Why is the adventure format stuck in the past?


Product Discussion

1 to 50 of 161 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | next > last >>
Dark Archive

18 people marked this as a favorite.

Adventures / Scenarios still follow the same format they have for decades.
And I wonder why.

The typical room/ encounter reads like this

"You look into a room with a certain shape. There is stuff there and over there. You can see a shelf standing there."

Now follows some text. And then: "Creature: One really,really big dragon is in the room. Right behind the 12 multi tentacle monsters. ... Tactics: Before the fight the evil sorcerer hidden in the closet in area 4b casts darkness over the room"

And while it's ok if you prepare well, and I think I spend a lot of time preparing, I still make mistakes at the table. And I have witnessed other GMs having the same problems.
Having to add stuff afterwards. Having to back paddle, etc.

I understand why room descriptions are there, and when wandering monsters or random encounters have been a really big part of the game, that might have made total sense. Read room description, roll on table and tell them what they see.

But now, esp. with PFS scenarios I don't see why this is a good thing anymore.
I'd love to to see scenarios written in a way that actually make prepping the game less time consuming and running it less error prone.

A lot of this simply means switching the order of some things around slightly.
Add a GM Info before the "read aloud box."
The GM Info should contain
- information if the encounter is optional
- information on stuff that might change the room (monster tactics like darkness, create pit, etc)
- information on loot, things that can be discovered via perception and are not listed in the read-aloud box
- if the monster in some tiers has a magic item that can do cool and unusual stuff: note that here. Quote source (page number would be awesome as well).
- other stuff that should be fresh in the GM's mind when presenting the room.

Adding monsters / doors to the read aloud box has some implications
- you might need different texts for different tiers
- optional encounters need a different texts for the enemy free room

The good thing (TM) about that would be, that you can concentrate on the thing that the story focuses about. Sometimes, that might be the environment. Sometimes a monster. But it gives you the choice.

It would be absolutely great if the different tiers could get different chapters in the adventure. Having fought against higher tier version of certain encounters because the GM had scrolled to the wrong stat block (and sometimes even switched between two versions because the stat blocks of the monsters were printed on different pages and he had to page back and forth a lot) , that's something I'd really appreciate (though I can see why it would be a problem for the print versions).

Which brings me to another small thing: please, don't interrupt monster stat blocks with page breaks. Esp. if you're on a "right page."
Don't let the text flow around your (really amazing) art. It makes the stat block hard to read, eats a lot of space (which might lead to the stat block being split and placed on two pages).

And yes, I know that prepping the adventure is fun, and that part of hat fun is to look stuff up.
But, if you're just given the name of a magic item, and you have to look it up, and search through several books until you find it, and then you have to create stat blocks for the stuff it can conjure up, it can really mess with your prep.

And finally:
Please note all source books needed to run the adventure on the back of the cover AND in the description of the adventure on the site.

*sigh*

Sorry for the long post and the bad English :(

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Your message is coming through clearly and your use of English is fine.

I agree that the organization of the data given could help in the scenario prep and especially the scenario play. Where information about the stuck door to be given first or that optional monster placement not be at the end of the room description.

The optional encounter info and 4 PC adjustments need to be on the same page as the room.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Definitely agree that a new method of organisation is warranted.

As a GM, I need certain information, in the following order:

Before Entry: door details (including traps).
Door Open: what creatures are there, and major room details (including read-aloud description of first impressions, if appropriate)
After Encounter: treasure and other things to find.

The hard part is making all that flow together and not seem stilted and formulaic.

The Exchange

Completely agree. There is a lot that can be done to alter the way that info is laid out to ease the job of the GM. Getting it right though will take talent.


Mind blown!

GM info first...

Succinct list of complications...

Yep, I agree completely.

Grand Lodge

I'd love to see more encounters designed with built in difficulty and party size variables. Sucks that encounters have the same amount of bad guys every time, when the party could be anything from four squishy, unoptimized skill monkeys to six min-maxed murder hobos. How about: One goblin shaman and X goblin warriors, where X is equal to the number of players in the party?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

9 people marked this as a favorite.

This is a harder nut to crack than it sounds, honestly. WotC's "delve" format, which they started using toward the tail end of 3rd edition, was one attempt to make adventures easier to run, but it made them VERY difficult to write and quite unsatisfying to simply read. We tried a less drastic approach in Dungeon magazine with the Shackled City Adventure Path, but the format kinda collapsed under its own weight and killed wordcounts with unnecessary info the more high level things got.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Part of the answer might be reducing word count, and adding more callouts, icons, or headings instead. Highlight anything with a dice roll (e.g., DC).

Some information is hard to find "in the moment", and adding elements to assist quickly scanning a page would help, as would separating and laying out some conditionals.

Some of the modules I've been using recently are a few years old, so maybe that accounts for it, but there's still pieces I'm finding buried in walls of text, even after reading through (and playing!) adventures multiple times.

Sovereign Court

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
WotC's "delve" format, which they started using toward the tail end of 3rd edition, was one attempt to make adventures easier to run...

I actually really liked this, if it's what I'm recalling. Their last few adventures has clusters of rooms that all interacted with each other, monsters moving from one to another. Cool, less static.

But I agree with the OP about reading a box full of room description, then ... oh, and there's a troll in there, too.

Might be fun for some creative folks to all take a room/description/encounter and everyone re-write it a little differently until we find the right combination.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

What is the "Delve" format¿

The Exchange

James Jacobs wrote:
This is a harder nut to crack than it sounds, honestly.

Having tried to write technical information in such a way that a new user can rapidly ingest it, it sounds like a pretty tough nut to start with.

One thing I loved from Numenera was the way that key terms in the text were in a contrasting colour, and repeated in the margin with a page reference. That really helped 'explorability' of the text.

I'm willing to put up with a more formulaic and templates writing style, if it makes the info easier to find. That's just my personal preference though. Someone with a different background might prefer description that flows better when read.

If someone has a few different styles of encounter (monster, trap, etc.) written up and under a suitable license (public domain, etc.), they could put them up on Google Docs and encourage people to take a copy and hack them into different formats.

Dark Archive

I am not an expert on technical documentation. I wrote a manual and some user guides and read about the topic.
But I have a background in User Interface Design and User Experience. I also spend some time to prepare my own info for each adventure. Mainly because I don't want to translate on the fly, to ensure the flavor of the text doesn't suffer.

And when I translate the box text, I normally add the stuff the player are about to see as well in that text, stuff that is sometimes only mentioned in the creatures part or in some other parts of the text.

I also add a short Info block for myself, reminding me how this is connected to other rooms and events.

This info is most of the time already in the adventure, but not always where I'd expect it.

When I read about technical documentation, it was emphasised that you should never write something like "cut the blue wire, after you cut the red wire."

Simply rearranging the order of some information, or giving an abstract of that information at the beginning of a room description can help a lot. Esp. if you're running a PFS scenario and have to finish in time because the local game store is about to close soon.
:)

When looking at electronic versions of an adventure, it's no problem to tag the paragraphs with tier information. And then run a script to output a pdf containing the information for a specific tier only.

It should also be no problem to list all referenced material that is needed to run an adventure.

The hard part, is coming up with a great idea, finding a good story and actually writing a cool adventure.

And so far, I loved pretty much every pathfinder adventure I have played or GMed so far. They are awesome.
I just think that some of problems I run into when GMing could be reduced by a slightly different format of the adventure.
Often I simply copy/paste information around so I have the relevant information in combination with the "box text."

Ok, one time I went over the top and actually created three versions of the whole adventure (was for a d20 modern home campaign). It was an infiltration mission and I had the rooms in "unaware", "alarmed" and "full defense" mode. And when the players changed the state I could simply switch my print outs at that moment.
I also had a short area where I could mark what happened to each "enemy" that was in the room, so, when they went out, I could describe how the room looked with some gory detail. I also used this later on in a news report and as part of a police file they had to grab.

And with digital means, that's even simpler.
Having a decision tree and enable / disable parts of the document part on conditions met is pretty simple.

That's why I am hoping for some "GM helpers" for now, just another iteration, not a revolution :)

I also think, that it's more fun for a writer if he can envision the whole scene, including monsters as well. Makes the descriptions much more interesting, I'd guess.

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Selein wrote:
What is the "Delve" format¿

Each of the encounter areas is described under its room number, as usual, but with only the basic of trappings. If there is a monster or threat present, you are directed to a 2-page spread in an appendix that has a close-up map of the immediate dungeon area, all trap and monster stats collected, and notes on lighting, terrain

James is right, in general I liked this as it made running the adventure easier, but it was a drawback in the fun factor as far as reading the adventure.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

I think that a bullet list of important things to know about the room might be pretty helpful. It would also be nice if the electronic versions of adventures had clickable links to referenced material.

I also miss the way some old school adventures would include a lot of illustrations of rooms, puzzles, monsters, etc. I guess that the expectation levels for artwork have increased a lot since the days of black and white illustrations by Erol Otus, and I understand that adding several pages of full color glossy pictures to a book would probably raise the price. Maybe stuff like this could be available as a web bonus though.


5 people marked this as a favorite.
Glord Funkelhand wrote:
Having a decision tree and enable / disable parts of the document part on conditions met is pretty simple.

Oh, man, I just LOL'd.

Glord Funkelhand, you've got some good ideas, but the words "decision tree" and "simple" are not allowed in the same sentence.


Amen! One-line description of the kind of room, then center on the challenge/reward/enemies present, THEN any details you need to bring across.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I heard good things about Four Dollar Dungeons adventures (not sure if they have a different format for encounters but according to the reviews they contain a lot of supplementary DM prep stuff) and also about Hammerdog's Grande Temple of Jing.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I absolutely LOVE how 4DD present encounters. Now, bear in mind that I only have a single adventure as an example (must get more), but every room has a simple encounter/treasure chart as part of the room details. The bit where it fell down was that there was a fair amount of what seems to be descriptive text, but mixed in were GM directions, which caused a few "gotcha" moments while playing it. If those are split out (and I understand that later adventures done by 4DD are improvements), it would be a damn near perfect example of how to do it right.

Dark Archive

Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:
Glord Funkelhand wrote:
Having a decision tree and enable / disable parts of the document part on conditions met is pretty simple.

Oh, man, I just LOL'd.

Glord Funkelhand, you've got some good ideas, but the words "decision tree" and "simple" are not allowed in the same sentence.

That's true if you run everything with paper only. For your own game, you might want to play around with interactive fiction software a bit. It's made to allow for exactly that. Main problem as a GM is, that you tend to add too much that's never needed. On the other hand, that's quite often the case, no matter how you prepare *sighs*

Anyway, I am not suggesting that we turn adventures modules into interactive fiction, shouldn't have started with that :)

Fortunately, most PFS scenarios and modules are pretty straight forward, so there is not much needed besides "opponent is prepared" or "opponent is not prepared."
(Yes, I know, I am oversimplifying a bit)

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I totally agree with the OP in the spirit of what he's saying. I find APs and modules often very hard to read and make sense of... especially when an adventure is NOT a typical "dungeon crawl" where it's "you enter a room and this happens and then you enter a room and this happens."

At the same time, I get why how listing certain explicit GM notes explicitly ends up getting cumbersome on a design and publication level. I think it would take a lot of work and experimentation to find a way to improve things.... but I'm willing to endure, as a customer, the experimentation.

Part of the problem I think is adhering to the "adventure format" when it sometimes, simply doesn't work for the adventure (or for a particular encounter at least).

I am running the Skull and Shackles AP. I love the idea of the adventure and much of its story, but the organization of the first book is driving me NUTS. The way the book is written is downright NONSENSICAL and unintuitive for how to run this ship adventure, and it's because it's an atypical adventure that's getting shoehorned into the "established adventure format." Examples:

- The game's action starts on Page 8, but by page 9 the prose digresses at length going more into meta-information for the GM regarding how to get the PCs' equipment and the like (and yet further similar meta-information doesn't show up until page 23 or so).

- Then it goes back into the first day of in-game adventure for a most of page 10, including assigning the PCs to jobs that aren't detailed until PAGE 23. Page 11 starts meta-describing in detail, every single part of the ship the PCs are on as well as all of the NPCs, and doesn't get BACK to the adventure narrative until page 26.

- Most NPCs are described pages 16-22... except for the one described on page 27 AND the other three described pages 52-56. Two NPCs show up together frequently, but one of them is on page 21 and the other on page 54, which is a big f!#!-you to me if I want to quickly references both characters' stats when they show up in the same scene. One character has DIFFERENT sets of details provided on him on page 21 and then on page 52-3, so if I fail to quickly check both, I may screw up his interactions with the PCs.

- A substance given to the PCs is described on page 26 but the statistics for what the substance does is on page 67, in an easily-missed sidebar.

All of this stuff is designed this way because they were trying to shove a square sandbox into a round dungeon crawl hole. Because they said, "Oh, but we have to have the special NPCs fleshed out in the back of the book because that's how they do it" they threw the NPCs all over the place. If ALL the NPCs were in the back of the book, even if some are little microstatblocks and others are fully fleshed out, that would be fine--that's only one section rather than several that I have to bookmark. But because no, because we put microstatblocks HERE and fight statblocks THERE and detailed NPCs OVER THERE, I get to develop a migraine from excessive book flipping.

I understand the very very crucial importance of having a standardized way of formatting -- having done freelance editing for Paizo, no less, I am usually more than happy to point out deviations in that formatting -- because it creates consistency that is supposed to help people have an EASIER time of finding things.

However, if sticking to the format in a particular circumstance makes it HARDER to find things, then it is not serving its purpose. Then the readers get punished for the sake of a tradition that is not serving the audience the way it is supposed to.

Being certain that the way things are structured are serving the desired purpose is crucial. If not, then it's time to look at something different.

The hard part is that takes time... and trying things that may not work well along the way.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

I recall the Shackled City format that James referred to. It had helpful bits like 'aura' for each of the rooms, so that when your players inevitably lit the room up with detect magic or detect evil, you could answer quickly instead of having to audit the room contents.

But as levels crept up, and auras more common, they became longer and more useless. It doesn't help anyone to know that the NPC in the room has 7 weak magic auras from his gear*, and because of the level of minutia those spells can pick up, the blurb is also more likely to be wrong.

*:
To be fair, that's more a problem with how the detect spells work. It's worse in Pathfinder, because using detect magic every room is actually workable.

Dark Archive

When I prep, I try to make all the information available in one place..
I guess I would add short NPC descriptions to my area descriptions, doubling the info if needed. Never prepped Skulls&Shackles, though, so I can't say if this would work.

For cities I normally also create a "what to get where" sheet, mainly because I have run into the same problems before.
In home games, you can normally work around a lot of these problems quite easily, for PFS you have to stick to what is given, which makes some stuff easier, other stuff harder.

That's why prefer the PDFs to printed copies now. It's so easy to copy stuff, move it around, etc.

"Forn follows function"
If we assume that the idea is, that both GM and player are supposed to have a good time, it follows that the GM should have it as easy as possible to get all the information he needs to make it work for the player.
If the GM has to browse through heaps of paper, look stuff up, etc. it kills the flow of the game. So, this should be kept to a minimum.

"Out of sight, out of mind"
Splitting information is not a good idea. Even if you have read something before, your players will make sure you have a lot of stuff in your mind when running the game, and you might simply not remember that something is there. And then do a Homer ("D'oh!") on your way home when you suddenly remember.
This also means that I hate it when Stats are not printed, but referenced. Even if I have that book, that means one more thing to copy, one more pdf to open or one more book to carry. And some of these books are heavy. I look at you, bestiaries.
And while I love PDFs to prep, I prefer real books to browse and get ideas from. So I get the bestiaries normally as print versions.
Which leads to:

"Tell me what I need to be bale to prep"
Please specify what rule books are needed. If a bad guy has a really cool item that can only be found in "that book, I don't have" and I realise this while prepping, I am not happy.

"Details"
Players ask questions.
Captain of the guard: "We have send guards into the sewers, but they didn't return!"
Player: "How many guards. How well trained? What weapons?"
Cotg: "Umm.. a handful? With swords and stuff? I guess. They were good men."
(browses in adventure).. "they had longspears, a couple of crossbows and some masterwork short swords. Leather armor... and ... "

This leads to many follow-up problems. PFS seems to turn into Excel Combat from time to time anyway ("I point at him and do 5 damage!"), so it's a good idea to hide the fact of the mechanics as good as possible...

Cotg: "I sent Bill's crew. He was... he is a good man. I hope he is still alive. *sighs* Bill is one of my best man. We fought many battles together and emptied a lot of bottles. I was his best man. Please find him. If I tell Hildrun that her husband is dead, she'll be heartbroken."


If you use PDFs or Books like the vast majority of us. There is tons of cross referencing. How many times do you encounter a monster with such and such template and even if you have prepped you have to have the adventure and the bestiary open to 2 pages. Just to be ready then someone casts a spell and suddenly you wonder what exactly undead immunities are because some of them are not easily known from memory.

As for the layout I think your right "seeing" the room is different than "seeing it as the characters do" when there are many variables.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

The Alexandrian has a room key layout I've found useful:

Here

Sovereign Court

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Schadenfreude wrote:

The Alexandrian has a room key layout I've found useful:

Here

Awesome.


Chemlak wrote:
I absolutely LOVE how 4DD present encounters. Now, bear in mind that I only have a single adventure as an example (must get more), but every room has a simple encounter/treasure chart as part of the room details. The bit where it fell down was that there was a fair amount of what seems to be descriptive text, but mixed in were GM directions, which caused a few "gotcha" moments while playing it. If those are split out (and I understand that later adventures done by 4DD are improvements), it would be a damn near perfect example of how to do it right.

What I did with Dance Macabre, where this sort of thing happened a lot, was to use BOLD to separate out GM directions from descriptive text.

I wasn't sure whether this worked or made it messy.

I didn't use it for the next two adventures, because I felt the degree of admixture wasn't so great, but I'm constantly looking for ideas.

Richard

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

Glord Funkelhand wrote:

When I prep, I try to make all the information available in one place..

I guess I would add short NPC descriptions to my area descriptions, doubling the info if needed. Never prepped Skulls&Shackles, though, so I can't say if this would work.

Just FWIW... the first part of Skull and Shackles has about 30 active NPCs in it, which I use a spreadsheet I had to make myself to track. You can't sort them by "area" because the "area" the PCs and NPCs occupy is the whole ship they are crewing. They're not exploring a dungeon where they enter a room, then move on to the next, then the next. They're trapped on a large ship where they and the NPCs move between each area more or less freely. The adventure as written describes the entire ship in one section (but in a place where it bisects the adventure narrative for about 10 pages) and then describes MOST of the NPCs right after the ship description... except for one described later for and the three more at the end of the book, because the way APs are written is they are "supposed" to have NPC spotlights at the end of the adventure. All of the NPCs, in spite of being described in different sections of the book, are all on the ship and can encounter/befriend/attack the PCs (or other NPCs) together at any time. And that's the problem. The solution would be to have all 30-odd NPCs described in one place (which I had to do myself in prep--but the point of pre-written adventures is to save the GM prep time, not add to it). My overall complaint is to not stick to the "standard format" when it obfuscates, rather than clarifies, adventure progress.

I agree a list of the books used in the front of the adventure would be really helpful. You can at least keep those sections of the PRD open ahead of time in your laptop.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

I've noticed some of this backward-priority stuff in room descriptions as well. "The room is lit by a series of eight torch sconces along the walls; the holes in the well-worn carpet show bare stone beneath and smell faintly of mold and rot. You can see a prominent holy symbol of Lamashtu painted in what's probably dried blood on the far wall; a strange blue light outlines the axe lying across the table under a metallic mesh or net of some kind....

"...oh, and there's five screaming bugbears charging at you." NOW you tell me.

In journalism, that's called "burying the lead."


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Calybos1 wrote:

I've noticed some of this backward-priority stuff in room descriptions as well. "The room is lit by a series of eight torch sconces along the walls; the holes in the well-worn carpet show bare stone beneath and smell faintly of mold and rot. You can see a prominent holy symbol of Lamashtu painted in what's probably dried blood on the far wall; a strange blue light outlines the axe lying across the table under a metallic mesh or net of some kind....

"...oh, and there's five screaming bugbears charging at you." NOW you tell me.

In journalism, that's called "burying the lead."

Yeah, I've seen that too. Even in home-brewed games.

"We notice the huge red dragon first!"

OTOH, it's good to get the layout and the obvious other stuff in the room and you know the players won't be paying any attention after they hear about the charging monsters.

Of course, if as in the original example a line in the monster tactics says it will have cast Darkness before the fight so the PCs couldn't actually see any of the lavish description at first, that's a more serious problem.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I always try to not get too specific at first. Using the example above, when prepping a homebrew game, I would do something like this:

"As you open the door, your attention is diverted by five screaming, bloodthirsty bugbears. You get a dim sensation of the room, torchlit and carpeted with a strange blue light emanating from a table and dried stains on the walls."

After that, outside of boxed text, usually in brief bullet points I note special features, and hidden items / effects:

- the blue light is coming from an axe covered in a strange metallic mesh
- The carpet is old and smells of mildew
- The stains are obviously blood, and a holy symbol of Lammashtu hangs nearby

- Under the rug, or with a DC 15 perception check, a PC can find a secret compartment in the floor with 274 gp in it.

Dark Archive

That's the best idea.
But honestly, there is something really wrong.

Somebody spent some time typing that wonderful description. Which should never be used. Before the fight, the group of enemies will be more the more important element.
After the fight, the room will most likely look very different.

If the GM is supposed to change the "read aloud box" anyway, then it would make more sense to give a short list of interesting stuff the GM should mention
- 5 Bugbears. 3 of them with shoulder mounted lasers
- It smells really bad
- torches at the walls around the room (8). Brightly lit.
- blue light from dried strains at the wall and from a table

Or a description containing the bugbears as part of the scene.

"You look into a well-lit room. As you open the door, a group of bugbears drop their monocles and their leather bound tomes. They growl and face you with an evil grin. All this is painted in a blue, shimmering light coming from strange stains that cover some of the walls and the table in the far end of the room."


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
DeathQuaker wrote:
Glord Funkelhand wrote:

When I prep, I try to make all the information available in one place..

I guess I would add short NPC descriptions to my area descriptions, doubling the info if needed. Never prepped Skulls&Shackles, though, so I can't say if this would work.

Just FWIW... the first part of Skull and Shackles has about 30 active NPCs in it, which I use a spreadsheet I had to make myself to track. You can't sort them by "area" because the "area" the PCs and NPCs occupy is the whole ship they are crewing. They're not exploring a dungeon where they enter a room, then move on to the next, then the next. They're trapped on a large ship where they and the NPCs move between each area more or less freely. The adventure as written describes the entire ship in one section (but in a place where it bisects the adventure narrative for about 10 pages) and then describes MOST of the NPCs right after the ship description... except for one described later for and the three more at the end of the book, because the way APs are written is they are "supposed" to have NPC spotlights at the end of the adventure. All of the NPCs, in spite of being described in different sections of the book, are all on the ship and can encounter/befriend/attack the PCs (or other NPCs) together at any time. And that's the problem. The solution would be to have all 30-odd NPCs described in one place (which I had to do myself in prep--but the point of pre-written adventures is to save the GM prep time, not add to it). My overall complaint is to not stick to the "standard format" when it obfuscates, rather than clarifies, adventure progress.

I agree a list of the books used in the front of the adventure would be really helpful. You can at least keep those sections of the PRD open ahead of time in your laptop.

Ugh, I remember going through that mess myself.


Pathfinder Modules Subscriber

I find the reverse priority to be the most jarring. Even if I've read it 2 or 3 times already, when I reference back to that room or area I still sometimes forget until I'm done describing the room and then "...oh, yeah, and there's 5 skeleton's in there that want you dead."

It just really sucks the life out of any atmosphere I just built up.

Honestly, just putting the creature part first would do wonders.

One thing I would love, is to have the maps and room descriptions in a different layout. Have a very mini-sized version of the map in or near the center of a two-page spread, then lines pointing from the room to a small box with the page number of the description, and a one or two line note such as "Sleeping Quarters (CR2) - 5 Goblins, 1 main treasure item, pg. 17". Then keep that up on a laptop/tablet or printout. If the map is small enough - say one level of a small tower, you could possibly fit everything on that two-page spread. If the map is larger, have logical chunks taken out to do this.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

6 people marked this as a favorite.

IIRC, it's actually officially standard practice to NOT include creatures (or actions of said creatures) in read-aloud text, believe it or not. Which adds to those ridiculous GM moments of, "Here is an immaculately maintained parlor with floral print curtains blocking out the light from the window, a lamp with an exquisite stained glass lampshade sitting on a mahogany end table, and a red velvet sofa. ... Oh, and the Tarrasque. The Tarrasque is there too. I guess it's sitting on the sofa."

I guess the reason is if something happens in the adventure that would make the creatures disappear, they don't want the GM to have to alter the text on the fly. Say, for example, the room is a barracks; in some circumstances, it could have guards in it. But if the PCs trigger an alarm elsewhere in the area, those guards would leave the barracks to investigate the alarm. Presuming the PCs dispatch the guards, they would then enter an empty room, so read aloud text including the guards in the description would then be inaccurate.

I actually don't like read aloud text. I often find stuff in the read aloud text not to be important (or worded in a way I wouldn't word things) while stuff I DO want to share with the PCs is elsewhere in the description. I'd rather just have a BRIEF description of the room followed by observable threats followed by threats the GM knows about but the PCs don't, a list of checks they need to make upon entry (and I mean need to, like saving throws due to a hazard or Perception checks, not Spellcraft checks to ID an aura), and let me determine what to share in what order.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Really, this is why it has always been GM advice to read the adventure through.

No publisher is going to have a magic format that works for everyone.

Even if someone did, "no plan survives contact with the enemy", meaning that since the published adventure is a static snapshot of how the adventure site is *if the PCs are not present*, the presence of the PCs in the adventure site is making more and more changes as the PCs progress. Allies who can come to the aid of opponents are reduced; opponents are forced from one room to another; opponents may become new allies of the PCs through interaction... none of this can be predicted accurately. So the publisher is left with "this is how it *would* be", and the GM needs to be ready to modify as the PCs progress.

Really, this is one of the areas where I hope tools like RealmWorks can help.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
DeathQuaker wrote:
IIRC, it's actually officially standard practice to NOT include creatures (or actions of said creatures) in read-aloud text, believe it or not.

I remembered that as well and finally found the quote here:

James Jacobs wrote:

2: Do not include monsters in read-aloud text, unless the monster is 99% of the time in the same position, and even then, only include the monster if it seems to be part of the room (such as a mimic or a golem hiding as a statue). Why's this? Because it's the reverse of #1 above. You should never imply MONSTER action in read-aloud text as well, since the read-aloud text doesn't know what the PCs did just before they entered the room. If the room's bugbear inhabitants hide upon hearing someone trying to get through their locked door, that can be ruined by describing the bugbears in the read-aloud text as "sitting at a table playing Snap-Rats."

The main reason we put a Creature entry in encounters, and why we bold-face the word "CREATURE" at the start, is to give the GM a quick visual cue that there are monsters involved in the encounter, so that when he describes the room, he knows to keep the inhabitants in mind so that he can add them to the description's end, or incorporate them into the description as he sees fit.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

The read-aloud text works best if you, the GM, don't just parrot the words out loud, frankly, but present the information conversationally to the group. This lets you adjust the information in the text to your style and cadence of speaking and thus makes it not feel out of place, but also allows you to add in situational things, such as the positions of monsters and the like that we simply cannot anticipate due to the infinite ways a party can approach an encounter.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Why do I get the feeling that Snap-Rats is not a card game and is in fact a bit more literal?

Liberty's Edge

Reminds me of an email exchange I had with my fellow group DM's last year!

GM: The first thing that catches your eye is a beautiful painting of the Ustalav countryside showing a carriage against a gothic castle. There’s a four poster bed in the corner, and a writing desk loaded with alchemical items to in the far corner. A carpet showing Osirion design lies across the floor.
Player: Neat! Ok, I go and examine the…
GM: The group of norkers growl at you brandishing their weapons, roll for initiative!
Player: Where the hell did they come from?!

Dark Archive

DeathQuaker wrote:
IIRC, it's actually officially standard practice to NOT include creatures (or actions of said creatures) in read-aloud text,

I know.

I simply want to question this. It's from a time, where it made sense to describe the room to the GM, who would then populate it with creatures.
That's why there is "creature block" in the room description.

But we've learnt a lot since then.
There a certain things that should always be considered when transferring information.
Group stuff that belongs together.
Make the important stuff stand out.
Give the information in the order needed.

I think adventures should format their information in a way that makes them more easy to use.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Having gone through several "rework the format" attempts for adventures before, I'm pretty hesitant. Each time, what seemed like a good idea kinda ended up backfiring in the end, and we've always gone back to the "standard" set by early 3rd edition's Dungeon Magazine.

To do it right, you'd need someone who knows all about adventure design working hand in hand with someone who knows all about layout... and it'd be BEST if that was one person, but barring that, two people who work well together and have the time to experiment.

Trying it out on an AP is a bad idea, because doing so would lock us in for all 6 volumes. Trying it out on a module is a better idea, but there's complications there as well. The best bet might be to tinker on things that aren't for public release—sort of an R&D type environment. But that's not something we at Paizo currently have the time or resources to pull off at this point.

So for now, my preference is to stick with what we have. It's familiar and while it might not be organized best for every single play style... it's fun to read AND even if it doesn't match your particular play style, the familiarity of it makes it easier to reorganize as you need.

Sovereign Court

I remember absolutely hating the delve format.

It made things much more complicated for me, and sometimes it was really irritating. I had the impression of reading the same text several times over as different sections were referencing the same thing, but not in the same way, leading to confusion.

Plus, as I recall, it made certain monster actions mandatory, as "the goblin will always charge you".

Better is the foe of Good as they say.

President, Jon Brazer Enterprises

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Urath DM wrote:

Really, this is why it has always been GM advice to read the adventure through.

No publisher is going to have a magic format that works for everyone.

Even if someone did, "no plan survives contact with the enemy"

This.

Dark Archive

Dale McCoy Jr wrote:
Urath DM wrote:

Really, this is why it has always been GM advice to read the adventure through.

No publisher is going to have a magic format that works for everyone.

Even if someone did, "no plan survives contact with the enemy"

This.

Agreed.

But: Having to read the gM advice, so people can point out what should be clearly visible when reading through the adventure is a bit problematic.

I come from a user interface pov.
Yes, you can use a program with a non economic interface.
But you'll make more errors, simply, because it's less intuitive.
And even after a long time using the program, you will, from time to time, make the same old error again. Even if you know that the problem is there. "What do you mean, 'are you sure?' Of course I am sure. *click* Oh, shyte!"
That's why those dialogs should now be history and you should have an undo stack for pretty much everything in pretty much every application.

The same rules apply for adventures.
There are certain conventions that should be used when writing texts that are meant to get information across.
Adventures are both an art form and a technical document which makes things more complicated. But, if you want to get the information across, you should try to use the established guidelines as good as you can.

Quote:
Having gone through several "rework the format" attempts for adventures before, I'm pretty hesitant. Each time, what seemed like a good idea kinda ended up backfiring in the end, and we've always gone back to the "standard" set by early 3rd edition's Dungeon Magazine.

Thanks for the reply. :) :)

You might consider adding "Monster description" as plain text, not in the read aloud box, that fit the room. This way, the format stays mainly the same, but the monster description fits the room.
And the GM can decide to read those two parts after another.

I know that some ideas sound easy (like splitting the PDFs by tier) but are problematic, since each PDF needs to be layouted to fit the standards. It's way more easy for me as an enduser to have a plain, but (for me) more easy to manage version than for you :)

The Exchange

James Jacobs wrote:
The read-aloud text works best if you, the GM, don't just parrot the words out loud, frankly, but present the information conversationally to the group.

I agree, but I always feel oddly compelled to read anything with a box around it verbatim. Perhaps presenting it bulleted would help, but then people often read bullets off slides verbatim in a presentation :(

What about using PFS for experimentation? Anything that allows me to prep easier as a (novice) PFS GM would be appreciated, especially if it made key points easier to find while scanning the text during the game.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I usually make a copy of the map and as I read through the scenario I write the location name, occupants, and any other important information on each area. For creatures that move around I list them in the margin and use a unique symbol to mark the places they are likely to be encountered.

I can usually run the whole adventure from that map. I almost never read the 'official' location descriptions to the players. Rather, if the map says 'library' I say there are a lot of books on shelves and other details I remember from reading it. If there was anything special about the location which would be missed that way then I'd have a note on the map to remind me or so I can check the actual write-up. I use the map as a bookmark in the adventure writeup itself and switch over to that for monster stats, loot, and any other details... but the whole process of moving around and telling players what they see when they enter the area can just be run straight off the map.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

3 people marked this as a favorite.
brock, no the other one... wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
The read-aloud text works best if you, the GM, don't just parrot the words out loud, frankly, but present the information conversationally to the group.

I agree, but I always feel oddly compelled to read anything with a box around it verbatim. Perhaps presenting it bulleted would help, but then people often read bullets off slides verbatim in a presentation :(

What about using PFS for experimentation? Anything that allows me to prep easier as a (novice) PFS GM would be appreciated, especially if it made key points easier to find while scanning the text during the game.

Problem with using PFS for experimentation is twofold:

1) It's the line that has the TIGHTEST turnaround and the most overworked developers—adding anything new to them is cruel and unusual.

2) The needs and format of the PFS scenarios are already VERY different from regular adventures we publish. The requirements of the tier system combined with needs for Organized Play information essentially makes them a different product, and any new format we'd come up with that would work for that would not necessarily translate over to a non-PFS adventure product.

Dark Archive

Would it have to?

Form follows function.


I think the man thing that needs to change is putting any obvious threats right after the title of the room.

Library
5 Skeletons
What else may be here if the PCs did X.
Notes about the room that easy to notice.
Details.

If a monster uses a template or has been advanced or otherwise changed I would like a full stat block.

The worst case of this was a young half fiendish hill giant armed with broken great sword.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

I more or less agree, although I'd add lighting conditions before monsters. It's the sort of thing that's easily forgotten, but really ruins things if you get it wrong.

If you wanted a light touch approach, the rest of the text could more or less go as usual, if you needed to, once you've got the reminders as the first thing you see.

e.g.

A2. LIBRARY (EL 3)
Darkness
5 skeletons

------
This room is a library. Leather bound tomes fill the oak shelves that line the room. 4 unlit lanterns hang from the ceiling.
------
More stuff
Creatures: More stuff
Treasure: More stuff

1 to 50 of 161 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | next > last >>
Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder RPG / Paizo Products / Product Discussion / Why is the adventure format stuck in the past? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.