What Do You Expect of Published Adventures?

Parmandur

Book-Friend
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.
That's the normal style for WotC the past few years.
 

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kenada

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?
I don’t know. Having a campaign-length plot spelled out would clash with the type of campaign I tend to run anymore. What I should like to see is a fleshed out world and a bunch of NPCs and factions and tools for making them do interesting things to provide fodder for creating new stories.
 



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?

I missed this previously.

But....yes. I mean, sure, I'd also be happy to consider some plot arcs that weave the adventure sites together, but I can also improvise that part. All I really want is some minimal-prep components from which I can pick out the ones that work for me. That also gives me some sandbox-like flexibility. If I've got a plot outlined in my mind, and the players come up with some hypothesis that's not at all what I'm thinking of, and they are convinced they need to go investigate the cave complex/wizard's tower/sewers/suspicious ship/etc., I'm perfectly happy to pivot and run with that idea. But, man, would I love to have that adventure site prepared, so that all I have to do is insert my NPC or document or McGuffin or whatever.

Again, the key thing for me is that I don't want to have to read long paragraphs of flowery prose to grok it. I want maps and bullet-point notes (key features, occupants, their personalities and goals, treasure), organized in a consistent way, that let me adopt and adapt the content with minimal prep.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
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?
I mean, yeah? More raw material is more better. A loose connective tissue thst can be used kr tossed is nice, but the raw material is important. It's like a cookbook, not a novel.
 

My expectations have been ground low. I'd just like...

1) Underlings that aren't mindlessly devoted cultists. Sure, they can be cultists, but give them some logic and motivations that make sense (to them at least) and a blurb or two on ways to deal with them besides killing them.

2) A story that's not about the coming of an ancient evil that will devour or enslave the land.

3) NPC placeholders, where the text suggests you should try to use NPCs from the PC's backstories to fill major roles, and ways to set this up from the start of the campaign.

4) A spooky graveyard filled with something other than undead.

5) Dungeon text that outlines what happens when the PCs are loud and multiple areas are alerted to their presence.

6) Multiple scenarios where opponents flee when combat isn't going their way, and the chase/pursue mechanics to make it exciting.

7) A treatise on the difference between interrogation and torture as a means to extract plot-furthering info from NPCs, and how to handle these complicated scenes without the table descending into finger-pointing chaos. I'm kidding with this last point. Kind of.
 

delericho

Legend
It depends.

If it's a "campaign in a box", like the many Pathfinder Adventure Paths or WotC's recent hardcovers, I expect to be able to run it as-is as the basis of a full campaign with little or no modification. I have no interest in stripping it for parts to use elsewhere - it's either my next campaign or it's useless to me.

If it's a shorter adventure (what used to be called a module), then I want something that I can drop into my existing campaign. In this case it does need to be something I can easily modify and mutilate... and I'm happy to do that work. They key is that it needs to be interesting enough to justify that effort.

1st level adventures are a slight exception there, as those are going to the start of a new campaign. As such, I'm more likely to use them as that (without modification) and then build from there. So they're a bit closer to the "campaign in a box" in that they don't need to fit my existing world, but they do need to mostly work as-is.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
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 agree that's what all adventures do require. It's how I create and publish adventures. Truthfully, I've purchased adventures only back in AD&D 1e days, sometime back then I started to homebrew. I did purchase a couple campaign setting boxed editions, but more for inspiration than actual use. So if there are published adventures that don't qualify according to your list above - I've never seen an adventure that didn't qualify. Not that they didn't exist, but as stated, I stopped buying adventures in the mid 1980's, and have never purchased an adventure since. I have published about 10 adventures between PF 1.0 and Starfinder, and double that amount in supplements and guidebooks. All 10 of the modules fit under your parameters. So you must be complaining about stuff I've never purchased, so I'm in the dark about all this.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
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.

The adventure should provide a reason for the motivation, but that doesn't guarantee each character's specific motivation may apply. However, through the adventure they are made aware of the need. The players will do what they want, but they aren't left in the dark as to why the quest needs to be done. That's all that's saying.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
In the second module of the Curse of the Golden Spear trilogy, Dim Spirit for the Kaidan setting of Japanese Horror (PFRPG), even though the adventure is laid out as a railroad, it's an accommodating rail road, meaning many of the encounters aren't tied to specific locations on the map, and if circumstances change (characters decide to go left instead right), elements follow the PCs, and the adventure continues unabated, no matter which direction the PCs actually go. At the end of the module the PCs end up at the right place. It's a railroad that doesn't feel like a railroad. And, the rest of the module and encounters in the third module depend on how the characters react to a village they enounter in the second module. There is a village that is being threatened with an attack by local ruffians. If the PCs stay and help the village - they will receive positive encounters in the rest and next module because of that. If they avoid the combat, it also has ramifications on future encounters.
 
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Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
Adventures need to be written for players and organized for dungeon masters.

As a player, I don't want an adventure telling me a story where my character is more of a casual observer along for the ride than an active participant. Don't make the DM read me pages of backstory and setup then ask me what I want to do next. And I don't want to meet a cast of dozens more interesting and complex than the entire party.

As a DM, organize the adventure so I can run it with the least amount of flipping pages and reading ahead. Summarize it up front so I know what to expect, and tell me how the book is organized so I know where to look when I need something fast. Give me a toolbox, not a script. You don't know my players or my characters, so just give me some ideas and suggestions. But leave the rest to me with the tools needed in one place.

And if you're going to have nice maps for combat encounters, how about making them available for my table and minis, too! I will pay extra for accessories like battle maps and pawns/minis for my favorite adventures. I feel like I'm still owed for some of the later 3.5 edition mods when they introduced more tactical encounters with maps, and most if not all of 4e. The tiles don't count. They slid around too much and didn't connect.
 


gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
I honestly don't understand what this is so important, or even why some adventures bother to include it. In adventures that do include it, I never pay attention to that section.
I'm not saying it's important, rather it gives the DM and the party some direction from the get go - a motivation. They don't have to act on it, but I'd think someone purchasing the module might ask, why I didn't include a motivation, had I not. So I put them in. Does that make it important? I don't know, adventures (to me) feel absent without one...
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
For example, I wrote a one-shot for my Kaidan setting of Japanese Horror (PFRPG), called Haiku of Horror: Autumn Moon Bath House, which, of course featured a traditional Japanese bath house. The only initial motivation is that a Japanese bath house is not just a bath house, but a restaurant/tavern and an inn - a nice place to stop on your journey. But then the place is haunted, so the party will encounter the ghost. In my DMing experience most adventure parties who encounter a ghost, destroy it, and move on, never taking the time to lay the ghost to rest. In this module, the party doesn't get a choice. The ghost comes with a curse tied it, those who encounter her make a -10 save vs. the curse. Those who fail, become the anchor for the ghost whenever it rejuvenates. So after destroying her, they go, and in 1-4 days she's going to rejuvenate and the party will meet her, again and again, until they lay her to rest - then the party has to solve a murder mystery. It's inspired by The Grudge, and the associated curse is called the Ju-on curse (which is Japanese for grudge, and the original Japanese name for the movie). Because unlike European ghosts who are trapped at one location, site of the murder, home they lived in life, but the Grudge ghost visits you across the city because it's you she's haunting, not the bath house. It's supposed to be Japanese horror. The motivation is built in.
 
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So I looked over Princes of the Apocalypse yesterday, and while the maps were good, and they segregated the stat blocks to a separate chapter, their scenario summary at the start was lacking; if I hadn't found a 'how-to- on a blog, I would have dumped it right there.
 

dragoner

solisrpg.com
I had someone ask about Solis People of the Sun what do characters do? I answered to the best of my ability, giving a lot of different ideas, indeed the setting book contains a lot of adventure leads, though I almost wanted to ask them, what do characters do? Not playing a system where one level/xp grinds, I think things are different.
 

Irlo

Adventurer
So I looked over Princes of the Apocalypse yesterday, and while the maps were good, and they segregated the stat blocks to a separate chapter, their scenario summary at the start was lacking; if I hadn't found a 'how-to- on a blog, I would have dumped it right there.
Ugh, absolutely. If I hadn't played part of the PoA with a DM who made the first chapters really come to life, I never would have run it for my own group based on what I saw of the book. What that adventure book really needs is a bullet-pointed campaign overview, maybe a flow chart, individual scenario summaries at the start of each "dungeon," and better groundwork and options for bringing relevance to the cult leaders.
 


Greggy C

Adventurer
Supporter
Here's what I think a published campaign adventure should have:
1) Motivation for the characters (and their players) to go on the adventure.
I always thought this was an amusing change with modern D&D. Back on 1e/2e I never once had to "convince the players" to go on an adventure. They went on an adventure because that is what we got together to do. If their characters don't want to go on adventure, then the evenings entertainment is over lol.
 

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