Wednesday, February 08, 2012
Using official D&D adventures
I've been reading through the first stand-alone D&D 4E adventure released by WotC and frankly, it sucks. There is one village, two non-combat encounters, and 24 battles. Most of them lined up one after the other in a dungeon. 1985 just called, they want their Temple of Elemental Evil back. (My apologies to anybody under 40 being unable to understand that joke).
What I basically have to do is to hot rod adventures like this into something usable. I have various options here:
Complete dismantling: The story of the adventure is so thin, I could just rip the adventure completely apart into 27 pieces to be inserted wherever I want in my own adventures. That would especially apply to the 6 encounters that come with large poster maps: I could either just use the maps for self-made encounters, or use both the map and the monsters proposed for the encounter. I have at least some trust in that the encounters are reasonably balanced for a group of adventurers of the level printed on the cover of the adventure.
Removing all the dead weight: Another option would be to keep the core structure of the story and the adventure, and to remove at least half of the combat encounters. In MMORPG terms that would mean removing most of the trash mobs and keeping all of the boss encounters. It helps that the maps for the dungeon are not provided in poster form, so I can simply draw a new dungeon map or use the cardstock tiles I have to design a much slimmer and shorter dungeon leading to the same main encounters.
Adding stuff: So I have a generic village as starting point for an adventure leading to a generic dungeon with a generic main adversary. Booooooring! But of course there are hundreds of adventures using some or all of these components. And some of these other adventures have much better story hooks and player motivation throughout the story. So I can keep the shell of the official adventure, and then add some more interesting bits to it. That way I can get the good story, role-playing, and non-combat encounters that are lacking in the original.
I didn't mention the name of the bad adventure on purpose. This isn't because I don't want to vex WotC, but because I don't want my players to be tempted to look it up. Although, if they do, they might be in for some surprises. I'm definitely not going to use that adventure as printed. I haven't worked out all the details yet, but I might use a mix of all of the options listed above, ripping out half of the adventure and putting in better stuff. Fun, fun, fun!