Discussion in 'Gaming' started by Paul Bellow, Jul 15, 2017.
I played the Terrible Trouble at Trigadore and it was bad, really bad.
Oh, boy, this blog post is upsetting people.
I'm working on a follow-up with the six best D&D modules and two of them from the worst list will be on the best list too.
That oughta drive some people bonkers.
Keep on the borderlands can't be thrown in this list... it was basically a tutorial for newbies to RPG.
Tomb of horrors? Classic!
I remember reading an article somewhere that listed "the forest Oracle" as the best d&d module of all time... haha
I think they should be broken into editions. Hard to compare basic modules vs say a 2e module
Best games I have been in were written by the GM's,worst were modules.
They also made our best of list
I was upset by how much "it's bad because it's bad" there was, with no examples of the legendary badness. I wanted to see the bad for myself.
Yeah, I should've gone a bit deeper, maybe. Thanks for the input.
Maybe I'll break it out and do 2k or 3k on each module and link out from that as cornerstone content.
See, that would be worth reading, because you could demonstrate how and why the modules are bad.
I'll stop with the pop-culture. There are reasons in the post, but at 2,200 words already, I didn't want to go too deep.
Sorry to upset you. Thanks again for the input.
We've been playing Storm King's Thunder from 5th Edition, and I think it might be the worst module I've ever played. The story is convoluted. There' s no player agency. It feels like nothing we do really matters. Tons of wandering around doing nothing. I hate it.
Haven't played any of the modules listed here (I didn't really get into the game until the end of 2nd edition).
Another miss for me. Heh.
Best D&D Modules for 5e | LitRPG Reads
The content is introducing more gamers to LitRPG, though, which is the desired effect.
Hah, yeah I hadn't looked at your best of list yet. Not saying anything against your articles. It's okay to disagree.
I think that 5e is a great system to get people into RPGs, but Wizards of the Coast does not have great writers on board. The best modules that came out for 3rd Edition were in Dungeon magazine, and when that magazine was shut down, it became Paizo, and then Pathfinder. It's no coincidence that the most well-written modules being produced today are from Paizo.
I understand your criticism of B1, but perhaps you could consider this perspective:
1) There are story lines (some from rumours/encounters that lead to true adventure in the Caves of Chaos and some of the simple but effective 'the keep and area are under threat from a pile of monsters in these caves that need neutralized')
2) The module, as several original modules did, was generic enough that it could be fit into any game world and campaign with a bit of customization.
I can't understate the importance of that. That lets me rename all the PCs and assign origins as are appropos for my campaign world.
I find most later modules that were tied to Greyhawk, Maztica, Red Steel, Forgotten Realms, etc. were all A RAGING PITA to adapt to a GM's homebrew world. You could rename the characters and the locations, and so on, but you have to not slip up and use what was written in the module and most of the boxed text then became tied to the assigned names and histories and so on. NOT EASILY ADAPTABLE.
My favourite sci-fi game is GDW's/Marc Miller's Traveller. It's best modules were also fairly generic so you could set them in whatever sector/campaign you had created or were using.
Now, B1 goes a bit too far (no real story lines to speak of, too much unfinished that you have to fill in). But B2 gets the right idea for any GM that isn't using a published setting (as do other somewhat generic modules). It provides some setup for some storylines, some rumours that could be developed by the GM, and a good starting base for players to venture out from and return to after raids on the nearby caves or wilderness areas.
Because it is adaptable yet complete enough to provide some good adventure options, it is almost IDEAL for those of us that need to adapt published works.
Also, it is a bit sandbox-ish. It does not force the player's hand down a preset plot (aka 'The Railroad') unlike many other D&D modules.
IMO, the best adventure design strategy is not the 3 Act Structure, it is not the Linear Railroad Narrative... it is the Nugget format. In this format, you have loose linkages between events and people that are flexible. In this type of adventure, you have NPCs with objectives and plans (maybe even a timeline in their heads) and with their own motivations and ways of approaching problems. From the interaction of the player's choices (Yay, Player Agency!) and the actions and choices of the NPCs (not preset events, just what makes sense from what the NPC knows, is trying to accomplish, and the NPS's approaches and resources) ends up creating the interactions/encoutners and lets the story unfold heavily influenced by player choices. Pre-set encounters with pre-set outcomes to drive the next encounter or act in a pre-set story are quickly grating and dis-empowering for players.
The railroad is because module writers want to be novelists, where they can drive the narrative to a particular conclusion. RPGs are actually closer to a group story or a 'players-act, GM-reacts' system at their best (that's the entire basis of the Dungeon World game and if you haven't checked it out, you should even just to educate your GMing sensibility/style). The GM is only 1/4th to 1/8th of that contribution (a key part, but still... all of the players should be doing important things that matter and having input).
Now, railroads are simple for new GMs (the other simple alternative is the 'random dungeon' or a B1 type situation) but that also can leave new players disenchanted with their lack of choice.
Sometimes sandboxes seem to open, sometimes the GM is short on creativity, sometimes certain stories can't be easily told in a sandbox game. BUT they do encourage player agency and the good sandbox games throw out a lot of good options (vaguely described) that a GM can choose to integrate and develop (if they are short of ideas of their own or interspersed with the ideas they have).
Often times players do things the GM doesn't expect. In a nugget style adventure, the NPCs (based on what they know about the player's choice) will react in line with their own motivations and plans. So the players help drive the narrative in key ways. On the other hand, a fixed narrative or plotline requires the GM to wrestle the player group back in line with that plot or the whole thing goes to Avernus in a handbasket. And that always feels forced and frustrating for players.
B2 gives enough hooks and ideas to get a GM started and enough room for them to flavour each of those options to his own world and to also add in his own. And it avoids the pre-set storyline that creates the railroad.
If I were to single out examples in D&D modules that were horrible railroads:
Most of the Dragonlance Series
A4 Aerie of the Slave Lords (you just automatically end up in the Slave Lord's prison)
Examples where Thieves trim down player wealth primarily because the module or GM handed out to much to the players!
Set piece encounters of all sorts if they require a particular behaviour out of players to not break the story
B2 avoids most of that and offers a good, adaptable base that can fit into many campaign worlds.
For those who just want to play pre-located modules or play in pre-existing worlds and who are happy as players doing the obvious, following the plot, and being served the story rather than creating it... sandboxes are less enjoyable than pre-set narrative adventures with lots of setting-tied detail.
I hope I make a good case for B2 or other adaptable modules. There's a reason I haven't bought any 5E adventure paths and am adapting the old moduules... because they can adapt to my world, whereas the adventue paths require me to adapt my world to them (not what I want to do as a GM).
This: Dragon's Hall - RPGnet d20 RPG Game Index Dragon's Hall
By a long way, is the worst AD&D module published.
No story. And a dungeon crawl that goes level 1 monster, level 1 monster, level 1 monster... Bang! Red Dragon.
Also, the Red Dragon's treasure is massive. I forget what it was, but something like 1m gold. In D&D you get exp for gold, so this module was a campaign wrecker if you took it seriously and the players did kill the dragon.
Also, The Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor (1980 Judges Guild edition) - RPGnet d20 RPG Game Index The Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor, was really disappointing. I remember being so excited when it arrived in the post...
Echoing "Tomb of Horrors" -- extra bad simply because it kept being pushed forward as being extra good. Basically one of those things where the key to winning was saying "I check for traps" every 10 feet, and if you got at all frustrated by this, the place would kill you. And it might, anyway, if you rolled badly. I played Keep at the Borderlands, and I don't remember it as being particularly good, but I didn't think it was all that awful.
I have been a dungeon master on and off since 1980. I have run the original keep on the borderlands several times with great results and an updated version once that was even more fun...
I tried to run tomb of horrors one time and it was a disaster. Same with temple of elemental evil. Waste of time. Tomb was just a deathtrap and temple was a plotless mess my pc's couldn't run away from fast enough. Unbelievably bad considering how much fun it's prequel, village of hommlet, is.
Terrible trouble and forest Oracle I read but couldn't see any way to whip into runnable shape.
Other supremely bad modules that neither I nor my players enjoyed were Isle of dread and the drow and lolth modules.
Isle was boring. The giant modules that led up to the drow were such great fun that I have rerun them with multiple groups. We tried drow and lolth outer plane adventure and they were universally loathed.
I have created my own underdark drow adventures and my players loved them. I have only created one quick extraplanar adventure which was meh.
I am currently running storm kings thunder and having a blast. My players and I think it's a new classic...