October 21, 2013
Modules: The Good And The Bad
I have been Gamemastering for more than a decade now, and personally I have never been a huge fan of pre-generated campaign modules. These are adventures that you can buy at your favorite local hobby and game stores that do much of the work for you, having already worked out all of the various encounters, non-player characters, and themes of a campaign for you. They can be very well made, and can make a Gamemaster’s job much easier, but I have always been more of a fan of homemade campaigns, feeling that they are much more personal to the characters and giving the Gamemaster a much greater degree of freedom with how the adventure player out.
My mind was changed when I was introduced to an adventure called The Ride of the Lady, for Anima: Beyond Fantasy, a three-part adventure that gives new players a wonderful introduction into the world of Gaia. Each part of the adventure is very well thought-out, well-written, and helps to give players an understanding of the game they are playing. Part one is very straight-forward, focusing on learning the basics of the game’s somewhat complex combat system and letting the players get a handle on their character’s various abilities. Part two focuses more on the social elements of the game, encouraging exploration and interaction more than simple “kick down the door” combat. Finally, the third part introduces players to the more fantastic and supernatural elements of the game, throwing them into the deep end of the pool, as it were, taking advantage of the player’s ignorance of Gaia’s elaborate history and internal mythology. Overall, it is a wonderful experience and has opened my eyes to the potential of pre-generated modules.
A well-written module, like The Flight of the Lady or The Carrion Crown for Pathfinder RPG, serves several purposes. They are meant to allow Gamemasters to experience what it takes to run a game while, at the same time, introducing players to the game in a fun and exciting way. They serve as the basic guidelines for a game, teaching through play. They can also act as launching points for longer campaigns. While The Carrion Crown adventure is expansive, meant to be used as a full campaign, “The Flight of the Lady” only takes characters to level three or four, at best, meaning that there is a lot for those characters left to do. The module serves to open up the world to the players and the Gamemaster alike, allowing them to take the adventure wherever they might like.
Poorly written modules – sorry, I am not going to list any here, as they would only be “poorly written” in my own opinion – are almost defined by railroading players and Gamemasters alike. These games, which I used to think all modules were like, do not give any leeway for players to come up with their own creative solutions to problems or to explore their world outside of the adventure. Sure, the Gamemaster can take up the slack of the module and handle these issues themselves, but modules should also be designed with new Gamemasters in mind, as there are few other resources out there for new Gamemasters to take advantage of.
Do you know of any good modules out there? If so, let us know. I would love to play through some new adventures in some of my favorite games.
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