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General Preferences - Dungeon Detail?

How Much Dungeon Descriptive/Narrative Detail?

  • Basically all rules information. As a DM I can add most description on my own.

    Votes: 1 3.1%
  • 75% rules. Just enough theme there to give the dungeon a purpose and to tie it together.

    Votes: 9 28.1%
  • 50/50 pretty even split. Some rooms devoid of challenge (traps, monsters) is okay to add flavor.

    Votes: 17 53.1%
  • 25% rules. It's more important to have a narrative structure. I can populate the dungeon on my own.

    Votes: 5 15.6%

  • Total voters
    32

Retreater

Legend
How much detail do you like in your published dungeons? Are you good with an adventure just having the basic layout, monsters, traps? Or do you like a good amount of evocative language, sensory descriptions, history, and motivation?
 

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Scott Christian

Adventurer
Even split.

It does depend on the prelude to the dungeon. I mean, if we are searching the lost tomb of a god, I want 75% narrative, with tons of foreshadowing in the sessions prior. If we are in a mine that's been overrun with goblins, give me 50/50. If this is a side cave that has a troll that's been terrorizing travelers, give me 75/25.
 

MatthewJHanson

Registered Ninja
Publisher
This question feels weird to me. I think because you're treating it like to competing elements, when in a good adventure the rules and the description should go reinforce each other, and more importantly they should both reinforce the story.

When it comes to room descriptions, what I real care about is how does it impact the player characters. Everything in the description should be something they can interact with or clues that the heroes can pick up on. They might be subtle things like hints about the personality of the creature that lives there, but I don't need obscure details about how the room was built unless its something that matters for the PCs in the adventure.
 

Retreater

Legend
This question feels weird to me. I think because you're treating it like to competing elements, when in a good adventure the rules and the description should go reinforce each other, and more importantly they should both reinforce the story.

When it comes to room descriptions, what I real care about is how does it impact the player characters. Everything in the description should be something they can interact with or clues that the heroes can pick up on. They might be subtle things like hints about the personality of the creature that lives there, but I don't need obscure details about how the room was built unless its something that matters for the PCs in the adventure.
They are actually competing elements for me. I am writing an adventure for publication with a specific word count. I'm trying to decide if I should put in more dungeon content (rooms, encounters, etc) or have smaller dungeons with more narrative text.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
If you had no space limits I'd say throw it all in. But if something has to come out, take out as much backstory and narrative as you can as most DMs are likely to strip that stuff out anyway and replace it with whatever suits the specific campaign.

Put another way: I always find a 25-site dungeon with barebones descriptions and minimal backstory to be immensely more useful than a 5-site dungeon with loads of backstory and overlong flowery boxed text.
 

They are actually competing elements for me. I am writing an adventure for publication with a specific word count. I'm trying to decide if I should put in more dungeon content (rooms, encounters, etc) or have smaller dungeons with more narrative text.
This is what I figured you were going for. There are a lot of things that people consider more important that others, however. For example, art is wasted space for me, unless it's a necessary aspect of the adventure (e.g. Tomb of Horrors). For most others, they like having the cool artwork. I think for publishing purposes you need to find a percent balance between each aspect, since you want to appeal to as many as possible. I'd suggest checking out Curse of Strahd and Tomb of Annihilation, both of which were very well received, and get an idea of what a good average of each might be.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
This question feels weird to me. I think because you're treating it like to competing elements, when in a good adventure the rules and the description should go reinforce each other, and more importantly they should both reinforce the story.
That was my impression as well. Descriptive detail and rules information are not a zero sum game. Furthermore, the question conflates rules information with challenge, which is extra weird.

When it comes to room descriptions, what I real care about is how does it impact the player characters. Everything in the description should be something they can interact with or clues that the heroes can pick up on. They might be subtle things like hints about the personality of the creature that lives there, but I don't need obscure details about how the room was built unless its something that matters for the PCs in the adventure.
Agreed. If the goal here is to figure out how best to spend your limited word count, then trying to figure out what percent of it should be description and what percent should be information about monsters and traps is going about it the wrong way. What you should be doing is trying to figure out what information (rules and narrative) is directly relevant to the players, and cutting as much as possible that is not. Nothing wrong with empty rooms, but don’t spend more than a short sentence describing them. Monsters and traps are great, but don’t pad out their stat blocks with details that aren’t likely to come up. Ideally, everything you write down should both communicate detail about the environment and have gameplay relevance.
 


aco175

Legend
I agree with @Shiroiken that artwork is largely useless in the adventure, unless it is something to show the players to help with a description.

I voted with the almost all flavor box, but find what @Lanefan said about pagecount and space limits making a lite description adventure more likely to use than a great flowing short adventure that makes it hard to fit my game.
 

Retreater

Legend
I'd suggest checking out Curse of Strahd and Tomb of Annihilation, both of which were very well received, and get an idea of what a good average of each might be.
Oh boy, if only I had that kind of page count!
I am looking through some of this publishers other works to see how they line up with what I have. Looks like I might need a tad more fluff.
 

Gilladian

Adventurer
Make the backstory and historical elements as generic and simple as possible. I hate adventures where they start off with three dense paragraphs of history, factions and preplot. Theyre useless. I want “this is the tomb of someone famous for killing giants. An eaerthquake recently broke the seals and now you’re going in”. But, inside, I want details and flavor. If it was just 3 goblins+stats, I would be so bored I never would read it. 3 goblins on watch for invading wild dogs, playing darts is a lot cooler.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I prefer that a published adventure just give me the narrative structure and descriptions, and leave the game mechanics to me. I don't need to see a full character sheet for the NPC villain and a map of the castle vault he is trying to rob; I just need a page or so of descriptions, and some background notes. Why is he planning the heist in the first place? What's he going to do with the money if he's successful? What will he do when the PCs interfere?

I prefer to supply my own monsters, traps, stat blocks, and treasures. It lets me tailor the challenges and rewards to fit the party.
 

75%. I'd prefer more rules reprinted with just enough background info to run the adventure. The more fluff in the adventure is more text I have to read, memorize or notate and leaves less room for the crunch I'd rather have on the page to run the encounter. Ideally with a good module I should have to reference other books as little as possible, within reason. I know that full classes and spells aren't going to be reprinted, be truncated monster, NPCs and trap stats are nice.
 

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