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Thursday, February 20, 2014

How Much Detail do you Expect in the Adventures You Use

Some folks like to run adventures that are fairly barebones and fill in the needed details on the fly. Others like to have everything needed (and possibly more) - this could be boxed text and or paragraphs describing the encounter / room / tactics and if this then that situations.

I fall somewhere in between. For "drop in" adventures not part of a bigger plot line, less most certainly is more. If it's ore of a mini-campaign (Razor Coast and the like) more is better, at least for me.

What do you want in the adventures you buy? More? Less? A bit of both?


  1. Less makes it easier to adapt. I like that.

  2. It's not so much about QUANTITY as much as QUALITY. I loved the old "Night Below" mega-adventure/box set. Amazingly good amount of information, made it very easy to run. Some of the 3.x series mega-adventures (for example: Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil) were so poorly organized that I couldn't make hide nor tail of it.

    I think "hex crawls" and the like are easier to write for and organize, since there's logical places for the writers to give their info dumps. Other types make are a bit harder to follow.

  3. I like some descriptive text for each location, and if in a dungeon, an over-arching "this level is like X" description. It doesn't need to be more than maybe, "This room's walls are worked stone, barren of any decoration. A small wooden door is closed on the far side of the room, and the pavestone floor shows signs of recent traffic."

    For encounters, I like some idea why the "4xLizardfolk" are in the room, and maybe what their goal is. (Exploring, guarding, relaxing, etc.) In fact, having a "motive: guard" entry on a monster is probably enough, if combined with a Morale rating.

  4. It also depends on the type of adventure. A room for a hack and slash dungeon crawl, or a puzzle room, or a room for murder mystery would require different amounts of detail.

  5. For modules that have a cool idea all I need is a fun map (town, wilderness, dungeon, etc.) with simple bullet points about the interesting areas/encounters (RP and combat alike). Like Dan said above, just bullet point the interesting stuff. Info that gets straight to the point is always better. I also dig having some random encounter tables for an area or dungeon.

    Absolutely NO to block text! I refuse to read block text for anything. Again, simple bullet points make it easier for me to get the gist of what is what along with wiggle room when the PCs do all the random stuff do. I don't need my game to sound like I am reading a cheesy script for a radio drama (believe me most block text are usually pretty bad).

    So in conclusion: cool maps, simple straight to the point details, suggestive random encounter tables, and just say no to block text kids!

  6. As much as little as desired, so long as it's gameable, interesting, and surprising. If your encounter table has 2d6 goblins, at least take it a step past the DMG and give me an idea of something interesting they're doing when the party runs into them.

    More importantly, the last thing I want to see is an important or large part of the module left for me to make up, or worse, to connect to another publication. Like to do not place a staircase in one of your rooms that leads to "module F3, coming to your FLGS next November!" (There's a particular Paizo module that does this.) Don't put a dungeon on the map and tell me to make up what's in it. If I wanted to write a dungeon module, I wouldn't have paid for one (B2 does this a couple times but thankfully they're both pretty far out of the way).

  7. It just depends on my mood and the type of adventure asjdh417 said and also depends on the quality of writing as Todd mentioned. So apparently I have nothing new to add to this conversation.

  8. More.

    You can always ignore extra information.

  9. Big huge blocks of text are not useful. Absolute worse is 2e/Whitewolf trend of having in-character "guide", basically a crappy short story spread throughout the product.

    Don't make me read and memorize dozens of pages just to run this thing. Details, but concise. Modules are not novels or short stories, they should not be written strictly in prose style. Don't bury important stuff in descriptions (or at least duplicate it elsewhere). The factions, history, level interconnections; summarize that stuff in charts or module/level introductions.

    I actually wouldn't mind a module that just had bullet points for each room/area; lighting, description, contents, exits, some sense words (color, smells, texture), and anything of note.

    Detail in charts and generators, like "what's found in giant's bag", "graffiti" are very useful detail. But a good module won't be 100% random, there needs to be links, foreshadowing, themes which require intelligent and creative placement of details.

    Even with lots detail, some things; a rumor here, room there, should be left vague to allow DM to put his stuff there.

  10. Good question. I enjoyed all the answers. Yeah, not too little, not too much; a basic framework and points of interest, monster motives, a couple details, and that's about it.

  11. For me the sweet spot is somewhere between the austere two lines of text typical of a 1 page dungeon and the bloated sometimes page long entries of the 3e era adventures. The key I think is to add enough information for the encounter interesting but to do so by means of an economic and clear format that makes all the pertinent information clearly accessible. I've talked about this at greater length here (http://arsphantasia.wordpress.com/2013/12/page/10/)

  12. One thing I've not seen done is to have the blocked text as a hand-out. Let the players read it on their own time. Might work in the days of email and text messaging.

  13. I do it bare-bones, mostly because I randomize NPC interaction as much as possible (constantly rolling reaction rolls, then playing the character how the dice show). Blocks of text get scanned and the highlights used, but I don't do anything verbatim from an adventure. This causes adventures to play out very differently from how the writer intended, but I do try to keep the nature of the adventure intact.

    For my own stuff all I do in advance is figure out where they're going and who's there and let the rest happen organically.

  14. For me it depends on the content.

    For my dungeons and locations I like to have the information as tight and concise as possible; much like the 1 page dungeons. Just give me the key pertinent details and in one place so it is easy to find/use. I can fill in color and feel.

    For key/important NPCs I want certain specific things. Justin over at thealexandrian.net summarized it best here: http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/1763/roleplaying-games/remixing-keep-on-the-shadowfell-part-6-winterhaven-npcs. Give me a quote, their background, their appearance, roleplaying notes, and any key plot/information points. This gives me what I need to flesh them and why they are important quickly. For secondary or unimportant NPCs you can cut out some of the sections.

    For adventure paths or more plot focused adventures I want an adventure summary/outline somewhere. Something I can look at to quickly get an idea of what is going to happen in the adventure and how those things relate to each other. That way I can quickly figure out what has to happen for the scripted story to make sense, and what I can change without having to radically alter things.

  15. I rarely use modules as-is. I use the general outline of expected events, but I often redefine the module's components so that they aren't so interdependent. I'm more interested in a monster's or villian's motivations than their stats, which I'm liable to change on the fly if I think it's cool. I love detailed setting books, but mostly for ideas and general inspiration. All I really want, for a system I'm comfortable with, is some really interesting characters, a handful of plot seeds, and maybe some cool images.