Sunday, March 20, 2022

When Do You Pull the Plug on an Adventure?

When Do You Pull the Plug on an Adventure?
After some interesting back & forth with different adventures based on available players my home group, minus one player, got back to our "main" adventure, which we've largely left untouched since before Christmas: Castle Amber.

Now I have had no experience whatsoever with this adventure before, not sure if you have either. I have a copy of the Goodman Games reprint (from hell) book, but since I was playing in it, I haven't so much as cracked the cover. While I'm capable of playing "stupid" (OK, not always actually playing.....), why bother possibly ruining the fun.....who gains from that? I did, just this morning, read a quick review of the adventure here and a couple points jumped at me:

"this is a challenge for a Dungeon Master to run properly" & "It is best if the DM and players try to not to think the logic of the situation, but rather just go with the flow of it all."

As a player it seemed as though this adventure was more of a whimsical framework and our GM had to do a lot of adjudication and frankly, work, trying to take what should be an easy adventure and make it worth our while. "Whimsical and Deadly", while accurate, wasn't what I think we were all ready for, at least not in a printed adventure. We only lost one PC and a protégé, but it did feel much more absurdly deadlier than that. It seemed clear to me that this adventure wasn't that enjoyable for the GM and when faced with one encounter that basically seemed like a big "Eff You" to the players, he was ready to throw in the towel and frankly I think the whole group was feeling the same way, even though none of us said it.

I'm of the opinion that if the GM has to fill-in-the-blanks as they go, the adventure might as well be one of their own planning/design so they can at least have the overall storyline make some measure of sense, even if the adventure is just straight-up KTATTS.

Now I have written some adventures before, but to be 110% honest (with myself mostly), most of them were more outlines (my Toss & Tweaks) or HackMaster Tournaments, with the latter being more closely related to a "Published" adventure while still being quite a bit......off? HackMaster adventures still need the story and background of a published adventure, but probably not so much because the players expect a bit of railroad because they've most likely literally already bought (convention) tickets for the ride. Tournaments also had a set number of related encounters and there were a good mix of encounter types, things that really set tournament adventures apart from published adventures.

Adventures really need to have a decent story to them and enough "meat on the bones" that the GM can run through the adventure easily enough to be making needed adjudications on the fly and not be bogged down with an absurd level of detail. When thinking about adventures I often recall one of my writers (when I was a Tournament Manager) sending me pages of NPC details where a simple paragraph would suffice. As a GM I don't need to know an extensive backstory and detailed motivations to flesh out the NPCs. As we were playing Castle Amber we kind of set one sibling against another and then killed the victor of their battle. Pretty sure the GM didn't need to know all the assorted history between the two to have them set upon each other.

Ok, I think I'm going off on a tangent there.....

One of these days I think I'm going to write an adventure for publication. It's kind of one of those "bucket list" kind of things I want to accomplish some day. It might just be a rehash of something I've written before, straightened up and transformed for a proper OSR audience.

Until then I'm pretty sure we're done with Castle Amber and back to our more traditional adventures.....(yeah!) 


  1. KTATTS... kitty tattoos are tenaciously tenebrous surely.

  2. Sorry to hear your group didn't enjoy Amber. Did you even get to do the big "part two" section? (I'm trying not to write any spoilers.) We had a good time, but I never run published products "as-is" so I don't consider making changes to be a problem.

  3. I like X2 a lot - I think It's THE funhouse dungeon - and ran a party through it in 2019/20. X2 also features a lot of content in 32 pages and leaves about a million little details for the DM to ponder. In my mind, if one tried to address all those details during prep, one would end up as ravingly mad as the Ambers in no time. It seems to me it's more sane to just wing it, like us OSR DMs are wont to do.


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