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Making Modules Easier to Use

JustinA

Banned
Banned
So I just released Mini-Adventure 1: The Complex of Zombies. One of the things I wanted to do with this release was to change the basic structure and layout of how an adventure module is presented in a way that will make the adventure easier to use and reference during play.

Basically, I've long felt that adventure modules have been struggling under a legacy of inefficient and ineffective layouts: It's difficult to find particular encounter keys. Once you've found the encounter key, important information is often buried in the middle of big blocks of text. And so forth. When you're trying to run an adventure, you want to be able to instantly pull up the information you need right now -- you don't have time to read six paragraphs of text to figure out how to run a particular encounter.

Attempts to remedy this in recent years by various companies and creators have more often resulted in either (a) artificial one-size-fits-all organizational schemes which actually make the information for many encounters more opaque and difficult to process as the author tries to cram it into the preset categories; or (b) elaborate Rube Goldberg devices that don't seem to actually accomplish anything.

What you'll find in The Complex of Zombies is not a radical departure. It's not something that's going to leap off the page at you and slap you in the face with its brilliance. It's not going to require you to completely relearn how to process and use the adventure.

It is better thought of as a tidying. Or perhaps a tweaking.

Here are the major things I've tried to accomplish:

1. Each encounter is given a clear-cut possession to a slice of page space. They are positioned on the page in a way which makes it easy to quickly and easily find any given encounter key when you need to. This is accomplished by, in general, giving each encounter its own column: This means that encounter numbers can be clearly found at the top of each page, and each encounter is clearly delineated from each other. (There are two exceptions: Particularly shot encounter keys may end up being listed two to a column. Longer encounter keys may require more than a single column.)

2. The information in each encounter key is sub-divided into a number of smaller, bite-size chunks that can be quickly processed at a glance. (For example, you don't need to dig through an entire paragraph of text to discover -- buried somewhere near its center -- that there is relevant information to be gained from a Spot check in this area.) These bite-size chunks of data are described with clear titles in bold-face, which makes it easy for the DM to quickly process all the important elements of an encounter at a single glance and then pull out the information they need as they need it.

3. The presentation of certain types of information -- particularly skill checks -- are standardized, making it easier to find that information on the page and use that information while running the adventure. (But such standardization takes place at a fairly low-level of information, where such standardization makes the most sense. At the macro-level, the description of the encounter is structured and ordered in the way which makes the most sense for that particular encounter.)

4. Boxed text for every keyed encounter area. More importantly, this boxed text is properly implemented, which means that it: (a) Makes a consistent assumption of the illumination available to the PCs (and clearly states what this standard is). (b) Never assumes that the PCs are entering an area from a particular direction or at a particular time. (c) Never assumes that the PCs will take certain actions or attempt to make decisions for the PCs. (Not everyone will use boxed text verbatim, but properly executed boxed text is valuable nonetheless because it clearly delineates between "what the PCs will immediately know (and should know) about an encounter area" (the boxed text) and "what the PCs may discover about or do in an encounter area" (everything else in the encounter description.)

5. We took comments from our playtest groups and included their insights as Playtest Tips throughout the adventure. Have you ever run an adventure and realized that, if you had to run it again, things would go much better if you did X instead? Or handled a particular encounter in a slightly different way? Since adventures are so rarely run a second time, a lot of this insight is just wasted. But we've tried to capture some of that from our playtests so that other DMs can benefit from it.

As I say, none of these things are radical departures by any stretch of the imagination. But in the aggregate, I think they result in an adventure module which is clearer in its presentation, cleaner in its prepration, and easier in its running.

But I think that even more can be done. There are two other useful tools I love to see in an adventure module, but which were beyond the budget and/or scope of this particular release:

1. I like illustrations which from the POV of the PCs. You don't necessarily need to do a comprehensive illustration book like Tomb of Horrors, but if you're going to have illustrations, I think those illustrations should be dual-tasked so that they're useful as handouts. Being able to say, "You enter a room and it looks like this!" is great. Illustrations which feature other people's characters going through the adventure may be pretty to look at, but they don't have any utility to me as a DM.

2. For a deluxe product, encounter maps for the players are nice. But these are only useful if they're formatted in a way which allows me to make a copy and slap it down on the table for actual, meaningful use in gameplay. I can't be the only one who looks at the maps in a lot of adventure modules today and say, "Wow, that looks fantastic! It's a pity the only thing my players will see is crude magic marker on a battlemap."

3. For many adventures, I like to include notes on how to incorporate elements of the adventure into the campaign as Groundwork. So if, for example, the bad guys in this particular adventure are the Brotherhood of the Ebon Basilisk, I might include notes on how you can include rumors of the Brotherhood and so forth. This type of detail helps the DM to intergrate an adventure into their campaign before they ever run it.

And, of course, you've got your standard plot hooks and aftermath sessions: How do you get the PCs involved and what happens when the adventure is all said and done.

What features have you found useful in an adventure module? What features would you like to see? What would make your life as a DM easier?

I'm not only curious. I'm looking for ways to continue improving our products.

Justin Alexander
http://www.thealexandrian.net
 

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scourger

Explorer
JustinA said:
What features have you found useful in an adventure module? What features would you like to see? What would make your life as a DM easier?

Encounter maps are useful. I've purchased a few of the WotC Fantastic Locations primarily for the battle maps. Short encounters, like episodes, are great.

Other features I would like to see are the EZ stat blocks from Goodman Games Wicked Fantasy Factory combined with the cartography & art from Paizo's Gamemastery products (although these impressions are garnered from the free one just given for free RPG day).

D&D minis make my DMing much easier. Those cards of abbreviated RPG stats are great, especially as I use initiative cards otherwise.
 

JustinA

Banned
Banned
scourger said:
Other features I would like to see are the EZ stat blocks from Goodman Games Wicked Fantasy Factory

Oh, I think I quite like those (here for anybody who hasn't seen 'em yet). I'm curious what they look like at higher levels, though, as the options of the NPCs expand. I'm suspicious that their utility drops a bit, particularly when compared to the new WotC stat blocks that have something of the same design ideology.

combined with the cartography & art from Paizo's Gamemastery products (although these impressions are garnered from the free one just given for free RPG day).

I like the way the Gamemastery modules are doing tactics, too: Clearly delineated Before Combat, During Combat, and Morale sections.

Those cards of abbreviated RPG stats are great, especially as I use initiative cards otherwise.

Would you like to see stat cards laid out 4 to the sheet as an appendix for xeroxing or printing?

Justin Alexander
http://www.thealexandrian.net
 


kaomera

Explorer
JustinA said:
So I just released Mini-Adventure 1: The Complex of Zombies. One of the things I wanted to do with this release was to change the basic structure and layout of how an adventure module is presented in a way that will make the adventure easier to use and reference during play.
So, I went and bought this “mini-adventure”, and I figured since you where asking I ought to go ahead and give you some feedback. My considerations in making the purchase where three-fold: 1) the name of the product had piqued my interest, especially since I have been mulling over some ideas for undead-themed adventures myself recently; 2) I've been messing around with encounter formats myself, although really only the format of stat-blocks; and 3) the price was right (I'm a real sucker for small-dollar impulse buys).

Let me start out by saying that I don't run adventures straight from the book. If there's anything I'd like to see that I think would just absolutely enhance the quality of published adventures in play, it would be somehow designing them to produce a healthy electrical shock when a DM tried to run them unprepared. This is one of the reasons I really like pdfs, I can copy and paste text and reformat them to meet my own personal needs. For example, I want a quick-reference description of each encounter area (ie: boxed text), but I don't always agree 100% with the text as provided. Also, putting this onto 3x5 cards makes using it in play much easier for me. I also want any NPCs (including monsters) written up on cards, as well as traps or anything else that will require significant rules reference in play. (Having cards like this in the pdf could certainly be nice, but I am really very picky about the format of these, so I'm likely better off doing it myself anyway.)

However, if there's one issue I have with the adventure, it's the very “spot-rule”-ish effect that takes two pages to fully describe, covers much of the dungeon (including several encounter areas ~ and the area it effects is not marked off on the map! =[ ), and does not seem to me to serve any real purpose... Never mind the inconsistency that objects described in the dungeon have apparently somehow escaped it's effects... Obviously you put a bit of effort into this, but I just don't really care for it.

Some general notes about this adventure: First of all I'm fairly dubious about the recommended levels, and the CR of the creatures. Some of the abilities of these creatures can dish out a lot of damage for a third-level party to deal with, mostly because they will tend to be all of the PCs every round. While I don't think that the party is simply going to be wiped out immediately, there are several encounters that are probably going to be very difficult, and they are probably going to want to pull out and rest after each one. While this is actually easy for the PCs to do, it's been my experience that the players aren't going to be too keen on it... There is also the matter of treasure, as there is one item (or pair of items, really) that has a listed value much higher than he PCs should really be seeing at this level, and another that has no listed value, but which is fairly obviously up there as well (multiple magical effects, and all). I was a bit dubious of the new monsters at first (and I still think they may need a higher CR), but mostly because having new monsters in a module that is designed for ease / quickness of play seemed dubious. However, they're actually pretty neat. I can see where they have some potential issues that might cause some DMs to prefer not to use something like that (as listed under “advancement” on p14. for example), but personally I like the idea.

Now, to address your specific goals:
1. Each encounter is given a clear-cut possession to a slice of page space. They are positioned on the page in a way which makes it easy to quickly and easily find any given encounter key when you need to. This is accomplished by, in general, giving each encounter its own column: This means that encounter numbers can be clearly found at the top of each page, and each encounter is clearly delineated from each other. (There are two exceptions: Particularly shot encounter keys may end up being listed two to a column. Longer encounter keys may require more than a single column.)
This is a good idea, at least in theory. In practice I think you might need to give each encounter at least a full page before I'd see any noticeable advantage in games I run. One of the main problems in running a print-format adventure is page-turning... It also helps that you don't have any large pieces of interior art. While I'm a sucker for good art in gaming products, getting it to match up with the text in a way that doesn't hinder the text's use in play can be an issue. (This is one of the main reasons I have gone to using stacks of 3x5 cards for everything...)
2. The information in each encounter key is sub-divided into a number of smaller, bite-size chunks that can be quickly processed at a glance. (For example, you don't need to dig through an entire paragraph of text to discover -- buried somewhere near its center -- that there is relevant information to be gained from a Spot check in this area.) These bite-size chunks of data are described with clear titles in bold-face, which makes it easy for the DM to quickly process all the important elements of an encounter at a single glance and then pull out the information they need as they need it.
This is a good idea, but it would be even better if there was a summary of spot checks and the like near the beginning of each encounter write-up.
3. The presentation of certain types of information -- particularly skill checks -- are standardized, making it easier to find that information on the page and use that information while running the adventure. (But such standardization takes place at a fairly low-level of information, where such standardization makes the most sense. At the macro-level, the description of the encounter is structured and ordered in the way which makes the most sense for that particular encounter.)
I'm not seeing this. In fact I'm seeing “Break DC 28”, “Search check (DC 18)”, and “Open Lock, DC 25” all on p7. (As a side note, I think that some of the DCs are pretty high for 3rd level characters, but I tend to go through an adventure and “massage” the DCs to fit my particular group of PCs anyway; it seems silly to me to have a useful (let alone required) item or piece of information hiding behind a DC that no-one in the party can make.) This isn't really a big deal, but it might be nice to always use the same format, as well as possibly making the text for the check (type and DC) italic or bold so that it's easier to pick out.
4. Boxed text for every keyed encounter area. More importantly, this boxed text is properly implemented, which means that it: (a) Makes a consistent assumption of the illumination available to the PCs (and clearly states what this standard is). (b) Never assumes that the PCs are entering an area from a particular direction or at a particular time. (c) Never assumes that the PCs will take certain actions or attempt to make decisions for the PCs. (Not everyone will use boxed text verbatim, but properly executed boxed text is valuable nonetheless because it clearly delineates between "what the PCs will immediately know (and should know) about an encounter area" (the boxed text) and "what the PCs may discover about or do in an encounter area" (everything else in the encounter description.)
Your boxed text is certainly well executed. The only thing I could say could be better is that on p9 one of two doors is described as differing from another, with no indication as to which is which in the box text. Minor thing, as it's mentioned shortly thereafter, but simply indicating a compass direction would not have been bad, IMHO.
5. We took comments from our playtest groups and included their insights as Playtest Tips throughout the adventure. Have you ever run an adventure and realized that, if you had to run it again, things would go much better if you did X instead? Or handled a particular encounter in a slightly different way? Since adventures are so rarely run a second time, a lot of this insight is just wasted. But we've tried to capture some of that from our playtests so that other DMs can benefit from it.
I think this is a great idea! Some sort of advice on how to actually run an adventure (or specific sections of it) is going to be really helpful, and I'm rather surprised that this isn't done more often.
1. I like illustrations which from the POV of the PCs. You don't necessarily need to do a comprehensive illustration book like Tomb of Horrors, but if you're going to have illustrations, I think those illustrations should be dual-tasked so that they're useful as handouts. Being able to say, "You enter a room and it looks like this!" is great. Illustrations which feature other people's characters going through the adventure may be pretty to look at, but they don't have any utility to me as a DM.
I agree. This is one of the great things about Goodman Game's DCC series, in that they consistently have a section of handouts at the back that you can pass to the players. If they where spread throughout the book there might possibly be slightly less utility, as I really don't like it (as a player or a DM) when a book is held up for the players and the DM has to try and obscure the portions the players shouldn't be seeing... However, personally I photocopy all such info (or if it's a pdf I don't have to), as I don't want to cut up my gaming books. One interesting idea for a pdf product that I'd like to see would be sets of such player handouts, several pages of first-person views of various dungeon rooms that I could then do with whatever I wanted... (It might be hard to get them both generic enough as to be generally useful and still interesting enough to bother, however.)
2. For a deluxe product, encounter maps for the players are nice. But these are only useful if they're formatted in a way which allows me to make a copy and slap it down on the table for actual, meaningful use in gameplay. I can't be the only one who looks at the maps in a lot of adventure modules today and say, "Wow, that looks fantastic! It's a pity the only thing my players will see is crude magic marker on a battlemap."
While I wouldn't mind seeing good “battlemaps” included with adventures, it's my understanding that this can be prohibitively expensive. A set of generic dungeon maps in pdf is just costly enough that it's actually a better value for me (personally) to just buy WotC's Dungeon Tiles than to buy them, print them, and mount them. This becomes even more of an issue it you're talking about a very specific map drawn for a specific room that you will probably never actually use for anything else... Now, if you could do something like this cheaply, then I'm, all for it.
3. For many adventures, I like to include notes on how to incorporate elements of the adventure into the campaign as Groundwork. So if, for example, the bad guys in this particular adventure are the Brotherhood of the Ebon Basilisk, I might include notes on how you can include rumors of the Brotherhood and so forth. This type of detail helps the DM to intergrate an adventure into their campaign before they ever run it.
Something that would go along with that would be an expanded section of rules / statistics / etc. related to such an organization (for example). So, if you wrote the Brotherhood up with a PrC , or a special magic item, or included extra NPCs, especially stuff that isn't specifically used in the adventure, that would be really cool. I guess some might be somehow upset at paying for such extra info, but personally I can always use an extra NPC write-up, even if I don't decide to make the organization a significant part of my campaign.

Hope that's helpful and I don't come off as too negative. It's a good product, well worth the money, IMHO. (Just because I might choose not to use a couple of pages of it doesn't ruin it for me, at all.)
 

Hussar

Legend
Something that I think should be done in modules is include more information on the map. For the record, I haven't checked out the module referenced above, so appologies, if that's already done, but, for the most part, module maps have the room, possibly a few fixtures and the encounter number. Then lots of blank space.

Why not fill up the DM's map? Put in numbers and types of creatures. If the room has a trap, not something like a pit trap, but, any trap, put a notation on the map. If there is a listen DC to hear the orcs talking in the room, put that on the map too. When I ran the WLD, I made maps like this to help me along. The numbers are referenced on the bottom for effects of the room (a great idea in the WLD - standardized room effects), locked doors, open doors (ESPECIALLY OPEN DOORS) and the like are all marked.

This sort of thing would be very nice to see in modules.
 

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
kaomera said:
Let me start out by saying that I don't run adventures straight from the book. If there's anything I'd like to see that I think would just absolutely enhance the quality of published adventures in play, it would be somehow designing them to produce a healthy electrical shock when a DM tried to run them unprepared.

See, I think that the ideal easy-to-use module would have things set up so that you could literally drop characters into the first encounter, even if all you've done is read that first encounter. No prep required at all. I don't know quite how to piull that off, but that's the ideal that should be aimed for, while still leaving the ability to modify the adventure based on owns own campaign.
 

Ben Robbins

First Post
JustinA said:
One of the things I wanted to do with this release was to change the basic structure and layout of how an adventure module is presented in a way that will make the adventure easier to use and reference during play.
This is a topic near and dear to my heart. You're absolutely right that adventure design hasn't made fantastic progress. If you open a module from 1980, it doesn't look that different than an adventure now. Where are the leaps forward, where are the flying cars?

When I started writing adventures for publication a few years ago it totally changed how I looked at adventures. It's not good enough to have a good adventure idea that _you_ could run great, you have to encapsulate and communicate that idea in a way that will make some GM in some other part of the world be able to run a good game. It's particularly odd because what you are writing will be read by the GM, but the final audience is really the players who will never read your text. The adventure is not a novel, it's an instruction manual.

I've been tackling the problem more through the structure of the text rather than the formatting (formatting is part of the equation and definitely needs a revolution, I just haven't come up with anything on that front that I think can be translated to all formats). The "Anatomy of an Action Scene" that I've been using breaks up scenario info into clear logical sections that follow a chronological progression and give the GM a clear sense of what is happening and why. That's not terribly interesting in itself, but it has punched out critical things like extracting essential plot information as Revelations -- instead of burying it in the flow of the action and linking that info to particular encounters, it sits on top as a scenario-wide outline which let's you adapt to changes as they come (you know the heroes need to learn the Duke is left-handed to move the plot, so even if they miss it in the scene you intended them to find out, since you are tracking your Revelations you know that needs to come out some other time).

JustinA said:
2. The information in each encounter key is sub-divided into a number of smaller, bite-size chunks that can be quickly processed at a glance.
Definitely. My editors keep giving me a hard time for writing in paragraph fragments, but really it's to make sure it's easy to find info. An ideal game should really be an outline of bullet points the GM can refer to easily, like the Game at a Glance section in Dr Null: Battle on the Bay Bridge (free download) or the Revelations I mentioned above. No GM wants to read through a whole column of a text in the middle of a game to find something. Playtesting feedback has shown me that if you bury info, the GM will not even see it.

JustinA said:
5. We took comments from our playtest groups and included their insights as Playtest Tips throughout the adventure.
There should be a law against not playtesting. Or a big disclaimer sticker "Warning: this adventure has not been playtested! You are on your own!" No matter how smart of a GM you are, or how good your sense of what works and what doesn't, putting the scenario in the hands of _other_ GMs and seeing what happens is critical beyond belief.

I've got a huge rant stored up about the difference between describing a situation (there are orcs in them thar' hills, the high priest is corrupt, the prince is a doppelganger) and telling a GM how to deliver that idea as an adventure.

JustinA said:
As I say, none of these things are radical departures by any stretch of the imagination.
You've got to start somewhere. ;) Seriously, there's a lot of ground to cover, so I salute all attempts to move the ball. Some ideas may turn out to be crap (trust me, I know) but the only dumb questions are unasked ones and all that. In the end better adventure design will make it easier for new GMs to run games, which means more games, which is good for the hobby, and so on.
 


Ry

Explorer
JustinA said:
What features have you found useful in an adventure module? What features would you like to see? What would make your life as a DM easier?

Most adventure modules I see have very painful exposition. I have a suggestion about that but it requires the module writer to give the DM something to give the players.

Edit: Your ground work concept is along these lines, but I think the player-oriented groundwork is worthwhile.
 
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schporto

First Post
I thought the Delve Format Wizards was working on had some good ideas. And I started playing with it some myself. The problem is that it is very difficult/I am not good and experienced enough at it. I'm also a computer geek. I want to have details from the encounter have popups that tell me about the spells. Or a quick link to bull rush rules. Things like that.
The other thing I find tough about most of the print adventures is fluidity. Too ofter I've read about how group B will arrive 2 rounds after group A starts combat. Only to have the party encounter group B first. That ability to change quickly on the fly is a problem for print base products.
Any changes would be welcome. Many people don't like the new stat block layout, but I think it was a good idea to try something. Same goes for adventures...
-cpd
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Supporter
I can say that after using the new statblock format extensively, I really have trouble going back to the older format. The new statblock is just really good (at least for me ;)).

I haven't run a Delve format adventure yet, however. I think it's still in its early stages, although some adventures (e.g. Expedition to Castle Ravenloft) handle it better than others.

Cheers!
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Ben Robbins said:
You're absolutely right that adventure design hasn't made fantastic progress. If you open a module from 1980, it doesn't look that different than an adventure now.
In fact, I'd say it has taken one large step backwards: old modules had the map on the inside of the hard-card cover instead of integrated into the text like they do now. This often if not always makes it impossible to easily refer to the map while reading the text, either before or during play. I'm not about to spend time and money making copies, if only because I don't feel I should have to; a well-designed module doesn't force this unnecessary effort. And I don't know 'bout you, but I sure don't want to cut up my modules just so I can clip the map to my side of the DM screen where it belongs! (never mind that in a pinch those hard-card covers could *be* the DM screen...)

Note to the OP: I have not seen your adventure, and if you've got the maps on separate pages from the text, good on you!

Lanefan
 

Li Shenron

Legend
One thing I would really like to have in every adventure is "double maps".

I need one version of the map with everything important marked: encounters, traps, key items.

I need another version of the same map with nothing... all blank.

So I'd be the only one looking at the full-map behind my screen, and hopefully I'm not missing anything or taking too much time to figure out what happens in the next room, particularly if there is something very position-sensitive (like a trap). But if I only get this map, then I will never be able to show it to the players without revealing something they should discover "the hard way".

That's what the "blind map" is useful for: the players get the general features of the area but not the details. This is actually not always important for dungeons or enclosed spaces (normally I don't show them any map at all, but I just describe a room only when they get in), but it is very needed IMHO for overland maps. So if your adventure takes place in a few different locations scattered around a certain area (think ToEE), have a blind map which shows only mountains, lakes/rivers/coasts, towns and roads (all with names) and a full map of the same area for the DM only.

If you make the blind map photocopy-able, then the party can mark down on the copy of the map the new places which they've discovered.
 

Krilia

First Post
I'm a player, GM and writer in Living Arcanis, so these days that's what I mainly see, module wise. I've played/ran some published adventures, Living City, Living Force, Living Spycraft and a tiny bit of Living Greyhawk.

Anyway... how we're arranging the mods in Living Arcanis these days: Stat Blocks are presented at the end in detail, one full page per monster (or monster type), though there are reminders of what they should be in the main text. (ie, "3 male Human Ftr 3")

Maps are all located in the appendix, along with any Player Handouts (mysterious diary pages, wanted posters, whatever). There's no formatting rule at the moment about two maps, but some authors are doing that.

The mod opens with an adventure background - all of the back history of events that the GM needs to know. Then there is a brief summary of encounters, perhaps a sentence or two each. Each encounter is numbered and starts with a "Key Ideas" section pointing out what the point of the encounter is. The encounter ends with a section listing what encounters the party should be able to get to from this one, and what actions or decisions lead there, in a nutshell.

There are still some problems, but I think that it's pretty easy to follow compared to some of the other formats I've dealt with.
 

Hussar

Legend
On Li Shenron's idea of the blind map, I would point to the players map in the old X1 Isle of Dread module. That was a FANTASTIC game aid. It really gave the players something to work towards. Here's this honking big island, with the outside already filled in. Now go and explore everything inside.

Great way to get the players actively engaged. And the map wasn't skewed to cause frustration later on.

Paizo's web enhancements for their Dungeon modules are great - you get the keyed and unkeyed maps together.

/edit - Read Ben Robbins module

Sweet. That's exactly what I'm talking about. I can see pretty much all the information that I need to see, right on the map. Excellent work.
 
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3catcircus

Adventurer
Hussar said:
Something that I think should be done in modules is include more information on the map. For the record, I haven't checked out the module referenced above, so appologies, if that's already done, but, for the most part, module maps have the room, possibly a few fixtures and the encounter number. Then lots of blank space.

Why not fill up the DM's map? Put in numbers and types of creatures. If the room has a trap, not something like a pit trap, but, any trap, put a notation on the map. If there is a listen DC to hear the orcs talking in the room, put that on the map too. When I ran the WLD, I made maps like this to help me along. The numbers are referenced on the bottom for effects of the room (a great idea in the WLD - standardized room effects), locked doors, open doors (ESPECIALLY OPEN DOORS) and the like are all marked.

This sort of thing would be very nice to see in modules.

That is why I favor Harnic-style maps - you can show the guard post with % chance of them being on-duty, you can show the DC to unlock a door, etc.
 

kaomera

Explorer
Kid Charlemagne said:
See, I think that the ideal easy-to-use module would have things set up so that you could literally drop characters into the first encounter, even if all you've done is read that first encounter. No prep required at all. I don't know quite how to piull that off, but that's the ideal that should be aimed for, while still leaving the ability to modify the adventure based on owns own campaign.
I've been thinking about this... I really don't think I could ever handle that, regardless of how a module was set up. It would help if any really critical descriptive information was set forth (bullet pointed, I guess) at the top of the encounter / room description. I tend to ad-lib my descriptions pretty heavily, and I need to know if it's actually important that the room is 18' high and not 12', or if that's just flavor, for example. But beyond that I need a pretty good idea of what the overall layout of the place is and what's going on in each section. Without that I'm just not going to be running the dungeon as written; before too long I'm liable to be completely ad-libbing.
 

Redrobes

First Post
You guys are talking about having information on the map. This thread has been linked into from the digital RPG tools threads which are running discussions along similar lines. Theres a lot of work being done especially in the online virtual table top (VTT) apps that do all this stuff. You can use a VTT offline as well as online too. Most people familiar with the PC at the table have the map on the PC when in play as well as having a table with some miniatures. What most people would like is to have a table with the map projected or displayed directly on it. Anyway, the point here is that I write, and there are others too, applications which not only allow you to map the dungeon, but also to add hot spots onto the map which you can call up information. I would reckon you would be surprised at what is happening with the mapping VTTs that are being made.

My ViewingDale is a zoom browser that can handle any sized map at any scale. You put all the map for a dungeon on it. In fact you can put the entire campaign world on it all at once. You can zoom into areas and add links to documents, sounds, text, pictures, movies - anything. Also, if you add a document with skeleton stats to a skeleton icon then any time you put a skeleton into the map then it will have that link to its stats on it. So with NPCs you can have their history which you can keep adding to as the players keep meeting them and each person in the campaign has that info right at the point you need it. The same thing goes for the PCs too. You can have their character sheet nailed to the character icon on the map so you can add icons to the page for stuff they pick up, delete it when they use items and look at their picture or get damage values etc. Theres a free demo to see all this in action.

In terms of a blank map this has been programmed too. There is what is known as 'fog of war' where you can hide bits of the map that players have not seen yet. Some (other) apps are calculating the visual range based on the player character icon positions as well as trying to figure out whether this can be done for flying creatures or people with infravision or otherwise different sight ranges etc.

There is lots to look over. Its all good stuff.
 
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schporto

First Post
There seems to be a disconnect I think. I think CMP did some digital adventures, and I never got to play or use them.
I just haven't seen any of the digital aids approach the concepts of presenting a digital adventure. The aids generally look at presenting a map, or dealing with an encounter, or making a PC or NPC, or treasure table.
The adventure writers meanwhile (and its the point of this thread) are still working on presenting in the same paper format. So this thread has been talking about better ways to present the written product by using more consistent formats, more information on maps, more details readily available.
My suggestion is to present a better format entirely. Continue with the print versions, but instead of providing a download, provide a copy that can be run on a PC and has a lot of these features we've talked about. These electronic versions will be nearly unusable without the paper version. At the same time these electronic versions make life easier to present all those map details, remember that the bad guys in room 2 should hear the fight in room 1, and move them to join the fight.
At the same time - no the software doen't exist. And the software probably won't exist until there are adventures to deal with it.
A good first step has been for publishers to make available digital copies of their adventures. Maybe a good next step is for either software folks to work from those to make something usable.
-cpd
 

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