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What makes a published D&D adventure useful?

Written by Expy - Published on August 12, 2007

Random thoughts

My car broke down today. The motor stopped while I was driving. It sucked. I also got whupped twice at Risk. I’ve had better days.

Published D&D adventure modules

Onto our topic of the day. If you’re like me you have bought or downloaded numerous pre-made Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules and you have used only a fraction of that material. Somehow most D&D adventures don’t fit my campaign or my players and I end up using maps, names and getting inspiration from published modules, but I never use a lot of the meat.

I’m convinced I’m not alone in this situation. So what makes published material great – or at least useful?

toh_cover_med.jpg
Do you even use pre-
made adventures?

6 characteristics that make published adventures useful

  • They’re generic. At least generic enough to be included in an ongoing campaign. If it’s not a common setting – and the best adventures might be the ones that are different that what we’re used to – then give me ideas about how I include it in an ongoing campaign.
  • They’re short. I want to keep my prep time to a minimum. I don’t know about you but I have a job, a girl, a blog, and a bunch of other things that I need to take care of before planning my next D&D game.
  • Lots of graphics. I want maps and also pictures of monsters, places, people that I can show to the players.
  • Explicit maps. I want to be able to figure out what a room, a cave, or any location is without reading a lot about it. Some of the finer details might have to be noted but the gloomy atmosphere and the useless facts about the place can be made up on the fly.
  • Existing monsters. I know what’s in the Monster Manual. I don’t want to be overloaded with information. I won’t read the document twice and I don’t want to be going through the module pages during the whole game.
  • Twists & Turns. I can come up with hack & slash myself.

I would like to see these features in RPG publishing

  • Subplot modules. These adventures would not be meant to be played as a stand-alone. They would be made-up of characters or organizations that have their own agendas and maybe a few scenes that would arise from these personal goals they have. My players are always confused by subplots because they can’t decide if it is important to their main quest. But why would the DM prepare that scene if it’s not important? I love to screw up with my players’ psychological health. (Random rambling: I once took a riddle-like situation straight from a book without modifying it. It was so uncharacteristic of me that my players spent 1 whole week to try to figure out the enigma – even though they had found a way to circumvent the obstacle)
  • Music supplements. Music adds so much to a game when it fits the mood. I find that instrumental music is the best but I don’t know anything about music. I need help. Wouldn’t it be neat to have CDs or MP3s that match certain sections of a adventure?
  • Video overview of the module. How hard would it be to film and edit a 5-10 minutes page-by-page overview of the module? The writer would be able to convey his vision of the adventure and the DM would save a lot of time.

I feel like the world of pre-made adventure modules is frozen it time. Let’s inject some fresh air in this industry! Let’s come up with ways to make published adventures easier to use, faster to read, more fun to play.

I need your feedback on this.

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Written by Expy

Meet Expy The Red Dragon

Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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 Comments

16 Responses to “What makes a published D&D adventure useful?”
  1. Rich G. says:

    Love the music idea!

    It’d be interesting to see some other people’s music suggestions or tips for what they play to set the mood.

    The Imperial March whenever the bad guy comes onto the scene would be a bit obvious probably but wouldn’t it be fun?

  2. niggle says:

    I really like the “overview of the writer” idea. Something I’ve been noticing about some of the new ebberon adventures I’ve been running is that there is not much in the way of side quest coverage, and the quests somewhat railroads the players. I guess I could just modify it, but it would be cool if they threw in some relevant side quests for flavor.

  3. Yax says:

    I think I’ll try the writer overview concept. I’ll prepare a sidequest module and do a page by page podcast.

    Stay tuned for more…

  4. Stûnibu says:

    music, wat a sweat thing :P
    i lisein 2 celtic music wen im making quests but not while playing… unless they goign to a feast or sumthing, then i put on sum fast irish dancing music :P

    video is a bit out there!!! we dont want DnD 2 turn out like WOW (not that i have a prob with it) but this a table top game not a video game!!!

  5. HuManBing says:

    The music idea is excellent. I use CDs from old PC video games to spice up the mood in the background. Also, if you like tailor made soundtracks, consider buying Goodman Games’ “Cage of Delirium” adventure. This is very much in the style of Gothic horror and it even comes with a CD of incidental music for you to play at various points.

    The Ravenloft 2nd ed. setting had a campaign boxed set called “A Light in the Belfry” that had a CD with music and sound effects. It was several dozen tracks long, making it hard to figure out which one exactly to hit when the PCs enter room X, but it was a decent idea.

    My CDs include: Blood (PC game), Undying (PC game – needs special software to unzip the sound files), Dead Can Dance (music), Interview with the Vampire (soundtrack), Gladiator (soundtrack) and others.

  6. Al says:

    The things I actually want, I don’t seem to get.

    If there’s a village, town, or some other site of particular interest, make a one page (both sides) summary of the statistics. Half page map, available services and skilled workers. Leadership, names of everyone significant, etc.

    After this scenario is over, I want to have something _concise_ to keep.

    Similar comments about unique monsters, spells, items, and NPCs. Don’t use ‘free flow’ columns for the stat blocks, etc. Use (any sort) of ‘card’ layout for that. With the picture on the back. A detailed history/background/motivation is excellent, but that’s ancillary information. I can dig up the full module if I have to.

    IOW: Combine nice player handouts with nice _GM_ handouts.

  7. Guver says:

    MAN! Adventures should be coming in CDs, with all you said. Playlists for Winamp (separated maybe in modules). Writer Overview, GREAT idea. Pictures, or at least, were to get the picturesfor this particular adventure.

  8. CzarAlex says:

    Music from Diablo (I and II) seem to work well for me. Friends and I play online using Teamspeak/Ventrilo and an RPG whiteboarding client called Gametable (http://www.gametable.galactanet.com). I haven’t found a nice way to play the music over those programs that doesn’t sound horrible though.

  9. Xaritos says:

    Try to create random music that fits a certain mood using pandora.com

    For example, have pandora.com create a radio station called “Battle” and see what music it generates.

  10. Glen says:

    I’ve been doing all the above except the video for the last 30 years of gaming, although I have not run much in the last 10. The music can be real fun and helpful. Usually playing the music as people get ready to play. Another fun thing can be having bits of art of images to set the mood and let people understand the ideas. When I was running a horror world I would go and take pictures of the homes or any place that they would be dealing with. During the fantasy world I would try to get images that are actually part of the world. Some times they images would actually be the inspiration for the days gaming. That happened with a gnarly old tree that was the center of an entire month of play all inspired by pictures of a tree that I found in the woods. A lot of interesting things can be inspired when you look to the outside world for inspiration and bring that into the game as a tangible item.

    I also used HO scale buildings and made my own out of matt board and other materials to match the scale of the figuers.

  11. Glen says:

    I’ve been doing all the above except the video for the last 30 years of gaming, although I have not run much in the last 10. The music can be real fun and helpful. Usually playing the music as people get ready to play. Another fun thing can be having bits of art of images to set the mood and let people understand the ideas. When I was running a horror world I would go and take pictures of the homes or any place that they would be dealing with. During the fantasy world I would try to get images that are actually part of the world. Some times they images would actually be the inspiration for the days gaming. That happened with a gnarly old tree that was the center of an entire month of play all inspired by pictures of a tree that I found in the woods. A lot of interesting things can be inspired when you look to the outside world for inspiration and bring that into the game as a tangible item.

    I also used HO scale buildings and made my own out of matt board and other materials to match the scale of the figures.

  12. Glen says:

    Sorry to get that up there twice.

  13. Brandon says:

    Personally, I use the LotR Trilogy soundtrack. There is music for every situation, and since it’s recongnizable, it’s easy for the players to gauge the overall mood of the environment.

  14. Varinth says:

    For music I’ve been using Wardruna and Heilung, works well for a lot of my personal campaigns, but i tend to set them in vikingish lands, so it fits. If you can find vocal-less versions, the instrumentals alone should fit with most.

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