Saturday, 13 September 2014
Hacking published adventures for fun and (no) profit
Posted by Scott Malthouse
As someone who has written a number of published adventures, it's weird to say that I really don't like published adventures. That's not to say that some aren't really good works of imagination, with brilliant plots, NPCs and shit-hot combat - but running from a book just isn't for me. By nature, most published modules are rail-roady, some definitely more than others, which works for some groups but not for others.
But if you, like me, don't like running someone else's adventure, there are still good reasons to pick up the ones on the shelf. It all comes down to re-purposing what's in those adventures. Think of each adventure as a setting supplement, where you're not running the story verbatim but taking the cool aspects - the NPCs, locations, treasure, and bad guys - and putting them in your own game. In essence, you're hacking that module and re-purposing for your own use.
Show off the Art
Using art at the table can really help spark the group's imaginations and create an evocative picture in their minds of the world you have created. Take the art from published adventures and use it in your game. It doesn't have to tie-in to that adventure at all - it might just be a cool painting of a crumbling temple or an image of a particular monster. Some modules, particularly 4th edition, have large images for display, so there's no need to let these go to waste.
Is there an NPC in a module that you really like, but you don't want to run the adventure? There's no reason why you can't drop them into your own game. Hell, create a table of NPCs from a bunch of adventures and roll them up if you're looking for on-the-spot inspiration. NPCs can also be reskinned and repurposed, so that eccentric mayor could become an eccentric landlord in your game. Don't let their titles limit you.
Lift Dungeons and Locales
Sometimes there will be a dungeon or location in an adventure that really captures your imagination. In which case, just take it and use it in your game. Maybe the monsters need switching out, but the more that is already done for you the easier it's going to make it on you when you're preparing for the next session.
Don't Be Limited to a Specific Game
If you're playing D&D then you're probably playing a fantasy campaign. With so many fantasy games out there, you don't have to just stick with D&D modules to gather your inspiration. There could be an incredible location in a Dungeon Crawl Classics module, or a Tunnels and Trolls adventure that you would be missing if you just bought D&D adventures. The obvious downside to this is that you're going to have to re-stat anything that resembles a monster, villain, treasure, magic item etc, but this is rarely difficult, especially if you're a creative DM (and, by nature, DM's are pretty creative).
Thanks for reading. Remember, you can become a Trollish Delver patron and get great stuff for helping out. You can follow Scott @trollishdelver and be sure to download the free rules for USR 2.0.