Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Seriously, though, you ARE doing it wrong.

Yesterday, I was perusing the used section of the FLGS near my house when I chanced upon a battered copy of The Book of Crypts for three bucks. This is an old Ravenloft supplement of short adventures, nine in all. I grabbed it, thinking I would adapt them to my Gothic Earth Ravenloft campaign to use as interludes between the modules in Masque of the Red Death.

...I read the first one this morning and it was fucking terrible.
Fucking terrible. 

If you are writing an adventure and you include a phrase such as "No matter what precautions the PCs take, she is still abducted..." Stop writing. Stop writing and don't start again until you come up with a better idea that rewards, rather than disregards, cautious and clever preparation on the part of your PCs. Seriously.

Also, if your bad guy holds someone hostage, and then moments later admits he has no intention of killing his hostage, prepare to have the rest of his monologue interrupted as the PCs jack him.

Hopefully the other eight won't be as terrible, but I'm starting to think that all 90's era TSR modules are just inherently terrible, Ravenloft or otherwise.


  1. I too bought this used, I don't remember any redeeming value. I concur that most of the 90's modules are short stories in the guise of an adventure.

    Some of the late Greyhawk modules are more dungeon crawls, Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad, Star Cairns, and Doomgrinder (I haven't read them in years). Also Temple, Tower, Tomb is three trap filled dungeons. that's all I can think of off the top of my head from the 90s. I am not saying they are good, just less plot driven.

    If you are going to run a railroad adventure in gothic earth I would suggest something involving a literal railroad. That way your players can't complain when they are stuck hurtling down the tracks.

  2. I see what you did there.
    I'm taking these modules and just using the basic ideas. The last session I ran of Red Jack was like 75% improv.

  3. @ DMW:

    Just gross, huh?

    I stopped buying modules before this whole era, but later went back and picked up a few used ones (mainly for BECMI/RC with a couple 2E) and was astounded at what I found. Just terrible...I've never made use of any of 'em myself.

    1. Dude, I haven't even listed all of this module's sins.

      -Focuses on the goals of an NPC the PCs are supposed to care about after just meeting her.

      -Said NPC "doesn't trust anyone," but decides to let the PCs escort her through the wilderness of Raven-fucking-loft to a foreboding mansion. She even makes camp with them so they can leave at first light.

      -Unkillable Bad Guy is unkillable and comes back to life if the PCs kill him. (Though that's a Ravenloft problem in general)

      -Bad guy's experiment is destined to fail. **This adventure could literally resolve itself without the PCs even being there.** The only thing the PCs can possibly influence is if the NPC lives or dies, but she steadfastly refuses to accompany them on their travels. The module is utterly without consequence.

    2. I remember that module (and many others). The ones I ran required a lot of work to fix. Come to think of it, the avalanche of bad modules in the 80's and 90's is probably why I never run modules anymore.