2009-10-06 Details Considered Harmful

Did I post this before? Reading Refreshed and Reenergized or “Why I don’t like Adventure Paths” by Tony Law reminded me of a problem I have with Adventure Paths.

An Adventure Path promises a good story, good characters, maps, and a lot of background information for the referee. Structurally, we’re often talking about an introduction, a synopsis, character background, settlement background, room descriptions, and monster and magic item stats in the back of the book. The problem comes up at the table: whenever the party does something I don’t know by heart, I start fumbling through the book. I know she had some secret plan. Where do I look it up? At the beginning of the book? At the beginning of the chapter? In the character description? Somewhere else? And instead of driving the story forward, I’m stalling.

If there were less text, I’d know that I need to improvise. With little defined, new facts I invent will not contradict published material. I’d be fine. But I haven’t read the entire Adventure Path when we’re starting to play. After all, I’m trying to save time by not writing everything myself. I don’t have the time to read anything but material for the next one or two sessions. The net result is that the typical Adventure Path format inhibits my ability to improvise.

I’m trying to deal with it by introducing extra adventures, skipping big chunks of the adventures, treating the material as a suggestion, a background. I’m not yet sure that it’ll work, but as it stands I’m noticing the limitations of the format.



I think this is something that can be worked on.

The idea of an adventure path as a useful tool for a DM is a solid one. There are people willing to take up the mantle of DM, but who do not have the time to invest into creating and structuring their own campaign. For these people, adventure paths allow them to maintain a coherent, engaging story with a minimum amount of personal prep work.

That said, adventure paths are a new art and there is A LOT of room for improvement. The community (read: publishers) need to nail down exactly what is important to a DM running these paths, and how to present that information in the most straightforward way possible. When something comes up at the table, the DM should not be at a loss for where to find the answer. If an answer exists, he should be able to locate it easily. If it does not exist, he should be aware of that and be given free reign by the adventure to make the answer up himself (as well as be given all the knowledge necessary to make sure that answer does not conflict with information presented elsewhere in the adventure).

Scott 2009-10-07 04:49 UTC

Are you providing any sort of feedback on the Paizo boards? I thought about that but then I wondered whether that would be useful at all.

AlexSchroeder 2009-10-07 17:29 UTC

I liked Zak S.’s blog post detailing how he evaluates a city supplement:

the whole point of using someone else’s setting is that you have to do less work and if I have to prep and highlight all over the page or rewrite it then it suddenly becomes more trouble than just writing my own thing – Zak S.

AlexSchroeder 2010-03-31 14:59 UTC

Please make sure you contribute only your own work, or work licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Note: in order to facilitate peer review and fight vandalism, we will store your IP number for a number of days. See Privacy Policy for more information. See Info for text formatting rules. You can edit the comment page if you need to fix typos. You can subscribe to new comments by email without leaving a comment.

To save this page you must answer this question:

Please say HELLO.