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5E How Wotc can improve the adventure books.

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.

There are a few ideas here that I'm agreeing with, but this one takes the cake as being one of the most important things I've seen.

I've never run an adventure module myself, but I've played in a few games that did, and the "crap, I don't know what to do now" problem is huge. Part of that can't be avoided. Players are going to go left, and there is nothing you can do about that. But, including enough npc motivation and basic pathing (if you fail to do X, Y is the likely result) would be a huge boon.

The more I think about it, a flowchart of the adventure actually does sound like a monumentally useful tool. In addition to helping see failure points (oh, our entire plot revolves around the players successfully finding clue X) it a tool that can help prevent SNAFUs by the DM. I remember hearing a horror story once of a DM allowing some random NPC to get killed by the players, only to find out a few months later that that NPC was vital to the plot of the second half of the Module.

Just getting an idea of "they should do this, then that, then one of these two thing which leads to this fight" can really help a DM conceptualize the adventure in a way that can really help.

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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.

I never noticed that before as a player, but as soon as you said it... yeah, that is something that happens all the time in modules. Fighting "large group of X" for the third time is a drag, you need to have a unique element or configuration to each fight, to keep the tactical interest I think.
 

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robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
The more I think about it, a flowchart of the adventure actually does sound like a monumentally useful tool. In addition to helping see failure points (oh, our entire plot revolves around the players successfully finding clue X) it a tool that can help prevent SNAFUs by the DM.
I want to think that WotC does this internally, but I fear they don’t. Seems pretty bloody obvious.
 

pogre

Legend
I love collections of smaller adventures. For my WFRP campaign I'm using Rough Nights & Hard Days and Ubersreik Adventures. They have a way you can connect the adventures in a campaign if you choose, but they really are collections of self-contained adventures. Combining these with a few adventure seeds from the starter box has made for a very enjoyable, organic campaign experience.

Tales from the Yawning Portal was great, but I would like to see a collection of original adventures in this style. I know you can strip chapters out of a lot of the adventure books, and I have, but I have to put in some work to do this. Even a book of lairs would be a welcome addition for me.
 

I remember hearing a horror story once of a DM allowing some random NPC to get killed by the players, only to find out a few months later that that NPC was vital to the plot of the second half of the Module.
Im pretty sure the first recommendation in every published module Ive ever read was...if youre the DM you should read the ENTIRE adventure before running it. Now I'll admit I'll usually read an adventure I plan on running first to familiarize myself with the entirety of it, then re-read it as we play through if I need to.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
2. The maps are fine, get better glasses.

Mod Note:

Hm. Not really funny. Certainly not constructive. So... kind of insultingly dismissive?

You honestly thought this was a good response? Go and think again, and treat folks better next time.

(Says the moderator who has had choice words about font size choices, especially in indices....)
 


fearsomepirate

Adventurer
There are a few ideas here that I'm agreeing with, but this one takes the cake as being one of the most important things I've seen.

I've never run an adventure module myself, but I've played in a few games that did, and the "crap, I don't know what to do now" problem is huge. Part of that can't be avoided. Players are going to go left, and there is nothing you can do about that. But, including enough npc motivation and basic pathing (if you fail to do X, Y is the likely result) would be a huge boon.

Note that what I'm talking about is very different than "failing forward." Think about the last action or adventure movie you ever saw. What do you know, right away, at the beginning? The sneering villain is not going to win. But lots of other bad stuff might happen. The hero might die in the end. Maybe he loses the love of his life. Maybe his dog dies while saving him from an alien. Maybe his vintage necktie collection gets Hawaiian Punch spattered all over it, rendering it worthless.

Look, the reality is that if I spend $50 on this storybook campaign, you can be damn well sure that we're going to enjoy its content! In Out of the Abyss "and they were never heard from again, and the demon lords ate the world" is really not a satisfying outcome to checking out some troubles in the myconids' garden. So, starting on page 1, one thing you can be pretty sure of is that we will somehow get to the final battle, or reasonably close to it. Even in the event of a TPK while fighting the raging Stone Giant in Gracklstugh, c'mon, that's incredibly anticlimactic, we're gonna come back with a new party somehow.

Consequently, to have something other than You Died (Reload/New Game) suspense, meaningful failure conditions have to be built into the various chapters. Don't leave it to a newbie DM to figure out what to do if the party makes a brief raid into the Gray Ghosts' hideout, but chickens out and goes back to the inn to sleep for a couple days after their first big fight. Spell it out: the Gray Ghosts abandon their hideout, spirit away the dragon egg to where it can't ever be found again, and the party's failure results in them being unwelcome in Gracklstugh. Give a few points about what this failure means for the rest of the adventure.
 

This was not in the RPG field, but I had an editor tell me "Millennials (TM) hate indexes."

You know how a portion of D&D fandom freaked out about the "wasted pages" of names in the Appendix of Xanathar's Guide? Apparently, there is a slice of a lot of markets who think that indexes are some kind of conspiracy to bulk up the book at the expense of other content.
 


This was not in the RPG field, but I had an editor tell me "Millennials (TM) hate indexes."

You know how a portion of D&D fandom freaked out about the "wasted pages" of names in the Appendix of Xanathar's Guide? Apparently, there is a slice of a lot of markets who think that indexes are some kind of conspiracy to bulk up the book at the expense of other content.
Id prefer a well constructed 10 pg index then the ones in the core books. I find it hard to believe that all Millenials hate indexes, Im not doubting an editor told you that just question the science behind it. Even in electronic with a search function they still come in handy.

I wasnt too keen on the pages of names in XGtE at first but I have used it on occassion.
 

Haffrung

Adventurer
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.
They could present adventures in tiers:

Tier 1: Level 1-4 adventure
Tier 2: Level 5-8
Tier 3: Level 9-12

Publish two of each tier a year, at 112 pages each. Include suggestions for how to link each of the tiers up to the others (Tier 1 adventure A can link up to Tier 2 adventure A or Tier 2 adventure B, etc).

The merits of the format are A) Most groups might actually finish an adventure rather than stalling out a third or half the way through; B) It's a lot easier to design and present a 4 level / 12 session adventure than a 14 level / 40 session one; C) DMs could easily integrate the adventures into their own campaigns.

But I suppose that approach wouldn't leverage synergies with the brand licensing strategy of cross-platform media events and products like Forgotten Realms books, boardgames, and videogames built around Epic Dungeons and Dragons Adventures (TM). Still, when you think of how much better WotC could make its adventure material if the overriding purpose of the books was to help people run fun games of D&D at the table, rather than all the ancillary goals that drive their publishing strategy today...
 
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M_Natas

Explorer
Funny, I thought about opening such a thread, too, because I publish on DMsguild (in German), and am looking in improving the adventures I'm gonna publish.

What I noticed in the published adventures: They are not GM friendly.

1. To run some encounters, I would need to have like 3-4 books open (or would need to have the same book open on different pages to see all relevant stats), to have all the monster stats to run an encounter. I can overcome that with preparation by copying all the relevant monster stat blocks, but it would be much easier if they just put them on the same page as the encounter.

2. Relevant Information for Encounters/Adventures/Dungeons are hidden in Walls of Text. If you need to look up something in a book, you sometimes need to read several paragraphs of text to find it, because the only thing highlighted in text are monster/npc names. It is a lot of homework for a DM to prepare it all in advanced in a manner that is easy to use and reference. If WotC would design that better, in a way that would make it easier to reference and find information faster, that would make it easier.
The books are made to be easy to read through, but not easy to use it to run a game.

3. Lost mines of Phandelvar - it is supposed to be an introductory adventure - but it doesn't teach the DM or the players really how to play. I dare to say, a beginner's DM would have quite the trouble running Lost mines. I played it as a player with a newbie DM and in some areas he had really trouble with some of the motivations put in the game and keep the PCs motivated to continue the adventure. An experienced DM could fix all the problems of Lost Mines, but it is to much to be expected of a newbie DM.

I think with a better design (not even changing the content, just the presentation of it) WotC could really reduce the workload a DM has to do to prepare an adventure, so that it is easy to run. Like I'm reading rime of the Frostmaiden now - I'm still at the Ten-Town Encounters - and I imagine what I would have to prep to run this, I become a little dizzy. Copying a lotmof stat blocks to have them easily available, condensing the needed information from a dungeon, so I can reference them easily ... That is all menial DM work that could be avoided by better presentation of the informationy so the DM could concentrate more on the creative side of preparing an adventure.
 

1. To run some encounters, I would need to have like 3-4 books open (or would need to have the same book open on different pages to see all relevant stats), to have all the monster stats to run an encounter. I can overcome that with preparation by copying all the relevant monster stat blocks, but it would be much easier if they just put them on the same page as the encounter.

2. Relevant Information for Encounters/Adventures/Dungeons are hidden in Walls of Text. If you need to look up something in a book, you sometimes need to read several paragraphs of text to find it, because the only thing highlighted in text are monster/npc names. It is a lot of homework for a DM to prepare it all in advanced in a manner that is easy to use and reference. If WotC would design that better, in a way that would make it easier to reference and find information faster, that would make it easier.
The books are made to be easy to read through, but not easy to use it to run a game.
I would gladly pay for an adventure regardless of the page count that was half reprinted material in the way of stats on the page I need them. Monsters, NPCs, spells, traps, magical items, etc, even if they're truncated. I dont want to have consult a stack of books while prepping or running the adventure. It definitely is alot of work for the DM ideally 90% of information I need should be in the book and where I need it. If there are maps, make them big enough so I can use them and make them pullout. I dont want to have to flip pages to use the map, and sure dont want to have to buy a separate "map pack" that includes all the maps that are in the adventure I just bought, (looking at you DotMM). These are all things that 1E and 2E adventures did. Seems at some point in 3E/3.5 the adventure format got really weird where they started doing an overview of an encounter in one section of the book and then the tactical portion of the same encounter in another section. I would definitely prefer soft cover as opposed to hardbacks too as it makes it easier to scan stuff and print it for a session. There's a lot WotC could do to improve adventure format and content but between people like myself who prefer a physical book as opposed to people who prefer a digital copy on DDB or a VTT, I can understand that they'll never please everyone.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
@M_Natas Yes DM’s Guild stuff generally is missing monsters. I will do a “GOOD JOB” to the Dragoncon 2019 crew who were writing the Epic. I mentioned they were missing 2 or 3 monsters, and DMs would need to photocopy those. The writers rewrote the Epic to include the monsters.

3. Lost mines. I have only glanced at the adventure. Hmm Hey Old folks. And Middle age (Not that middle age Oofta) folks with kids. For Christmas toss a Lost Mine to you kids. Make them run it with their friends. Make them submit reports to you about how it went. Then we see if Lost mines need a revision.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
It would help I think if WotC printed on their opening page:

"The cost of an adventure book is not inversely proportional to the amount of work you will need to do to run the adventure for your group. Paying more does not mean you get to do less. That is not how adventure pricing works."
 



robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
It would help I think if WotC printed on their opening page:

"The cost of an adventure book is not inversely proportional to the amount of work you will need to do to run the adventure for your group. Paying more does not mean you get to do less. That is not how adventure pricing works."
I think just putting “Hey DMs, we hope you enjoy reading this adventure because it’s going to be a real pain when you try to run it! ;)” would do the job.

I find a ;) really softens the blow, so that would be a nice touch.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
3. Lost mines of Phandelvar - it is supposed to be an introductory adventure - but it doesn't teach the DM or the players really how to play. I dare to say, a beginner's DM would have quite the trouble running Lost mines. I played it as a player with a newbie DM and in some areas he had really trouble with some of the motivations put in the game and keep the PCs motivated to continue the adventure. An experienced DM could fix all the problems of Lost Mines, but it is to much to be expected of a newbie DM.
And thanks for this. It’s an unpopular opinion, but one I definitely share. That opening encounter for goodness sakes! Not only illogical: dead horses in the road is pretty big sign of trouble ahead! But also the poor DM has to handle an ambush scenario! TPKs are not uncommon I hear. I immediately “broke the rules” by having arrows pepper the wagon and roadway giving the players at least a chance to make some choices about the dangerous situation (but that was because I done some reading here - or elsewhere, because I was feeling so out of my depth as a new DM).
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
It will never cease to baffle me how asking for adventures to be better prompts some people to tell you how worthless your opinion and desires are, and how you should feel bad for having them.

If anything I've written sounds like criticism of people asking for advice or help I apologize. Because fundamentally, DMing is not easy. It's a skill that good DMs will continuously try to improve.

I agree that mods (and all things D&D) could be better. I try to give advice and approaches on how to adjust for those deficiencies because they have always been and will always be there. I just don't see the point of screaming at the wind. The wind does not notice. WOTC will not change because of anything we post here. All we can do is try to help each other be better DMs one question at a time.
 

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