Friday, February 24, 2012

Modules are touchstones

Occasionally I read blog posting and writings bashing on, well, people who buy, read, and use pre-packaged adventures.

I sort of get this - it's the whole "you can make this up yourself." Or that oh-so-ironic "why have us do any more of your imagining for you?" line from Dungeons & Dragons: The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures, written just before TSR began a long tradition of doing exactly that?

I make up my own stuff all the time but I feel like there is a real value in pre-published material.

I think part of the value and enjoyment of pre-packaged adventures is the they are a familiar, common touchstone for gamers.

If I tell you about the epic battle my players had the skull-throwing bone construct in the Forge of Chaos in my last campaign, it might be exciting but it's not familiar. I know what I'm talking about and so do my players (oh boy, do they). But if I tell you about their epic battle in the last session with the occupants of the Caves of Chaos you know what's going on immediately. If I say my cousin's thief Blackstar survived the Tomb of Horrors not once, but twice, you know what he faced (and wisely fled from).

It doesn't matter if I changed the setting, or the rule base, or the exact particulars of the situation.

Like talking about a novel we all read, we've got a familiar basis for discussion.

Thing is, not all of my players have read, played in, or otherwise experienced these adventures. And for a lot of reasons, I'd like to share these with them. I'd like them to have that same feeling of amused awe and remembered danger when I say "White Plume Mountain." Or mention a certain golem. Or drop hints about a Lost City.

This is why, despite making up my own megadungeon, I intend to use other people's adventures in whole and in part. I like the idea of sharing these experiences, these touchstones, with other people.

Yeah, I could make up everything from scratch, from monsters to dungeons to the color of the sky above them PCs.

But I'm not, and it's not from lack of confidence, lack of intelligence, or lack of time even. It's from wanting to share with them what I love about gaming, and experiences that extend beyond us at the table into the wider world of people who grew up gaming.


  1. I agree - I've made a similar point in the past (The Shared Experience of Modules). Most folks in the OSR are fairly easy going about modules and get it, I can only think of that one guy that looks down his nose a bit.

    I haven't got a chance to write about it yet, but I asked my players why they wanted to play an "all module" campaign comprising the classics. It's very similar to this "touchstone" idea - they wanted to have bragging rights.

    1. I wasn't responding to anyone in particular, or even a really widespread meme. Just thinking about why I find modules so attractive even now, and why I use them when it's often more work to convert them to GURPS than to start fresh.

      But yeah, bragging rights. I hadn't seen that specific post of yours before but it's right on target IMO.

  2. From the introduction to Raggi's Hammers of the God:

    When I run someone else’s adventure, it’s because I want the challenge of running something different, to present my group with something different. Changed names to integrate a work into my setting aside, I don’t want to make an adventure “my own.” The whole point is to escape that for a bit and to charge my own creative batteries by basking in someone else’s creative light.

  3. I totally agree. One of my favourit parts of being in the Living Greyhawk RPGA campaign was sitting down and talking with everyone at the end of the weekend about how we'd all gone through the same adventure.


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