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Writing Adventures 
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Unkbartig

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Post Writing Adventures
From Venger Satanis: ‘The adventure designer inspires the GM with awesome ideas. The GM takes those ideas, interprets them based on his own desires, adds in what seems appropriate at the time, and presents his version... his vision to the players. The players respond as if they actually were the characters themselves. The GM reacts to PC actions (or inaction).’

That's it. That's what's supposed to happen. Interrupting that sacred pattern with failed novelist backstory, tedious read-aloud text, and predetermined outcomes is ruining D&D!!!”

He's talking about D&D, but IMO it covers C&C as well as most FRPGs.

Discuss. ;)

DM Mike

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Sun May 27, 2018 11:01 pm
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Mogrl

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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Not much for me to disagree with, since it mostly describes how I use written adventures. I know when I tried to religiously run a series of modules as written, it was seriously boring for me, and my players. The only thing I would clarify, is boxed text works fine, when it conveys the vision you've decided to convey. Otherwise, you edit it or completely toss it and replace with your own text. Same with background text. I do not recall any adventure having a predetermined outcome. I recall probable outcomes being mentioned, but not a full out "THIS IS HOW ITS GOING TO END." So in my experience, that claim is pretty much bogus.

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Since its 20,000 I suggest "Captain Nemo" as his title. Beyond the obvious connection, he is one who sails on his own terms and ignores those he doesn't agree with...confident in his journey and goals.
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Sun May 27, 2018 11:10 pm
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Greater Lore Drake
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Long 'author notes' for backgrounds and all that lose your audience before you even have them unless they happen to be really REALLY engaging. Just enough info to provide for the setting, why you're there in the first place, and what your goals are is typically enough.

I use box text a lot, mainly because it is an easy way to separate Player safe information vs GM info about what they don't see waiting for them. May as well just buy a map book without at least minimal info provided for the planned adventure/story. Given the amount of information my brain sifts through between work, life, and my hobby; if I don't write things down I lose the trees in the forest as it were.

I think the best way of thinking about what RPG's are is how I've taken to describing them over the last 30 years to people that have had no experience with them before. "The game is simply interactive theatre with dice. The GM has a basic script and the players provide the action and dialogue in response to the scene at hand."

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Mon May 28, 2018 12:08 am
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Greater Lore Drake
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Its funny, now that I'm running games for my girls, and getting my GM feet under me again, I looked over my notes for my girls game after soccer today.

I have the next 8 'events' lined out for the story arc. Each event has 2 to 4 elements in it that will be a game each. Each of those has a location, general notes (1 or 2 sentences), and general bad guy(s) to be faced (nugs to be added as needed), and what events tie back to previous and which ones are set up for future things (juggling local thugs, international terrorists, and Hydra/net work of international super bad guys). Then a note on theme and feeling of how I want it to sound when it starts.

Plus side bars that I can use for the 'Monday night ne'er do wells' as needed.

All and all, at least months of games, and it is all on 2 sheets of hand written note paper.

All the specifics, all the actions will be, as so eloquently stated

Quote:

interprets them based on his own desires, adds in what seems appropriate at the time, and presents his version... his vision to the players. The players respond as if they actually were the characters themselves. The GM reacts to PC actions (or inaction).’


I don't know/remember if I was this fluid back in the day, but I am now.

Of course, it isn't a full setting where I need to have a world written out for me. It is modern America with modern cities modern event with my (and my girls/Monday night Ne'er do wells) imagination layered on top.

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Mon May 28, 2018 1:53 am
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Lore Drake
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Bryce Lynch has written probably more on this topic than the rest of mankind combined. If you haven't been reading his module reviews, you should be. His magnum opus is probably his review of Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

I get bored out of my mind running other people's material. As a GM, I want to play, too. That means I have shifted to a largely improvisational GM style.

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Mon May 28, 2018 4:08 pm
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Greater Lore Drake
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
DMMike wrote:
From Venger Satanis: ‘The adventure designer inspires the GM with awesome ideas. The GM takes those ideas, interprets them based on his own desires, adds in what seems appropriate at the time, and presents his version... his vision to the players. The players respond as if they actually were the characters themselves. The GM reacts to PC actions (or inaction).’

That's it. That's what's supposed to happen. Interrupting that sacred pattern with failed novelist backstory, tedious read-aloud text, and predetermined outcomes is ruining D&D!!!”

He's talking about D&D, but IMO it covers C&C as well as most FRPGs.

Discuss. ;)

DM Mike


Who names their kid Venger?

I mostly agree with the first part, but it doesn't seem very controversial. The second part I wonder about.

First, not every backstory is terrible, and not every adventure writer would make a poor novelist or is trying to write a novel in an adventure. I am in general more favorably disposed towards an adventure's backstory than a character's (a first level character isn't that good anything yet and his or her story will be told through future deeds in game). If the adventure is designed for a particular setting, then the backstory helps bring the setting alive, and if you aren't doing that why have the setting. Though I do appreciate advice from the writer on how to remove the adventure from its context.

Second, not all read-aloud text is tedious. The main problems with it to me are when it's too long, when it reveals the wrong things or hides the wrong things, or when it's written in a voice that doesn't match the tone of the GM. Part of the solution is not necessarily fixing the read-aloud text but calling out room contents, noises, monsters, etc. in clearer way. An example is the nice maps for the Thunder Rift adventures that have everything at a glance; you could either read the text (on the map) or just interpret the other map info and you won't mess up much. This requires adventure publishers get their graphics designers, cartographers, and writers to work as a team, but these days, if you are going to buy an adventure, maybe that is what you should expect.

Pre-determined outcomes are something I don't like much but that is why I run more of a sandbox. But as some of the better single-player computer rpgs show, if you want to tell a story (in a written adventure) it will still need the parts a story has, including an ending. That said, I've gotten over the idea that players can break an adventure; they can't really if they are acting as their characters would (referencing the first part: "The players respond as if they actually were the characters themselves.") There is the sad fact that you are out $10-$50 for the adventure you bought when they blow up the castle after glancing at room 1, but I guess as long as they are having fun.

The above is all in context of published adventures. If you are writing your own for your own group, I think the less you follow the conventions of a "module" the better; you don't have the task of packaging your ideas for anyone else then, you just need what you will require to handle the actions of characters at the table.

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Wed Jun 13, 2018 4:51 pm
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Aergraith wrote:
There is the sad fact that you are out $10-$50 for the adventure you bought when they blow up the castle after glancing at room 1, but I guess as long as they are having fun.



Funny you should mention that Aer. Dragon Mountain Box campaign...first time I ran it with my group...they killed, no...slaughtered with extreme prejudice...every informant, NPC with a clue, or other personage the adventure writer had provided to point them at the mountain, never even truly starting the campaign. :lol: But they had fun sacking the town!


Noting that too much backstory and information provided is a bad thing, conversely not enough is also a bad thing. Why is the dungeon/villain there? What are the goals that were sought? What's in it for the characters to even check it out? If the information provided doesn't answer at least that much to some degree...why bother with it other than for a cool map? As a writer, even for games, it is important to provide those answers. What the GM running the adventure does with the information is something else entirely. For someone to come along and say that it isn't needed shows a remarkably shallow understanding of the literary process IMO.

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Wed Jun 13, 2018 7:05 pm
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
The thing for me is that I used to never buy modules because I dislike having to read all of the details and remember enough of them to get the plot right. If I do run an adventure module I know that it will need to be somewhat linear because there is a "point A to point B" process involved in writing the thing -- it's a lot like reading a novel for the first time. Given the choice of a linear module and a sandbox I tend to gravitate to the sandbox, but then there may be no definite conclusion but instead players wander around until they get bored.

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Wed Jun 13, 2018 9:22 pm
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Unkbartig

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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Well, since I started this I might as well put in my 2 cents. :)

Too many adventures nowadays (at least in print) give tons of details that frankly aren't needed unless your DM style is simply to read aloud encounters. That's ok if it is, but IMO its too much of a straightjacket to me. I want general background info, a motivation for the BBEG and maybe 1-2 major minions, and a plot hook or two...and that's it.

I routinely modify modules to a greater or lesser degree, depending on what I think might be better/smarter/cooler/more set for my party's tastes. The only exception to this is classic A/D&D modules such as the Giants trilogy, Tegel Manor, or Tomb of Horrors. That is because IMO this is an expectation of a legendary adventure, and if I change much I feel like I'm cheating them of the experience.

That aside, I do tire of extended backstories and villages where everyone from the mayor to the scullery maid have secrets and hidden motivations. If I want that, I'll make it up on the fly. Otherwise its just page count to kick up the price point of a product. :P

Oh, and Venger Satanis isn't his real name...its his "Internet" name. Dunno why he feels that he needs to do that. Oh wait, Alpha Blue. That's probably it. :lol:

Mike

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Wed Jun 13, 2018 9:56 pm
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
DMMike wrote:
Well, since I started this I might as well put in my 2 cents. :)

Too many adventures nowadays (at least in print) give tons of details that frankly aren't needed unless your DM style is simply to read aloud encounters. That's ok if it is, but IMO its too much of a straightjacket to me. I want general background info, a motivation for the BBEG and maybe 1-2 major minions, and a plot hook or two...and that's it.


Yeah. Pretty much this sort of thing should not take up more than one or two pages. Unless it is the start of a series of adventures like the A,G, and D stuff was.

DMMike wrote:
That aside, I do tire of extended backstories and villages where everyone from the mayor to the scullery maid have secrets and hidden motivations. If I want that, I'll make it up on the fly. Otherwise its just page count to kick up the price point of a product. :P

Mike


The only time something like that is needed is if the town itself is the dungeon, more-or-less. I like some basic town statistics, a list of key buildings, key NPCs and/or key people (name, sex, age, race is enough really) in the noted businesses that are likely to be frequently used by the PCs, and 1-3 paragraphs about the town history and climate. Not sure if they are trying to kick up the price point or if they are just detail obsessed. lol

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Wed Jun 13, 2018 10:24 pm
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Mogrl

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Post Re: Writing Adventures
If the adventure involves a mystery, a hunt for truth, or some other devious plot then detailing at least a little more than name, occupation, and serial numbers can be helpful. That does not mean it needs to go into novella length background but a sentence or two, even if its easily identified like "mask: this person is helpful, perhaps too much; truth: they're afraid their crime will be uncovered."

But, I guess it comes down to what the module is purporting to be... is it an adventure or is it a "story?" It can be both.


Wed Jun 13, 2018 11:00 pm
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Those one-page adventure contest ones are a testament to how long a usable adventure really needs to be.

It would be interesting to have abridged/condensed versions of well-known modules. No fluff: here's what you kill, here's where the treasure is. You probably don't even need a map if you say which rooms absolutely need to be next to the other ones.

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Wed Jun 13, 2018 11:26 pm
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Aergraith wrote:
Those one-page adventure contest ones are a testament to how long a usable adventure really needs to be.

It would be interesting to have abridged/condensed versions of well-known modules. No fluff: here's what you kill, here's where the treasure is. You probably don't even need a map if you say which rooms absolutely need to be next to the other ones.


That's for some. I actually find one page adventures completely useless and would barely rate them as lairs never mind a full dungeon. (chuckle)

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Thu Jun 14, 2018 12:02 am
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
I vastly prefer the concept behind modern adventures over the old stuff I started with. This doesn't mean all modern adventures are good, and certainly not all of the old ones were even decent, much less "good" once the rose-colored lenses of nostalgia are removed. Back in the Day™ I had all the time in the world to think of adventure hooks, full adventures, NPCs and their agendas, world build, and all that good stuff. Today, however, not the case so I'd rather have a bunch of "fluff" that I can freely ignore and/or change, than a heap of garbage like The Village of Hommlet where, given the amount of GM work required to make it playable, why use it at all?
By all means, dear writer, WRITE for me! I may not use it, but my hope is that what you write might inspire me for any offshoot paths the players may take (and we all know those are the only paths players take!). Give me the backgrounds of the area, of the NPCs, their secret agendas, anything and everything which I can my personal power of choice to alter, disregard, or hey here's a wild thought: use as written even!
But if you give me nothing, and expect me to do all the work? I give you the finger and submit a refund request. :)


Thu Jun 28, 2018 8:43 pm
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Mogrl

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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Yeah, I prefer the little details. Thats probably because of how many times what I thought was a little detail became something a player latched on to and turned into a major story line for the group. So what is minor or boring to me, isn't necessarily so to all of my players.

As for highly detailed villages/towns, I love them. Especially if the party actually hangs around in it long enough for me to hint at or reveal some of the secrets. Then, if they decide to do something about it, I have a new story line pretty much written for me. Then my players and I both have the fun of filling in the details of how it plays out.

Any module is a tool box to me, full of potential. The fun, for me, is to see what the players actually do. As those who have played with me know, I cannot stand forcing myself to run a module as written. I find that extremely boring. I want my players to take the module in unexpected directions. I can modify a written adventure to utilize as much as I can with the direction the players decide to go. If they act such that the module becomes useless, I have plenty of other adventures and ideas to utilize to fill in the trail they do take with any needed details, etc... The more I have to improv, the more fun it is for me to run the game.

That said, the more a writer puts into the module they write, the more bits and pieces I can use for any encounter in any location I decide to use it in. Whether its one the writer intended, or in a completely different town, village, etc... So they can give me all the bits and pieces they want. I haven't used 90% of them, but I like having them already there and ready for me to use if the right situation comes up, and most importantly, I remember it, and actually use it. My problem really is, with soe many hundreds of adventures from Dungeon magazine and all the other modules I have bought, I have far too much to remember having when I could have used it. When I come across them again, I do find that while I didn't remember it at the time, I do see the bits and pieces of it that likely did influence the location I created whole clothe on the spot when I did create it.

Plus, there are a neat location, such as a bakery, another is a winery, that if I ever use such a location again, is greatly influenced by a bakery in a Dungeon magazine from long ago, and the winery in/at Morrick Mansion. Same goes with any smithy, apothecary, etc... I create. They are not copies, but the influence is there, because I know where I took the influences I use, from.

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Since its 20,000 I suggest "Captain Nemo" as his title. Beyond the obvious connection, he is one who sails on his own terms and ignores those he doesn't agree with...confident in his journey and goals.
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Sat Jun 30, 2018 6:45 pm
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
I always imagine that the trivia in a setting, that the players never directly experience, still makes itself felt by informing how the DM/CK presents the reality of that setting.

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Sat Jun 30, 2018 11:52 pm
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Aergraith wrote:
I always imagine that the trivia in a setting, that the players never directly experience, still makes itself felt by informing how the DM/CK presents the reality of that setting.


I agree it can, and usually does, do that.

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Since its 20,000 I suggest "Captain Nemo" as his title. Beyond the obvious connection, he is one who sails on his own terms and ignores those he doesn't agree with...confident in his journey and goals.
Sounds obvious to me! -Gm Michael

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Sun Jul 01, 2018 5:00 pm
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Lore Drake
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
I think it comes down to what is considered an "adventure" vs. what is actually a true module. I take modules as self-contained micro settings more than adventures, you have some maps, some encounters, an overall theme maybe, but not a point A to point B linear story that you are supposed to follow. Village of Hommlet is a perfect example of this, you get a detailed village, some NPCs and maps with possible enemies/obstacles to overcome. There is no flowchart or series of events that you must follow, there is no script, only the nuts and bolts of a limited area for you to use as you will.


Sun Jul 01, 2018 11:10 pm
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Now you're just mixing apples with oranges. Adventure in the context of a module should be used only as an adverb in context, not as a noun in opposition to module. Adventure is to explore and travel to new places and see new things. You're right in that it is not meant to be the sum total description of an area which is what the module is, an area of the world described in some level of detail in which the PCs may adventure; hence the use of the term adventure when referring to a written work. In essence it is a massive misnomer to begin with. You're wrong in that an adventure isn't required to have a point A to B designated goal on a timeline. It simply is setting out from one's home to see the world and what happens when you challenge fate.

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Sun Jul 01, 2018 11:42 pm
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
The use of the word module has fallen out of fashion, and now they are usually referred to as adventures or adventure paths. There is a reason for this. The original modules of the early era, were completely... modular. They were not story lines or pre-scripted events. Over time adventures themselves were published, in which you actually were told what was going to happen and when or where the PCs were to travel to next in order for the "adventure" to proceed. Compare Keep on the Borderlands to something like the Dragonlance "modules" for example. The former is a true module, where as the latter is an adventure, there may be some elements of a module in the design, but there are scenes in which you go from one to the next, sure you can alter it, but that is beside the point.


Mon Jul 02, 2018 12:05 am
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Kayolan wrote:
The use of the word module has fallen out of fashion, and now they are usually referred to as adventures or adventure paths. There is a reason for this. The original modules of the early era, were completely... modular. They were not story lines or pre-scripted events. Over time adventures themselves were published, in which you actually were told what was going to happen and when or where the PCs were to travel to next in order for the "adventure" to proceed. Compare Keep on the Borderlands to something like the Dragonlance "modules" for example. The former is a true module, where as the latter is an adventure, there may be some elements of a module in the design, but there are scenes in which you go from one to the next, sure you can alter it, but that is beside the point.


I noticed this and I try to correct myself whenever the booklet doesn't actually say "module." I haven't checked but I think TSR stopped using the word pretty early. Ravenloft (1983) for example says "Adventure". "Dungeon Module I1" (1980) also says "Adventure", but that is under "Dungeon Module I1". I6 (1983) was a "Fantasy Adventure Module".

I've thought about this before. I always assumed they simply switched from Module to Adventure at some point for marketing reasons, but it seems some contemporaneous books had one or the other or both. Never thought about whether they were for different purposes.

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Mon Jul 02, 2018 11:58 pm
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
Buttmonkey wrote:
I get bored out of my mind running other people's material. As a GM, I want to play, too. That means I have shifted to a largely improvisational GM style.
In general I agree with you, the only exception is that if I can find a module which is short and well written I can tweak it as neeed to my taste. TLG's origninal Haunted Highlands modules come to mind, as do Goodman's Fifth Edition Fantasy product line and the old Gygax "monochrome" TSR modules. Otherwise, many of the modules I've seen are a lot of work. I don't have much time to read the books I want to read, and a lot of modules require me to read a thick tome and take notes. Ugh.

I like to think that my best adventures happen when I start with a couple of simple and generic maps (dungeon, village, countryside) and just "wing it" most of the way. I may have a couple of general plot twists in mind, but overall the direction of the game is mostly in the hands of the players and I just nudge things along occasionally.

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 12:56 pm
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
There definitely seem to be a lot more "mega modules" over the last 17 years, thats for sure. Especially from Frog God Games and Paizo's AP's. Then there are the two "Worlds Biggest" books, not to mention Ptolus. Mongoose did that Drow War series. Yeah, more material than anyone can reasonably expect to use in several lifetimes has been produced over just the last 20 years. Just for D&D type games, let alone all the other RPG's I love to run or play. I'd need to live another 30 years just to run or play all the games I want to right now, spending the majority of that time gaming, not working, etc...

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Since its 20,000 I suggest "Captain Nemo" as his title. Beyond the obvious connection, he is one who sails on his own terms and ignores those he doesn't agree with...confident in his journey and goals.
Sounds obvious to me! -Gm Michael

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 6:26 pm
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
From Gary's EN World Q&A:

"When I was asked by TSR to do my World of Greyhawk as a commercial product I was taken aback. I had assumed most DMs would far prefer to use their own world settings."

Making the world and the adventures is where most of the fun is for me, and makes it easier to tailor to the group of players you have.

Still, small and easy printed adventurers are nice when you don't have anything remotely ready (though there are strategies so you always have SOMETHING). I agree, some adventures are a lot of work. I found A0 and A1 to be a lot of work (they don't have to be, but I made tables and things to help me follow the flow, person A knows where dungeon B is and hates person C, stuff like that.) If I was just making it up I'd feel less concerned that I'd break something.

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 6:48 pm
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Post Re: Writing Adventures
World settings are a very different creature from adventures/modules.

I use published settings all the time. Long ago I decided nothing is "canon"until I decide it is. So while my campaign will have a lot of similarities to what is published, none of my players should expect it to be close to 100% the same.

I tried doing my own worlds. I much prefer well done maps to my chicken scratch. OF course, now a days, with all the software I own, I could make nice maps, but now I don't want to spend the time when its so much easier just using published material. Besides, cartographers like Anna Myer and Alyssa Faden are just so much better at it than I am.

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Since its 20,000 I suggest "Captain Nemo" as his title. Beyond the obvious connection, he is one who sails on his own terms and ignores those he doesn't agree with...confident in his journey and goals.
Sounds obvious to me! -Gm Michael

Grand Knight Commander of the Society.


Tue Jul 03, 2018 7:04 pm
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Location: The Court of the Crimson King
Post Re: Writing Adventures
Treebore wrote:
World settings are a very different creature from adventures/modules.

I use published settings all the time. Long ago I decided nothing is "canon"until I decide it is. So while my campaign will have a lot of similarities to what is published, none of my players should expect it to be close to 100% the same.

I tried doing my own worlds. I much prefer well done maps to my chicken scratch. OF course, now a days, with all the software I own, I could make nice maps, but now I don't want to spend the time when its so much easier just using published material. Besides, cartographers like Anna Myer and Alyssa Faden are just so much better at it than I am.


That's really the key, what you said. If you are good with saying "I don't care what the book said Drizz't did here on Flamerule 15, right now it has a goblin lemonade stand." then why not use the maps and the "feel".

I am not sure settings have to be separate from adventures though.

I use Worldographer for maps right now, though I also just use Google Maps satellite view and turn things upside down and invert them and draw walls and things.

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 7:14 pm
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Mogrl

Joined: Mon May 01, 2006 7:00 am
Posts: 20660
Location: Arizona and St Louis
Post Re: Writing Adventures
Yeah, I have all of Inkwells software programs. I have a lot of his other products too.

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Tue Jul 03, 2018 9:18 pm
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Ulthal
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Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2015 10:44 pm
Posts: 506
Post Re: Writing Adventures
I am lazy and almost always use pre-generated adventures. However, I invariably end up changing or adding things (usually a lot of things). When it comes to settings, I have always preferred pre-generated worlds such as Grayhawk. But I think of them, and of adventures, as the main dish, incomplete without my patented sides and secret spice blend.

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Sun Jul 08, 2018 9:22 pm
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Ulthal
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Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2015 12:23 am
Posts: 627
Location: North Carolina
Post Re: Writing Adventures
I've always used the Classic TSR modules for my campaign, although over the last few years I've accumulated quite a few C&C modules. I like the backdrop of Greyhawk and the shell of what's provided in the modules. I ignore what I don't like and keep what I do. Some things are just done on the fly, as constantly looking at the text interrupts play. I created a few dungeons and started to formulate a campaign setting years ago, but found I liked Greyhawk a whole lot more.


Mon Jul 09, 2018 1:05 pm
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Henchman

Joined: Tue Jul 31, 2018 12:15 pm
Posts: 3
Post Re: Writing Adventures
Great! I like this forum) I read a lot of interesting for me)


Tue Jul 31, 2018 12:31 pm
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