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Friday, July 4, 2014

New Adventures Can Be Classic Too

The worst part is that he only has $5 in his account
I am toying with the idea of running a few sessions of Shadowrun for my Sunday group. I just have a hankering to run some motorcycle chases, machine gun shootouts and above all, a scene where a dude looks out a window looking at the rain while a neon sign flashes off and on as synthesizer music blares.

I am going through the Shadowrun Quick Start rules. I have never been able to grasp the rules of this game, and I have played probably 20 sessions of it under a guy who knew the rules extremely well (he had an enemy sniper shoot an invisible catwoman by enhanced sense of smell... so maybe he didn't know the rules all that well, come to think of it).

The adventure in this Shadowrun book is "Food Fight". This is the same intro adventure as in previous editions. How lazy is that? Why do RPG companies keep making the same adventure over and over?
Keep on the NostalgiaLands
Keep on the Borderlands was in the basic D&D boxed set way back when. Then in second edition, they made a sequel. In 4th edition, they made it a (very long) season of D&D Encounters. They also made it the home base of the Chaos Scar. And I know that Keep on the Shadowfell is its' own entity, but just the "Keep on the..." title is enough to get my hackles up at this point.

Why is this happening? I didn't like Keep on the Borderlands the first time, and even if I did, I don't need it again and again. If I liked it that much I could just convert it!

It seems like there haven't been any new, hailed "classic" adventures since AD&D first edition. Is it because those adventures are that good that nobody can touch them? Or is it more of a fact that many of us played them and look back on them fondly? If it is the latter, then why don't younger players look back on more modern adventures in the same way?

The "classics", aside from the aforementioned Keep on The Borderlands, seem to be:

Do we still need to respect spoilers for this?
The Tomb of Horrors: Love it or hate it, people seem to rate this one very highly (I love this adventure, for the record).

The Village of Hommlet: The precursor to the Temple of Elemental Evil. It has a statted-out village full of people with no names and a dungeon of monsters led by a dude named Lareth the Beautiful.

The Temple of Elemental Evil: I ran this a few years ago and it was a major disappointment. There are a few cool rooms and I liked Nulb, but wow was this a drag. Zuggtmoy's level is cool, but good luck staying awake trying to get there.

Lolth gets +5 when giving neck rubs
The GDQ Drow/Giants Series: I've never got to play most of these, but they seem like they could be fun. I did run Queen of the Demonweb Pits and found it to be pretty lame. The secretary at the front entrance of Lolth's (steam-powered?) Spider-Ship was enough to make me want to shelve it.

Those are the big ones, right? You could also include adventures like the Isle of Dread and Ravenloft, or maybe even the Dragonlance series (though the novels seemed much more popular than the adventures).

Since that time - the early 80's - are you telling me there haven't been any published adventures that have come close to those in quality?

I assume the problem is that not many of us get to play that many adventures. Back in the days of AD&D 1st edition, there weren't that many modules to choose from. These days, it also seems like the majority of DMs make their own adventures up rather than use pre-made material. Factor in that there are many, many more adventures out there, and I can see why people aren't going to be familiar with a lot of quality stuff.

It really bothers me when Wizards of the Coast decides to re-issue an old adventure rather than create something new. Outside of Dungeon magazine, they didn't get to make too many published adventures in 4th edition. They had the HPE adventure path, they made Revenge of the Giants (which is definitely an homage to the original GDQ series), Tomb of Horrors (again), and their DM Rewards adventures were re-makes of stuff like The Tomb of Horrors (again, again!) and The Village of Hommlett.
Yes, let's all knit for him
Why must they continue to make the same adventure over and over? Are they saying there is no new creative ground to be broken? Don't they want to even try? These people must have all sorts of cool ideas, right? It is so boring to see the same scenarios over and over.

There are lots of great, new, original adventures out there that don't get any recognition. I listed some in my Best Adventures of All Time blog posts. But there's plenty of others out there.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess has put out three of the best adventures I've run in many years: The God That Crawls, F*** for Satan and Doom Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children. I know that Lamentations gets too wacky for some people, but that stuff can easily be rubbed out with minimal effort.

Dungeon Crawl Classics has Intrigue at the Court of Chaos, The One Who Watches From Below, and I'd even include Elzemon and the Blood-Drinking Box.

Modern D&D itself has plenty of under-appreciated stuff. The 3rd edition Paizo adventure paths like Age of Worms and Savage Tide were some of the best stuff ever made for D&D. I still maintain that Pathfinder's Skull & Shackles Path is one of the greatest campaigns ever made. There's tons of great adventures from 2e for Planescape (Dead Gods, Well of Worlds), Al Qadim (there's great adventures in almost every boxed set), Monte Cook's A Paladin in Hell, Monte Cook's Vecna Reborn.... I could go on forever.

I feel like we fans need to help each other out. We should wade through the material out there and sing the praises of stuff that is really good. It bothers me to think that the new classics are being made to little or no fanfare, and that these clever and creative authors aren't getting the recognition (or money) they deserve. They are making our games that much better, and I don't think there are too many of us DMs who would balk at buying a $10 PDF of a modern classic that our players will remember and talk about for years to come.

I will do my part to try and alert you to the good stuff that I come across. Please feel free to let me know of stuff worth getting.

This is one of the reasons I like Bryce Lynch's blog so much. He reads all these things that I've never even heard of and reviews them. He also is going through old Dungeon Magazines, reading some of the adventures that I couldn't get through as a kid (wall of text and a lack of an adventure synopsis was often too much for a young me).

A re-make once in awhile is OK. Using classic NPCs and locations in modern adventures is awesome. But I really think it is time for the adventures made after 1985 to get the recognition that they deserve.


Yora said...

If 3rd edition has a classic adventure, it would be "The Sunless Citadel". It was one of, or possibly the first adventures for the edition and is widely considered to be one of the best ever released.
And I can see why. It's really good as a 1st level introduction to new players.

I think the main problem is that WotC never really was big about publishing adventures. Though that's where Paizo stepped in, first with Dungeon and now with Pathfinder. Though there don't seem to be any real huge classics among them.
Maybe, it's because there's such a wide range of options to chose from. I think the old D&D classic adventures are mostly classics because there wasn't anything else back then. Most of the highly praised ones are really forgettable.

Sean said...

I think Sunless Citadel was a lot of people's first adventure. I haven't heard much about how people feel about it. I ran it in 4th and it was kind of cool, though I felt like the twig blights were kind of dull monsters.

Frankie said...

Among those who played 4e, Reavers of Harkenwold (DM Kit) and Madness at Gardmore Abbey are highly praised.

Aaron Quebman said...

3rd Edition Red Hand of Doom largely regarded as one of the best modules of the edition. It was about an epic war to stop the resurrection of Tiamat