For quite some time now I’ve found the format in which adventure design is presented to be outdated. Sure the Delve format had a large impact in the last few years since its debut in some of Wizards of the Coast’s later 3.5 D&D adventures. Even that, however, stuck to the format of a book be it in hard copy or pdf format. Dungeon-a-day.com is actually the most recent example of a very forward thinking designer pushing the bounds of what is possible. Dungeon-a-day.com offers a hyperlinked website with new encounters updated every weekday. The site features fresh new content from the mind of Monte Cook and its presented in a much more modern format.
But where too next? Where can today’s modern web tools such as XHTML and HTML5.0 push design forward?
I recently read two very informative articles by two of RPG Blogging’s rising stars, Phillipe Menard (aka @ChattyDM) and Dave Chalker (aka @DavetheGame) that explored some of the possible scenarios that set my mind aflame. Here were two popular vocal proponents advocating the same revolution in adventure design that I had been craving.
High Level Concept
Adventure Design 2.0 would feature some of today’s leading web application concepts to allow high quality content presented with the individual user (a DM in this case) in mind. Allowing that content to be dynamic, personalized, and shared.
Adventures designed to present different forms of media together in an application that allowed DMs to purchase access to an adventure that would be customized to their needs and allow for the DM to further modify and share their own customizations. The media incorporated, from maps and graphics, to text and formatted stat-blocks could be tailored to the DMs individual campaigns all in one tool.
Modular adventure content that can be customized and shared is a rather broad concept but some of the features that one can imagine include:
- System of Choice (4e, 3.5, PFRPG, OSRIC, etc) which would update all rules content in a saved adventure instance to that system.
- Adjustable scalable levels which could also update rules content and be saved.
- Customizable monsters that can be imported, exported, and saved.
- Customizable NPCs that can have additional notes or hooks added.
- Customizable treasure in the form of traditional loot or packet formats.
- Larger supporting images or links to external graphics.
- Hyperlinked content internally within the site or externally for referenced rules.
- Maps that allow you to hover over sections and display a quick synopsis or click to open the related encounter.
- The ability to share the customizations with other members.
One of the difficult pieces of the puzzle centres around profitability. An enterprise like this would need serious capitol to succeed. Not only would you need to hire authors, artists, editors, and cartographers, but also web developers and the system to support it.
One particular model of financing such an endeavor would be around a subscriptions or around access purchases. So someone could buy an instance of a particular adventure for 4e at 1st level and gain access to the system for that adventure. Future adventure purchases could be added to the purchasers account and offered similar to how some game companies market download-able content.
In addition those customers could then be migrated to a subscription model where they gain access to a set number of adventures in a particular period and potentially to more advanced tools such as customization and sharing.
One of the features that was listed above that sounds the most intriguing is the customizability of content. If you look at the current list of WotC’s Dungeon adventures or Goodman Game’s DCCs you can see that there are adventures for many levels and I’m sure all levels will be covered eventually. But what if you like one adventure that is a couple of levels above the heads of your party.
Customizing that adventure is often left in the hands of the DMs often with no pointers from the authors. What if the adventure were written with a range in mind (similar to LFR/Pathfinder Society scenarios) that automatically updated the difficulty of the adventure.
Perhaps the adventure that really fits in a DM’s campaign is one from a system that their group does not use. Sure DMs could spend the countless hours converting that adventure to their system of choice but what if the adventure was already built with the appropriate monster stats, treasures, etc.
Even beyond altering adventures by overall settings what if a DM’s campaign features a specific set of villains such as the Order of the Emerald Claw or the Purifiers? A suite of tools could be available to import Monster Builder files and allow DMs to replace the opponents in a featured adventure, touch up encounter information, and make notes all without the difficult work of redesigning the whole thing.
In the grand scheme this is an immense idea and I hope to continue expanding on this little bit of brainstorming. Already I can picture user interfaces, data structures, and tools or modules that I’d want to build. Yes I’m more the guy who can design the system than write the adventure or draw the illustrations and maps.