Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Question

Anyone out there know why so many of Expeditious Retreat Press's Advanced Adventures are written for such high levels? I intended to pick up a couple more the other day and then didn't when I realized that the ones in my local game store were all written for levels 8 and up. Personally, I find that level range rather higher than I prefer and rather higher than was typical for most games back in the AD&D era. I'd much prefer adventures written for the 3-6 level range myself.

8 comments:

  1. Unless he's changed his modus operandi, Joe doesn't commission manuscripts - he evaluates whether an existing manuscript is what he wants to buy. My guess is that most of the submissions are high level because that's what authors mainly write. It's harder to write a good lower-level adventure (fewer options for monsters, etc), so fewer of those are submitted to him.

    It might also be that lower level adventures don't sell as well, which is counter-intuitive, but the lack of "flash" in a lower level adventure might lose impulse buyers.

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  2. That's very interesting. You're right, of course, that low-level adventures are harder to write than high-level ones, but I really think the old school world needs many more solid low-level adventures. They're the gateways into the game, after all, and I think it's vital that there be a good range of options that show off the diversity and depth of old school play.

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  3. Hmmn, my opinion is quite the opposite. Challenging higher level adventures (above level six or so) seem much harder to write because of the power level of the characters.

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  4. Hmmn, my opinion is quite the opposite. Challenging higher level adventures (above level six or so) seem much harder to write because of the power level of the characters.

    I think it's true that, to use your phrase, challenging high-level adventures are hard to write. But that's largely an "engineering" problem, which is to say, it's a function of finding ways to use the game mechanics creatively. Creating good -- to use Matt Finch's phrase -- low-level adventures is a "philosophical" problem. It's about finding ways to create intriguing and potentially satisfying situations with which low-level characters can interact.

    To put it another way, creating a high-level adventure is at least partially answering the question, "How can I ensure that the Dark Lord's minions can withstand the PCs' power?" Creating a low-level adventure is at least partially answering the question, "How do I make saving a bunch of peasants from goblins interesting?"

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  5. I can see that distinction, but I am not sure I completely agree with it. Part of the reason is probably because I never really get tired of variations on the peasant/goblin dynamic, and part because challenges are usually interesting in and of themselves.

    Creating unique low level adventures, on the other hand, is probably a different story.

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  6. Yeah, it's the difficulty of being unique without being stupid that's hard to achieve. Uniqueness is much easier when you've got all the tools available - the variety of challenges high level characters can survive and the variety of environments where it makes sense for them to be in. God, that's bad sentence structure...

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  7. It seems to me that one of the really underexploited features of D&D is that it has these clear, unambiguous levels that define threats, and that having such a mechanism allows the DM to telegraph the message "this is out of your league" in a way that's much harder to do in other games. If you give the players a challenge that they obviously cannot overcome by direct confrontation, then you've told them they need to get clever in circumventing it. Nothing says this as clearly as putting a dragon's cave in the path of a first level party... I've just never seen it done - has anyone else? The other context where this can work beautifully is CoC, but there are aspects of atmosphere and genre conventions of the setting there that make it difficult to pose a threat in such a way that the players approach it as a puzzle, rather than a wall.

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  8. I've just never seen it done - has anyone else?

    I can't recall offhand any examples of that specific tactic, but many old school modules include sub-areas within the dungeon that are clearly a bit too powerful for the intended level range and thus demand cleverness. A good example is Keep on the Borderlands, where there's a section of the Cave of Chaos that include a medusa, a minotaur, and a wight. All three are, in my opinion, somewhat more powerful than your average level 1-3 party of adventurers can handle.

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