Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #105 - Review: How to Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck

Get it now from DriveThruRPG

Firstly, let me state as clearly as possible that this review is for the currently released 28 page version of How to Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck, and should not be confused for a review of some kind of leaked or previewed version of the forthcoming 160 page How to Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck that is currently on Kickstarter. I've been told that aside from the title and the subject the old and new versions don't share any text. I can't verify this at the moment, but let's go forward with that as gospel.

Now, all of that said, my intent in reviewing this was, in part, to get an idea of what to expect with with KS edition, and determine if I wanted to toss my hat into that proverbial ring. I'm somewhat, invested into Kickstarters and trying to back the monetary value of my outstanding pledges to something a bit more manageable you see, but Goodman Games puts out some good stuff, and so I want to make sure I don't dismiss this out of hand either. Ergo, a review of the original version.

Note: This is not DCC exclusive advice. It really can apply to ANY and ALL RPGs. 


Published By: Goodman Games • 28 pages • $6.99 • B&W PDF

What's In It?

Nine articles by Joseph Goodman, Chris Doyle, Brendan LaSalle, Adrian Pommier, Rick Maffei, Mike Ferguson, Jeremy Simmons, Ken Hart, and Andrew Hind, that are written for GMs and writers working on adventure design. Each article broadly covers a different subject, from how to get the most out of puzzles or villains, to the importance of writing for your audience and proofreading.

I went into this as both a GM who is always looking for solid advice, and as a writer who has two adventures published at this point and is trying to understand how to make my next even better. I got my $7 worth for sure. Every article had something useful to take away. Something that had never occurred to me, or that having pointed out plainly made me look back and see how I could have done something different in an adventure I wrote that would have improved it.

I think that the stand out articles for me were the following:

  • Things I Look For by Joseph Goodman
    • This is more a bulleted list from a publisher, but it was eye opening to understand how a publisher who has hundreds of adventure modules in print looks at things. It also made me see at the highest level how to attack the "problem" of adventure design.
  • Designing Planar Adventures That Don’t Suck by Andrew Hind
    • I'm guessing that could easily be the title of it's own book, but as a short essay it still managed to convey the importance of setting your scale and scale for inter-planar adventures appropriately. 
  • Villains by Rick Maffei
    • You'd think that after 20+ years of GMing I'd know a thing or three about villains, and yet I was struck at how obvious and yet unknown to me the idea of contrasting sub-bosses was until I read it. Oy, how I could have made my Gods of the Fall adventure "Thirst" even better!
  • Verisimilitude by Adrian Pommier
    • I've written my own thoughts about this issue before, but usually from a specific subject base standpoint. This essay goes toward a more general all-encompassing approach and it works. It makes an argument for applying some simple logic rules to designing your adventures and encounters and even your dungeons. 

Closing Thoughts

Overall this little PDF really impressed me. More than once I wished I had read it a year ago. More than once I read something and found myself realizing that I'd made poor design choices in the past. I got something out of each of the nine articles and I suspect that most people will. Even if you just write for your own use at the game table I think you'll find some useful advice in here, and if your desire is to write for publishing this is one heck of a $7 investment in my opinion.

Look at this also convinced me to kick in for the Kickstarter edition, which is probably all the review that it really needs. The $25 bucks for a 160 page version of this with all new content seems like a no-brainer investment. I doubt I'll ever be hailed as a great writer of modules, and I'll almost certainly never be able to quit my day job, but if I get even half of the "revelation per page" density out of the KS edition I'll still be justified in my backing it.

Score: 100% - I almost never give perfect scores, but there is literally a wealth of advice in here if you are open to finding it.

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