Monday, October 8, 2012

Freeze Dried Adventures - Just Add Awesome

As I gear up for my groups's next campaign, an Ars Magica saga set in 12th Century, Southern Scandinavia I have entitled, "Something Rotten in Denmark", I log on to find the internet abuzz (the D&D gaming portions of it anyway) with posts on one party's experience with James Mal's Dwimmermount and some excellent, though more general, comments about pre-published adventure modules in general.

Now I can not speak on the nature of the Dwimmermount adventure itself. I have neither read it nor played it. I was not there to witness it being played by the periodically troublemaking and often humorous Joethelawyer.

I can only talk about modules and how I feel about them. 

I have, in the past 35 years, used professionally published modules on several occasions. Now wait, stay with me and don't pass out. That statement, while completely true, comes with an addendum. In those aforementioned three and a half decades, I have never, EVER run a module straight without any adjustments or modifications. I honestly didn't know anyone ever did that until I was in my late teens. How could you? Who would do such a thing?


I always figured the reason for the plethora of empty rooms was so you, the GM, could put stuff in them. Call me crazy, call me irresponsible but if that wasn't what they were for, what the heck were they for?

Making adventures is easy for me but even I can use a kick start once in a while. Sometimes I just need a little jolt to the imagination to get the engine running full tilt.  Modules always served that purpose when I was stalled for an idea or, more commonly, when I had a dozen epic and awesome ideas but no simple, straightforward one to start the campaign rolling.

I have never used a module for Ars Magica. While I am certain Lion Rampart, White Wolf, WotC and Atlas Games have all produced fantastic adventures for the game, I haven't run and of them and don't intend to. I just don't really need them.

I do want to look at new rules mechanics and systems for alternative magic, especially as different regions and folklore had different beliefs in what magic was, how it worked and what it could do. I love reading the history in the supplements covering various areas of the world. I am curious to see any book that describes mythical creatures native to unique areas.

I do love sourcebooks. Sourcebooks help me generate adventures. So I don't need adventures.

Just some thoughts for the night. More Ars Magica as pre-production is finalized and we get ready to go live...

Barking Alien


  1. I agree and concur with your assessment and approach.

  2. Ahem.

    There is nothing wrong with published adventures as a concept - they are a solid tool to guide new DM's and players through what a "normal" adventure might be in that game system. Now a fair number of them turn out to be a little drab or, worse yet,contain howling errors or questionable choices that can skew the experiences of people playing them, but that doesn't mean the idea is bad.

    For a tactical, detailed game like much of D&D/AD&D having things like maps and stats readily at hand is a darn nice thing when it comes time to run a game. For me, the sourcebooks you mention have become less and less interesting as I've gotten older - once I know about "Norcs" from the monster book for Fantasy Nightmare, and I know about the world of Fantasy Nightmare from the main rulebook, I don't need a 100-page supplement on the Norcs of Bozonia for Fantasy Nightmare - it's wasted space. I'd much rather have a map of a Bozonian Norc Lair as part of an adventure and some stats that I can use as needed. I guess I would say that fluff is easy enough to pull together, it's the crunch that can be work for me, and published adventures tend to have more crunch and useable parts than sourcebooks. That's also probably why I've been drifting towards lighter rules systems the last few years too.

    Sometimes it's just a concept that stirs the brain - I liked the concept of Pool of Radiance far more than the printed execution. Twenty years and 3 editions later I finally got around to running it and I barely used the original module at all. Everyone had fun with it, so I'll call it a good investment.

    All that said the Dwimmermount dust-up is kind of funny - lord forbid someone say they didn't like something that's been auto-assumed to be greatness. There's so much personal taste wrapped up in RPG's that very little is universally accepted as good.

    1. I could agree more with your final statement. Almost par for the course to be honest.

      As for some of the other elements, I have to assume that our views of what a sourcebook is are a bit different.

      True a 100-page supplement on the Norcs of Bozonia would be a bit too 'celebration of minutiae' for me, there are times I want that. Personally taste only here but I can't stand when they do it for concept settings.

      In the World of Darkness for example, all the tradition and clan supplements did was prevent my players and I from coming up with out own material on the various groups. A player plays a Tremere, buys the Tremere book and then assumes he knows everything about the Tremere. When I, as GM and Storyteller, say, "Well maybe, but not MY Tremere!", the player looks are me crestfallen and asks, "Then why did I spend money to buy this book?"

      On the other hand, in a Star Wars RPG I would be hard pressed to say I didn't want a sourcebook on Wookiees or the planet Hoth or something similar.

      All that aside, I am talking about wider ranging sourcebooks. No, I don't actually need a supplement on Superman but I could use one on Paragon Heroes and how to make my superhero game work smoothly when one of the PCs is an invulnerable, flying tank with heat vision that the whole world loves. Make that sourcebook and I can generate a million adventures from it.

      Hmmm...that last part is the key I think. A good adventure will create one really fun evening with your gaming group. A good sourcebook will enable you to generate dozens or even hundreds of fun evenings.

  3. Wherever you can find inspiration and add your own creativity in the mix is great. I think so. :)