What Do You Expect of Published Adventures?

Retreater

Legend
Many of my disagreements on this board stem from my expectations of adventures, specifically Adventure Paths and campaign adventures like we've seen from Paizo and Wizards of the Coast, respectively. If you want to read my negative commentary, take a look at my Post-Mortem threads.
D&D 5E - Rime of the Frostmaiden Post-Mortem (Spoilers)

Here's what I think a published campaign adventure should have:
1) Motivation for the characters (and their players) to go on the adventure.
2) A story/plot/background that the GM can convey to the players - and the logical means of sharing that information naturally within the adventure.
3) Clear goals, which are more or less achievable (by sword, spell, or wits) by the character level range indicated by the adventure.
4) A unified theme building up to a satisfying climactic resolution
5) Consistency and logical story/world building.
6) A compelling villain, antagonist ("conflict" to use a literary term)

Of course you need maps, enemies, encounters, treasures, traps, etc. But without the things I mentioned above, you have an adventure site, not a campaign. There are additional items I prefer to see in my adventures, but I think without the above, you're not going to have a successful campaign without adding lots of additional work.
 

log in or register to remove this ad



Yora

Legend
What I want: Material tailored to make it easy for GM's to run a game, preferably with less preparation required than making your own adventures, and with areas and scenes where you can quickly see at a glance how it's supposed to work if you don't remember what the section was about. Also situations that allow the players to shape events and determine the ultimate outcome through their actions.

What I anticipate: None of the above.
 

Retreater

Legend
How do you suppose they could provide that, when they don't know the characters? If they provided a list of generic motivations, would you call them out for being generic motivations that you could come up with yourself that don't add value to the product?
If you're playing an Adventure Path or Campaign Adventure, I think there's an assumption that you want to be tied into the plot of a campaign that can run from 1st-12th levels (or higher). Designers could bake that into the adventure.
But if not that, why not quests that could appeal to a variety of players or could be modified to fit their characters?
1) Your friend/relative has not returned from the dungeon.
2) A holy item was stolen from a temple under your charge.
3) You've been stricken by a curse that requires bathing in the pool in the enchanted forest.
Use a template like this. The writer can add the proper nouns as appropriate to their adventure. And then put a captive in the dungeon that could be the character's friend or relative. Put a holy item in the dungeon, protected by a mini-boss. Put that enchanted pool in the forest.
A writer doesn't have to know the characters. They just have to provide some interaction with the outside world, some feasible "way in" for the party. There was none in Abomination Vaults, for example.
 

aco175

Legend
2) A story/plot/background that the GM can convey to the players - and the logical means of sharing that information naturally within the adventure.
I like to have something, but not something that is too specific to the writer's campaign. The original intent of the dungeon may have been a tomb and not goblins occupy most of it, but the old flavor should still exist and some of the old things may not have been found until the PCs come along. Some of the old stuff should be shared through carvings or an old map the PCs came upon. Maybe a secret cache with a tome or even a magic mouth spell.
 

jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
Many of my disagreements on this board stem from my expectations of adventures, specifically Adventure Paths and campaign adventures like we've seen from Paizo and Wizards of the Coast, respectively. If you want to read my negative commentary, take a look at my Post-Mortem threads.
D&D 5E - Rime of the Frostmaiden Post-Mortem (Spoilers)

Here's what I think a published campaign adventure should have:
1) Motivation for the characters (and their players) to go on the adventure.
2) A story/plot/background that the GM can convey to the players - and the logical means of sharing that information naturally within the adventure.
3) Clear goals, which are more or less achievable (by sword, spell, or wits) by the character level range indicated by the adventure.
4) A unified theme building up to a satisfying climactic resolution
5) Consistency and logical story/world building.
6) A compelling villain, antagonist ("conflict" to use a literary term)

Of course you need maps, enemies, encounters, treasures, traps, etc. But without the things I mentioned above, you have an adventure site, not a campaign. There are additional items I prefer to see in my adventures, but I think without the above, you're not going to have a successful campaign without adding lots of additional work.

That's a good list. Especially #2. Some of the WotC hardcover adventures have amazing story/plot/background information - that the PCs have absolutely no way of discovering/knowing naturally within the adventure as written. It's a complaint that I've heard from several DMs.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Many of my disagreements on this board stem from my expectations of adventures, specifically Adventure Paths and campaign adventures like we've seen from Paizo and Wizards of the Coast, respectively. If you want to read my negative commentary, take a look at my Post-Mortem threads.
D&D 5E - Rime of the Frostmaiden Post-Mortem (Spoilers)

Here's what I think a published campaign adventure should have:
1) Motivation for the characters (and their players) to go on the adventure.
2) A story/plot/background that the GM can convey to the players - and the logical means of sharing that information naturally within the adventure.
3) Clear goals, which are more or less achievable (by sword, spell, or wits) by the character level range indicated by the adventure.
4) A unified theme building up to a satisfying climactic resolution
5) Consistency and logical story/world building.
6) A compelling villain, antagonist ("conflict" to use a literary term)

Of course you need maps, enemies, encounters, treasures, traps, etc. But without the things I mentioned above, you have an adventure site, not a campaign. There are additional items I prefer to see in my adventures, but I think without the above, you're not going to have a successful campaign without adding lots of additional work.
That's all I want from a published adventure: an adventure site. From an AP book a la the WotC hardcovers, I want a series of adventure sites; I'll connect them together myself.

All of what's in points 1, 2, and 3 above is stuff that I (or the players) will be providing in whatever context the adventure (or AP) is set, so I don't need any of that in the book.

Point 5 is absolutely vital.

What I really would like to see more of in published adventures is at least some consideration for obvious "what if"s. Far too many adventure writers make the mistake of assuming the PCs will do or not do certain things, go in certain directions, and so forth; and when the players/PCs do something different the DM is left with no choice but to wing it - which would be fine except whatever she dreams up has to be consistent with the written module, and this can be damn hard to pull off.

A made-up example might be an adventure where the party is supposed to explore a castle. The author assumes the party will find a way in on the ground floor - the front door, a window, a postern door, whatever - and writes accordingly; never once considering that even the lowest-level of parties probably have some means of accessing the roof and going in that way. (even worse; though the module might mention guards on the roof as the PCs approach there's no means of interior access shown on the map, thus when the PCs get up there and start looking for a way inside - those guards got up here somehow! - the DM is hung out to twist)

A very common result of this type of thinking is boxed text that assumes (without saying so) the party will come in to a room or area through a particular entrance even though there are two other doors and a window they could come through via outside-the-box thinking and-or navigation. Any time you see descriptive boxed text referring to "left", "right", "ahead", and-or "behind" rather than compass directions you'll know you've hit one of these.

Another obvious what-if that's all too commonly overlooked is "what if the PCs fail?", either at a key moment within the adventure or at the overall mission. What happens next?

In some cases it's fairly obvious: failure to beat the Giants means the Giants just go on with their lives and maybe have some tasty tasty characters for the cookpot tonight.

But in some cases it's not, and for this one I have a poster-child example: H1 Keep on the Shadowfell. In that one the whole thing revolves around the final encounter, which is a typical-for-4e-D&D big set-piece battle* with lots of moving parts; yet there's no guidance given as to what happens should the PCs interact with some of those moving parts (e.g. what if, like some of my players' PCs, they attack the thing being summoned instead of those doing the summoning? or, is there any way they can shut it down via stealth rather than combat?), nor to what happens should the PCs lose that battle (very relevant should some of them survive and be able to retreat). I've run many a canned module and none has left me pulling my hair out the way the end of that one did. :)

* - big set-piece battle scenes are IME and IMO a real strong point of 4e's adventure modules.
 

#2 is the kicker for me. In way too many PF1 APs so much the PCs will never know. PLUS.
An adventure should be crammed with stuff for the PCs to do, way too much stuff in PF APs and some of the WOTC the PCs never get to play with
 

The biggest thing I want is a synopsis of the scenario, with all hooks and major players, right up at the front. I won't wade through the entire product to find out what is going on.

The second thing is good maps.

Thirdly, I could do without the stat blocks. That data is available for free via Google, so stop wasting pages and cluttering up the product.

Fourthly, quite suggesting courses of actions for the PCs. Players are generally twisted individuals and will come up with strange and convoluted plans (or just barge in and kill everyone), so again, quit puffing up the word count.

All I need are maps, location descriptions, a crisp summary of the major players & their goals, intentions, and resources, and a concise summary of the plot a the front. I'll do the rest, and odds are good I'll change a lot of things, anyway.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The biggest thing I want is a synopsis of the scenario, with all hooks and major players, right up at the front. I won't wade through the entire product to find out what is going on.

The second thing is good maps.

Thirdly, I could do without the stat blocks. That data is available for free via Google, so stop wasting pages and cluttering up the product.

Fourthly, quite suggesting courses of actions for the PCs. Players are generally twisted individuals and will come up with strange and convoluted plans (or just barge in and kill everyone), so again, quit puffing up the word count.

All I need are maps, location descriptions, a crisp summary of the major players & their goals, intentions, and resources, and a concise summary of the plot a the front. I'll do the rest, and odds are good I'll change a lot of things, anyway.
I agree with all of this except the bolded; I don't keep a computer behind my DM screen thus I want all that material on the paper in front of me - even more so if there's anything non-standard about the stat block or the creature.
 

kenada

Legend
What Do You Expect of Published Adventures?
My expectations are low for most published adventures, assuming something put out by WotC or Paizo (or similar from other publishers). I expect them to try to tell a story, be hard to use at the table, and need a lot of work from the GM to make functional.

Here's what I think a published campaign adventure should have:
1) Motivation for the characters (and their players) to go on the adventure.
2) A story/plot/background that the GM can convey to the players - and the logical means of sharing that information naturally within the adventure.
3) Clear goals, which are more or less achievable (by sword, spell, or wits) by the character level range indicated by the adventure.
4) A unified theme building up to a satisfying climactic resolution
5) Consistency and logical story/world building.
6) A compelling villain, antagonist ("conflict" to use a literary term)

Of course you need maps, enemies, encounters, treasures, traps, etc. But without the things I mentioned above, you have an adventure site, not a campaign. There are additional items I prefer to see in my adventures, but I think without the above, you're not going to have a successful campaign without adding lots of additional work.
I just want an adventure site. When you have an effectively structured adventure that doesn’t prescribe an outcome, it’s basically serving as a stakes question you can only answer by playing it. That’s something I’ve really enjoyed about Necrotic Gnome’s adventures. The fact that two groups can have very different experiences is pretty cool.
 
Last edited:

payn

Legend
It used to be maps, monsters, NPCs, and treasure. That is only the baseline now. I want a nice detailed adventure synopsis that gives me an outline overview. I want one or more communities fleshed out with details on people, places, and things. I want little story bits to drop throughout as the adventure unfolds. I want detailed monster stat blocs, personality, and reason for being where they are.

Out of an adventure path, I want all of the above in each chapter. I also want a nice detailed players guide. This can not be overlooked enough. A good player's guide provides adventure background, character ideas, and buy in for the path.
 

Argyle King

Legend
One of my expectations is using "normal" parts of a book to help organize things.

A functional table of contents, index, and glossary can go a long way toward making a product more user friendly. I've seen a growing number of products (even some from WoTC) which struggle with some of those basic book-structure properties.
 

I agree with all of this except the bolded; I don't keep a computer behind my DM screen thus I want all that material on the paper in front of me - even more so if there's anything non-standard about the stat block or the creature.
I get it. I use a PC and iPad instead of a screen, so I don't want my pdfs crowded with redundant information.
 

aco175

Legend
Thirdly, I could do without the stat blocks. That data is available for free via Google, so stop wasting pages and cluttering up the product.
I like to have the statblocks like what 4e did. I find that I'm wasting my time cutting/pasting and listing the monsters in a guide. Then I have to print them out or tab the books and use side sheets. I would rather print more pages up front and have the stats included.
 

I like to have the statblocks like what 4e did. I find that I'm wasting my time cutting/pasting and listing the monsters in a guide. Then I have to print them out or tab the books and use side sheets. I would rather print more pages up front and have the stats included.
I don't print anything, and since I use Roll20 or a VTT, pogs are already stat'd.
 

Retreater

Legend
I don't print anything, and since I use Roll20 or a VTT, pogs are already stat'd.
That's a great point. For me, all the running in the past 2 years has been on VTT. And due to the ease of finding games online and the difficulty of meeting in person (not even during a pandemic), I've ended up getting in significantly more gaming time than I've done in past years. Even after the pandemic ends, the best I can hope for is one (or two) in-person games a month.
So for me the adventures best formatted for VTT are going to beat out lovely artisan layout in a print book from a usability perspective. I wonder if publishers will ever really take advantage of that technology? Like linking up NPCs so a GM can easily see that character's role in future AP chapters, allowing a GM to see how history and adventure are connected together, etc.
Basically every adventure I've seen, you're lucky to even get text descriptions in pop-up windows.
 

Retreater

Legend
For those of you who say "all I want are adventure sites," is that for Adventure Paths and campaign modules that cover levels 1-12 (or 20)? Like, you're really ok with 300-400 page books with no plot, story - just mostly unconnected encounters?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
For those of you who say "all I want are adventure sites," is that for Adventure Paths and campaign modules that cover levels 1-12 (or 20)? Like, you're really ok with 300-400 page books with no plot, story - just mostly unconnected encounters?
This exact rationale is why I bought Princes of the Apocalypse. When I looked through it I didn't see an AP. What I saw was 15 or so useful-size standalone adventures, covering a nice wide range of levels, that I could extract and with minimal tweaking drop in wherever I wanted. Looked at that way it worked out to less than $5 Canadian per adventure; and I'll take that all day long.

And that's what I want - a bunch of adventures that can stand on their own. Let me worry about stringing them together (or not) and fitting them in with whatever else is going on; any game/campaign/setting I run is always going to be much bigger than a single AP.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top