 or 96 pages. These mega adventures that have been put out for 5E, Ive read through bits and pieces, used very little here and there but have never run any start to finish. Theyre just too big for me to justify reading, then prepping/modding & running for 6-18 months. Besides CoS, from the reactions Ive read, I havent heard anyone say that the other 5E adventures were great or modern classics. I just think theyre too married to small release schedule so they try to cram too much into an adventure and they probably suffer from it.
Somewhere along the way, the level 1-14/16/20 campaign in a book became the default for D&D and Pathfinder. Even though WotC‘s own research shows 90 per cent of campaigns end before level 10.

As with most of the other baffling adventure design and presentation choices, I suspect the real explanation is WotC is tailoring its books to the 50+ per cent of buyers who will never actually use them in a game.
 

Somewhere along the way, the level 1-14/16/20 campaign in a book became the default for D&D and Pathfinder. Even though WotC‘s own research shows 90 per cent of campaigns end before level 10.

As with most of the other baffling adventure design and presentation choices, I suspect the real explanation is WotC is tailoring its books to the 50+ per cent of buyers who will never actually use them in a game.
I think youre correct. Im more of a collector at this point, but buy the adventures with the assumption maybe I'll get around to running one, and I can always mine them for ideas. It'll be interesting to see what products they come out with in the next year or two.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
I say make the adventures shorter. Consider all the classic adventures, they were 32, 64 or 96 pages. These mega adventures that have been put out for 5E, Ive read through bits and pieces, used very little here and there but have never run any start to finish. Theyre just too big for me to justify reading, then prepping/modding & running for 6-18 months. Besides CoS, from the reactions Ive read, I havent heard anyone say that the other 5E adventures were great or modern classics. I just think theyre too married to small release schedule so they try to cram too much into an adventure and they probably suffer from it.
I’d love to see a plethora of starter sets, a number of 6-10 adventures, a few 11-15 and a couple of 16-20. Each setting should have a dedicated starter set IMHO.
 

I’d love to see a plethora of starter sets, a number of 6-10 adventures, a few 11-15 and a couple of 16-20. Each setting should have a dedicated starter set IMHO.
Id actually like to see WotC do some scalable adventures. Always seems whenever Im looking for an adventure to run for a certain level and number PCs I can never find it, so most of the time I just end up writing my own, but all I wanted was to read a shorter adventure to run for a few sessions.

Im not sure every setting needs its own starter box but at least a good starter adventure. LMoP seems to have gotten great reviews and that was on the shorter side 64 or 96 pages if I recall.
 

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