Raging Swan

Life and Game Design

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Gibbous Moon: Design Thoughts
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As Raging Swan’s first short module – Gibbous Moon – releases next week I thought I’d take a few minutes to discuss my design goals – and hopes – for Gibbous Moon and subsequent modules in the line.

Previous to Gibbous Moon, I’d focused on long, multi-session modules (such as Retribution, Road of the Dead and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands). Last year, writing Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands rekindled my interest in writing modules, but it was a browse through my collection of DUNGEON Magazines that aroused my interest in short modules. I have run several such modules in my Borderland of Adventure campaign to change the pace and to fill out some otherwise boring travelling. I found such short modules really handy and decided that they make a great GM’s Resource. Given I own a publishing company, I decided to write some!

As you may know, I like plans and so before I got started on the actual design of the module I wanted to set down my objectives. They were:

  1. Have at least one roleplaying encounter per adventure. These modules shouldn’t be all hack and slash. I like hack and slash, but good modules have a balance of talking and fighting.
  2. The adventure should be doable in one normal session (roughly 3-4 hours) by all but the slowest groups. In my book, this translates to two – three combats and other miscellaneous encounters.
  3. The adventure should feature a small, self-contained dungeon complex (or other location) that is easy to insert into almost any home campaign.
  4. The adventure should provide everything the GM needs to run it. I hate with a fiery passion equal to a thousand burning suns seeing in a module: see Bestiary, page (whatever) As a publisher, I get why this happens, but I hate it. As a GM, I don’t want to juggle multiple books behind my screen – my space is limited enough as it is!
  5. Be easy to prepare and run.
  6. Avoid clichés and other tired fantasy themes. Evil werewolves, sinister necromancers etc. all fall into this category.
  7. Be flavourful.
  8. Feature interesting, feature-rich locations.

These rules give me a loose framework on which to base my work while giving me a set of criteria to measure my success against (beyond sales and other real world measurements).  I’m a very task oriented person in that I want to be able to look back at a project and measure its success. That’s kind of hard to do unless you establish those criteria before you start!

Do you list your objectives for a project before you get started? Is there something missing from my list that really should be there? Let me know in the comments below.


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