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Amphetryon
2011-04-09, 08:08 AM
I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine on the nature and limitations of published adventures. I'd like to use this thread to continue that discussion with the forum at large, addressing some of the specific issues that have come up in my experience and yours when using prepackaged modules. I fully acknowledge that some of what I've perceived as problems may be entirely based on my unique experiences.

I've been gaming for a long time - since The Keep On The Borderlands and the Red Box Set. I've played and run several systems, and worked with friends on developing their own. In all that time, I've never seen a group have a positive experience with a published module. One or more of the following issues has inevitably come up, to varying degrees:


At least one player will want to go somewhere or do something the module didn't expect. Some bit of flavor text connected with the player through its presentation or the character's background, and the DM and group are left foundering until the DM either goes radically off-book or insists - gently or otherwise - that the adventure lies this way, not the way the player(s) wanted to go.
The attack of the MEGO. As the DM/Storyteller goes into the written descriptive text for a given set piece, players' eyes get a faraway cast as their minds wander, because the story is not connecting with their characters or is not compelling for some other reason. Players end up missing bits that the module's author made important because they couldn't engage with prepackaged information.
Characters get punished (for lack of a better word) for behaving in unexpected ways. This tangentially relates to the first point. If, for example, the module is written so that a roof collapses and deals 40 points damage to all characters in the room, it's been all too often the case that one character was tending to an animal in the area, or was in some way shielded from the effect, but the module doesn't make that exception. This particular issue is exacerbated in modules where "[X] happens, knocking all characters unconscious/back [x] feet", without regard to where characters are positioned.
Out-of-character talk devolves into metagame discussion of the plot. "C'mon, guys, we clearly have to go down the staircase. Can't you see the railroad tracks?" "Ooh, goodie! It's GM Story Hour!" etc.
One or more of the players has read through or played the module already. "Okay, so I ignore the first 3 statues and go pick up the 4th one. Is the Gem of Genua hidden underneath? Wow, what a surprise."


Thoughts?

dsmiles
2011-04-09, 08:28 AM
Thoughts?
My friends and I use published modules fairly frequently. Not all the time, mind you, we do like to write our own stuff. Mostly when we've got a bout of writer's block.
Now, that being said, none of us have ever had a problem with published materials. Let me describe our group based on your bullets:

1. We generally end up off the rails. It happens, but it's not a big deal for us, we like to improvise. For instance:In the 3e adventure series (Sunless Citadel, Forge of Fury, etc) we started off on the rails, but ended up enslaving the kobolds, wiping out the goblins/hobgoblins, killing the bad druid and all his little tree-washed minions. We took over the town, and established our world-domination scheme. Then we moved on to Forge of Fury.
2. We pretty much pay attention, as we don't mind a bit of railroading, and whomever happens to be in the DM seat that week will usually embellish the descriptive text more than a bit.
3. We improvise here, too. Maybe I should say that we apply a common sense factor when the module says something happens to everybody, and somebody happens to not be subject to the effect due to circumstances.
4. There isn't a whole lot of OoC talk at our table. Unless we're cracking jokes. Granted, we know where the rails are, and we follow them pretty well, but we usually don't discuss the rails. They're the 800 pound gorilla in the room, but we're comfortable with that particular gorilla.
5. We avoid metagaming. I can't count how many times I've played through some of these modules, but I still play the character as they would react in the module.

So, published modules aren't for everybody, that I agree with. My particular group hasn't had any issues with them, though.

Z3ro
2011-04-09, 09:26 AM
To be honest, the groups I've been with have actually done better with published modules than with DM material. We're not great at sandbox games, and while we know the module is on rails, the DM generally does a good enough job of improvising that slight derailments don't kill the module.

Our most successful campaign was a combination of two modules that took us from level 4 to level 19.

Yora
2011-04-09, 09:38 AM
My experience with published adventures is, that they work best when you use their stories, NPCs, locations, and encounters, but don't use them as a script for the game.
The way most adventures are written, they are very strong railroads, but you don't have to use them that way. If the player introduce new interesting ideas that the adventures didn't anticipate, you can still roll with it and possibly adjust later parts of the adventure. In that case you just have to really know the whole adventure very well beforehand, so you'll know what later parts will be affected by changes that take place now.
But many published adventures have very nice setups and plots, that can certainly used for rather open-ended campaigns.

Khatoblepas
2011-04-09, 09:46 AM
I recently ran The Keep on the Borderlands, and I tell you, the modules are basically the groundwork you have to lay down, the foundations. They are not the thing you need to be running. It was the best campaign I ever ran.

Sure, I had to embellish the villain's motives, add a few NPCs (Like a whole Lizardfolk tribe, an incredibly beurocratic troll, and Geweg the Undoer, who the party chased to the adventure via a short starter adventure, which was simply "Go into temple, beat up guys"). The party was playing monsters (A Yuan-ti Abomination, Thri-Kreen, Kobold), enlisted the help of a Modron, a Slaadi, the aforementioned troll, a blind Medusa oracle, a demon, and eventually befriended a young white dragon that was hanging out in some of the more sparse caves in the adventure and had gotten sick because of the heat the profane rituals going on in further into the cave were giving off.

Geweg the Undoer enlisted the help of a party of adventurers, one a "Paladin" who sold his soul for unearthly beauty, but all human. The players loved fighting him, and smashed his pretty face into a mirror!

The base, of course, WAS Keep on the Borderlands. I didn't draw a single map or change any location whatsoever. I used common sense to plot out new locations on the world map, and made every encounter make sense with one or two lines of dialogue.

The trick is to engage the party on their level, rather than the module's. If they want quirky NPCs and the module doesn't have them, add them. If they want treasure and the module doesn't have it, add it! Don't be afraid to go off the rails yourself to throw them for a loop.

Engage the player with the goal or villain, throw the villain into the center of the adventure and the players will jump on it like rabid dogs. When the action is dulling a little, add another twist. It'll all work out in the end.

Kalirren
2011-04-09, 09:53 AM
Agree with the above poster.

Nothing says we have to play it the way it was written. A healthy dose of improvisation always makes it better.

Amphetryon
2011-04-09, 09:58 AM
Agree with the above poster.

Nothing says we have to play it the way it was written. A healthy dose of improvisation always makes it better.

At that point, though, are you even playing the module? I playtested a module that a friend of mine wanted to get published a few years back, and he was incensed for a long time over the fact that the group's adventure went so far off-script that "that's not the adventure I wrote, gosh darn it!"

Jarawara
2011-04-09, 09:58 AM
I've never seen a group have a positive experience with a published module.

Wow. I've never heard such a claim before. I've heard of some crash and burns with modules before, (and experienced quite a few myself), but I've never heard of someone who's not had at least one good experience with a published adventure before.

Of course, my claim is just the opposite. I've been playing for over 30 years now, and in all that time I've not once seen a sandbox-style game worth a hill of beans. I've long been a supporter of the mild railroad, because without it, there's simply no direction to a game. Waiting for the players to provide direction is... folly.

So, with that in mind, I'll respond to each item in your list.

1. I'll get back to that.

2. Hmmm... seems like the players are not attentive. If the module is not woven into the storyline of the campaign, I could see that happening. If it's a one-shot, the players should have committed to the adventure, or not, all ahead of time. But that gets back to my response to #1, which I haven't posted yet. :P

3. That sounds like a DMing error. No plan survives contact with the enemy, and no module survives contact with the players. If the room calls for 'X event' to occur, but the players have done something unexpected, then improvise, adapt, consider the alternatives that the module left blank.

Jump to #5. That sounds like a player error. I understand that sometimes a module has been read by a player, it's unavoidable sometimes. Heck, they buy modules too, sometimes they run them for their games. But a player can 'play dumb' with not too much effort. (With my bad memory, I'm a natural at 'playing dumb'!:smallcool:) It's just a matter of common curteousy. If John has been through the module before, then he should let Amy and Rick decide on the direction of the party, and he follows their lead.

Back to #4. Seriously? "See the railroad tracks?" "It's GM story hour." That's not player error - it's player abusiveness. If your players are mocking you openly like that, you should dump them. No wonder you feel pre-printed adventures are never good, if your players are treating you like that.

Of course, if you just dropped them into a preprinted module without any real connection to your campaign, and without discussing it with them in the first place, then perhaps they have proper grievences, which brings me back to...

#1. Preprinted adventures are called "modules". What that means is, they can be inserted into any (or most any) existing campaign. But that doesn't make them a plug-and-play, all sizes fits all kind of thing. You have to flesh it in, prepare ahead of time and consider how it will fit into the whole of your campaign. Or... don't. But if you don't, then you have to admit that it's really not part of your campaign, it doesn't fit, and then (most importantly), EXPLAIN THAT TO YOUR PLAYERS.

I've done both options. In my recently finished Tiatia campaign, I used the venerable 'Night of the Walking Dead' adventure. For those of you who haven't seen it, well, the title kinda explains it all. But it starts out with a bang, as the party enters the town they see the villagers taking a casket to the cemetary for burial... and you can hear the poor guy inside the casket thrashing around, trying to get out. Yep, they got a zombie problem in town.

And the players, presented with yet another town that just happens to have all hell breaking loose *just as they were arriving*, becomes jaded and begins to lose faith in the storyline. Just another DM created crises to occupy their characters for another day of railroad. Boring.

But I didn't use it that way. In my game, as the players came into town, they saw... well, a town. And they went in, and found... people. Regular people, kindly, god-fearing villagers. Helpful too, with the current issues the party was dealing with. They met people in the town, befriended them, studied with one, conducted a trade negotiation with another, heck they went on an adventure with a third. One of the PC's even began dating one of the NPC's. And this went on for awhile, as they crisscrossed back and forth across the countryside, stopping back into town on several occasions, resting and restocking supplies, checking up on old friends.

So when you come into town, and the townsfolks are carrying that casket to the cemetery... they don't have a 'zombie problem' -- they instead are FREAKING BURYING YOUR FRIEND JEREMIAH ALIVE! And oh gods!, your boyfriend has become a lost soul, totally mindblanked! The guy you adventured with is now become the undead, and the guy you studied with last year... is the one who is creating the undead! Your whole freaking town, YOUR TOWN, has gone to hell and a handbasket!

The adventure was a rousing, outstanding success.

If you spend time with the adventure idea, if you plan well ahead of running the adventure, it can be made to fit seemlessly into your campaign world as it it were your own. Sometimes, the players won't even recognize the similarities to the original adventure. Other times they will... which will actually enhance their enjoyment of it, as they recognize the name of the town, and the name of a particular, eccentric individual, and they realize that they are witnessing the beginning of the end for him, and the beginning of the 'adventure' for themselves.

*~*

But as I said, there are two ways to run a store-bought adventure. One is to weave it into the the game, long before you intend to use it, so as to make it appear part of the world they live in. The other is to... not. Don't weave it in, don't slapshot it in at the last minute... DON'T ADD IT TO YOUR WORLD AT ALL. Just run it as a one-shot, for the enjoyment of it.

But to do that, you have to have your player's agreement beforehand. Tell them you have a cool adventure you'd like to use on them. Give them a bit of a preview. Tell them it's not part of the 'campaign'. Let their PC's earn XP for it, of course.... or, alternatively, make up new characters for the adventure, maybe using the preprinted characters from the module that are often included. And then, play the module, have fun.

If the players complain about the 'railroad' of the module, if they want to go explore the city (which is in no way described in the module, as it was only supposed to be a backdrop), explain to them the limitations of the module. But of course, you explained that up front, didn't you? It's part of the process of saying "I have a cool module I'd like to run" speech. It's a pre-printed adventure - It's a RailRoad. There is no way around it. Either your players accept that fact, or they say no thank you, I'd rather stick to the regular campaign.

(And in case the obvious needs to be stated: If the players do prefer to stick to the regular campaign, then you don't run the module. A 'railroad' only works if all parties agree to it ahead of time.

*~*

As an example of this concept in action, I am preparing to use the old AD&D module series, Scourge of the Slavers. I have already established the existance of the slave trade. I've allowed interactions with several NPCs who are or will soon be part of the slaver organization. The players have met escaped slaves. They have even had the option to buy slaves. They have liberated a few from wealthy slaveowners (and are still dealing with the legal reprecussions about that). They are beginning to establish in their minds the pros and cons of slavery, and I think they are beginning to view it as an unexceptable evil.

And if that's not incentive enough, I have full plans to kidnap a key NPC friend of theirs (or even a PC?), and haul them off to the slavepits. That NPC/PC will be the one who escapes and brings back critical info on the location of the slaver stronghold and the secret entrance in the back of the place. That info, plus the natural reaction of the PC's and their countrymen in general to slaver raids along the coastline, will probably inspire the players to want to go crush the slavers once and for all.

When they do, I have the adventure modules ready and waiting for them. But I also have the undefined areas prepared too. After all, they might want to explore the city first, or the countryside area. They might want to find more info. They might approach the stronghold from a different direction, scaling the walls, flying in, digging in, or trying to bluff their way in as potential buyers. I will be ready... or I will improvise as best I can.

I will have had years to blend the modules into the story of my campaign world, and adjust the details of the adventure to better fit with our usual playing style. And it will be glorious...

...

... or, the players will simply choose not to go. Maybe instead, they will decide that the path to riches is to join the slavers, or form their own rival company, or maybe they just don't care either way. In which case, the Scourge of the Slave Lords will never be run in my campaign. That's when I break out option #2.

I tell my players: "Hey, I had a cool adventure prepared for if/when you went after the slavers. Now that the campaign is over, you want to see what would have happened?" If they say yes... and *only* if they say yes... I give them pre-printed characters (or let them use theirs), describe the limits of the playing area (they start at the back of the fortress - there is nothing in existance around them *but* the fortress. Go in, or... well, go in. It's the whole point of the game session, to go in and play).

And then, with the whistle of the railroad playing happily in our ears, we will all have a fun afternoon testing our playing skill against the tournament version of the module.

*~*

I've played modules using either method, and I've had fun both ways. There has been a few absolute stinkers out there, but most of them can be quite fun when you either accept the limitations... or work ahead to overcome them, fully integrating them into your campaign.

Just tossing them in haphazardly is simply not going to work.


And as usual... my longwindedness has left me basically Ninja'd. :smallwink:

Kalirren
2011-04-09, 10:22 AM
At that point, though, are you even playing the module? I playtested a module that a friend of mine wanted to get published a few years back, and he was incensed for a long time over the fact that the group's adventure went so far off-script that "that's not the adventure I wrote, gosh darn it!"

^^ Yeah, what the above poster said. In my experience, GMs who are good at running modules don't -modify- modules so much as -recontextualize- them and adapt to the players' actions. After all, the GM's first responsibility is to the group, not to the module they're running.

Modules contain elements. That's what modules are: collections of elements in closer story-proximity to each other than a splatbook. If your friend is writing modules, publishing them with the expectation that other GMs will follow his script, then maybe he shouldn't publish them.

Nero24200
2011-04-09, 11:33 AM
At least one player will want to go somewhere or do something the module didn't expect. Some bit of flavor text connected with the player through its presentation or the character's background, and the DM and group are left foundering until the DM either goes radically off-book or insists - gently or otherwise - that the adventure lies this way, not the way the player(s) wanted to go.
I have to agree here. Even "sandbox" modules seem to have firm rails in place. I would say this applies a little more to adventures made as part of a series.


The attack of the MEGO. As the DM/Storyteller goes into the written descriptive text for a given set piece, players' eyes get a faraway cast as their minds wander, because the story is not connecting with their characters or is not compelling for some other reason. Players end up missing bits that the module's author made important because they couldn't engage with prepackaged information.
I have to agree firmly here as well. I generally find that as my group nears the end of an adventure we stop referring to NPC's by name and instead just call them "That noble we saved from X scenario" or "the guard captain's sister" or other names based on what they are - Something which was alot rarer when we didn't use pre-written adventures.


Characters get punished (for lack of a better word) for behaving in unexpected ways. This tangentially relates to the first point. If, for example, the module is written so that a roof collapses and deals 40 points damage to all characters in the room, it's been all too often the case that one character was tending to an animal in the area, or was in some way shielded from the effect, but the module doesn't make that exception. This particular issue is exacerbated in modules where "[X] happens, knocking all characters unconscious/back [x] feet", without regard to where characters are positioned..
While I do see this happen sometimes, I would say that better written modules tend to avoid this. Though I mean that they tend to avoid "they take X damage just for being there" or "pushed back 10ft, no save"-esc scenarios. However, I have seen some issues which stems from the "Must have one warrior, one skill-monkey, one divine mage and one arcane mage" idea which I would say fall into this catagory (and happens to be my bggest pet peeve with regards to modules.


Out-of-character talk devolves into metagame discussion of the plot. "C'mon, guys, we clearly have to go down the staircase. Can't you see the railroad tracks?" "Ooh, goodie! It's GM Story Hour!" etc.
This one I have to agree with as well (though I wouldn't say it's as opaque as "It's GM story hour"). It may just be PF specific, but I hear alot of discussion regarding the Golarian setting - Many of their adventure paths use that setting but tie alot of the plots to events/significant figures within the setting, which can be a little off-putting if you don't know/don't care much for the setting. Though I would say that problem lies more with groups of modules made into an adventure rather than single, stand-alone modules.


One or more of the players has read through or played the module already. "Okay, so I ignore the first 3 statues and go pick up the 4th one. Is the Gem of Genua hidden underneath? Wow, what a surprise."

This, however, is one of the few points with which I'll disagree. If a player meta-games then they're at fault. If a DM worries that players may be tempted to metagame because they've read the module then the only real solution is to not use the module.


In the 3e adventure series (Sunless Citadel, Forge of Fury, etc) we started off on the rails, but ended up [snip]While I would say it's all well and good to continue even if players deviate from the module, I would say there are limits. If a module requires the players to say...go into a cavern to find the main part of the adventure, but the players refuse to go in, you can't really say "It doesn't matter if we go off the rails" because then you end up with 3/4's of the module going to waste. Buying a module is not worth it in my opinion if all they essentially are is a introductary synopsis - Especially since you can gain the same thing by just going to the RP section of the forums and starting a thread entiltied "Need help with adventure ideas" or somthing like that.

This can become less of an issue with non-prewritten adventures since the plot hooks driving the players forward can more easily be DM tailered to lure the PC's specifally over others and the DM is more likely to know which plot-hooks those particular players are likely to avoid or embrace.


I recently ran The Keep on the Borderlands, and I tell you, the modules are basically the groundwork you have to lay down, the foundations. They are not the thing you need to be running. It was the best campaign I ever ran.
I would say this varies alot. Certainly the best written modules are more of the "lay the groundwork" type adventures in my opinion, though not all (or even most in my opinion) are like that.

Savannah
2011-04-09, 02:02 PM
Thoughts?

It's the players (and DM), not the module. I've never had a problem with modules, as everyone in the group agrees not to be a jerk. This means that the players understand that the DM has only the module's material to work with, and don't randomly decide to go east and see what they find instead of dealing with what the DM has prepared. Likewise, the DM understands that the module writers couldn't have anticipated everything, and is prepared to adapt the module to the players' plans. Sure, the players know that they're on a bit of a railroad. But they're there to have fun for everyone, so they work within the constraints and don't try to mess with the DM (and they certainly aren't blatantly disrespectful by talking about "GM story hour"* or metagaming if they've played the module before).

*Funny story about that: We'd had a DM who was mostly paraphrasing the descriptions (which, in my opinion, is the best way for the DM to do it, as it sounds like the way they'd talk and it blends together what the DM reads and what they describe outside of the module's text), but in one module, it was important that he read the descriptions, as there were clues in them. He actually said "Now I'm going to read the little description" and did so. We all (players and DM) had a great laugh at how the descriptions were written, and we got the necessary clues. After that adventure, he went back to paraphrasing. So even if you're reading the poorly-written text descriptions, that doesn't mean that the players won't work with you and listen. If they don't, they're not holding up their end of the player-DM relationship.

Ozreth
2011-04-09, 02:57 PM
All those years of gaming and you've NEVER seen a group have a positive experience with one? Some of them are fantastic. Just being able to appreciate the artwork, stroytelling, plots, locations that these authors come up with is an enjoyment within itself. Expedition to Greyhawk is the most fun I've had in my gaming career.

If the DM knows the module well enough there dosent have to be any railroading at all. As somebody else said, they are just used as the foundation.

Solaris
2011-04-09, 05:05 PM
^^ Yeah, what the above poster said. In my experience, GMs who are good at running modules don't -modify- modules so much as -recontextualize- them and adapt to the players' actions. After all, the GM's first responsibility is to the group, not to the module they're running.

Wait, there are people who don't do that? Then why even bother having a GM?

Murphy80
2011-04-09, 05:41 PM
It's the players (and DM), not the module. I've never had a problem with modules, as everyone in the group agrees not to be a jerk. This means that the players understand that the DM has only the module's material to work with, and don't randomly decide to go east and see what they find instead of dealing with what the DM has prepared. Likewise, the DM understands that the module writers couldn't have anticipated everything, and is prepared to adapt the module to the players' plans. Sure, the players know that they're on a bit of a railroad. But they're there to have fun for everyone, so they work within the constraints and don't try to mess with the DM (and they certainly aren't blatantly disrespectful by talking about "GM story hour"* or metagaming if they've played the module before).
+1
I couldn't have said it better myself.

The Big Dice
2011-04-10, 03:27 PM
I'm another Keep on the Borderlands guy. Anyone else remember dice chits?

Anyway, sure I've had some negative experiences with modules, but in every case that was because of my own failings, and not that of the module. Some, like the Keep, I've run multiple times with different groups and even in different systems. And more often than not, my players are quite happy to go along with the assumption that the hooks thrown out will lead to Adventure and Experience Points.

But, I also have some pretty weird ideas about railroading. In particular, the way railroading isn't always a negative and more often than not it's a positive force on roleplaying games. That's because I think everything that is planned in advance is a form of railroading. The parameters are set and the encounter ending is usually a desired result on the part of the GM. Be that desired result a win, lose or draw for the Players, the GM knows in advance how he wants things to more or less end up.

People often argue against this idea, but if you've got a Big Bad that can only be stopped in a particular way, if you've got Black Knight challenging all who try to pass the only bridge over the river or whatever other encounters you have lined up, it's railroading.

It might be positive railroading. But that doesn't change what it is, just the way it's perceived.

Amphetryon
2011-04-10, 03:50 PM
A follow-up question, alluded to above:

If the proposed solution to the stated issues with modules is to rewrite parts of it, ignore other parts, and improvise on all those aspects that the module doesn't cover... what do you use the module for?

Maps? Maps are easy to draw out on the spot, and for those that haven't the inclination or the knack for them, they are available in huge quantities for free on the 'net.

Treasure? The treasure drops in preprinted modules will all but invariably need to be altered to suit the party to a large enough extent that precious little time or effort is saved, if any, in not choosing the items yourself whole-cloth. This doesn't account for those games where a working Magic Mart equivalent means the players will be trading out the loot provided with what they wanted to begin with.

Story hooks? Well, either you're discarding large swaths of the prepackaged stories to fit into the group's backstories and engage the players, or you're choosing the particular tropes published there, which are replicated in all but the particulars at, well, a fairly oft-cited collection of tropes.

NPCs? Most games that aren't module-based will already have NPCs aplenty to choose from for interactions with the party, and I'd be surprised if the GM didn't enjoy the creative process enough to have several other NPC "skeleton concepts" lying around in a notebook, a file folder in the computer or the Web, or rolling around in her head.

So, what's left?

Eldan
2011-04-10, 04:16 PM
My problem is generally that I can come up with locations and NPCs, but have problems making them into a connected and working plot. So I take a published adventure, scavenge the basic plot, some background and the presented NPCs and start building my own from there. It works reasonably well.

Modules should be treated as the bare bones. Add some plots. Currently, I'm running a Skype game that, at it's basis, is just "hunt down bad guys, find they have evil artefact, find out where artefact came from, defeat second bad guy", essentially. There's mention of a few NPCs other than that, and I've built them all into full side quest. My players have been engaged in gang warfare for about five sessions now and are now determined to take down a beholder mafia boss who only had about half a paragraph of description as a background character.

nedz
2011-04-10, 04:58 PM
I've been DMing slightly longer than the OP and I've run modules precisely three times. Once was a module from a Con which I ran as a one off: the game never finished. Another was a kobald temple from Tortured Souls which I ran twice, once for a low level party, and once for a mid level party. This was a mini-module which I quite liked, and so used.
I haven't even bothered looking at any modules since the days of 1E. I found that I have no shortage of ideas which actually fit my games, and it doesn't take much more effort to create something, than it does to learn someone else's material.
I have played quite a few, but again not for a very long time I suspect.

Kerrin
2011-04-10, 05:46 PM
It's the players (and DM), not the module. I've never had a problem with modules, as everyone in the group agrees not to be a jerk. This means that the players understand that the DM has only the module's material to work with, and don't randomly decide to go east and see what they find instead of dealing with what the DM has prepared. Likewise, the DM understands that the module writers couldn't have anticipated everything, and is prepared to adapt the module to the players' plans. Sure, the players know that they're on a bit of a railroad. But they're there to have fun for everyone, so they work within the constraints and don't try to mess with the DM (and they certainly aren't blatantly disrespectful by talking about "GM story hour"* or metagaming if they've played the module before).
Savannah, you nailed it for me regarding modules.

I use modules when I GM games because I don't have any more time that it takes to familiarize myself with a module. But, I do try to give the characters reasons for wanting to get involved with the module's plot/story.

Likewise, our group does our best to treat modules in the same way as described by above by Savannah.

And we enjoy the fun and adventure the modules provide. Good times all around!

Shade Kerrin
2011-04-10, 06:43 PM
text
Must always do this when I see it, sorry.

I'm not a particularly big fan of running modules, but they can be made enjoyable. Typically, I run it as written, making minor adjustments as necessary when players do something unexpected. They never even know the difference.
Occasionally, though, the module just isn't good enough to run in such a manner. In these cases, I take a completely different approach: I rename all important NPCs to Firstname von Plotdevice, describe things as happening in 'a burst of Deus ex Machina', and start making train noises when the PCs suggest doing something that's off the rails. We enjoy it, in the same manner that you enjoy a bad movie.

nedz
2011-04-10, 07:00 PM
stuff

Reminds me of this (http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?116562-D-amp-D3.0-%28Actual-Play%29-X2-Ch%E2teau-d%92Amberville&pp=10), which is a must read.

rayne_dragon
2011-04-10, 07:36 PM
I agree with Savannah that it has more to do with DMs and players than the modules themselves. The difference between a published module and a scenario you wrote yourself is most likely that you wrote yours specifically for your game. Generally, I'll go through a module before I run it and switch around things here and there to cater things to my (and hopefully my player's) tastes and to keep anyone whose read the module before on their toes. It takes me an hour or so to rework an established module, while writing a new one from scratch can take a whole afternoon/evening or more. Plus sometimes I don't feel creative enough to make something good from scratch, so modules can be handy to have around - including for when someone decides to go off the planned path and into an area that hasn't been really been fleshed out yet (because it doesn't just happen in published scenarios that players go "off the rails" and head somewhere you never expected them to explore).

I like to think the people I play with won't metagame. I know when I play a module that I've been through before (and still remember) I generally decide to hang back and let other players figure out the puzzles and traps. At the same time I think it is really fun to be surprised by events during a session, so I like to tweak things enough that someone who has the module memorized would still be able to be shocked and puzzled by it.

I also think that it can be quite different with different games. I rarely like any D&D modules enough to use them at all, only taking the occassional encounter, room, or map from them for my own use. On the other hand, for Call of Cthulhu, I could easily see myself using many of the scenarios for games with minimal retweaking.

Kalirren
2011-04-10, 07:43 PM
A follow-up question, alluded to above:

If the proposed solution to the stated issues with modules are to rewrite parts of it, ignore other parts, and improvise on all those aspects that the module doesn't cover... what do you use the module for?

Maps? ...
Treasure? ...
Story hooks? ...
NPCs? ...
So, what's left?

As a DM I struggle with thinking of adventures out of whole cloth. I'm good at downtime and bad at uptime. I'm bad at stringing plots together. Modules often give me something to run, situations that emerge in the group's face and that they get to deal with, which keeps the momentum running.

I use modules modularly; I don't run them in isolation, but connect elements they have to the fabric of whatever gameworld I have. Modules give the PCs something to do, adventures for the adventurers to go on between the times I have them deal with their other connections and build their agency.

Savannah
2011-04-10, 07:48 PM
So, what's left?

Depends on the module. I'm currently in the process of reworking two modules.

For one, I'm keeping the plot, because it's awesome and creepy and I would never had come up with it myself. I'm also keeping the maps, geography, and encounters because they all work. I'm redoing the NPCs because the module writer couldn't even build a 2nd level human warrior correctly (*facepalm*) and adding in some more possible clues because I don't think the module writer had enough ways for the PCs to figure out what's going on.

For the other, I like the dungeon crawl (with one or two really minor tweaks), but I'm adding a lot to the beginning and end to give the PCs more reasons to go to the dungeon (and to add a midwinter festival, because I like having more connections to the year in my game and it's fun).

Shade Kerrin
2011-04-10, 08:03 PM
Reminds me of this (http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?116562-D-amp-D3.0-%28Actual-Play%29-X2-Ch%E2teau-d%92Amberville&pp=10), which is a must read.

Thanks for the read, sounds like the sort of things I wind up doing.

Kerrin
2011-04-10, 08:14 PM
On the other hand, for Call of Cthulhu, I could easily see myself using many of the scenarios for games with minimal retweaking.
Oh my, yes. We have quite a collection of Cthulhu modules and module compilations from years ago and I've always enjoyed reading them almost as stories or choose-your-own-adventure type books. :smallsmile:

AslanCross
2011-04-10, 08:20 PM
My group is fairly new, having completed two campaigns. We started with 3.5.

Before I begin, I'd like to note that I don't associate the presence of a plot (that is, a direction the story is taking) with the negative connotation of a railroad (that is, a story where the PCs have either no choices, or their choices and actions have no significant impact on the course of the story). Perhaps an unconventional position, since on these forums and on the Internet in general, I see that most people tend to associate "plot" with "railroad."

The first campaign I had was a very railroady and stereotypical FR campaign. As it moved along, I began relaxing and adding more options for them, so that while yes, there was a plot, they were not fixed on it and could choose for themselves where they wanted to go. They never reacted negatively to having obvious choices, and in fact, when I ask them "So, where do you want to go?" without having any clear options, they kind of sit there in stunned silence for a bit. (After which the default answer is usually "let's go shopping for items!")

My second campaign was a modified RHOD. I had already set the players' expectations beforehand, so they didn't react negatively to there being a distinct plot and situations where there wasn't much choice. Of course, in the major situations where they did need to make a choice, it was clear that they weren't forced to take one option that is clearly superior over another that clearly lead to their doom.

My group is composed of college-age students (We started playing when they were in 3rd year high school; note that college-age here in the Philippines means 16-21 due to non-standard schooling years) who are mostly fiction writers. As such, they tend to think of our campaigns in terms of a clear plot and parallel character development. They never complain that they don't have enough freedom, although I do encourage that they do things that neither I nor the writers of the module expect. Doing so tends to lead to CMoAs.

As a group we don't really care much for sandbox. The more reserved members of the group are highly uncomfortable with the idea, as they feel it will end up with much random acts of silliness, which, while possibly fun at the outset, is what we do when we're NOT gaming anyway, and so ruins the point of spending hours upon hours preparing, blocking off gaming days, and devoting time to each session.

...my apologies for that lengthy complex sentence.

In any case, I think the following are safe generalizations to make about railroading and sandboxes:

1. It depends on the group's preferences. Some groups are comfortable with sandbox, some aren't. Some groups find too much freedom daunting and want clear options. What I know for sure is that no one likes a bad story, and having no options tends to lead quickly in that direction.

2. Expectations have to be set. If players come into the campaign expecting lots of choice and the meet a railroad, they're definitely going to be disappointed.

3. Many modules are very railroady. I think RHOD has the distinction of having a lot of predicted outcomes ("If they plan to stand and fight..."/"If they plan on assassinating Kharn..."/etc), so it's really good in that aspect. However, a great deal of the others I've read assume that players only stick to one path through a dungeon that possibly presents more than one overt alternative and several more hidden ones. (This is why I care very little for dungeon crawls.)

valadil
2011-04-10, 08:23 PM
My module experience is limited to LFR. I've had a good time with it, but agree that it's inhibited by the things the OP describes.

Some GMs are willing to go off rails. Some are willing to make minor changes. These GMs are usually able to make the module fun. The ones who stick to the mod make it boring. In most of these cases I've played written games by those same GMs. Oddly enough the ones willing to go off rails or riff around someones character are the GMs I consider good, even outside of published games.

Weezer
2011-04-10, 08:29 PM
As a DM I'm best at improvisation and really, really bad at planning out a whole coherent story/campaign/adventure. Because of this most of my sessions are off the cuff quasi-sandbox games where the prep I do is to stat out some interesting level appropriate monsters/NPCs and maybe draw out a map or two to work in as I go. This results in games that are fun but devoid of any strong plot. So when I or my group gets a hankering for an actual story, I've found that using a module as the skeleton of the story works best for us. I'm good enough at improv to make whatever the players try to do work with the module and the module provides a frame for me to do my improv within.
Though saying that my players sometimes have a hard time adjusting to a campaign where they are expected to actually follow plot hooks and occasionally buck at the rails.

Jay R
2011-04-10, 08:38 PM
In all that time, I've never seen a group have a positive experience with a published module.

People who don't know how to drive never have a positive experience with a car.

Amphetryon
2011-04-10, 09:20 PM
People who don't know how to drive never have a positive experience with a car.I'm going to have to ask what you mean by that.

Mutazoia
2011-04-10, 09:21 PM
Well I've been playing D&D since it was Chainmail. I've run Modules, and homebrew stuff alike.

Modules are great for beginning players and DM's. Not everybody can read the rule's for the first time and instantly be the best DM in the world. New players won't see the railroad tracks, they just play along and have fun.

It's the jaded players that have the problems. By the time they start cross-talking more than listening, they've seen and done a lot. A basic module isn't as challenging for them. So what good is a published module for them?

Just as good as it is for the newbies if done right. Who says you have to tell them its a published module? Work it in with your homebrew stuff and they should never know the difference. Most publish modules are rather linear: You go in one way, go out the other laden with treasure and XP (and maybe a body of a party member to drag off to the local temple). The railroading should be almost transparent, since there are really only so many doors and corridors to explore.

Take the old Isle of Dread module. The PC's become trapped in an ancient ziggurat/tomb and have to find the way out. Can't go back...must go forward. Some paths have you walking in circles, one or two lead you onward toward the end.

Granted, not all published modules were actual "dungeons". The aforementioned Keep on the Borderlands wasn't. But the general plot was meant to keep you in that valley until you ended the threat to the keep. (As a side note, Keep on the borderlands wasn't written very well. It was meant for beginning players/DM's and didn't hold up to more experienced players very well.) But if you set the players a goal (as described in the module) and turn them loose, the module will give you the most common information you would need, that is they are designed around the most likely course of action players may take. Sure, some one may want to jump the tracks, but for the most part, the plot should keep them (mostly) in line.

As for players buying and reading the module ahead of time...I've had that happen. If its obvious that the player is skipping trapped statues 1-3 and going immediately for statue #4 with the Gem of Genua inside...well guess what...the 3rd statue was trapped, the Gem of Genua was actually behind curtain #1. You should be able to tell pretty early on when some one's cheating....just change the minor details. The pit trap that was 10 feet down the corridor is now 20 feet, so the cleaver cheater who stop's 9 feet down and jumps forward lands right on the pit trap.

The best thing about published modules is, as one poster said, time. You may want your party to rush off to the city of Dun 'Gheep and confront the Big Bad, but they decide to trek off into the wilderness. You don't have anything ready in that area because you didn't expect them to take a right turn in left field. You can say "ok lets take a break until next time so I can whip something up here." or drop in a published module and no-one's the wiser. Think of a published module as one giant smegging random encounter.

potatocubed
2011-04-11, 06:10 AM
I've had a lot of good experiences with modules, although I've often had to fill in some details around the edges when the PCs went 'off-road'.

(Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, Red Hand of Doom, Freiburg (7th Sea), Harbinger House (Planescape), The Sunless Citadel, and Speaker in Dreams spring to mind...)

I'll concede that of the five points in the OP, the issue of ridiculous read-aloud text (I summarise in a line or two) and event-driven modules assuming far too much about PC behaviour are genuine problems. I think that these are just symptoms of bad modules, though, not indications that all modules are bad.

Earthwalker
2011-04-11, 06:57 AM
It all comes down to what a group wants from thier role playing experiance.
If you want sandbox then a modual is not going to work as for you. Personally I rarly use moduals for DnD or Pathfinder as with these systems I am making my own world. I have used alot for Shadowrun as it seems to really work. The players are hired to do X, the X in question is then covered by the modual.

I also really like the FASA campaign books, a book that is basically background on the world, important NPCs and then a list of hooks for the players to mess things up and ideas on what the NPCs motivations are in responce to how the players mess thing up.

Samurai Jill
2011-04-11, 08:16 AM
3. That sounds like a DMing error. No plan survives contact with the enemy, and no module survives contact with the players. If the room calls for 'X event' to occur, but the players have done something unexpected, then improvise, adapt, consider the alternatives that the module left blank...

...Of course, if you just dropped them into a preprinted module without any real connection to your campaign, and without discussing it with them in the first place, then perhaps they have proper grievences, which brings me back to...

...#1. Preprinted adventures are called "modules". What that means is, they can be inserted into any (or most any) existing campaign. But that doesn't make them a plug-and-play, all sizes fits all kind of thing. You have to flesh it in, prepare ahead of time and consider how it will fit into the whole of your campaign...

...In my game, as the players came into town, they saw... well, a town. And they went in, and found... people. Regular people, kindly, god-fearing villagers. Helpful too, with the current issues the party was dealing with. They met people in the town, befriended them, studied with one, conducted a trade negotiation with another, heck they went on an adventure with a third. One of the PC's even began dating one of the NPC's. And this went on for awhile, as they crisscrossed back and forth across the countryside, stopping back into town on several occasions, resting and restocking supplies, checking up on old friends.

So when you come into town, and the townsfolks are carrying that casket to the cemetery... they don't have a 'zombie problem' -- they instead are FREAKING BURYING YOUR FRIEND JEREMIAH ALIVE! And oh gods!, your boyfriend has become a lost soul, totally mindblanked! The guy you adventured with is now become the undead, and the guy you studied with last year... is the one who is creating the undead! Your whole freaking town, YOUR TOWN, has gone to hell and a handbasket!

Jarawara, I have absolutely no problem with this idea of how to GM. In fact, it's practically textbook narrativism. But the way in which you are using the module material bears almost no resemblance to how most RPGs encourage you to use said material. You are (A) adapting the NPCs and situation to make sure that they tie in with the PCs' longer-term ambitions and personalities, (B) placing the PCs in dramatic situations which make appropriate responses non-obvious, and (C) AFAICT, not trying to control how the PCs respond to it.

Hell, the whole thing sounds like a rousing session of Dogs in the Vineyard. Which is awesome.

However- and much as I applaud you for your sterling efforts to get the players engaged and make their input meaningful- the problems with how module play in generally approached- where you toss the PCs headfirst into some situation that has nothing to do with them and assume that their reactions will somehow be uniformly predictable- remains a serious issue.

I mean, given the style of play that you're talking about, why do you even need a 'module' in the first place? Heck, you're practically rewriting 3/4 of the source material yourself at this point- the extra 25% can't be all that hard to come up with. Which is a good thing.

valadil
2011-04-11, 08:39 AM
However- and much as I applaud you for your sterling efforts to get the players engaged and make their input meaningful- the problems with how module play in generally approached- where you toss the PCs headfirst into some situation that has nothing to do with them and assume that their reactions will somehow be uniformly predictable- remains a serious issue.

I mean, given the style of play that you're talking about, why do you even need a 'module' in the first place? Heck, you're practically rewriting 3/4 of the source material yourself at this point- the extra 25% can't be all that hard to come up with. Which is a good thing.

I was under the impression that that was how modules were supposed to be handled? I read somewhere, which I think was a DMG but I could be mistaken, that if you had a cleric in the group you were encouraged to swap out the temple in town with whatever church that cleric belonged to. Or if there was an 'orcs killed my parents orphan' in your group, swap out the hobgoblins with orcs. These changes are pretty trivial, but help suck the players in.

Rewriting is easier than writing. Once you know the PCs, you can pretty mechanically go through an existing adventure and make changes to fit the party. It's a lot harder to come up with an adventure out of thin air. Someone who edits an adventure will never have to deal with writer's block.

Tyndmyr
2011-04-11, 08:49 AM
My group is fairly new, having completed two campaigns. We started with 3.5.

Before I begin, I'd like to note that I don't associate the presence of a plot (that is, a direction the story is taking) with the negative connotation of a railroad (that is, a story where the PCs have either no choices, or their choices and actions have no significant impact on the course of the story). Perhaps an unconventional position, since on these forums and on the Internet in general, I see that most people tend to associate "plot" with "railroad."

I would agree with this. Plot tends to be the most common reason for railroading, in my experience....but you can have a lovely plot without a railroad. They're not at all the same thing.

Modules do often tend to be fairly linear in nature. Even fairly open ended, flexible ones like 7th Sea's Freeburg, sometimes fail to capture the scope of everything the players do. That said, I like the style of that one, as it shows certain events must happen in a certain order, due to their causal relationship, but many might not happen at all, and many can happen whenever is appropriate within a given range.

I feel that this sort of open-minded approach needs to be taken with most modules. Give it a good read-through before playing it, and consider if everything makes sense that way...consider what happens if players make unexpected choices. Frequently, they'll attach undue importance to something described in flavor text, so read those carefully.

Modules are great, and wildly reduce prep time, but they don't entirely eliminate it. And, unfortunately, a couple modules are just terrible. Read through them all first.

Samurai Jill
2011-04-11, 08:53 AM
I was under the impression that that was how modules were supposed to be handled? I read somewhere, which I think was a DMG but I could be mistaken, that if you had a cleric in the group you were encouraged to swap out the temple in town with whatever church that cleric belonged to. Or if there was an 'orcs killed my parents orphan' in your group, swap out the hobgoblins with orcs. These changes are pretty trivial, but help suck the players in.
To the extent that the changes are trivial, then yes, the changes are, well, trivial. But Jarawara isn't talking about trivial changes. Spending the kind of time and effort he described on engaging with the NPCs, developing their relationships, embarking on mutual side-quests, etc. represents a major investment of time and energy on the part of both the players and the GM. Also- to my mind- the kind of emotional struggles that the PCs are being presented with make their reactions harder to predict, not more so. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Also, if you know how to change the material so that it ties in with the PCs' motives, then the PCs' motives themselves should suggest plenty of story material. The PC has a beef with hobgoblins? Then hobgoblin-related adventures seem to be in order. The PC has an unshakeable faith in Pelor and his church? Then Pelor's church-related conundrums are sure to whet their appetite. So, what about a situation where Pelor's clergy are sheltering a hobgoblin emissary? What could drive them to do so? Is there a renegade clan of hobgoblins suing for peace? Perhaps the local clergy in fact a cabal of corrupt demon-worshippers- will the PC refuse to accept it? These things practically write themselves once you think about it a while.

Sebastrd
2011-04-11, 03:45 PM
stuff...

I wish I had that kind of time.

Jarawara
2011-04-11, 04:28 PM
I had been meaning to post again, to try to describe why I bother to use modules if I'm going to go to the trouble of rewriting it entirely, but I couldn't think of how to succinctly phrase my reasoning. But then Samurai Jill hit the nail on the head for me.


Heck, you're practically rewriting 3/4 of the source material yourself at this point- the extra 25% can't be all that hard to come up with.

The thing is, that extra 25% *IS* all that hard for me.

I do my best when I take someone else's work and redesign it. I scourer through boxes of old modules, looking for inspiration, looking for something that would fit the feel of my next upcoming game. When I find it, I might completely rewrite the modules (says on the cover "For use with characters level 8-12", I like the concept so I'll rewrite it for my 3rd level people), or I might look for stuff I wish to plan for later (I like the feel of the Slave Lord modules, so I'll start dropping hints and mini-adventures dealing with the slavers, for *years*, before I finally bring out the old modules to actually use. And by then, I'll have rewritten them).

But to come up with those ideas from scratch... I just stare at the blank sheet of paper and go kinda numb.

I do this with wargame designing too. I have hundreds of home-made wargames. But I never seem to be able to come up with a concept or original design of my own. Instead, I look at a way to redesign Axis and Allies, or Federation and Empire, or Greyhawk Wars, or... well, you get the idea. And I might have dozens of different ideas for game. I have 4 entirely different, fully working versions of Dark Emperor. They really are four different wargames by the time I was done with them. But I wouldn't have come up with a single one if I relied on designing something from scratch. I'd still be putzing around with redesigning the cardgame 'War'.

Sometimes I'll dig through the modules, and something will catch my eye. Maybe a similarity between two of them I hadn't seen before. A minor villain in this module is a 4th level Illusionist. Bah, boring. I look at several others, and I find one that has a 4th level Illusionist as a villain... Hmmmm... it looks exactly like the other. Maybe it was the same guy. So how'd he get from one place to another?

And then the juices are flowing, as I chart out how to seemingly diverse, geographically incompatible adventures are somehow connected. The two modules have inspired a plotline which simply put would not have come from within, or from the muse of the netherworlds.

All I need then do is figure out the connection between the players and a 4th level Illusionist, (who probably gets redesigned to what I really need for my campaign but still remains connected to both adventures). Start adding the seeds of familiarity and motivation so I don't end up 'tossing the PCs headfirst into some situation that has nothing to do with them', and I'm good to go.

I also get the same inspirations off of the player's characters, of course. It's material that can inspire, allowing me to redesign and expand upon, just like any other module. Of course, they are doing the same on me, designing their characters based off of themes and materials they have seen of my world.

Sometime that combines in the most unexpected ways. I define a kingdom ruled by Hobgoblins. Player creates a character who's history includes dealing with the hobgoblins and their war crimes. The character now has a built in beef to go after the Hobgoblins.

... the unexpected, of course, is that in my world, the Hobgoblins are the *good guys*.

Methinks this promises to be interesting!

*~*

And just as clarification, to put the capstone on my thought processes. I just defined exactly the scenario that is forming in my game. Miranda is preparing to raise an army against the Hobgoblins, to whom I view as the good guys (though I can totally see how certain elements within them could have committed the war crimes of Miranda's past). So now I must prepare for the next phase of the campaign, focused on Miranda's one-woman war.

And here my mind goes blank.

So off to the six (no, seven. No... eight. Nine?) boxes of old modules I go, to look for inspiration. I think I might have something brewing in my mind with the old 'Against the Giants' adventure, replacing Hill, Frost, and Fire Giants with Hobgoblins, Gnolls, and Trolls. After all, each of the three groups' nationalities (Raliskan, Maitoor, and Tal'khed) might be conspiring to keep the Nerevaln (Miranda's people) suppressed. Heck, the Zantians make for a great stand-in for Drow. (Damn money-grubbing businessmen, they're worse than spider-god worshipers!)

One rewrite later, and I might have the workings of a scenario for her to free her peoples from all outside oppressors, all in one grand campaign. Though that would be the capstone of the campaign, so I need more filler to get to that point.

It's off to the boxes for me!

Jarawara
2011-04-11, 04:30 PM
I wish I had that kind of time.

It helps if you have no life.

One player once asked me, as she looked over the detail in my game, "What do you do, stay up all night thinking about these things?"

Then she remembered that I have a night-job, and said: "Oh. Right."

:smallbiggrin:

nedz
2011-04-11, 04:57 PM
Interesting stuff

It's off to the boxes for me!

Hint: read some books :smallsmile:

Jarawara
2011-04-11, 05:19 PM
Hint: read some books :smallsmile:

Yep, movies too. I used to watch old episodes of Outer Limits, because I could see how those stories could be turned into games.

Some work better than others.

1) Experiment goes awry in a lab, starts taking over the lab workers one by one, till only one remains to save the day? Replace 'lab worker' with PC, and you have your adventure.

2) William Shatner sees a gremlin attacking the wing of his plane? Replace 'gremlin' with... duh, 'gremlin', replace 'wing of plane' with uh... 'cloak the flying wizard is wearing'? Ok... some ideas don't translate so well.

And besides, if my players starting acting like William Shatner, I know my campaign has hit the rocks.

Amphetryon
2011-04-12, 08:57 AM
@ Jarawara:
Could you explain what a module provides to your creative process that a different source of inspiration does not? In other words, why do you feel a module works better than a book or a movie or a tvtropes link as a source of inspiration for you? I ask because, if it's not a better source, then what are you getting from it?

The Glyphstone
2011-04-12, 09:13 AM
@ Jarawara:
Could you explain what a module provides to your creative process that a different source of inspiration does not? In other words, why do you feel a module works better than a book or a movie or a tvtropes link as a source of inspiration for you? I ask because, if it's not a better source, then what are you getting from it?

maybe just the phrasing? It's already set up in the framework and language of a D&D adventure, even if all the details go away. The book or movie may have better raw potential, but requires translation, not just conversion.

It's like preferring to watch movies filmed in your native language originally, rather than learning a foreign language to watch their movies or watching translated/dubbed versions...the end experience might be more satisfying if you put the effort in, but said effort is more trouble than it's worth when you have something perfectly palatable in front of you.

druid91
2011-04-12, 11:02 AM
I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine on the nature and limitations of published adventures. I'd like to use this thread to continue that discussion with the forum at large, addressing some of the specific issues that have come up in my experience and yours when using prepackaged modules. I fully acknowledge that some of what I've perceived as problems may be entirely based on my unique experiences.

I've been gaming for a long time - since The Keep On The Borderlands and the Red Box Set. I've played and run several systems, and worked with friends on developing their own. In all that time, I've never seen a group have a positive experience with a published module. One or more of the following issues has inevitably come up, to varying degrees:


At least one player will want to go somewhere or do something the module didn't expect. Some bit of flavor text connected with the player through its presentation or the character's background, and the DM and group are left foundering until the DM either goes radically off-book or insists - gently or otherwise - that the adventure lies this way, not the way the player(s) wanted to go.
The attack of the MEGO. As the DM/Storyteller goes into the written descriptive text for a given set piece, players' eyes get a faraway cast as their minds wander, because the story is not connecting with their characters or is not compelling for some other reason. Players end up missing bits that the module's author made important because they couldn't engage with prepackaged information.
Characters get punished (for lack of a better word) for behaving in unexpected ways. This tangentially relates to the first point. If, for example, the module is written so that a roof collapses and deals 40 points damage to all characters in the room, it's been all too often the case that one character was tending to an animal in the area, or was in some way shielded from the effect, but the module doesn't make that exception. This particular issue is exacerbated in modules where "[X] happens, knocking all characters unconscious/back [x] feet", without regard to where characters are positioned.
Out-of-character talk devolves into metagame discussion of the plot. "C'mon, guys, we clearly have to go down the staircase. Can't you see the railroad tracks?" "Ooh, goodie! It's GM Story Hour!" etc.
One or more of the players has read through or played the module already. "Okay, so I ignore the first 3 statues and go pick up the 4th one. Is the Gem of Genua hidden underneath? Wow, what a surprise."


Thoughts?

1.) They go that way, face a couple of random encounters, find nothing more interesting then a town or whatever. They get bored and you move on.
2.)that's the players fault. I mostly play modules because if I write he adventure it ends up weird. and so far the descriptive text is either a short description of a room, or a long history of a site that you need to make knowledge checks for.
3.)The world is the world, it does not revolve around the players. if something was going to happen then it will. and the second part is where DM common sense kicks in.
4.)that seems like a player attitude problem to me. Not an inherent flaw in the modules themselves.
5.) "I may not defeat the tomb of horrors in less than a minute from memory." Why not? Because it is well within the DMs rights to switch things up a bit.

Savannah
2011-04-12, 03:42 PM
@ Jarawara:
Could you explain what a module provides to your creative process that a different source of inspiration does not? In other words, why do you feel a module works better than a book or a movie or a tvtropes link as a source of inspiration for you? I ask because, if it's not a better source, then what are you getting from it?

For me, it's because the module is already set up for a D&D adventure. Sure, the movie/book/whatever might have an awesome storyline, but that assumes that the protagonist will do exactly the right things in exactly the right order at exactly the right time (because the writer is in complete control). To translate that into a D&D adventure, I'd have to work out all the possible ways for the players to respond, work out what happens each way, figure out what I'd do if the players choose not to go the way that gives them the critical information, figure out how to best represent the bag guys in D&D stats, etc, etc, etc. With a D&D module, a lot of that has been done for me. Oh, sure, it's generally not enough options for the players, but it's easier to add a few options than to make up every single one yourself.

Not to mention that translating a book or movie to D&D takes at least twice as long as modifying a module because you have to do so much more work (and, quite frankly, regardless of whether or not a non-module source is better, not everyone has the time to create a D&D adventure from scratch - what's better, a reworked module or no game at all?). Plus it's far more likely that the players have seen or read a given non-module source than that they've read the module.

Jarawara
2011-04-12, 07:12 PM
@ Jarawara:
Could you explain what a module provides to your creative process that a different source of inspiration does not? In other words, why do you feel a module works better than a book or a movie or a tvtropes link as a source of inspiration for you? I ask because, if it's not a better source, then what are you getting from it?

Short answer: Nothing. (Though I contest your conclusion. If it's not a better source, then it's simply a *different* source.)

*~*

Medium sized answer: Savanna and Glyphstone said it best. The module is already in a D&D language, and need not be translated.

Some things in film and books just don't convert to D&D. I often see things in a film and I think to myself how cool it would be to play that out. But when I then start thinking how to make a playable game out of it, I realize that films and books are far, far more railroady than modules ever could hope to be, filled with duex ex overwhelma, and often simply lack a *playable* element to them. You think you have a great storyline, start the game, things happen, people die, and then you ask the players "So, ah, what do you think about that?" And then you realize that a game has to have a point where the players take over.

Modules, for all their inherent railroadness, still presume that the primary action taker is the PC's. Films and books don't always do that. In films, the hero has things happen to him. In modules, the PC's are the ones making things happen, and the module reacts to the players action. It might still be railroady, but the players are still firmly in control of the engine.

*~*

Long answer: Actually, I'm very much getting away from using modules, but not because of anything wrong with the modules. Instead, it's because my style of gaming is becoming so far removed from normal D&D.... or from anything remotely recognizable as a type of RPG... that I find modules are no longer written in 'my language' anymore. Films and books are closer to my inspirational venue now, as I find myself setting 'scenes' and describing the setting as how 'the viewer would see it', as if I were a director of a movie that was being filmed. The players find themselves being the actors of the movie which we are writing as we go.

Heck, I even go so far as to describe the camera angles, (usually in terms of how NPC's might be viewing the PC's approach; or sometimes used to show some kind of warning to the players - something seen from this angleview of the scene I just described is significant or dangerous, why else was the camera view coming from that direction?).

We often end up setting roleplay scenes, and in setting the scene I first describe where the scene takes place, who is present, and if necessary, what the topic of conversation is (though that often goes out the window once things get rolling). Obviously the players can do the same (if they specifically went to speak to someone, I'll let them describe setting/time/people present and so on), but if they are uncertain, I'll just take over and describe to them where their characters are for this scene.

There is a much greater inherent railroad to this style of gaming. There's no counter to that statement, I wasn't going to say "but, blahblahblah". Nope. It's more railroady, and that's just the way it is.

We split the party often. In fact, I think the party is split for the majority of the time. It helps to have multiple characters to each player, because we can then focus on each group and still have something for everyone at the table to do. We define the tasks that each group was working towards, and then I begin to develop the upcoming 'scenes' for each group.

We suppliment the game with collaborative stories. Just going through my files, we have.... well, I don't have an accurate count, because I haven't cleaned up the working files folder, but it looks like about 80 stories written between us. Those stories are all linked to the ongoing campaign, either as background material, events occuring elsewhere, or roleplay scenes of the PC's occuring in between games.

I'll openly give the players out of character knowledge. I'll write a 'scene' of dialog between the two BBEG's of the campaign, discussing plans on how to bring the war to the players. Then I'll switch the 'camera' back to the characters, who obviously know little to nothing of this, yet must be vigilant against all threats. One of the best scenes we ever did was when I revealed the BBEG right in front of them, and though they all knew it was her, the characters did not, and so they calmly shook her hand, conversed politely with her, had tea and crumpets. The players were absolutely beside themselves with rage against her, but they all stayed in character and waved to her as she left. I was so proud of them.

So much of my 'game' doesn't seem like a game anymore, that I'm sure that most D&D players would have their heads a'splode if they had to 'play' it. Those who don't just stare in wonderment would surely rise up and revolt against my 'terrible' DMing and 'befuddling' game. But hey, the campaign was a rousing success and just came to it's grand conclusion just this past Saturday. (We even played out the epilog, just like they would in some films.)

It's become so much different from a game of D&D, that the 'language' of a typical module is no longer as useful to me. The language of books and film is probably more in line with my style of DMing.

And so, long answer written short, what do modules provide to the creative process that different sources do not provide: Nothing.

*~*

And yet, when thinking about films and books, right off the top of my head, nothing comes to mind to provide the inspiration for the next game. So it's off to the boxes of modules, where something always comes up.

I will admit that it was a video game that will probably set the 'theme' of the next campaign. I bought the game for $20, just to see if I might get a few hours of fun out of it. It's possibly the best 20 bucks I even spent, if it provides the whole framework for the next several years of D&D.

Amphetryon
2011-04-12, 07:46 PM
Though I contest your conclusion. If it's not a better source, then it's simply a *different* source.Nitpick: My 'conclusion' was nothing more than a question, paraphrased as "If the source is not the better one, why is it the one you choose?"


Modules, for all their inherent railroadness, still presume that the primary action taker is the PC's. Films and books don't always do that. In films, the hero has things happen to him. In modules, the PC's are the ones making things happen, and the module reacts to the players action.I would contest this. Modules, being static, can't actually react to the players' actions, particularly if those actions are unexpected. They can give a set of responses in "if/then" format or similar, but that presumes the right "ifs" are broached by the players. They deal, primarily, with the actions of the NPCs, because they don't 'script' PC actions, but at the same time, when the PCs actions don't mesh with the prepackaged NPC responses (the "if/thens"), the NPCs are not reacting to the PCs - the DM is, unless he's breaking character to get the PCs back to the storyline.



Maybe I'm reading it with a presupposition of the meaning, but it looks to me like your own "long answer" is a refutation of using modules.

Jarawara
2011-04-12, 11:35 PM
Maybe I'm reading it with a presupposition of the meaning, but it looks to me like your own "long answer" is a refutation of using modules.

No, you got it right. Though it is more of my own personal refutation of using modules in my current gamestyle. I was not refuting their value for a more traditional D&D campaign.

And understand, I was describing how my games have become even *more* railroady, *more* controlled than the typical D&D game. And as it became more railroady, I found modules to be of less use to me.

My next campaign will have less prewritten story, and more of an open-ended flexibility. Therefore, I will go back to using modules.

Which seems to be the exact opposite of your reaction to them.

dsmiles
2011-04-13, 05:04 AM
I would contest this. Modules, being static, can't actually react to the players' actions, particularly if those actions are unexpected. They can give a set of responses in "if/then" format or similar, but that presumes the right "ifs" are broached by the players. They deal, primarily, with the actions of the NPCs, because they don't 'script' PC actions, but at the same time, when the PCs actions don't mesh with the prepackaged NPC responses (the "if/thens"), the NPCs are not reacting to the PCs - the DM is, unless he's breaking character to get the PCs back to the storyline.
It's not about "breaking script." The DM needs to be flexible enough to react to the PC actions within the framework of the module (if they're using one). Just because there's no 'scripted' response to a PC action doesn't meant that they can't do it. The DM is a human being, not a computer. He/she can react any way they see fit to any given action. It's not supposed to be like a video game, where if you talk to NPC #12,245, their only response is "I've got to be getting along now." or whatever. The DM is free to adjust NPC reactions to cover all their bases. If the module designers weren't taking the "human factor" into account, they would just sell the modules on little cartridges that plug into a speak'n'spell, and the lame, robotic voice would just read the module verbatim.

Tyndmyr
2011-04-13, 07:52 AM
Some things in film and books just don't convert to D&D. I often see things in a film and I think to myself how cool it would be to play that out. But when I then start thinking how to make a playable game out of it, I realize that films and books are far, far more railroady than modules ever could hope to be, filled with duex ex overwhelma, and often simply lack a *playable* element to them.

This is definitely the case for a great many tales. Consider the Blackhearts Trilogy. As a book? Enjoyable. Good setting, decentish characters. Plot perhaps not the most novel, but certainly not horrible.

But, try to convert that into a roleplaying game. Enjoy having the players strapped to the railroad, afraid to venture off because of the uncircumventable magical poison in their veins that kills them if they do, being backstabbed at every turn by DMPCs, and so on. It'd be an absolutely terrible game.

Amphetryon
2011-04-13, 08:01 AM
It's not about "breaking script." The DM needs to be flexible enough to react to the PC actions within the framework of the module (if they're using one). Just because there's no 'scripted' response to a PC action doesn't meant that they can't do it. The DM is a human being, not a computer. He/she can react any way they see fit to any given action. It's not supposed to be like a video game, where if you talk to NPC #12,245, their only response is "I've got to be getting along now." or whatever. The DM is free to adjust NPC reactions to cover all their bases. If the module designers weren't taking the "human factor" into account, they would just sell the modules on little cartridges that plug into a speak'n'spell, and the lame, robotic voice would just read the module verbatim.
I hate to repeat myself, but:

At that point, though, are you even playing the module? I playtested a module that a friend of mine wanted to get published a few years back, and he was incensed for a long time over the fact that the group's adventure went so far off-script that "that's not the adventure I wrote, gosh darn it!"If the adventure is about capturing/killing a dinosaur that's rampaging through a village, and the PCs response is to run off to a neighboring village to look for help, the module is not even a useful guide when that village isn't fleshed out. This is not dissimilar to the results with a couple of modules I've played in.

Narren
2011-04-13, 09:11 AM
I hate to repeat myself, but:
If the adventure is about capturing/killing a dinosaur that's rampaging through a village, and the PCs response is to run off to a neighboring village to look for help, the module is not even a useful guide when that village isn't fleshed out.

Sure it is, it just has to be adapted a little. Maybe that village was already trampled by the dino? Maybe they can't/won't help. Maybe they can't/won't help without some encouragement or future favor? Maybe it's too far away to reach in time? There are plenty of options (possibly even using an "emergency module" to give them something to do in THAT village.)

And this is really no different than if you spent hours upon hours coming up with an adventure, and then have to think of something on the fly when the players do the unexpected. It happens.

Just because you modify a module doesn't mean it was useless. For me, a module can often be a really good solid foundation (especially if I have less prep time). Even if it goes off the tracks, I got some use from it, and can use other aspects of it (or just the inspiration from it) later.

Savannah
2011-04-13, 02:21 PM
I hate to repeat myself, but:
If the adventure is about capturing/killing a dinosaur that's rampaging through a village, and the PCs response is to run off to a neighboring village to look for help, the module is not even a useful guide when that village isn't fleshed out. This is not dissimilar to the results with a couple of modules I've played in.

And how is that any different from you coming up with your own adventure and having the PCs run off to a different village that you haven't fleshed out?

I've never had that problem because, as I said earlier, my players are perfectly happy to work with me. They understand that I've got x adventure planned, and so they work out a reason their characters would be involved. Personally, I see deliberately avoiding your DM's planned adventure as incredibly rude.

Tyndmyr
2011-04-13, 02:25 PM
And how is that any different from you coming up with your own adventure and having the PCs run off to a different village that you haven't fleshed out?

It's really not. Honestly, having multiple adventures ready to go is a good idea...and having some of those come from premade modules is a fair approach. It's a great way to reduce prep time and still be ready to go.

Some people are fairly flexible and have less trouble adapting to players on the fly...perhaps they can get by with less prep....but if you like to be prepared, by all means, build up a module library. You'll have options if players accidentally miss the plot.

Amphetryon
2011-04-14, 07:52 AM
And how is that any different from you coming up with your own adventure and having the PCs run off to a different village that you haven't fleshed out?

It's different in that the GM didn't have to shell out money in order to make up his own adventure, where he did with the module, but with a similar end result.

Tyndmyr
2011-04-14, 08:17 AM
It's different in that the GM didn't have to shell out money in order to make up his own adventure, where he did with the module, but with a similar end result.

Time == Money.

Jay R
2011-04-14, 10:11 AM
2) William Shatner sees a gremlin attacking the wing of his plane? Replace 'gremlin' with... duh, 'gremlin', replace 'wing of plane' with uh... 'cloak the flying wizard is wearing'? Ok... some ideas don't translate so well.

And besides, if my players starting acting like William Shatner, I know my campaign has hit the rocks.

Shatner:
pauses in the middle of every sentence,
always travels with a pointy-eared guy and a healer,
hits on any female who walks by,
doesn't accept the Prime Directive of the narrative,
ignores the guy offering a logical plan,
eventually tries to save the planet with a fist fight,
wins with an unconvincing mix of pompous bravado and dumb luck,
and doesn't like to lose.

Players usually do act like Shatner.

Jay R
2011-04-14, 10:21 AM
People who don't know how to drive never have a positive experience with a car.

I'm going to have to ask what you mean by that.

A module is a car, not an automatic pilot. It's a connected set of moments with a story holding them together, but the writer of the module doesn't replace you as DM -- you still have to drive. Replace items, spells or monsters that don't exist in your universe, or in that part of the world, invent surroundings that fit in with the module, and a module can replace about 90% of the work you would have had to put in for that adventure.

When running a module, just like any other adventure, you need to be flexible and react to what the players say, rather than merely what the module book says. Virtually all of the problems the OP described are problems caused by an inflexible DM, not by what made him inflexible.

Oh, one more thing -- put a death trap where the module has a Ring of Wishes, just to make reading the module in advance a bad plan.

Amphetryon
2011-04-14, 01:33 PM
A module is a car, not an automatic pilot. It's a connected set of moments with a story holding them together, but the writer of the module doesn't replace you as DM -- you still have to drive.


That's radically different than being unable to have a positive experience in a car without driving. Just sayin'.


Replace items, spells or monsters that don't exist in your universe, or in that part of the world, invent surroundings that fit in with the module, and a module can replace about 90% of the work you would have had to put in for that adventure.You mean, 90% of the work besides creating NPCs, items, spells, maps, and monsters? Isn't that pretty much the adventure? That's what needs to be changed to make a module work, apparently. What else are you creating that fills that 90%?


Virtually all of the problems the OP described are problems caused by an inflexible DM, not by what made him inflexible.Helpful reminder: I'm the OP. It's been my experience regardless of whether I was the GM or not.

As I keep repeating: If the way to make a module enjoyable - nay, USABLE - is to throw out and rewrite half of it or more (90%?), I fail to see what the reason is for buying one to begin with.

Tyndmyr
2011-04-14, 01:40 PM
In my experience, you can usually use the majority of a module. The loot is generally good as is, or with only minor modifications, for instance.

You may have problems if you try to transplant into a wildly different setting...but there are enough modules out there that this is not a required task. Don't buy a module advertised around lava and the plane of fire if you're on an ice planet.

I routinely suggest using premade material to new DMs. It helps a great deal to give them a feel for balance, what they generally need to do, and cuts down on work. It doesn't do everything, but it's a solid way to break em in.

Savannah
2011-04-14, 04:32 PM
It's different in that the GM didn't have to shell out money in order to make up his own adventure, where he did with the module, but with a similar end result.

As Tyndmyr said, the time the module saves me is generally worth the money it costs. Not to mention that there are tons of free modules out there.


You mean, 90% of the work besides creating NPCs, items, spells, maps, and monsters? Isn't that pretty much the adventure? That's what needs to be changed to make a module work, apparently. What else are you creating that fills that 90%?

Uh, no. Generally you're swapping one or two monsters or NPCs and maybe changing a couple items in a treasure so that your party gets what they need/want. That means that the majority of NPCs, the majority of items, all spell, all maps, the majority of monsters, and the entire storyline (which multiple people have said is a major reason they use modules, but you left off the list :smallconfused:) are all the same. Us saying that we change a few things != changing 90% of the adventure.

I'd say on my biggest revisions to a module, I'm changing 20% at most. I'm adding stuff, too, but that's easy; the module has done the hard part, so I can add the little things that I like to do, and let the module writer have taken care of what I don't like to do for me.


As I keep repeating: If the way to make a module enjoyable - nay, USABLE - is to throw out and rewrite half of it or more (90%?), I fail to see what the reason is for buying one to begin with.

1) Free modules.
2) See above. 20% rewrite + adding some fun stuff at most. (In my experience.)
3) It takes me at least 5 times as long to write something myself as to adapt a module. And I can usually find a free module, so I'm saving myself time without spending a cent.
4) A fair amount of the adaptation can be done as you're playing -- the same way I adapt anything I've written as I run it.

(All that being said, I actually do prefer to write my own adventures, as I like making everything up. But when I'm in a hurry, lacking inspiration, or just don't feel like writing, modules are awesome.)

Amphetryon
2011-04-14, 04:37 PM
Generally you're swapping one or two monsters or NPCs and maybe changing a couple items in a treasure so that your party gets what they need/want. That means that the majority of NPCs, the majority of items, all spell, all maps, the majority of monsters, and the entire storyline (which multiple people have said is a major reason they use modules, but you left off the list ) are all the same. That generality does not match my experience, in the least. As for the bolded part, the storylines are all available at tvtropes, as I alluded to a while ago.

EDIT: Also, the usefulness of the modules' storylines depends on the players staying on or close to the rails.

Reverent-One
2011-04-14, 04:43 PM
As for the bolded part, the storylines are all available at tvtropes, as I alluded to a while ago.

No, the parts are available at tv tropes, putting parts together into a coherent storyline is another matter entirely, a matter that may simply be a weak point for a DM. And there's the whole time aspect of the matter, so even if a DM can put together a story if they try (as Savannah said she could), they may simply lack the time for that.

Savannah
2011-04-14, 05:04 PM
That generality does not match my experience, in the least.

Well, I'm not saying it's always true. (Thus the "generally".) However, it's been my experience across a number of modules.


As for the bolded part, the storylines are all available at tvtropes, as I alluded to a while ago.

Even if they are, you're completely ignoring the fact that the storyline has been a major reason for using modules for several people. Therefore it makes no sense to leave it off the list just because the loose ideas for stories are available elsewhere.

And I say "the loose ideas" because TVTropes does not have storylines, but overarching themes for stories. There's a big difference between picking up a complete storyline (a module) and applying the overarching theme to a situation (TVTropes + homemade scenario).


EDIT: Also, the usefulness of the modules' storylines depends on the players staying on or close to the rails.

The usefulness of a DM's storyline depends on the players staying on or close to the rails. Honestly, any storyline requires some sort of rails, and that's not a bad thing. It only becomes bad when the DM refuses to allow any deviations, which can happen just as easily with a custom scenario as with a premade module.

dsmiles
2011-04-14, 05:58 PM
And there's the whole time aspect of the matter, so even if a DM can put together a story if they try (as Savannah said she could), they may simply lack the time for that.This. This is the reason my group doesn't fight against the rails in a module. We are all military, so we work 50+ hours a week, plus spending time with our families, and having other social get-togethers (aside from gaming nights). None of us have time to write adventures, and our gaming time is precious to us, since all we get is maybe 4-6 hours a week. I used to write adventures all the time, before I requisitioned a family. I had time, then. I definitely don't miss spending time writing an adventure just so the players could go off the rails, so I definitely don't mind someone else doing all the work for me.

Jarawara
2011-04-15, 01:29 AM
Another thing to consider is the resources that people have. For me, it's money. I have it, plenty of it. What I don't have is memory.

So when I'm trying to come up with an idea, I can dig through the boxes of modules and find something that looks interesting, crack it open, and within just a few moments have a grasp of what the module is about. When I dig through the shelves of books, I only have the title and cover, and that rather non-descript blub on the back of the book, to go by. I'd have to read the book again to get anything useful out of it to run. Modules are simply a quicker source for me.

Plus, I already have them. You touched upon your hesitation of buying a module that you'd then have to re-write, when you could have written it up by yourself. So why spend the money, you ask. Well for me, that's not part of the equation. I have... well... everything. (At least of the old stuff. I've fallen behind lately.)

If I were to look at a module in a gamestore, and the back cover said something like: "Come join the fight against the evil Poindexters. Use the powers of the Were-Koala, before the Vile Darkness of the Kangaroo engulfs the world over. You too can be a Poindexter!" And then I look at the price and see that it's only Thirty Nine Ninety Nine Ninety Eight Ninety Five, plus tax... well yeah, I'd probably reconsider if I'd want to spend that kind of money to be a Were-Koala.

But I already have three copies of it at home... so why the heck not?

*~*

Last but not least, the mighty power of nostalgia wins me over. I remember the first time I ran 'Isle of Dread'. It was silly fun, romping around with dinosaurs. It combines nicely with... uh, I forget the title, but it's a lost city in the wilderness, and Isle of Dread is all about wandering around in the wilderness. And others come to mind. 'Against the Giants' was a real slugfest. I had fun. I should share that with my players. Most of them are too young to have seen it before. Same with Scourge of the Slave Lords, same with Temple of Elemental Evil, same with Secret of Bone Hill or Sinister Salt Marsh. Heck, there's a reason that the original Ravenloft kepts getting reprinted.

...and don't forget Tomb of Horrors...

They might need updating. They might need rewriting. But damn, I loved them as a kid. Why wouldn't my players love them too?

*~*

But I think I'll skip the one with the Were-Koala.

dsmiles
2011-04-15, 04:53 AM
Where'd you find the were-koala adventure? I want a copy, it sounds like fun. :smalltongue:

Earthwalker
2011-04-15, 06:41 AM
If you are a player that does not like any kind of rails. Or in a group of players that does not enjoy rails. Moduals are worthless for you.

Of course if you are a player that has no object to rails, but need to be given the illusion of choice then Moduals are perfectly suited.

Again it comes down to the game you enjoy playing and what you expect.

I can easily believe one gamer has no posative experiance from moduals and would guess that player only really likes sandbox games.

One set of "moduals" I like are the campaign source books released for shadowrun. Wherre the book is just a detail of NPCs / locations and motivatons. In a similar way you would design the sandbox. These are the NPC players and what they want then you just let the players loose in the world.

dsmiles
2011-04-15, 06:59 AM
I can easily believe one gamer has no posative experiance from moduals and would guess that player only really likes sandbox games.

One set of "moduals" I like are the campaign source books released for shadowrun. Wherre the book is just a detail of NPCs / locations and motivatons. In a similar way you would design the sandbox. These are the NPC players and what they want then you just let the players loose in the world.
The problem with sandbox-style games arises when the players think the world revolves around their characters, won't jump at any plot hooks, and have no motivation to seek adventure on their own. True story.

Earthwalker
2011-04-15, 08:32 AM
The problem with sandbox-style games arises when the players think the world revolves around their characters, won't jump at any plot hooks, and have no motivation to seek adventure on their own. True story.

I was generally checking a premiss.
All Modules are usless. I would say is untrue. As many group and players use modules and enjoy the games they have.
All Modules are usless for sand boxes type players. I would say is closer to the truth. I gues it all depends on whats a module and whats a campaign book. It is certainly true for the OP.
As for weather its better to play sandbox or preplanned adventures ? Thatís entirly subjective. I myself enjoy both it all depends who I am playing with and the styles at the table.

Tyndmyr
2011-04-15, 11:27 AM
The problem with sandbox-style games arises when the players think the world revolves around their characters, won't jump at any plot hooks, and have no motivation to seek adventure on their own. True story.

Yeah, sandbox pretty much requires having adventurers who are....adventurers. It fails utterly without that. Some players like to chase their own goals, some prefer to be spoon-fed plot hooks. Sandbox is gonna work a lot better for the former.

That said, some modules can be integrated into sandbox settings. It doesn't have to be a strict either/or.

valadil
2011-04-15, 12:35 PM
As I keep repeating: If the way to make a module enjoyable - nay, USABLE - is to throw out and rewrite half of it or more (90%?), I fail to see what the reason is for buying one to begin with.

I said this earlier, but I think it got lost. Rewriting is easier than writing. Even if you end up typing 50 pages worth of material, a module gives you a starting point. You don't have to be inventive or creative. You don't have to beat writers block. That part is done. Instead you read the module and edit out the parts you don't like. The end result may be no different than if you started from scratch, but the process is one of editing rather than writing. For many, this is an easier and more mechanical process.

There's also accountability. Some people are afraid of having their ideas criticized. If the players don't like my story, I try not to take offense at that, but I'd be lying if I said it never bothered me. If the players didn't like the story in a module I purchased, whatever. I might feel like a chump for spending money, but I wouldn't feel like my ideas were bad. Someone who is more sensitive and/or less creatively confident than me might benefit from running a game full of someone else's ideas.

Maxios
2011-04-15, 12:47 PM
Not all modules are rail-roaded. The modules I've been writing out for the Hub RPG (A system I am currently developing) are nearly all sandbox. Heck, in one module, the stats for three villains are presented, and the GM gets to choose which one is the bad guy.