Sunday, April 18, 2010

Would better modules have helped 4e succeed more?

Beyond marketing, beyond retro-red-box look-and-feel gimmicks, I think the main thing that grows this hobby is people having a good time playing D&D, and wanting to share that good time with their friends. A requirement for a good time is a good DM. Not everyone is a good DM, and the are probably more bad than good ones out there. Especially at the early stages of their DM'ing careers.

I think that one of the greatest benefits of good modules is that it makes a DM better than he normally would be. This drives more fun at the table, which in turn drives growth of the hobby.

I think it's admirable of WOTC (God, it hurt my fingers to type those words) to actually reach out to folks and ask for help in their modules design---they wanted feedback on what they were doing right and what they were doing wrong, and what they could do better.


That being said, would better modules have helped 4e succeed to a much greater degree than it has? Or are the systemic differences from earlier editions the main drawback in getting people on board? What do you think is the greater detriment to 4e's growth? The lack of good modules? Or the system?

(BTW thats a great thread to read to see what people want in a module in general, just just 4e modules, for anyone out there who is designing their own for other editions.)


  1. Module creation and design is one of the toughest areas for any RPG company to build. The level of consistent quality must be there PLUS they must come out with new modules on a regular basis. Paizo has done a good job with this with Pathfinder and the build of Adventure Paths. This is one idea WOTC show steal and use for themselves.

  2. I have enjoyed a number of modules from the Living Forgotten Realms much better than the "official" modules that WoTC has also released. The main problem I have with "offical" modules is that they are too long. One is committed to some giant plot hammer adventure for several months since the module writers seem required to justfy their price by writing 64 page monstrosties. There was the other problem last year when there was only one module for each level range that it felt like there was only one "offical" campaign and everyone in the DnD world was suposed to play the same adventure at the same time. I the free formness of LFRs four hour one shots with loose linkages much better.

  3. Tch. Why do you have to ask questions so negatively, Joe? ;)

    Modules are great for DMs that want to work off of a base for encounters. One reason I play 4e is that module support exists. If I ever found a group who wanted to play 3e, I'd play Pathfinder for the same reason. But module support isn't a deciding factor, between the two.

  4. "Tch. Why do you have to ask questions so negatively, Joe? ;)"

    You know, I had basically the same reaction but was finding a way to respond difficult... sometimes my inner troll just gets rancorous.

    That said, I do think a stronger selection of early modules would have helped. KotS is... okay. But it could have been so much better at showing off skill challenges and introducing encounter based design. But I don't know if that would have helped convert those that are displeased or inclined to not concert anyways. So... I don't know how much I think it would have helped with that aspect.

  5. To summarise a longer response:

    Modules are designed to make the DM's life easier and to provide examples of good practice.

    My main beef with 4E modules is they are content light. There's a lot of colour art which works for a moment but doesn't...
    1. Offer a lot of re-usability.
    2. Encourage the DM to innovate.

    Compare Rise of the Runelords with H1-3 and E1-3. Each are six modules yet the design ethos is very different between the two.

    Thanks for the post Joe, you've given me something to think about.

  6. For me the issue is not the system or the lack of modules. It was the lack of outreach and the changes that were made without concern for their nostalgic fan base.

    The ditching of the print magazines, (which created Patfhinder Adventure paths)

    The removal rather than transition of licences.

    Unpopular changes to a popular setting to attract new fans rather than just making a new setting to attract new fans.

    The Bungling of the GSL (which created Pathfinder Rpg).

    Failure to introduce or purchase a virtual table top.

    This all has kept me from playing the system even once.

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  8. "That being said, would better modules have helped 4e succeed to a much greater degree than it has?"

    Sure. A good module can breed excitement. If you can make a GM say, 'I HAVE to run this!' you've sold the game and the next batch of modules. I play 4E (and old school Gamma World) and recently picked up a Pathfinder module. I said the same thing and am adapting it for 4E.

    "Or are the systemic differences from earlier editions the main drawback in getting people on board?"

    Depends on the person. So, yes and no.

    "What do you think is the greater detriment to 4e's growth?"

    Who is saying its not growing? Just because a bunch of old-time (and vocal) players chose not to play it, does not mean it is not a big or growing game.
    Assuming your assumption is correct...the downturn in the economy.

  9. I did try to keep it as positive as I could, recognizing the obvious success of 4e, while also recognizing that they cold have done better. It's bound to be a touchy subject no matter how you word it.

    I posted this due to some nostalgia posts over at TheRPGSite on favorite modules of all time, and not seeing any recent modules make the list. I dunno if thats the nostalgia factor or not, but I thought it interesting enough to make me wonder if lack of good modules was holding 4e back from its true potential.