D&D General Your Top Tip(s) for Prepping a Published Adventure

R_J_K75

Legend
I'm not particularly a fan of this if it caters to the players too much since I prefer the "PCs aren't the only important entities in the world and stuff happens unless they specifically interfere' style of campaign.

I will, however, modify flavor, challenge level, etc.

Me neither. I usually don't cater to my players or their characters and classes individually or as a group. What I do is design fair adventures and encounters. I'll always make sure there is either a way to succeed or escape and give them all the information they need to make an educated decision. Most of the time they don't and end up doing something stupid. The very few times Ive designed encounters for a particular character it seemed artificial and contrived to the point of being unrewarding to both myself as the DM and to the player as well.
 

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I'm not particularly a fan of this if it caters to the players too much since I prefer the "PCs aren't the only important entities in the world and stuff happens unless they specifically interfere' style of campaign.

I will, however, modify flavor, challenge level, etc.

Yeah, I try to inject plenty of that into the world too. Indeed, until higher levels, the PCs aren't particularly important at all. I have found, however, that it's fairly easy to insert good challenges that don't make it feel like you're just creating set pieces for each character. The Saltmarsh mansion, for example, is three stories tall. Why not have something come out of the attic to attack the group from above while they are outside? This provides a realistic encounter that also happens to provide some fun opportunities for an aerial character. Similarly, with the mermaid. Indeed, the players thought that the water encounter I inserted must have been intended by the authors of the adventure to be much more difficult because how many groups have an amphibious character? (I nodded in wry agreement, of course.)

Over the years, my priorities have also shifted somewhat. For a long time, my top priority (almost my only priority) was to develop a rich world in which the PCs could immerse themselves. Adventures were designed solely with the realities of the world in mind. The PCs were entirely irrelevant. I still have respect for that style. (Looking back, though, I do think that sometimes I was kidding myself that I wasn't thinking about the PCs... otherwise, TPKs would have been much more common.)

Now, with each hour of gaming more precious than in the past, my top focus is that the players have a blast at every session. This is not to say, of course, that a player's fun depends solely on doing things that their characters are good at. Another excellent class of challenge is something that falls outside of the party's skillset.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
I make title sheet and notes and print them out. Here are my notes for 09-03
Hungry Shadows
DDAL09-03
LEVEL 3 TIER 1
Party Composition Party Strength 3-4 characters, APL less than Very weak
3-4 characters, APL equivalent Weak, 3-4 characters, APL greater than Average
5 characters, APL less than Weak, 5 characters, APL equivalent Average
5 characters, APL greater than Strong, 6-7 characters, APL less than Average
6-7 characters, APL equivalent Strong, 6-7 characters, APL greater than Very strong
Magic Item Gloves of Thievery, Scroll of Protection from Fiends,
End of sheet one
Part 1 Murder under Lock and Key
Flame Daryn Falburn Veteran AC 17 HP 58 MM 350
Guard AC 16 HP 11 XP 25 MM 347
Manip Benn Hithlin Knight AC 18 HP 52 XP 700 MM 347
Bonus Objective A. Treachery page 13
Manip Benn Hithlin Knight AC 18 HP 52 XP 700 MM 347
Lovet Utich Cult Fanatic AC 13 HP 33 XP 450 MM 345
Part 2 Zariel’s Temple
Cultist AC 12 HP 9 XP 25 MM 345
Hell Hound AC 15 HP 45 XP 700 MM 182
Imp AC 13 HP 10 XP 200 MM 76
Bonus Objective B. Devilry
Commoner AC 10 HP 4 XP 10 MM 345
Cultist AC 12 HP 9 XP 25 MM 345
Spined Devil AC 13 HP 22 XP 450 MM 78
End of encounter note
DDAL09-03 BOX TEXT I created and what page to use it.
Page 3 Flame Daryn Falburn to pcs “ Two jobs for you lot. Follow Manip Benn Hithlin. Don’t get spotted. Hithlin maybe disloyal and passing information to the cult of Zariel. Don’t rumble with his buddies. They are other Flame members but wear a black handkerchief as symbol of loyalty to Hithlin. Next go to the house of Sands Korek in Bloomridge district of the Lower City. Initial investigations revealed no signs of entry or exit by whoever perpetrated the killing. Wait for Manip Tradran Foremantle”.
Page 4 Foremantle to fists at front door. “ You two are relieved. I don’t care if you are in Hithlin’s hip pocket. I out rank you. These new fists and I will check out the murder scene. Take the bozo at the back door with you. Black handkerchiefs as secret symbol. Oh please. Now move out.”
Page 5. Foremantle to pc “we have not identified the necro drop. Um I mean body. Have to wait to tomorrow for our cleric on call to recover speak with dead. But the body was on the second floor. But check each room for clues. And remember, if any loot drops in your pocket, I did not see it.”
Wrap Up. Flame Daryn Falburn “Good news. We found a small warehouse were your refugee buds can stay. It is on Stormshore Street. Also we finally have a connection for the murders. They are all descendants of the hell riders who rolled into hell with Zariel.“
Also if I doing a con and I am space limited on packing. I leave my map boards at home and predraw out the maps on 1 inch graph paper.
 

3catcircus

Adventurer
Me neither. I usually don't cater to my players or their characters and classes individually or as a group. What I do is design fair adventures and encounters. I'll always make sure there is either a way to succeed or escape and give them all the information they need to make an educated decision. Most of the time they don't and end up doing something stupid. The very few times Ive designed encounters for a particular character it seemed artificial and contrived to the point of being unrewarding to both myself as the DM and to the player as well.

Sometimes though binary success or escape shouldn't be the only options available. DMs need to prep for PC failure (unless that is actually the intended outcome to advance the plot) and how to recover from it, as well as additional outcomes of varying degrees of success.

Perhaps the PCs failed to steal the McGuffin because the rogue did something exceptionally stupid and got thrown in jail the night before the heist due to public drunkenness (the player rolls a 1), but the other PCs, in the bid to free the rogue from jail, do something to reveal a plot point in one of the other plots you've got going (or created a brand new plot you didn't realize existed).

Those types of on the fly things can be prepped by having a large list of NPCs available. One of the best things I've ever seen has been (in either the Lankhmar, City System, or City of Greyhawk boxed sets) a random encounter table specifically for each make section of the city. So easy to generate plot hooks, NPCs, etc.
 


R_J_K75

Legend
DMs need to prep for PC failure...

I never prepare an encounter with the intention of the PCs failing. Even the encounters I prep are usually ran ad libbed as a give and take between DM and players. Im fine with the PCs failing an encounter and adjust accordingly. I always keep some random tables handy and never create an encounter expecting a certain outcome.
 

R_J_K75

Legend
DOH no one mentioned it. USING VARIOUS COLOR HIGHLIGHTERS on text.

I did this once with a map of Arabel. It was a disaster as I spent more time trying to decipher at the table what I was thinking 3 days ago when I was highlighting. Never again. I remember taking a class and the first thing the instructor brought up was how to properly highlight a passage. I once bought a used college book only to open it up after the fact to find that the original owner had highlighted literally the entire book, id imagine they failed the course.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
I would say read it and then come up with your own take on the adventure. The hardest issue I've had with running a published adventure is trying to sell the motivations for the NPCs. I often find their official motivations to be either weak, contrary or non-existent. Much better to take ownership of the story and bring your own sense of what's really going on. The dungeons etc generally work as written (though I often need to change things that seem to make little to no sense) but getting a firm grip on the NPCs and why they're doing what they're doing is key IMHO.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Levels of success is something I use pretty regularly. Even just adding success with consequences can help. I use a lot of multiple success skill challenges though, so it's a nice fit. You missed by one? OK, you managed it, but player X is going have the DC for his part raised by X, that sort of thing.
 


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