10 July 2016

Location, Location, Location????

I love prewritten adventures because it makes my life as a gamemaster easier. I usually never use them as is, making them my own, but totally appreciate the work. Right now I am reading Psychedelic Fantasies Module 1: Beneath the Ruins because it promises originality and new ideas (hope it succeeds, I am not far in though it to judge but the author promises a lot).

However, right off the bat, and nothing to comment on this work's quality, it is another location-based adventure. By that I mean is is a collection of places with rooms described in detail, designed to go from place to place. As this is a dungeon crawl that is fine. However, so many published adventures use this form and rarely use my prefered adventure design that emphasizes plot over locations.

We have worm sign!
D&D invented the published adventure, but other games eschewed the location based formula for design and D&D, especially old school, has never given it up. Sure there are good plots, like Pathfinder adventure paths, but essentially they get bogged down in the minutia of what a room looks like, what is hidden there, etc. There are exceptions. The Speaker In Dreams, an excellent early third edition adventure from Wizards of the Coast, about moving between scenes, and not necessarily in a linear fashion, which they described as "event based."

White Wolf Publishing (may Wee Jas rest its soul) was not the first to go plot based in their adventures, but was certainly the most prominent at introducing it to the masses with the success of the (old) World of Darkness. The adventures were broken into scenes that was all about the drama and conflict. Sure it might have an important location but it was always designed to forward the plot like a movie or book would do. Marc Miller's Traveller had the EPIC system of adventure design which was all about creating a forward moving plot through scenes. Yes, you might have to trudge through a space station room to room searching for clues, but this was not majority of the adventure (although there were tons of Traveller "dungeon crawls" published that did not follow these goals). Call of Cthulhu adventures also were much more scene based as they emulated the storytelling of Lovecraft fiction.

It is not that I don't like a good, well written and original location based adventure, but I like variety and I think that it is a form that can serve old school well.

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