Production Log: Free Adventure Module - Tech and Terror

Update: The Tech and Terror project is cancelled due to lack of interest. I learned a lot, and to spend any more time on it would be to squander valuable time. 🙁

Have you ever written an adventure module before? It’s so much more work than I could have ever anticipated. I’ve been under the illusion that I am thorough in my campaign preparation, it turns out this is not the case.

Working on a module that other dungeon master’s can use involves a totally different set of problems to solve. No longer do I simply need to have enough content ready that I can improvise and integrate it into the story the players want to tell. 

One of the joys that dungeon masters get to experience is seeing the party overcome obstacles in ways that we could have never imagined. I’m spoiled with this because my players do it nearly every single session. Things are different when you are writing for another dungeon master. I need to provide an answer to any important questions the players might ask.

It’s impossible to think of absolutely everything the players might do. There’s no way to give the dungeon master a list of all the answers they might need. It is possible however to take a closer look and really think it through. This soon shines a light on any details that are blurry. You move away from vague ideas and the world becomes concrete and specific. This is not necessarily virtuous, as you are losing flexibility. It will ultimately fall on the dungeon master to improvise and adapt the specific content. 

There are a few benefits that have come up for me during the module writing process. The descriptive text that I’ve ended up with is much richer than what I would write for myself. I’ve been able to take the time to ensure players have the opportunity to use skills that are more interesting than perception. I get to design more detailed monsters and encounters that I’m really excited about. By far the most valuable aspect of it all has been having the opportunity to look at everything all laid out in front of me and turn up the tension and drama on the whole mission. I can’t describe how excited I am to run this mission with my players.

Tech and Terror Volume One is going to be available to the players in my Esleight Secret Police campaign. Naturally since I intend to run this content with my players I have set the adventure in their campaign world. 

The campaign is set in a gamified version of the world from my upcoming grimdark thriller novel Black Star: Ascension (working title). I recently finished my first draft. 

The players in Elseight Secret Police work as spies for Felhaven, one of the superpowers locked in a tense cold war on the continent of Esleight. This results in an adventure that is quite specific.

It’s easy for a dungeon master to grab a premade module about exploring some ruins and insert that into their own world. It’s not as easy for them to insert a spy mission to an exotic location from another world. So I have to adapt the content to be more universal for the audience. This has been the most difficult aspect of the project so far. I want to give you an awesome adventure. I can’t do that if I’m doing something generic.

I have to be specific when I work. I draw heavily from the world of Black Star: Ascension and I lean heavily into the spy movie flavor of espionage and tactical combat. This is just the way I like to do things. If I didn’t want to focus on a core set of ideas then I would run my campaigns in one of the huge, wonderful, vibrant worlds that already exist out there. I would enjoy a lot more freedom if I did that. I don’t necessarily want that much freedom. Restrictions breed creativity after all.

You wouldn’t think that it would be difficult to reduce something into a more generic version of itself, but it can be. It’s all about being creative within the restrictions. A lot of the things I was initially worried about ended up to not really matter after all. For example the adventure location is made of glass. The reason the location is made of glass is specific to the culture of the city of Kotogu from Black Star: Ascension. Initially I thought this was a problem because the module is full of detailed description of this glass structure. I determined it would be too difficult to make the location more generic, because it would involve heavy revision of the descriptive text throughout. But how is the dungeon master supposed to take their players to this city of Kotogu? I can’t provide you with enough information in a free module to add this alien metropolis into your own world.

That’s when I realized that it’s your job as the dungeon master to decide why the location is made of glass. It’s my job to give you something well made and make it easy for you to integrate it into your campaign. That way all of the rich descriptions are now adding depth to your world

Adapting the monsters and the encounters was pretty easy. There was no need to make them generic. I was still able to keep my faction specific monsters and encounters by adjusting the names and providing the dungeon master with the opportunity to decide how the faction fit’s into their own campaign.

Over time I started to realize that the adventure location could even be used as a random dungeon that a party stumbles into and it would still be fun and make sense. The most difficult aspect of the location to adapt into another campaign is the nature of the location. The facility hangs beneath the city, three hundred metres above the sea of sands. This is important, because a big part of the adventure is the chance that the entire facility will plunge into the desert below with the players inside. The sand itself is not especially important, I think it would be interesting to see the scenario play out over-top of any type of terrain, or even water. The important part is figuring out what this facility is hanging off of in your world, and why.

This project has also pushed me into a skill development opportunity that I’ve been putting off for too long. I don’t really care for making maps. I’m fine with just snapping lines to the grid in roll 20 and throwing together a combat map as needed. That doesn’t fly in the world of premade modules. People expect a certain level of quality, even from a free adventure module. So I’m going through the process of learning how to make better combat maps. Wish me luck!

Project Stats - Free Adventure Module - Tech and Terror Volume One

  • Project Completion Status: 50%
  • Content Status: 90%
  • Maps Status: 20%
  • Revision Status: 0%
  • Words: 6166
  • Pages: 23 (working format)
  • Unique Monsters: 4
  • Encounters: 6
Jade Breed

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