D&D General What makes a good Adventure


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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
To each their own, but you've never had an adventure that you actually liked enough itself to use most of it as-is? They're out there, but if all you've come to expect out of a WotC adventure is a few good tidbits to take out of the whole thing... doesn't that suggest a very low standard for published material?

I use a lot of adventures just for inspirations or a few good ideas to rip out, or as a foundation or framework and build off of it- but there have been adventures that are very good and that I've wanted to use most of largely as-is.
I think there is an inverse proportion between length of an adventure and the odds of using it as-is. In other words... the shorter the adventure, the more likely someone can and will just run it as written. The longer the adventure is... the better the likelihood the players find moments to go "off-script" as it were and force the DM to have to invent stuff to fill in the gaps.

I personally, however, find those times to be some of the most enjoyable as a DM-- filling in story gaps that the AP does not have material to cover because of the directions the players go. When I ran Horde of the Dragon Queen for example, I ran it for two groups at the same time... one of which followed the breadcrumbs to go from Greenest to the Hatchery like the book had it to be... while the other group made some unexpected left turn (I think due to one of the PC's backstory) and the next session I had to find something new to throw in front of them. But that was fine by me... I had the week to rummage through my older D&D material and find a module I could use as their next stop rather than the Hatchery like the book had lined up. And I found that (and find that) to be a tremendous amount of fun. Same was true when I ran Lost Mines of Phandelver during the pandemic... through the machinations of the players and where their adventures drew them, I got to throw in old modules like Dungeonland and Return To The Tomb of Horrors in and around all the bits of the campaign that I otherwise never would have had a chance to run. But because running an AP as-is is not something I feel is a necessity... finding and then dropping in other material makes the whole story and game more fun.
 

Distracted DM

Distracted DM
Supporter
Again, I don’t DM - not my thing to give it a go. My DM does, I’m pretty sure, do what you suggest as he has most of the books but we never run them.
What's funny is that from a player perspective the whole experience is "the adventure." Most players aren't going to know what's added, altered, or run as-is from the in-book adventure.

I say MOST because, if you're lucky, you'll have some players that vibe so well with your style of GMing that they can actually tell what parts are your original creations, and what parts are from the adventure- those players in particular will appreciate your work even more so than the other players at the table. Those players will appreciate how much of yourself and your own creativity you've invested into the experience.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Plots, story hooks, and NPCs with needs and desires to do things are the most important parts of an adventure being good, as far as I am concerned. But this is because to me... the reason for playing any RPG is for the story. The entire story that the characters experience. So the more an adventure has story beats and has logical reasons for going from one story beat to another, or even story beats happening in the background that can hint at things going on in the world (should the players choose to take a look at them, but no big deal if they don't)... that all makes for more interesting events for the PCs to experience.

I can build combat encounters with my eyes closed, so I don't need 4E Dungeon Mag "modules" that are just a set of three pre-built combat encounters put into various locations (but with barely any connecting thread as to why they get there, or why they just walk from once fight to the next). But ask me to improvise a foreshadowing event that is going to pay off for the party after 20 further sessions down the line and have that foreshadow actually make sense? Not likely. But if I know going in that the story of the campaign will take the players to X location wherein person Y is being held captive and who might have the key to something important... I can hint at that 5 levels and 6 real-time months earlier so they keep that little nugget in the back of their mind.

I could never imagine myself being handed something like Curse of Strahd that only had the maps, the NPCs, and the locations where monsters were to fight, and then being told "Sandbox!" "Let the players wander around!" To me, that seems rather pointless. Having a book like that without having anything describing what those NPCs and monsters were doing, what was important to them, how they all connected to one another and the locations they are in, or events that occur to one group that would inspire other groups to get involved or show up or having impact on other events months later-- let alone the entire storyline of needing to protect Ireena while getting Madam Eva's prophecy in order to go off searching for all the MacGuffins needed to eventually take down Strahd? Take all of that out of the adventure? Yikes. So not useful as far as I'm concerned.

In other words... we take out all that story and turn it essentially into a setting book? No thank you. If I want a setting book, I'll buy a setting book. If I want an adventure, I'd like there to BE an adventure-- where there are things we should do that need doing, events occurring around us that color our reasons for doing things, and most importantly... DRAMA. I want drama! To me, that's the whole reason for playing. And an adventure or module that doesn't include drama (and no, "surviving being attacked" is not drama as far as I'm concerned) is not a worthwhile adventure in my book.
See, I basically do want a setting book. I'd choose a setting book with interesting locals and adventure hooks over an AP every single time. Let the players explore the world and make their own story, and their own drama, out of what they find and their interactions with each other and the rest of the setting.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
See, I basically do want a setting book. I'd choose a setting book with interesting locals and adventure hooks over an AP every single time. Let the players explore the world and make their own story, and their own drama, out of what they find and their interactions with each other and the rest of the setting.
That's cool. That's why they make setting books too. But if we have setting books, then we don't need adventures to also be setting books. Adventures can be adventures, and setting books can be setting books.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
That's cool. That's why they make setting books too. But if we have setting books, then we don't need adventures to also be setting books. Adventures can be adventures, and setting books can be setting books.
In that case I'd prefer the proportions went further away from massive adventures personally. They are demonstrably less useful to more people than a setting book or even just a book of locals and hooks would be. They're just easier to write.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
In that case I'd prefer the proportions went further away from massive adventures personally. They are demonstrably less useful to more people than a setting book or even just a book of locals and hooks would be. They're just easier to write.
It's a shame more players still have a "3rd Party Material is unplaytested and unbalanced!" mindset... because there are large numbers of small adventures available to buy off of DMs Guild for those that want them. But then they don't. And instead just sit on their hands fuming at WotC for not doing it often enough and complaining about the adventures they do do.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
It's a shame more players still have a "3rd Party Material is unplaytested and unbalanced!" mindset... because there are large numbers of small adventures available to buy off of DMs Guild for those that want them. But then they don't. And instead just sit on their hands fuming at WotC for not doing it often enough and complaining about the adventures they do do.
To be fair, I doubt there is a major Venn overlap between those two groups.
 

dave2008

Legend
It's a shame more players still have a "3rd Party Material is unplaytested and unbalanced!" mindset... because there are large numbers of small adventures available to buy off of DMs Guild for those that want them. But then they don't. And instead just sit on their hands fuming at WotC for not doing it often enough and complaining about the adventures they do do.
While I love the idea of the Guild, I will admit is very hard to determine what is good content and can be a bit overwhelming. I think the concept and function is great. It fills a need WotC isn't willing to explore; however, I do wish there was a more dedicated system of ranking or reviews to filter through all the material. It can be daunting.
 

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