Review Standards

What I’m looking for in an adventure module may not be what you are looking for. I try to avoid giving a module a rating. I think it’s far more useful if I describe the module and tell you what I liked and didn’t like about it. Then you can apply your own standards of judgement to it.

I’ll be expanding on these points in the future.

  • An overland portion to the adventure is nice, but not required.
    • This provides lots of opportunities for foreshadowing and resource draining.
  • Wandering monster tables are generally required.
    • These serve the function of draining the parties resources. You can’t just set up camp in the dungeon overnight to regain health and spells without their being consequences.
  • Wandering monsters should have a PURPOSE in wandering around. Patrolling, looking for food, etc.
    • This reenforces the fact that life is going on in the dungeon without the characters and allows for more roleplaying opportunities than simply “See Orc. Kill Orc.”
  • Dungeon maps should have lots of ‘loops.’ Linear dungeons are not a good thing.
    • This allows for a strong ‘exploration’ element. The party can move round areas they think too dangerous, or approach things from another direction. It also allows for ambushes & retreats in to unknown areas.
  • If you have multiple levels, and you should then there should be multiple ways to get between the two levels.
    • Take your looping maps in to the third dimension.
  • Weird and unique magic items are a good thing. “Sword +1” is not.
    • Personalize things. Given them a history, or even use the Artifacts table in DMG 1E for minor good and bad effects.
  • Tricks & traps are a great thing! Make sure there’s some evidence of them if the party is looking.
  • Boxed text is usually not a good thing.
  • Dungeons should have a good quantity of empty rooms and some unguarded treasure.
    • In games where XP is granted through GP then exploration and risk management through NOT fighting monsters and getting the easy loot becomes an important skill to master.
  • Evocative atmosphere.
  • Terse writing style
    • I don’t care about your epic backstory. Give me a little to work with to get things going.
  • Pools/statues/etc that do strange things.
    • and some of them should be beneficial, or the party won’t play with them anymore. This again gives a strong sense of exploration and contributes to a sense of mystery.
  • Non-standard monsters.
    • The party should not know what to expect. What are it’s attacks and weaknesses? Mystery, wonder, and fear!
  • Foreshadowing of the main villain.
    • Poor Lareth the Beautiful sat in the last room of the dungeon in T1 and no one knew he was the bad guy. Drop some things in so the party expects, fears, and loathes Lareth.
  • Order of battle for humanoids getting help.
    • Intelligent creatures will call their buddies for help. When do those various buddies show up for the pitched battle?
  • Lots of vermin, animals, ooze, undead type things in dungeons.
    • They don’t need much of a reason to  be in a dungeon, and they have unknown abilities.
  • Go light on the humanoids, or even replace them with normal bandits, etc.
    • If all it’s going to do is swing a sword and die then it can be a human. People can do can pretty disgusting stuff.
  • Removing player ability/options is seldom a good thing.
    • Your players worked hard for their abilities and spells. Don’t arbitrarily take them away so they solve a puzzle the ‘correct’ way. Allow them to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions using the abilities they’ve earned.
  • Monsters should be doing something, not just always sleeping/guarding.
    • Life goes on in the dungeon when the PC’s are not around. Why should’t the orcs be exploring/looting an are also? Let the party catch them in the middle of something.
  • Factions are very nice to have. It allows for an expanded opportunity to role-play in the dungeon.

3 Responses to Review Standards

  1. Bryce Lynch says:

    I LOATHE the overly long backstory and fiction intro’s, but they are not on this list.

  2. solomani says:

    Enworld link seems busted? Been under maintenance for days now.

  3. Ronald walker says:

    Bryce Lynch,
    You started creating your own hoards of the dragon queen adventure a while back. I was wondering if you would share your entire creation? I like the overall story but don’t have the time to recreate the episodes like you did… do you mind sharing it?

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