Long-time readers know that I love me some modules. Whether you call them adventure paths, premades, scenarios, or canned adventures, it’s all the same gaming goodness. They can range from single-page mini-dungeons to whole campaigns, and I’ve played (and written) more than a few. Unfortunately, there’s a certain perception that tends to accompany these products. The introductory explanation from 1d4chan serves as a good example. There we learn that modules are, “An accessory to games that companies sell for a gamemaster without the time or creativity to make their own adventure.” That attitude is typical in the broader community. At its worst it comes paired with a scoff, a voice vaguely reminiscent of Comic Book Guy, and a heavy dose of condescension: “No, I write my own campaigns. You know. Like a real game master.”

You guys already know that gatekeeping is force for evil. That bit isn’t news. What’s more worrying to me is the next line in the 1d4chan entry: “A module contains a premade adventure the GM should be able to run for his group with minimal modifications.” More than the condescension, it’s this fundamental misunderstanding that needs to be addressed.

Let me be clear: you absolutely can run a module “with minimal modifications.” You can also read quest text at your players verbatim using your best Ben Stein impression. These practices are how you wind up with a community that thinks of modules as GMing for dummies.

If you’re really giving it your all though, and if you’re embellishing and tailoring the adventure to your players, then you’re operating at a level of creativity every bit as valid as a homebrewed game. Rather than devoting your energy to worldbuilding or plot-crafting, those hours go toward fleshing out NPCs, incorporating player-specific subplots, or adding side-quests to the mix. If I wanted to run a save-the-princess adventure for Jeremy’s group, you can bet that I’d turn their draconic heritage into a plot point rather than ignoring it. Modifying a game world to accommodate player antics is essential for a collaborative experience. That level of agency is exactly how you bring players into a game world, and it’s just as easy to do in modules as in homebrew.

Question of the day then! Have you ever run or played in a module? Was it a by-the-numbers experience, or was it modified to fit the group? Let’s hear all about your adventures with canned adventures down in the comments!


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