Thursday, February 21, 2013

Modular Adventure

During my time away from this blog, I've been working on some material for publication by others. That's kind of exciting for me. Still, I am running campaigns of my own and writing adventures for them. In an effort to save some time, effort, and sanity, I am trying to incorporate some of the classic D&D and AD&D modules into the flow.

But, I have never really run module adventures in my life before. Why is that, I wonder? Well, I have some theories.

When I started playing D&D pretty regularly, around 1983, it seemed that every module or book release was a major event for my circle of gaming friends. We would pick one up the second it hit the shelves and start reading it from cover to cover. It was hard to run an adventure without most (or all) of the players knowing what was in store. Even subscribing to Dragon magazine was a stopgap measure, at best.

  Still, I've preferred to create my own campaign settings and write my own adventures from the very start. And yet, so many of those classic modules served to define and build the D&D game through the years, with many becoming downright legendary for one reason or another.

I think that's why I am thinking of taking bits and pieces of certain published adventures for use in my current home campaign. Partially for the sake of nostalgia...but, also because I never got to experience many of these famous (or infamous) adventures for myself. I was almost always the DM in my group, so I rarely got the chance to run a character of my own.

So, I've been reading through a lot of these modules for research and development in my own game. Some of them stand up well by today's demanding standards. Others...not so much. I don't plan to review any of them here - that is not my intent. I think most of us can agree that Keep on the Borderlands, for example, presents a fine microcosm for early adventuring, but is woefully lacking in common sense. I have also noticed that many modules dump an awful lot of treasure on the heroes as they hack and blast their way through the listed encounters. It is easy to see where the "Monty Haul" tendencies of some groups might have come from.

Also, so many modules were written as one-shot deals with no real thought for the impact they might have on a campaign, or what the heroes might be doing next. A lot of modules offer enough loot that a character might be ready to retire from the life of danger at the end.

For me, it might be the need for story and continuity. Yes, I know I can modify modules to suit my own needs - and I have done so. In fact, as I get older and, theoretically, wiser, I have come to appreciate modules as a framework for grander adventure. Some modules even offer additional adventure seeds that sometimes eclipse the main plot of the module itself - I'm looking at you, Forbidden City! I even find myself writing adventures based upon modules, while using the originals as inspiration and structure. In fact, my brain has been working on an adaptation of Against the Giants, using a few later giant types, a different behind-the-scenes mastermind race, and even another demon lord as the main villain. It has been a fun exercise for me. Maybe I'll even run it someday.

I'm wishing I hadn't lost so many of the modules I used to own. PDFs are nice, but just not the same. As flimsy and overbalancing as they might have been, they were the stuff of adventure during my formative gaming years. They might have been pulp sword-and-sorcery compared to today's epic hardbound fully realized campaign paths, but they still manage to resonate with danger and excitement. They were modules. That's what modules are for. It is up to us to accomplish the rest.


  1. When D&D 3.0 came out, my original campaign incorporated a lot of the classic modules. Because it was D&D (we'd been playing very differently-flavored Fantasy Hero for a while), and because I re-fell in love with the classic modules. We played the GDQ series (w/ some modification), and I turned the multiple worlds in the Queen of the Demonweb Pits into adventures in their own right.

  2. We obviously had a lot in common, my friend.

    And, currently, I am creating "Troll Gods" for my Giants adaptation. Huzzah!