Writing D&D Modules, Part Four

At Gen Con in 1985 they ran Gary Gygax’s Isel of the Ape, an event that I had playtested before GenCon.  I became familiar enough with the event that for the eventual module release I, um, insisted that a connecting encounter be added to get the players to the final event.  I also wrote a parody event, “Loot the Castle IV: Isle of the Monkees” that was a lot of fun.  That Fall at Contact we ran Misfits and Terrible Trouble at Trigador which was written by a talented GM who had helped out at a few conventions (Jean Rabe!)

In 1986 I write a few more tournaments; I had finally gotten a better feel for how that was done, and turned out another Masters event, Goon Squad, as well as a few one round AD&D events. In the next few years I started pushing the boundaries of what could be done with an AD&D event.  I had been playing the original Ultima games (not the online version), and got Richard Garriott to tell me how an upcoming adventure (Ultima VI) was going to start out.  I created a prequel to the computer game that was set in the Ultima world, using the Ultima characters, and had a multi-round adventure that ended where the computer game started.  That went so well that I followed it up with Star Trek V: The Quest For Power, an adventure where six Star Trek characters were forced to search for “twin crystals” (Dilithium Crystals) after adapting to be a cleric, a bard, a rogue, etc.  My favorite line of all the adventures I ever ran came when one of the players asked Bones to heal him and that player responded, “Damn it, I’m a cleric, not a doctor!”

Based on a campaign I had written and run in Texas I produced an adventure named Charleston Academy; that was well-received enough that it was published in Polyhedron in 1988.

In 1989 a new type of RPGA event was introduced that (sadly) would kick the Classic events to the side of the road, leaving them in the dust with all the other forgotten toys.  The Living City campaign allowed players to create their own first level character and then play them in various events literally all over the world, building up experience, going up levels, and obtaining rewards (certificates, or certs, that gave their character armor, weapons, or other useful items).  Instead of writing adventures that were fitted with characters, players were expected to role play the character they were building over time.  This could result in interesting tables…or boring tables where players simply ran through the encounters as rapidly as possible to get the goodies at the end.  The events were often written to encourage role-playing, and the RPGA encouraged authors to include non-combat encounters try to keep the events from becoming too much combat.  I wrote Rats, an introductory adventure that introduced players to parts of Raven’s Bluff and got included in one of the early modules for the city.

When Unearthed Arcana came out it included bonuses for Comeliness that mostly affected interactions with NPCs, and the Living City campaign was based on players taking a fixed number of points and distributing them among the various characteristics.  Seriously, how many players were putting points into Charisma and Comeliness when those points could go someplace useful like Strength, Intelligence, or Agility?  Not many.  In fact, almost none.  I was so distressed by the cookie-cutter stats that players were using that I wrote Ugly Stick, a Living City adventure where players had to interact with people at a posh resort where they were hardly welcome (and the big bad was an anti-cleric with high Comeliness who used her bonuses against the party).  Ugly Stick was also published in Polyhedron, with some nice artwork and some kick butt maps.

All told I wrote over thirty rounds of events that were used in tournaments, a number that pales in comparison to the high numbers accumulated by some of the other authors, but both my event designs and writing grew much stronger through the years.  Coming up: some suggestions on what I’ve learned about designing a role-playing adventure.

Here’s a video where the Rolling Stones look like they may have spent some time dressed for AD&D:


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