Recently I was looking at old Dungeons and Dragons adventure modules. To my young readers out there you might be asking what in the name of sanity I’m talking about.
Let’s explain it.
Back in the old days (1980s) a wonderful company called TSR (Tactical Studies Rules) scraped together enough money to create a company that published Dungeons and Dragons. During that time they would release supplements to their core rules systems called Adventure Modules. These were written stories with maps, dungeons and characters for the players to interact with. Some only were as long as a single dungeon, others would take years (logistically) to complete.
Now the idea of a single book being dedicated to a dungeon is somewhat laughable considering most supplements are 15-30 dollars. Most people won’t pay that much for a dungeon you can only get through once. These days most Pen and Paper (I refuse to call them tabletop) RPGs are considerably more limited by what they can release. There are RPG systems are limited to a single book run for their entire system while others have adopted the modular approach where the player simply buys the resources they need depending on the adventure they want. This is something like maps of a certain city and the factions within or an entire continent and the monsters within. There is a great emphasis on getting the best bang for the player’s buck so to speak.
In the old days though supplements were cheaper a player could purchase an entire book about weapons. That’s it! Weapons! These were called splat books, affectionately. They would be dedicated to one thing such as a certain type of weapon or school of magic or monsters unique to a single area. These days it’s much harder to find splat books let alone players who use them.
That includes the Adventure Module.
That being said, the good folks at TSR did their damnedest to ensure the players got the best bang for their buck. Now we imagine your normal dungeon as a series of simple corridors that are lined with enemies and the occasional trap. In the old days that wasn’t even a challenge for players. Each room was packed with a variety of traps and secrets that challenged players to explore and use caution. It was considered a feat to get through some of these modules without at least one player death.
Others like Castle Ravenloft and the Tomb of Horrors are infamous for chewing up and spitting out entire player parties.
This thing will fucking eat you if you don’t respect it.
Now though, in a digital age, why aren’t these adventure modules coming back?
Distributing them would certainly be easier.
Well Pathfinder is making a successful run of adventure modules by using a magazine subscription architecture (which I think is brilliant) and I know White Wolf dabbled with digital adventure modules for a time. Though, I think the ST system doesn’t really inspire something as intense as a classic adventure module.
I think a lot of publishers have come to view them as a liability with internet piracy being an ever-going issue. Plus, there is the fact that a product like that has a one-time use.
However because of that there is a massive back-catalogue of old modules from the original Dungeons and Dragons days that have never been touched by the hands of a generation of players. Never has there been a better time, in my mind at least, for a revival of a lot of these old modules to be restored and brought to that generation.
Wizards of the Coast have already republished the majority of old adventures (and sourcebooks) and Pathfinder has done its best to be compatible with every single module adventure ever in addition to their own. For anyone looking to have a band of heroes go from level one to the greatest band of cross dimension, world saving mercenaries for hire there’s no better time to go delving for some classic stuff.
Or you could just make up your own stuff. That works too.
So too does this work exist.