Summary: Getting away from too much text in settings and adventures. And my new motto: When in doubt, I ask myself "What would Jeff Rients Do?"
> The picture above shows how I prep for a game when I write my own adventure and have a lot of time. Most of my prep is about a fourth of that.
A while ago I started noticing that I prefer short adventure material. Short is beautiful. I was having a hard time finding relevant information in the Paizo Adventure Path products, and I noticed how my improvisation was being stifled.
I do like their stuff: I have been subscribed to their module line and to their adventure path line since issue #1. It’s irrational, I know, because I’m unhappy about it at the same time. I’m sure there are people who enjoy all the material and get good gaming value from them, but personally I don’t enjoy reading RPG books. It’s just too boring. I’d rather read a book or a blog. The part I like about playing role-playing games is sitting at the table and doing it, or working on my campaigns by myself. Reading books is not on the list.
Anyway, I’ve been seeing some interesting new posts on the subject and decided to list them here in case you missed one or two of them:
- How I Want To Hear About Your Setting by Zak S. where he says “give us the setting in the form of rules (and monsters and items and all that) and nothing else” and provides a random encounter table; and his follow-up More Speedy Setting Experiments where he provides a random answer to table for “Why Did That Happen?”
- Zak Offers Up Another Plate of Sacred-cow Burger by Trollsmyth reiterates the point and links to some important factors (“a little cultural flavor, some solid maps, a few political outlines, a description of where the cultural fault-lines fall, and some good, inspirational art”); you’ll find some people in the comments arguing that D&D 4E did just that, reduce setting books to gameables “and the result is really, really boring”
- Proof of Concept: Impressionistic Narrative Modules by Greg Christopher and his Landscape Version follow-up talk about replacing a typical module map, key and intermixed plot text with text fragments using layout, font-size and color to code information, making it easy to skim and digest.
- RPG Settings: Show, Don't Tell by Stuart Robertson talks about the minimum information required to convey mood and how you should get rid of the rest; his follow-up post Cutting Monster Entries Down to Size takes a similar approach to monster listings and stat blocks
- missed opportunities & brain strangeness by Jeff Rients has an example of his adventure “prep”; and following James Smith’s example, I have decided to make the following my motto: When in doubt, I ask myself What would Jeff Rients Do? – because nobody makes me want to game as much as he does
The picture above shows how I prep for a game when I write my own adventure and have a lot of time. Most of my prep is about a fourth of that.