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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Thoughts on writing adventures for others.

"Somewhere under a lost and lonely hill of grim and foreboding aspect lies a labyrinthine crypt. It is filled with terrible traps and not a few strange and ferocious monsters to slay the unwary." -E.G.Gygax *

This post is completely unrelated to a few other posts on the  subject lately. If you wish to take a deep dive on the subject of preparing an adventure, check out The Disoriented Ranger's series.

I have come to a conclusion that has probably been  incredibly obvious to everyone else for quite some time. There are two basic styles people like  in their prepackaged adventures. Neither style is lesser, both styles are valid, but they are distinctly different. Furthermore, I understand there are modules and adventures that cover the range between Styles A and Style B mentioned below.

Style A: One type of gamer wants pre-packaged adventures as interpretive as possible. Areas can be loosely defined, descriptive fluff text is nice if interesting but not necessary. These players look at pre generated adventures as idea mines, and are happy if a book has a ton of great ideas even if the ideas aren't hung together all that well. Give the reader the content and let the reader build adventure concepts from the materials presented. Frog god games "Tome of Adventure design" is an extreme example of this approach. My own game AAIE functions this way as well.

Style B: Another type of reader likes a lot of detail. Room descriptions even if brief are to be adhered to. Monsters need to be stated out, preferably for their game of choice. Maps with  numbers and descriptions are a must. Boxed text with  background info, and  other details are also appreciated. Most importantly the adventure concepts all have to be performed, and available. Most of the modules I have read follow this style.

I  think it is a strength of our hobby that a person buying an adventure can take the material given to them and move that material towards the style they prefer. A person can take "Castle Greyhawk" and use only the initial castle area with it's little shopping area some of the NPC's provided, and build a whole different dungeon underneath. A book that is very  Style B can be torn apart then made into a Style A game. Conversely a DM  given enough prep time can take a bunch of  concepts presented in something like Zak Smith's recent post "Pit Of The Demonweb Queen" and work those concepts enough that they read like a Style B module. One style doesn't exclude the other, it just takes a bit of brainwork to get from one to the other.

This all got me thinking that I enjoy reading modules / adventures far more than I enjoy running them. I guess that would make me a style A person. What I really enjoy are adventures and settings that feel like tool kits. A good example of this is "Hubris: A world of Visceral Adventure" DIY RPG productions. I use this example because the product is a whole setting with very vivid descriptions, and plenty of background. On the other side of that coin the author never tells the reader how he thinks all of the information presented should be used. He provides tools (many tools) for the GM to run their own vision of Hubris.

How Does all this  babbling relate to writing adventures?
I feel that an author looking to write adventures for others to use, needs to recognize that it will be very difficult to make both style A and Style B  readers happy.
A writer could describe and stat out every minute facet of an adventure  in excruciating detail.  And someone will write a review saying "Too wordy , cut it back to the  essentials!"
On the other hand another writer could provide tools with which to build an area and someone else will review, "Not enough detail areas mentioned with out descriptions and  some monsters weren't stated out!"
I know there is middle ground.  Some adventures look to cover both styles, but it's hard to cover all those bases and do it well.
In my  view it's valid to  write an adventure that works for the way the  author runs his or her games. Creating with out trying to be every thing to everyone. If the  ideas are good and presented well, people will find the work and an audience will grow. Even if the work in question isn't everyone's cup of tea.

Thanks for reading
-Mark

*The quote is from S1 "Tomb or Horrors" Which is just about my least favorite module of all time. Unpopular opinion I know, but that's how it is.
** Also for the  record, I'm not planning on writing an adventure for public consumption any time soon. I do however know some one who is, and have read several blog posts on the subject recently. Odd how subjects get around... Pollination.