Secret Confessions of a DM: Part 1

My trio of players did amazingly well finishing up their adventure Monday night, slaughtering not only all the kobolds and slaying the fearsome Black Dragon (wyrmling) to free the gypsy’s daughter.  Then the dragon’s mother (an Elder Black Dragon) came in and they did exactly what they were supposed to do.  They ran!  And they made it to the town Briggsfell I created for the lower levels of the campaign (I figure they’ll move on to Fallcrest or Hammerfast after 6-8th level) to collect their rewards.

However, next session I’m doing something I’ve never done before.  I hate to admit it, but even after running two long-term campaigns (one in 3rd Edition that lasted 16 months and one in 4e that lasted over 8 months) and countless one-shots and short campaigns, I have never once in my entire life run a pre-published module or adventure in D&D.  No Tomb of Horrors, no Keep on the Borderlands, no nothing.  Every single adventure I’ve run was something that I created myself.  I may have been inspired by an encounter or borrowed a map online, but everything I’ve used I’ve heavily modified personally.  But for the next session, I’m running an adventure called Storm Tower written by Chris Perkins and popularized in a beta version when played by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik from Penny Arcade, Scott Kurtz from PvP, and Wil Wheaton from the 80s and early 90s on the second D&D Podcast series.

What’s causing me to do this?  The adventure seems very well crafted (even though Perkins states that he wasn’t happy with the linear nature) and it suits my sensibilities.  It also works well into some ideas I have for the campaign later on.  And frankly, it just looks like a lot of fun!  I’ll let you know how it goes, but I plan on doing just as much prep work for this as I would for an adventure I wrote myself just in terms of re-re-re-re-re-re-re-reading the adventure to make sure I’ve got everything covered.  If you’d like to run it yourself, pick up the Dungeon Magazine Annual hardcover book (please note I get no money from this, I just like the book) and check it out, or extrapolate for yourself from the enemies that Acquisitions Incorporated faced.  Just keep in mind that sample PDF in the link above will only give you the set-up and none of the actual information you’ll need.

So what’s taken me so long to try a pre-published adventure?  Because I’m very strange about the sorts of adventures I like to run.  Everything has to make sense to me.  Not just make sense, but make sense to me.  That may seem like an odd distinction, but what it means is that I have to be able to understand not only all of the traps, monsters, skill challenges, and everything else  involved but also why those things are there.  The adventure has to be interesting enough to me that I’ll want to read it over and over again because if I can’t, I’ll never know everything that’s going on in the adventure and then I won’t be able to adapt or improv as necessary so my players don’t feel railroaded.

There have been others that have piqued my interest, but I’ve never had one that was both the appropriate level for my PCs that fit all the above requirements.  Now that I finally have one, I plan to run it.  So we’ll see what happens…and I’ll make sure to let you know how the experience differs after my group can get together again (busy weekend coming up with lots of birthdays).

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Published in: on February 24, 2011 at 7:42 AM  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Just found your blog linked from Reddit.

    I too mostly only ever run adventures I’ve written myself and I appreciate your idea that you only fully understand a module you yourself have written. When writing something, designing layout, placing traps, choosing enemies, etc. you have more ideas floating around in your head about purpose and history that could ever be written into a published module. Therefore you are prepared for almost any investigation by the party and can subtly hint at all sorts of background and environment.

    I am liking your blog so far and will keep reading. Good work!

    -A fellow DM and a new RPG blogger, LeGECK

    • Thanks. I started this a year ago as a writing experiment, figuring I could fill a niche with advice for new DMs, since this was around the time of the Robot Chicken D&D podcast and the D&D episode of Community giving the game a popularity boost amongst those who either never played or hadn’t played since high school. After I was a month in, I found several other blogs which were much better written, so the idea morphed into a general DMing advice. Then I had to move and my father had a heart attack and I had to help with his recovery and then I injured my back and I wasn’t running a game, so things sort of fell apart. But now that I’m settled in and my dad’s doing much better, I’m probably going to start writing again. Hope you stick around and enjoy it and, if you don’t, feel free to tell me precisely why I suck so I can get better :p

      • Sorry about your dad and your back!

        I always enjoy reading things from fellow DMs and was encouraged recently by my brother and redditors to create my own blog which I started yesterday.

        look forward to reading your new posts.


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