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D&D General The Best Parts of Pre Written Adventurers Are What You Leave Behind


After 30+ years of DMing I am finally successfully using pre written adventures at the table. I have used them before now, but the key here is "successfully." Any time I tried to run and adventure, or worse an "Adventure Path," I chafed against it and did it any way but "successful."

5e has changed that. I am not sure it's actually a 5e thing as opposed to a time thing and format thing (I run a lot more on FG than I ever have). But in either case it is now that I am quite suddenly understanding how to successfully run pre written adventures.

The key to that success? Throwing stuff out.

The first 5e Adventure where I really got it was Dragon Heist. Terrible adventure but great set-up and source material. I ran it IRL for the regular group that's been together for years now with most of us taking DMing turns. I realized early on the adventure was poorly written -- um, where's the "heist" -- but there was a lot of really good material there.so instead of doing the unsuccessful thing I did with Storm King's Thunder -- namely sticking to the script no matter what -- i decided that I would toss anything in DH that didn't work for me or my players. It was a revelation.

More recently I have been running Descent into Avernus. Taking those lessons from DH, I have liberally ignored hug swaths of Avernus. Characters forced to work for the flaming fist? No thank you. Long extended 2nd level dungeons with repetitive encounters? Nuh-uh. Silly celestial elephant? No f-ing way.

There's a lot of chaff in the published adventures and the key is to identify it and cut it mercilessly. Now, the chaff isn't the same for everyone. I bet some folks LOVE Lulu. That's awesome. Keep her. But those folks might also HATE the Shield of the Hidden Lord (which I loved) and decide to ignore it. They should.

Somewhere along the line I realized I did not have to run the adventure as written or keep everything in it. Again, it feels silly after running D&D for so long but I guess you can't have experience doing anything if you don't actually do it.

Anyway, long story short: even "bad" pre written adventures can be good if you cut out the crappy parts.

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Yep get rid of anyhting you don't like (usually this includes the plot in my case- especially with regards to the adventure paths) and keep the bits that work for you has always been the mantra of DMing style. The adventure paths (IMO) are good for stealing ideas and sites from and weaving into your own story.

My previous game started with Hommlet (1e) a couple sections of PoTA (featherspire keep + River soemthing keep), the 3e version of the moathouse and from there headed off into other adventures which included White Plume mountan and the Frost giant lair of SKT (on land not sea) and ended up running parts of ToA and cut most of the of the final dungeon, ignored seveal of the other dungeons and we had a blast. Wove home brew in and out of it.

My current campaiign is the same- liberally cobbled together bits from a nmber of 1e, 2e, 3e and 5e sources- if you look at the adventure paths as little more than sites to drop into your own game then no need to follow a script noone is interested in. I play D&D to have fun not to be bored to death following someothe elses idea of an adventure (whether as a player or DM) why continue ot slog through something no one is enjoying?

Yeah. You picked two stinkers IMO. From day 1 people have pulled apart adventures, and used the bits they like the most. I'm currently running a LOTR campaign, using bits about Breeland from adventures from all 4 lotr based RPGs. I've run nearly all the 5e big modules and must have tweaked them all. Pre written adventures are a good thing


I very much agree. On some occurrences, during my current greyhawk campaign, I was forced to wing it a little, in that I had to DM without planning for it. The 2e Ravenloft settings came in handy. Just interweave my own big plot kidnap the players to a Ravenloft domain, run this and have them find some clues on my own main story line.

On other occasions I totally alter the adventures. E.g. with the howl form the north trilogy. Written for a totally different purpose, I ruled the blades of Corrusk are actually holding the souls of the priests who supported Isken when he did cast he rain of colorless fire. The five swords combined with a riddle had to be inserted into some lock mechanism which yielded the final piece of the ashen stuff at Tovag Baragu.

Just cut out the ideas you like, you cannot run the adventure like written, unless you have 100% same agenda on things like the author, especially not with conveted 2e stuff.


One thing I learnt playing Curse of Strahd was that must be a scene isn’t cool at the point it’s intended, doesn’t mean you won’t want one later on. If they skip a piece or it doesn’t seem right, re-skin it and bring it back when you need it. Adjusting encounter difficulty is trivially easy in 5e.

I really didn’t like the variable path chapter of
Dragon Heist. Then I realized they were handing me a slew of city based encounters and who cares if I only used 3 of them at that point. For anyone playing higher levels in the campaign it’s a great resource.

Whenever I run a module, I always end up tossing several encounters, and changing the spell selection of enemies in others. But I'm often stunned by how poorly motivated some of these adventures are.
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More recently I have been running Descent into Avernus. Taking those lessons from DH, I have liberally ignored hug swaths of Avernus. Characters forced to work for the flaming fist? No thank you. Long extended 2nd level dungeons with repetitive encounters? Nuh-uh.
You might have seen it already, but the Alexandrian blog has lots of good ideas for improvements to Descent Into Avernus.

Alexandrian on Avernus

Silly celestial elephant? No f-ing way.
I'm going to have to strongly disagree with you here :)


Yeah, one thing I learned about pre-made adventures is there is a lot of needless grind in them, and you can cut the less interesting encounters and focus on what works for your group. Granted, I learned this back in PF's Rise of the Runelords in 3E (or before, just doing it unconsciously).

On the other hand, though I've come to rely on pre-made adventures to get my campaigns rolling (and going) due to less time on my hands, I've also found at times when the party goes off the rails it's pretty easy to insert some custom encounters - or a whole new track.

For example in my latest campaign set in Saltmarsh...
Playing Ghosts of Saltmarsh, and I've been building up Granny Nightshade and her humanoids as a background element. The party dawdled at one point and instead of facing humanoid bandit raiders on the road, they are now facing a legion of humanoids - hobgoblins, goblins, orcs and gnolls - bent on overrunning Burle, Saltmarsh and Seaton. Currently, the party is in Burle, trying to break a siege of the city. Leading the seige is a warlock with Granny as a patron. We'll see how things turn out next session...


liberally ignored hug swaths of Avernus

Best band name ever?

And this is what I image a Hug Swath of Avernus to look like:
Screen Shot 2020-08-19 at 10.05.22 AM.png

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