CCT Journal 1: Why I Hate Adventure Modules

A miracle has happened and I have actually arranged a weekly roleplaying group in the tiny town of Fort Morgan, Colorado. We have met 3 times, once to create characters and 2 sessions of play. We are playing through Paizo’s second Pathfinder Adventure Path, “The Curse of the Crimson Throne”. I will use this space once in a while to record my thoughts about the campaign as it progresses.

I have now read thoroughly through the first 3 books of this 6 book adventure path and I have an idea what is in the other 3. I’m pretty confident that this is the best pre-generated adventure material ever produced for any version of D&D. Eberron remains my favorite setting for D&D. Golarion, the Pathfinder setting, is a bit to generic-fantasy for my tastes, but that doesn’t take away from the pure excellence of the adventure paths Paizo is producing.

I am not a fan of adventure modules as a rule. I have read many, and run a few when forced to, or as demos in the course of employment at a game store, but I have always found them lacking. I have disliked them for many reasons, and this Adventure Path is overcoming many of those reasons.

Reason #1 I hate adventure modules – They are nearly all “location based”. Most adventure modules are glorified dungeon crawls. Since the designer can’t know the player-characters, the group tastes in roleplaying or exactly how or where you will slot it into your campaign they usually design something that can stand on its own – a dungeon.

Curse of the Crimson Throne has dungeons in it, but the adventure is driven by the story and the events happening in the city of Korvosa. Your players are led to go dungeoneering when the story requires it, not because they need more lootz.

Reason #2 I hate adventure modules – No character back story involvement. I want a game that draws out the flaws and history of the PC’s and makes it relevant to the events in the campaign. An entire plot and game designed without the PC’s even in the picture is lame lame lame.

Curse of the Crimson Throne still suffers a little from this, but it is a light-year ahead of any other module I’ve seen. The PC’s all start the campaign with traits that tie them to the story and give them a hook to want to explore the plot. Furthermore, there is an entire player’s guide devoted to helping you create characters with involvement in the setting and story of the adventure path.

Reason #3 I hate adventure modules – Dull cookie-cutter encounters, universally resolved with violence. Again, not knowing what characters a given party will have adventure module designers are often hesitant to create too-elaborate encounters or situations where a party may get stuck for lack of the right spell or class ability. The one constant in D&D is violence, so they make encounter after encounter where the most obvious and best solution is to just kill everything.

Curse of the Crimson Throne so far has a lot of diversity in the encounters and it is very rare that violence is the only or best solution. Rewards are sprinkled through the adventure for players that get creative, or avoid drawing steel at every turn. Some encounters are serious and threatening, and some, quite frankly, are hilarious. There are games and tests of skill and the story is flexible enough (not being stuck in the straightjacket of a dungeon) to handle the party failing once in a while.

Essentially, I am very impressed. Of course, I can’t leave well enough alone. Not satisfied that the adventure is centered tightly enough around my particular players I am weaving new elements in as we go along, but that is what a DM is supposed to do.

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