Why you should never use pre-made adventures as your main storyline
Published adventures are great, but…
I’m reading Keep on the Shadowfell, the first 4E adventure module and I’m enjoying it thoroughly. Very well done – plenty of plot hooks, maps, and great scenes. I will definitely use it in my campaign.
But I won’t use it as the main plot. Why? Because it’s potentially holding back my campaign! Using a published adventure as your main story line is bad time management, and bad energy management.
Will you remember everything you read about the adventure. No. Reading is proven to be an inneficient way to memorize and learn. Doing, creating, and writing are better ways to study and remember important elements of the adventure. If you’re going to write, take notes, and tweak a module, wouldn’t it be better to just create one? Creating your own maps and scenes can be just as fast as reading and studying them.
Besides, your time investment will be reduced if you read an adventure knowing it will be a side quest. You can read it quickly, get an overview of the whole module, target the scenes that best fit your campaign, and work on them.
I easily get excited about creating an adventure and anticipating my players’ reactions. Will I get as excited about someone else’s adventure? Probably not. Invest your energy making something custom-made for your players and their character. It is much easier, and more rewarding, than modifying something generic.
It is possible for Dungeon Masters to quickly create a great campaign, and using a published adventure as a side quest allows you to add flavor and realism to the setting without much effort.
Published adventures for new DMs
If you’re new at DMing a published adventure might be perfect for you because you do not have any campaign creation experience. So take my advice with that perspective.
Campaign settings like Ptolus and Forgotten Realms are great too but I would advise on targeting sections of the book and study the setting over time. Reading a whole campaign guide can be mind-numbing.
What do you think?
Do you use pre-made adventures as your main storyline? How much tweaking do you do? What do you think are the pros and cons of using them? Will you use Keep on the Shadowfell for your first 4e game?