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In Defense of Published Adventures
Posted By Kurt "Telas" Schneider On May 29, 2012 @ 12:00 am In Hot Buttons | 10 Comments
DNAPhil has covered the disadvantages and downsides of published adventures in a separate article. I do not wholly disagree with his assessment; it’s one Gnome’s valid opinion. But more than one of us felt that a counterpoint article should be written, and my compulsion to volunteer led me here, to defend the published adventure. (Don’t worry, Phil; I’m technically unarmed.)
Published adventures (or, as we old farts called them, modules) are often seen as GM’s training wheels or the mark of an amateur, but there are a number of reasons to use them, and a number of ways to maximize their utility. I have used a metric shitload of published adventures in my day (in addition to ‘rolling my own’), and have learned a few things over the years.
Obviously, published adventures aren’t the be-all and end-all of adventure design. (Shameless, aren’t I?) You should be aware of a few caveats when using them:
Since Phil’s so eagerly pointed out the shortcomings of the published adventure, we needn’t review them here. But here are some of the bigger advantages:
If nothing else, published adventures are excellent raw material, ready to be passed through the GM’s chop shop and ‘repurposed’ into bits and pieces for your own adventures. As a famous gamer said in the forword to a certain book,
It’s not a sign of weakness on the part of a GM to use other people’s ideas now and then. Instead, it’s a sign that you care enough about what you’re doing that you’re going to open yourself up to what someone else might think, in order to keep things fresh. (Italics in original.)
Aside from the obvious ‘run as written’ approach, or the aforementioned ‘GM’s chop shop’, you’ve got a few options when it comes to published adventures. The key is to remember that this is now your adventure – do with it as you will.
To integrate the adventure into your campaign, some reskinning or more extensive rewriting may be necessary. Fellow Gnome Scott Martin’s solid article, Customizing an Adventure covers this process in more depth. I look forward to hearing how someone ran “U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh” in a modern setting.
But even if you are ‘merely’ going to run the adventure as written, you should be familiar with it before the dice hit the table. Before running a published adventure, I skim through, noting any obvious gotchas or incompatibilities with the campaign. I then re-read the adventure as if a party were going through it, using the map, checking mechanics and stats, and taking notes. Finally, I do any customizing, fill out my index cards, and pick out minis. This might take an hour or two per session, depending on the complexity of the adventure, and is time well spent.
Published adventures are a potential goldmine, but like many real gold mines, they require some work to separate the gold from the waste. Some of that work can be done by others, so read reviews of any potential adventures you might be interested in. Both RPG.net and RPGNow have excellent reviews, and I’m sure some of y’all will chime in with other review sites.
While published adventures do cost money, they can save a lot of time. But a better value can be had by looking for sales or discounts, or by scanning the clearance rack at your FLGS.
This article is merely another opinion on the value of published adventures, a counterpoint of sorts to Phil’s earlier article. If you’d like to chime in with review sites, deals on published adventures, or just have another opinion, sound off in the comments and let us know!
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