View Full Version : The Making of a Good Module

05-07-2010, 01:09 AM
I've never had much luck with modules. Every single one that I have picked up has been a linear progression, drag-fest that gives few options beyond which dungeon door do I open up next. Now, admittedly I have run and played in very few modules, but over the years, I have occasionally picked one up and given it a try. Every time ended badly.

Perhaps I never stumbled across the right one though. Are there modules out there that you'd consider to be excellent? What did they do that made them so awesome? And what do you think could have made them better? Have you seen any for 4th edition that really cry out, begging to be run?

05-07-2010, 02:32 AM
Yup totally agree. Paizo made the best modules for 3.5, but I haven't found any that come close from Wizards. I think there are a lot of reasons why. Wrote an article about it here:

Basically it comes down to lack of goals for the players and no real choice.

Recently I used the encounters in the adventure I had as a base and made the story up as I went along. That works pretty good.

05-07-2010, 01:44 PM
As far as published modules, I think WotC and Goodman games are the two companies at the forefront. For the most part, the WotC adventures I've read just are not very good. I don't think in 20 years people will talk about how much fun they had play Keep on the Shadowfell or Scepter Tower of Spellgaard. The Goodman Games DCCs and Master Dungeon series are better. My favorite so far has been #60 Thrones of Punjar. If you have heard the "How to make adventures that don't suck" talk that Goodman Games has done at past GenCons,DCC #60 is pretty much a perfect example of all the talking points (e.g. memorable villians, etc.)


I still haven't picked up the Death Dealer modules, but they look like fun. Someone suggested I read Kingdom of the Ghouls for an example of a good WotC adventure, but I just started reading it yesterday.

---------- Post added at 11:44 AM ---------- Previous post was at 11:39 AM ----------

Gamer's Haven (http://www.gamershavenpodcast.com/eparchive/ghgencon2007_01.mp3) recorded the Gen Con 2007 seminar, "How to Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck" from Goodman Games.


edit: fixed links

05-07-2010, 03:51 PM
From @loganbonner (http://twitter.com/loganbonner) on twitter, he tells me that his upcoming adventure, "The Slaying Stone (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0786953888?ie=UTF8&tag=penandpaperga-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0786953888)," is "far less linear, player choice matters." For that quote alone, I am ordering up a copy.

05-07-2010, 05:09 PM
"How to Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck" was a great mp3. Good find. I was at Gen Con that year, too bad I missed this one.

I haven't looked at the Goodman Games modules at all.

The Slaying Stone hey? I'll have to check it out.

Lately I've been building adventures for my group around a 3 encounters per session climax. Seems to be working well.

05-07-2010, 05:57 PM
Lately I've been building adventures for my group around a 3 encounters per session climax. Seems to be working well.

When you're building adventures for your group, I think it is very easy to be flexible and give a lot of options. That is why I have pretty much always run my own games. It is easy to react to what interests them and the directions they want to take and plan your games accordingly. But a module is at a severe disadvantage.

There was really notable exception. Did anyone here ever run the Githyanki Incursion campaign from the Dungeon / Dragon / Polyhedral cross over? That was a format that I could really appreciate. It didn't lay out a bunch of completed material that you could just throw down on the gaming table and start playing. However, it gave you everything you needed to build a campaign around the Githyanki invading the character's home world and leading up ultimately to their final encounter fighting against the Lich Queen herself in the Astral Plane. That was an awesome campaign, and my players loved it.

I wonder if that format could work for modules in general. The problem is that it still requires some work on the DMs part, and it requires a fairly strong DM to pull all the threads they laid out together and create an ongoing campaign out of it. But, that is exactly what *I* would want to see out of modules I bought to run in my games.

05-08-2010, 12:37 PM
Yeah modules have been a great source of instant stats, but I change the descriptions of the monsters to suit the story/setting. Basically just rip them apart and take what I want. Run them nearly straight from the book for dungeons as the maps save loads of time. Between dungeons I've been doing custom encounters, the 3 a night pace.

When I have time I'll try to post them on Obsidian Portal. I'm really liking the online campaign tracking:

So far the pace of 3 a week is very doable, but I'll be looking for another module to run. The Githyanki Incursion campaign sounds really interesting. It might work really well for what I have planned through the Paragon Tier. Is there any way to see it not that it's out of print? DnD Insider maybe?

05-08-2010, 12:52 PM
The Githyanki Incursion campaign that I am talking about was for 3rd edition. There might be some copies floating out there though. The magazines you'd want to try to find are Dragon Magazine #309 and Dungeon Magazine #100. There is a Polyhedron cross over as well about the Githyanki, but I don't know what issue it was in and you wouldn't need it to try to run this campaign. A variation of the Githyanki Incursion campaign arc came up again in the recently released Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/content.php/69-The-Plane-Above-Secrets-of-the-Astral-Sea-Review) as well, although not nearly in as much detail.

05-08-2010, 06:38 PM
I would think that no matter which version of the game that a particular module was written for, you should be able to use it in what ever version of that game you are using. Actually I would think that you could even use a module originally written for game A and use it to play game K. With this in mind, I would suggest the "Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth" (if you can find a copy). It was great to watch my players try to figure out the location of the caverns first. Then once they get inside the caverns, they quickly came to a place where they had to decide which of 6 directions to go first. Ultimately, they did end up going in each of the 6 directions. As long as you don't give them any "extra" clues, you should find that this module isn't completely linear.

05-08-2010, 08:37 PM
The old modules for Middle Earth Role Playing were pretty good. They were set up as "free-form linear" modules.

It ran like this:
Scenario 1: Stop the orc attack on the farmhouse.
How this was done was TOTALLY up to the players - and in doing so, clues were laid for scenario 2, raiding the orc camp.

Scenario 2: Raid the orc camp.
Again, totally up to the players - with clues dropped about who was financing them.

Scenario 3: Confront the Cleric.
How they brought the charges against the cleric was up to the players, and it left the thing totally open to many different endings.

I like them. Lots.

05-11-2010, 01:43 PM
If you know of any modules that you like, for any game/edition, it's usually relatively easy to convert them to 4E. Borrow the maps and the general plotline, and come up with reasonable equivalents for everything else. If you know of any plotline you like, whether it's for a game or from non-D&D stories (movies, books, history, news, etc.), you can often turn it into a D&D adventure or campaign.

I believe that WotC is trying to make the more free-form sorts of things with their recent publication of Hammerfast. It's a setting with a few plot ideas, lists of NPCs, maps, created history, and the like. They have a few others in the works, too. I'm not sure if this is the sort of thing you're referring to.

It's hard to anticipate what players are going to want to do. That's an issue with modules. You still have to be flexible and improvise, and occasionally you have to dump everything when the players go off on a plot tangent that the module writers didn't anticipate at all.

If you have a basic plotline in mind, you can borrow maps and encounters from other sources to get your players from Point A to Point B. But that's not really what you're asking, I don't think.

The answer to your question also depends on the format of your game. I run mostly PbP games. Their requirements are different from a real-life game.

05-11-2010, 03:04 PM
As far as modules, the best seem to me to be the ones that I dissect. Running ones as written by WOTC for 4e are not as "fun" for me. They just don't work well as some of the 3e modules and it seems to be a waste of time to convert 3e mod to 4e--I rather just run it in a 3e game.

I find that 1e and 2e modules work better in conversion since your not building so much on mechanics.

I am actually trying to avoid writing a lot in my adventures and, instead, use a basic plot and wing it approach. In those cases, grabbing a map and building an encounter is the best use of my time with the three encounter idea.

On another note I am running one WOTC mod that I adjusted for higher level and the battles seem to take forever--getting through one battle in a session. I might have to place minions instead in the battle or halve hit points or something to speed them up.