D&D (2024) WoTc and TSR... what is D&D

Yora

Legend
Yeah adventures about getting to a location can run into some issues. First, players can get access to abilities to trivialize overland travel. This is nothing new, it's been this way for a very long time, and yet many classic adventures from earlier versions of the game act like this isn't the case and the journey should be difficult.

And then there's the other extreme- the players run into a roadblock and never reach the location in the first place...
Which I believe to be a major factor of why anecdotaly so many groups decide to start a new campaign by the time they reach 10th or 12th level.
 

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Aldarc

Legend
While it does not translate directly to D&D, think of a game like Ocarina of Time. You don't go directly from dungeon to dungeon, but instead each dungeon needs you to do a number of things before entering (or before you have a chance to deal with that dungeon's challenges). Before going into the Shadow Temple, go to Kakariko Village, and learn that an evil spirit trapped beneath the village has broken free and infested the Temple. In order to enter the temple you need to have the Eye of Truth, in order to deal with all the illusions in there, and getting the Eye of Truth is a mini-dungeon of its own. That's the kind of thing I want, but adapted to D&D.
This sort of game design is sometimes referred to as Metroidvania, a portmanteu of the two games that exemplify it: i.e., Metroid and Castlevania. These are games that block exploration of areas, even as part of early play, but these areas can be returned to and accessed once the player has acquired power-ups, items, or other things. I have mentioned this game design philosophy in one thread that talked about what TTRPGs could learn from video games.
 

Staffan

Legend
This sort of game design is sometimes referred to as Metroidvania, a portmanteu of the two games that exemplify it: i.e., Metroid and Castlevania. These are games that block exploration of areas, even as part of early play, but these areas can be returned to and accessed once the player has acquired power-ups, items, or other things. I have mentioned this game design philosophy in one thread that talked about what TTRPGs could learn from video games.
I think using power-ups to reveal new areas of exploration in D&D is probably something best used sparingly. A video game usually has more limited options for what the player can do, so it's easy to make something off limits until you get e.g. the jump boots. But in D&D, someone will say "but I have the jump spell we can use", or ask if maybe they can climb up, or go get an effin' ladder or something. So if you want to make things off limits until later, you probably need to use some form of direct plot token ("The door will only open in the presence of the Crown of Majesty").
 

I think using power-ups to reveal new areas of exploration in D&D is probably something best used sparingly.
I have a player that hates when we do it...

1 DM had a magic wall that we couldn't pass but could see through (wall of force) and see a door on the other side. We went 2 or 3 levels before a PC could disintegrate it and some of us wanted to go back and he FLIPPED not wanting to back track.

Even worse was the game I used magic paintings that were moments in time frozen. they saw them in places as early as game 2 level 3, but around level 7 (game 18ish) a PC got a bracelet that gave them access to go into them... and the first one they went into they found not only that they could learn lore, but remove treasure from that time (and of course get XP) but there was a second copy of the painting elsewhere in the world and once they did the right thing they could travel from one to the other... now they had to decide if they wanted to go back to that first dungeon with 2 paintings (and I had them also unlocking OTHER dungeons) it drove the player nuts... but that wasn't the worst of it. One of the 1st paintings had a second bracelet in it that instead of giving access to the paintings gave access to a completely different mechanic where they could travel into and out of the shadowfell to avoid some obstacles... and that ALSO meant they could go back to other places... and the OTHER of those 2 paintings had a guy stuck in it that could teach them to do a special boon... I thought that player was going to have a nervus break down.

basically they spent 4 levels exploring and finding the paintings, then 2 levels back tracking to enter them, learning new things and getting new items that then had them rego through finding more things...
A video game usually has more limited options for what the player can do, so it's easy to make something off limits until you get e.g. the jump boots. But in D&D, someone will say "but I have the jump spell we can use", or ask if maybe they can climb up, or go get an effin' ladder or something. So if you want to make things off limits until later, you probably need to use some form of direct plot token ("The door will only open in the presence of the Crown of Majesty").
yup... we have also TPKed from opening doors the DM assumed we couldn't open but we had some cool swiss army win button spell that did...
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
I have a player that hates when we do it...

1 DM had a magic wall that we couldn't pass but could see through (wall of force) and see a door on the other side. We went 2 or 3 levels before a PC could disintegrate it and some of us wanted to go back and he FLIPPED not wanting to back track.

Even worse was the game I used magic paintings that were moments in time frozen. they saw them in places as early as game 2 level 3, but around level 7 (game 18ish) a PC got a bracelet that gave them access to go into them... and the first one they went into they found not only that they could learn lore, but remove treasure from that time (and of course get XP) but there was a second copy of the painting elsewhere in the world and once they did the right thing they could travel from one to the other... now they had to decide if they wanted to go back to that first dungeon with 2 paintings (and I had them also unlocking OTHER dungeons) it drove the player nuts... but that wasn't the worst of it. One of the 1st paintings had a second bracelet in it that instead of giving access to the paintings gave access to a completely different mechanic where they could travel into and out of the shadowfell to avoid some obstacles... and that ALSO meant they could go back to other places... and the OTHER of those 2 paintings had a guy stuck in it that could teach them to do a special boon... I thought that player was going to have a nervus break down.

basically they spent 4 levels exploring and finding the paintings, then 2 levels back tracking to enter them, learning new things and getting new items that then had them rego through finding more things...

yup... we have also TPKed from opening doors the DM assumed we couldn't open but we had some cool swiss army win button spell that did...
Something like that happened in Sunless Citadel when I ran it- there's a door that has a very high DC to open, but you can get a key later. Sure enough, my party forces it open, and gets into a fight they were not prepared for at level 1.

We lost the Monk before they were able to retreat.

As for not wanting to backtrack, I don't understand that mentality at all- is it just that they don't like not being able to "solve" things as they approach them?

I once ran a campaign where they found a summoning portal, but you needed special keys to use it. Each key conjured a specific thing, and all but a few special keys were one-use. So the Sword Key conjured a magic sword that the person who activated the portal could use, etc..

At one point, a player had to leave the game, but they remembered they found a Priest Key, which conjured a living Cleric to the present from the distant past, who agreed to aid the party!
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
That just means you need to have other fun stuff for the "journey". You might need to prepare certain things to get to the dungeon, even learn its exact location, negotiate with locals to gain access, or maybe even have a changed focus for the adventure to "help locals do a thing" with the dungeon just being part of the whole.

While it does not translate directly to D&D, think of a game like Ocarina of Time. You don't go directly from dungeon to dungeon, but instead each dungeon needs you to do a number of things before entering (or before you have a chance to deal with that dungeon's challenges). Before going into the Shadow Temple, go to Kakariko Village, and learn that an evil spirit trapped beneath the village has broken free and infested the Temple. In order to enter the temple you need to have the Eye of Truth, in order to deal with all the illusions in there, and getting the Eye of Truth is a mini-dungeon of its own. That's the kind of thing I want, but adapted to D&D.

That's why one of my favorite D&D adventures is Dragon's Crown. It's a really big adventure, and it takes you from Tyr, to Urik, to the Sea of Silt, then back across the whole setting to the Ringing Mountains, the Forest Ridge, crossing the Hinterlands, and eventually breaching the Dragon's Crown fortress. There are certainly dungeons, but there's also raider tribes, negotiating with a sorcerer-king, a weird gladiatorial game that's a cross between a battle and a football game, travel across the Sea of Silt, multiple instances of discovering ancient history, negotiating with man-eating halflings, handling thri-kreen driven mad by the adventure MacGuffin (and encountering a distant traveler possibly setting things up for later), and exploring a forest full of flesh-eating plants. In addition, there are a number of side treks you can throw in along the way. Now, that's significantly more than a 32-page adventure, but you could easily do the same thing on a smaller scale.
Follow-the-breadcrumbs adventures or adventure paths can be fine - I've both played in and DMed some that worked out really well - but there's two very big risks:

1 - the whole thing becomes a not-so-subtle railroad where the players/PCs have (or feel they have) little choice but to be led by the nose from one crumb to the next until the adventure or path is done; or

2 - the players, either in or out of character, get fed up and say "Screw it - we're not jumping through all these hoops any more. Let's just go bash some Giants instead!" and left-turn out of the adventure sequence.

There's a linked pair of old-school modules - C4 To Find A King and C5 Bane of Llywelyn - that are designed this way: the two modules together consist of something like eight mini-adventures (four per module) that pretty much have to be done in sequence to finish the quest. I made the mistake of running this once as part of a bigger campaign, and by about the fifth or sixth mini-adventure both I and my players were fed up with all the hoop-jumping and couldn't wait for it to end. In character, though - and high praise to the players here for staying in character and doing what the characters would do - they felt that by that point they were committed to the mission and had to see it through; so we all just sucked it up and plowed through the rest of it.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Tales from the Outer Planes is the one adventure I literally had a party ragequit out of. Basically, the whole thing is one long "chain of deals" as you go from one extraplanar entity to another- some of whom are notorious for being massive trolls (and not the regenerating kind!).
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
Follow-the-breadcrumbs adventures or adventure paths can be fine - I've both played in and DMed some that worked out really well - but there's two very big risks:

1 - the whole thing becomes a not-so-subtle railroad where the players/PCs have (or feel they have) little choice but to be led by the nose from one crumb to the next until the adventure or path is done; or

2 - the players, either in or out of character, get fed up and say "Screw it - we're not jumping through all these hoops any more. Let's just go bash some Giants instead!" and left-turn out of the adventure sequence.

There's a linked pair of old-school modules - C4 To Find A King and C5 Bane of Llywelyn - that are designed this way: the two modules together consist of something like eight mini-adventures (four per module) that pretty much have to be done in sequence to finish the quest. I made the mistake of running this once as part of a bigger campaign, and by about the fifth or sixth mini-adventure both I and my players were fed up with all the hoop-jumping and couldn't wait for it to end. In character, though - and high praise to the players here for staying in character and doing what the characters would do - they felt that by that point they were committed to the mission and had to see it through; so we all just sucked it up and plowed through the rest of it.
1 can be head off by having adventures where the clues are not sequential and the NPC take action as the PCs develop the story. The better adventure paths (Paizo ones, WOTC ones seem to be bad at this based on my admittedly limited experience) are usually built to support that. Experienced GMs should spot this a mile away and prevent it.

2 The players always have this freedom even in sandboxes. I find the trick is to get buy in on the type of adventure the players want to take. Keep the incentives coming to stay within the box. This isnt only a problem for adventure paths. I have been in too many sandboxes to count where the GM just isnt interesting as an adventure developer so players constantly take left turns looking for something that is interesting.

The GM has equal stake in making a game interesting as the adventure writing itself.
 

Staffan

Legend
Follow-the-breadcrumbs adventures or adventure paths can be fine - I've both played in and DMed some that worked out really well - but there's two very big risks:
Perhaps. But I'd rather risk that than have a module filled up with a 50-room dungeon and not much more. Heck, I find the 12, 11, 19, and 13-room dungeons from Legacy of the Lost God too big (or at least too encounter-filled).
 

JiffyPopTart

Bree-Yark
That's fair. But, it exists, and isn't outmoded the way that Pong or Atari 2600 games are. I mean, my kids dip their toes into the well of pain that is NES games, but even I couldn't pick up Atari games now.
Edit: Misread what you meant by "pick-up" so my reply doesn't address your point really, but I am addressing the physical availability side so I will leave my post.


You can walk into any big box store (Walgreens as an example) in the US and buy a retro classics console for an Atari, intellivision, NES, SNES, and Genesis that homs up to any modern TV and has 40-50 games. You can also purchase the Atari Classics disc for a modern Xbox for $10 with those same games.

Unless you are talking about some obscure consoles it's really a bad analogy because playing retro games in 2022 is not hard to accomplish.
 

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