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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 12:49 pm 
 

bclarkie wrote:
Yeah but Mike, why does every one else have to follow your standards and criteria for what makes a great module?  I am not trying to be a dick, but it seems to me that you are kind of acting like your own personal opinions for what makes a module great are the ones that everyone should have to apply to what makes a module great.  Most old school gamers prefer their modules to be pretty bare bones, so I am not sure where you can categorically say that they are wrong.  I can also tell you for sure that a large portion of people(particularly old school gamers) who play that do not want to have their hands held through each and every portion of a module, as a matter of fact its quite the opposite.

This is one of the main reasons that so many 1st edition gamers hated 99% of the stuff that was put out in 2nd edition, because of that.  I mean you are certainly entitled to your own opinion as to what makes a module "great" and "more playable", but then again so does everyone else and I am not sure how any ones opinion is more right than the others.


You can have opinions about whether or not the modules are GREAT PLAYING EXPERIENCES...I'm on your side. I have specific memories of every single letter series module, all of which I personaly ran, some multiple times.  I find that most die hard old school gamers just simply have no experience with anything published beyond, say, 1986, 1989, or 1999.  I welcome their input, but as experts on anything outside of their very insular field, their opinion is very limited.  

Take for example three literary scholars.  One teaches early 20th century lit, and has never read a book past 1930.  The other teaches mid century, he's read everything the first scholar has read, plus he's actually read up to 1960.  The third guy, he's got the first two guy's reading list plus he's ventured up until the year 2000.  All three think their field begins and ends with their time period, and theyrefuse to read past their cut off dates, because their period is "The best".  Sounds ludicrous, yet I've actually seen English departments at colleges who employ people like this. It reminds me of a lot of D&D players...without entering Edition wars, what makes a module great is the structure, writing style, uniqueness of setting, interesting tricks, traps, monsters and NPCs, usefulness of setting, etc etc.  I really don't consider "when it was published" as a criteria....a good module is a good module, period. And a pig is a pig.... :D

I will personally guarantee that very, very few people described as "old school" gamers have read 5% of the stuff published past 1989 because of these sort of bias (they may have hated 99% of the stuff as you say, but I guarantee they didn't READ 99% of the stuff).  They can have opinions on what they LIKE, but without a depth of experience, they can't compare or contast accurately, say, the A-series vs the Rappan Athuk series. I have read everything commercially published for 1st edition, gamed almost all of it, and done the same for almost everything 2nd edition.  3rd edition, well, I've read a LOT of it (mostly Necromancer games, DCC, Sword & Sorcery published stuff), and I would stand a lot of it up against anything published in TSRs glory years.  The best of it sometimes doesn't fall under the criteria you set (railroady or too much information).  Interestingly, I used to get into arguments on usenet with people who hated Ruins of Undermountain as being "too unfinished", "it cost $20 yet it has all these blank spaces", "It advertises 7 levels but only gives you three", etc, yet they loved JG stuff like Frontier Forts of Kelnore or Wilderlands, where you have to pretty much write your own adventures.  :roll:  Edition bias, pure and simple.  If Ruins of Undermountain had been released in 1980 and set in the City of Greyhawk, and written by Gary Gygax (without changing a word or encounter), it would be considered the single greatest RPG product ever published.  The G-series is probably the most absolutely railroaded series ever written for AD&D (well, perhaps the A series counts also) yet is beloved of the ones who bemoan "railroaded" adventures.  Doesn't make it bad, far from it.

BTW, I would be interested in which classic "bare bones" and "non railroaded" adventures are favorites.  One of the only ones (and one of my absolute favorites) is I1, which simply plops down a hidden jungle city, gives multiple ways in, several set encounters, and lets the DM design tons of extras if he so wants.  Most other classics rely on set encounters, linear style, and unrealistic motivations (showing their tournament origins...I mean, in a tournament, you always just appear in front of the cave entrance/door/drawbridge!)

Look, I love Raymond Chandler.  I love pulp fiction in general. But if you ask who's a better writer, Steinbeck or Chandler, or Faulkner or Chandler, or Hemmingway or Chandler, there IS a right and wrong answer, no matter what my opinion...!


Mike B.


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 12:58 pm 
 

Badmike wrote:
I think every single letter series module would have it's supporters.  The problem would be in defining exactly what "classic" is.  I suppose if you limit the dates of 1977-1982 or so that would give you a good sampling, but what is the criteria? But what I think is interesting is your definition of setting aside semtimentality!!!! :wink:  


I'm on vacation and the kids are hogging my laptop, so I don't have much time to post, but the reason I asked is that I noticed that this thread seemed to have two basic themes:

1. The Slaver series was one of the best ever
2. The Slaver series was one of the worst ever

So, I thought it'd be interesting to see if we could identify those aspects of the original modules (yes, 1977-82 is a good time span) that had good playability, plot, balance, interesting magic & monsters, innovative tricks/traps (brain over brawn type of stuff).  That's what I was thinking, anyway.

Of course, everything I mentioned is subjective.  I just thought it'd be an interesting discussion.

Time to open another beer ...

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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 1:05 pm 
 

Badmike wrote:
You can have opinions about whether or not the modules are GREAT PLAYING EXPERIENCES...I'm on your side. I have specific memories of every single letter series module, all of which I personaly ran, some multiple times.  I find that most die hard old school gamers just simply have no experience with anything published beyond, say, 1986, 1989, or 1999.  I welcome their input, but as experts on anything outside of their very insular field, their opinion is very limited.  

Take for example three literary scholars.  One teaches early 20th century lit, and has never read a book past 1930.  The other teaches mid century, he's read everything the first scholar has read, plus he's actually read up to 1960.  The third guy, he's got the first two guy's reading list plus he's ventured up until the year 2000.  All three think their field begins and ends with their time period, and theyrefuse to read past their cut off dates, because their period is "The best".  Sounds ludicrous, yet I've actually seen English departments at colleges who employ people like this. It reminds me of a lot of D&D players...without entering Edition wars, what makes a module great is the structure, writing style, uniqueness of setting, interesting tricks, traps, monsters and NPCs, usefulness of setting, etc etc.  I really don't consider "when it was published" as a criteria....a good module is a good module, period. And a pig is a pig.... :D

I will personally guarantee that very, very few people described as "old school" gamers have read 5% of the stuff published past 1989 because of these sort of bias (they may have hated 99% of the stuff as you say, but I guarantee they didn't READ 99% of the stuff).  They can have opinions on what they LIKE, but without a depth of experience, they can't compare or contast accurately, say, the A-series vs the Rappan Athuk series. I have read everything commercially published for 1st edition, gamed almost all of it, and done the same for almost everything 2nd edition.  3rd edition, well, I've read a LOT of it (mostly Necromancer games, DCC, Sword & Sorcery published stuff), and I would stand a lot of it up against anything published in TSRs glory years.  The best of it sometimes doesn't fall under the criteria you set (railroady or too much information).  Interestingly, I used to get into arguments on usenet with people who hated Ruins of Undermountain as being "too unfinished", "it cost $20 yet it has all these blank spaces", "It advertises 7 levels but only gives you three", etc, yet they loved JG stuff like Frontier Forts of Kelnore or Wilderlands, where you have to pretty much write your own adventures.  :roll:  Edition bias, pure and simple.  If Ruins of Undermountain had been released in 1980 and set in the City of Greyhawk, and written by Gary Gygax (without changing a word or encounter), it would be considered the single greatest RPG product ever published.  The G-series is probably the most absolutely railroaded series ever written for AD&D (well, perhaps the A series counts also) yet is beloved of the ones who bemoan "railroaded" adventures.  Doesn't make it bad, far from it.

BTW, I would be interested in which classic "bare bones" and "non railroaded" adventures are favorites.  One of the only ones (and one of my absolute favorites) is I1, which simply plops down a hidden jungle city, gives multiple ways in, several set encounters, and lets the DM design tons of extras if he so wants.  Most other classics rely on set encounters, linear style, and unrealistic motivations (showing their tournament origins...I mean, in a tournament, you always just appear in front of the cave entrance/door/drawbridge!)

Mike B.


I will not speak for others, only myself, but based on a lot of what I have read from other prople I am certainly not alone in my opinions.  If you don;t beleive me, I could happily post a link from over on DF with a whole host of gamers that play a lot, have read the materials post 1989 and still 100% disagree with you.  Some of it may be edition bias, but no more of it than it is very apparent in your own bias towards 2nd edition.

Badmike wrote:Look, I love Raymond Chandler.  I love pulp fiction in general. But if you ask who's a better writer, Steinbeck or Chandler, or Faulkner or Chandler, or Hemmingway or Chandler, there IS a right and wrong answer, no matter what my opinion...!


No there isn't. It is all a matter of personal preference, period. Just like I mentioned above in regards to the Dungeon adventure versus S1, until you can start providing some objective figures and facts to the discussion and not your own opinions, its all subjective.


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 1:13 pm 
 

bclarkie wrote:
Can you tell me in terms of something that doesn't contain your own opinion that makes it better?  Unless you are going to start quoting sales numbers, in which case one may have sold better than the other, then you can't.  Even if you were going to quote sales figures, I'd put S1 up against any dungeon magazine adventure no matter how great that you think it is......

Its all a matter of what someone is looking for that makes one thing better than the other, so its all subjective and none of its objective.


Sales figures are meaningless in comparisons, unless your'e trying to convince me Britney Speares is a better artist than, say, Yo La Tengo.  In that case I guess you're right since she's sold billions more... :roll:

If none of it is objective, then truly, Dr. Seuss is as good a writer as Salmon Rushdie.  Why grade essays in school?  There does exist standards for everything, which is why, say, S1 is considered a classic and WG7 Castle Greyhawk...well, not so much.  Otherwise some dumbass who proclaims WG7 as the "greatest module EVER written" is on just as firm a ground as someone with T1-4 in his hands.

I would break down Mud Sorceror's tomb for you, tell you why it's a BETTER WRITTEN adventure, but honestly, you've never read it and don't know what I'm talking about, do you? If you would take the time to read the adventure, I would take the time to point out why I like it and think it stacks up vs anything ever published with a letter at the top....

I would also point to a poll, I guess this could be totally subjective, that listed Mud Sorceror's tomb as the best adventure ever published in Dungeon magazine (when they did their top ten lists in Dungeon #116).

But the bottom line is that items 30 years ago were products of the times.  It didn't matter why you were at the Demi Lichs tomb, why you wanted to loot it, where you had come from, why he built a trap filled tomb in themiddle of nowhere, none of that.  It wasn't necessary back then because we demanded a lot less of our modules (just like we demanded a lot less of our music, comics, tv shows, etc).  We demand more now...does it make it better?  In most cases, I'd say yes (Seinfeld is funnier than Welcome Back Kotter; the Shield is better than Dragnet).  In some cases, maybe not (sorry, but most new tv comedies are horrific; I can still watch a Dobie Gillis episode and laugh more; the original Star Wars trilogy beats the pants off the new one).   Today, I demand a lot more of my adventures than I did 30 years ago.  

I have a 3rd edition adventure, The Gryphon's Legacy, written by TSR oldie Wolfgang Baur, that has a better setting, background, plot, and overall unity, not to mention writing skill, than 90% of anything published in the last ten years.  Not that anyone's ever heard of it.  But it's still that good.

Some modules work...some don't. Some I've run multiple times (G series, I1, N1).  Some I've run once or not at all (C2, EX1-2, UK1).  It's not just subjective...if so, then why do certain modules appear on top ten lists more than others?  Could they be better written, better plots, better NPCs, interesting scenairos, etc?

Standards do exist.  They can be applied.  Otherwise, what's the point of anything.  We'll just crown WG10 Child's Play as the best module of all time (because that's my opinon) and move on.... :roll:


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 1:13 pm 
 

i think the slavers series was just "OK". i liked the first 2, but got bored after that and went off on a tangent.

in the end, there is only 1 good module out there, and its Q1, so just deal with it :)

Al



  


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 1:21 pm 
 

Badmike wrote:
Why grade essays in school?


Easy, there is already a predetermined set of criteria set by the teacher that need to be met when its graded.  I could write the fucking Grapes of Wrath as my essay, but if the essay question was requiring me to talk about the Industrial Revolution, I'd still get an F.  You are comparing Apples and Oranges.  Does that mean that mean that the Grapes of Wrath is a lousy work? No, it doesn't. To tell you the truth the the Grapes of Wrath is widely reknown as one of the great books of all time, however I read it in High School and I think I would have rather had my teeth drilled rather than have read it.  Does that mean I am an idiot or my opinion is any more worng? Absolutely not.  Its all subjective and what a person likes and dislikes.

Badmike wrote:There does exist standards for everything, which is why, say, S1 is considered a classic and WG7 Castle Greyhawk...well, not so much.  Otherwise some dumbass who proclaims WG7 as the "greatest module EVER written" is on just as firm a ground as someone with T1-4 in his hands.

I would break down Mud Sorceror's tomb for you, tell you why it's a BETTER WRITTEN adventure, but honestly, you've never read it and don't know what I'm talking about, do you? If you would take the time to read the adventure, I would take the time to point out why I like it and think it stacks up vs anything ever published with a letter at the top....

I would also point to a poll, I guess this could be totally subjective, that listed Mud Sorceror's tomb as the best adventure ever published in Dungeon magazine (when they did their top ten lists in Dungeon #116).

But the bottom line is that items 30 years ago were products of the times.  It didn't matter why you were at the Demi Lichs tomb, why you wanted to loot it, where you had come from, why he built a trap filled tomb in themiddle of nowhere, none of that.  It wasn't necessary back then because we demanded a lot less of our modules (just like we demanded a lot less of our music, comics, tv shows, etc).  We demand more now...does it make it better?  In most cases, I'd say yes (Seinfeld is funnier than Welcome Back Kotter; the Shield is better than Dragnet).  In some cases, maybe not (sorry, but most new tv comedies are horrific; I can still watch a Dobie Gillis episode and laugh more; the original Star Wars trilogy beats the pants off the new one).   Today, I demand a lot more of my adventures than I did 30 years ago.  

I have a 3rd edition adventure, The Gryphon's Legacy, written by TSR oldie Wolfgang Baur, that has a better setting, background, plot, and overall unity, not to mention writing skill, than 90% of anything published in the last ten years.  Not that anyone's ever heard of it.  But it's still that good.

Some modules work...some don't. Some I've run multiple times (G series, I1, N1).  Some I've run once or not at all (C2, EX1-2, UK1).  It's not just subjective...if so, then why do certain modules appear on top ten lists more than others?  Could they be better written, better plots, better NPCs, interesting scenairos, etc?

Standards do exist.  They can be applied.  Otherwise, what's the point of anything.  We'll just crown WG10 Child's Play as the best module of all time (because that's my opinon) and move on.... :roll:


Mike, you can type until you are blue in the face, but it does not make it any less of your own opinion.  You could take a poll of a billion people and ask them what module is the greatest ever and all 1 billion of them agree that "Module X" is by far the greatest ever module ever produced, but broken down the only thing that you are looking at are 1 billion people's opinions and not facts.  Until you can inject some facts in the discussion it will all always be your own opinion.


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Last edited by bclarkie on Tue Jul 03, 2007 1:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 1:23 pm 
 

Badmike wrote:The G-series is probably the most absolutely railroaded series ever written for AD&D (well, perhaps the A series counts also) yet is beloved of the ones who bemoan "railroaded" adventures.  Doesn't make it bad, far from it.

I'm going to have to say this is probably chalked up to your personal experience playing these modules. If properly run, neither series is necessarily a railroad. PCs can either pick up on the clues left and pursue them or not. It all depends on how a DM runs his game. The DM might say "OK, last session you finished off the hill giants, now you follow up the clues you found there and stand before the glacial rift of the frost giants..."

Depending on how the players want to play, that's either a good thing or a bad thing, i.e., railroading. Myself, I give players full, unabridged latitude to pursue any and all clues, adventure seeds, sub-plots, or possibilities. There are always consequences, of course, in a campaign. If they were, for example, to take out the hill giants, but not go after the frost giants, the frost giants will be raiding in greater numbers as time moves along... and gain new allies, eventually. But that's the way I run things.

The difference between the original G1, G2, and G3 and the longer mega-series developed in the compilation books is that in the older version, the DM was free to take or leave the railroad possibilities. In the later versions, the railroad was implicit in the module.

This is where a lot of the perception of difference comes from, between the older modules and more modern stuff. It started, really, with the Desert of Desolation series earlier, in which the adventure was never really finished until you completed all three modules. You could have, really, run the original G series in any order you liked, or as unrelated events, but I3 to I5 ran in one explicit direction with one background story. G1-3 had an element of this, too. It grew exponentially with the Dragonlance series, and was set in stone by the advent of 2E.

As these "story-driven" or "railroad" series became more common, so too did "fluff." Holy cow, did fluff become more popular. I attribute this to TSR using more freelancers, who got paid by the word, rather than paid on salary. This too is a phenomenon in literature, with the true short story a la Howard gone and the massive, ten-volume series like Wheel of Time coming to the fore. And it didn't help that a lot of module writers at the time also had aspirations to write fiction... and tried their hands at it in the modules they wrote.

So, with late 1E early 2E, we have two things happening, more fluff and structured, "story-driven" adventures. This is what I hate about a lot of the later adventures... In earlier adventures, the characters are the story. In later adventures, the story happens to the characters! I can't remember the module, but there was one I read in the latter days of TSR that was essentially little more than a "pick-a-path" adventure, where the DM would read what happens and give the players two or three choices. Then the DM would read more of what happens to their characters, and so on. The characters, and thus the players, did not drive the action, they were driven by it!

Another factor in this was the "dumbing down" of the position of DM. In order to enable more players to become DMs, they produced modules that required minimal preparation time and investment of ability on the part of the DM to run a game... I guess this was to get more people playing overall, maybe. Not my cup of tea, but I guess if it worked for the players, more power to them. I know, after playing in several games from the era, the so-called "adventures" just bored me to tears.

As for people complaining about Undermountain, that's just the cheap-ass nature of gamers coming to the fore. You'll not please most gamers with the amount of stuff they get in a $20 boxed set until it includes 500 pages of books, 22 maps, 46 cards, and a $50 bill...


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 1:35 pm 
 

Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 12:05 pm


I will not speak for others, only myself, but based on a lot of what I have read from other prople I am certainly not alone in my opinions. If you don;t beleive me, I could happily post a link from over on DF with a whole host of gamers that play a lot, have read the materials post 1989 and still 100% disagree with you. Some of it may be edition bias, but no more of it than it is very apparent in your own bias towards 2nd edition.


Well, it would be shocking if a forum dedicated to 1st edition AD&D failed to back you up. I would disagree by the way; I read a lot of Dragonsfoot and I would say most of the posters there stopped their reading of D&D stuff around 1989 or so.  They definitely have little or no knowledge of publications past 1999.  Face it, it's ALL edition bias.
  You err in saying I'm biased about 2nd edition, which makes me wonder about your analysis of the Dragonsfoot posters.  Personally, 2nd edtion brought very little to the table module wise.  I can count only Ruins of Undermountain and Gates of Firestorm Peak as truly innovative and unique.  I choose to play 2nd edition as a RULES choice, but for modules or adventures, I'd much rather dip into the 1st edition or even 3rd edition archives....

Badmike wrote:
Look, I love Raymond Chandler. I love pulp fiction in general. But if you ask who's a better writer, Steinbeck or Chandler, or Faulkner or Chandler, or Hemmingway or Chandler, there IS a right and wrong answer, no matter what my opinion...!


No there isn't. It is all a matter of personal preference, period. Just like I mentioned above in regards to the Dungeon adventure versus S1, until you can start providing some objective figures and facts to the discussion and not your own opinions, its all subjective.


I would love to see the look on a college professors face when you told him that  :D   Personally, I prefer Chandler's stylings to a lot of the classic stuff.   Then again, he never won the Pulitzer prizes and Nobel prizes like the others I mentioned....
 You can personally enjoy Chandler all you want...I do. But technically he's just not the craftsman the others were, and thematically while his detective stories are much, much deeper than contemporaries, he never reaches the heights of Grapes of Wrath, The Sun also Rises, or Light in August. Even a Chandler scholar would agree...hell, CHANDLER agreed.  He told his friend Faulkner that on many an ocassions (as did Dashiell Hammett while drinking with his buddy Faulker....and yeh, Faulkner drank a LOT).  
 If there was no objective truths, then my grandson's drawing of a monster snake he made last week would be hanging in the Louvre next to the Mona Lisa.
 I think the problem with this subject is that the nostalgia aspect is far, far too tied up into the equation for anyone to make any sort of meaningful decisions.  Just like we are sports fans of the Cowboys or Steelers because we grew up watching them on tv, the element of nostalgia is too tightly wound into the equation to allow a introspective analysis.  I have a friend that has thought EVERY YEAR for the past 30 years the Cowboys are going to win the Superbowl tht year...yeh, even last year, or the year they went 1-15. I have a friend that's a Redskin fan that is much the same.  Clearly, objectively dealing with the subject is not going to be the strong point there.  Much as it is deciding what modules are "better written" than another. I could map out a power point presentaton that took an hour and detailed every point I wanted to prove about, say, Gryphons Legacy, drawing on all my knowledge of literature, writing, depth of D&D modules I've owned and studied, testimonials from experts, etc, and it wouldn't change anyone's mind that is a self proclaimed "old school" gamer. "S2 is STILL better you dumbass!!!!"
  But there are standards, whether someone recognizes them or not. I like the clarification Keith gave in his last post:  

So, I thought it'd be interesting to see if we could identify those aspects of the original modules (yes, 1977-82 is a good time span) that had good playability, plot, balance, interesting magic & monsters, innovative tricks/traps (brain over brawn type of stuff). That's what I was thinking, anyway.


Maybe I should be more specific about the list of classic modules I gave, and what I saw in those that promoted playability, and still cause me to go back to them years later with so many more products on the market.  I'd also be interested in someone defending their personal favorites without resorting to "It rocks!!!" or "It was my first adventure and I got laid the next weekend for the first time" or "I had my first beer playing that, and my dwarf killed a shitload of ogres!".  When I get back from lunch I'll detail why I enjoyed I1 The Forbidden City so much I REWROTE the entire adventure and have run it multiple times since it's release....

Mike B.


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 1:43 pm 
 

Two random comments, ignore as you see fit.

jamesmishler wrote:This too is a phenomenon in literature, with the true short story a la Howard gone and the massive, ten-volume series like Wheel of Time coming to the fore.


I've always had the niggling suspicion that the distinctive purplish-style of many of the pulp writers actually had to do with the fact that they were paid by the word.  Why describe something succinctly, when you can paragraphs describing but at the same time not describing it.  (HPL, I'm looking in your general direction. ;) )

jamesmishler wrote:The characters, and thus the players, did not drive the action, they were driven by it!


In defence of these types of adventures: I've found that sometimes they work.  If you're running a plot against the backdrop of massive geo-political intrigue, where the characters are essentially meant to be temporarily swept along by events, then they're great.  (They can't stop the events from happening, but they can change the outcome, or at least lessen any ill-effects caused by them.  Obviously this works best if you have some long campaign planned that works around the adventure, with the adv. merely serving to set the scene for what comes next.)

However, they're quite obviously terrible as dungeon crawls, or if used all the time -- but they do have their purpose and can work quite well if used properly, sparingly, and carefully.

  

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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 1:51 pm 
 

jamesmishler wrote:I'm going to have to say this is probably chalked up to your personal experience playing these modules. If properly run, neither series is necessarily a railroad. PCs can either pick up on the clues left and pursue them or not. It all depends on how a DM runs his game. The DM might say "OK, last session you finished off the hill giants, now you follow up the clues you found there and stand before the glacial rift of the frost giants..."


I love the G-series. I've probably run them more times than anything else, except B1. But, damn, THERE IS A TELEPORT DEVICE AT THE END OF G1 AND G2 THAT TAKES YOU TO THE NEXT ADVENTURE!!!!!!  What party turns that down and says, "uh, no thanks, I think I'd rather WALK severa hundred miles to the next step of the giant kill"???   :D

Depending on how the players want to play, that's either a good thing or a bad thing, i.e., railroading. Myself, I give players full, unabridged latitude to pursue any and all clues, adventure seeds, sub-plots, or possibilities. There are always consequences, of course, in a campaign. If they were, for example, to take out the hill giants, but not go after the frost giants, the frost giants will be raiding in greater numbers as time moves along... and gain new allies, eventually. But that's the way I run things.


As do I, that's my approach.  But I am looking at the modules AS WRITTEN. I can always juice up a module to make it more appealing...how much work I have to do, that's a factor.

The difference between the original G1, G2, and G3 and the longer mega-series developed in the compilation books is that in the older version, the DM was free to take or leave the railroad possibilities. In the later versions, the railroad was implicit in the module.

This is where a lot of the perception of difference comes from, between the older modules and more modern stuff. It started, really, with the Desert of Desolation series earlier, in which the adventure was never really finished until you completed all three modules. You could have, really, run the original G series in any order you liked, or as unrelated events, but I3 to I5 ran in one explicit direction with one background story. G1-3 had an element of this, too. It grew exponentially with the Dragonlance series, and was set in stone by the advent of 2E.


I agree with you about the I3-5 series being the beginning of the true "campaign" oriented series.  

As these "story-driven" or "railroad" series became more common, so too did "fluff." Holy cow, did fluff become more popular. I attribute this to TSR using more freelancers, who got paid by the word, rather than paid on salary. This too is a phenomenon in literature, with the true short story a la Howard gone and the massive, ten-volume series like Wheel of Time coming to the fore. And it didn't help that a lot of module writers at the time also had aspirations to write fiction... and tried their hands at it in the modules they wrote.


The Fluff Factor has ruined a lot of good gaming...and fantasy writing.  Hell even Stephen King needs a better editior (or an editor, period) most of the time.
 Interestingly, it's why I champion Dungeon magazine. Most of the best adventures are lean and mean, stripped down to what makes sense and works in the context of the adventure.  The true best 2nd edition adventures were pretty much all in the pages of Dungeon magazine, not as published modules.

So, with late 1E early 2E, we have two things happening, more fluff and structured, "story-driven" adventures. This is what I hate about a lot of the later adventures... In earlier adventures, the characters are the story. In later adventures, the story happens to the characters! I can't remember the module, but there was one I read in the latter days of TSR that was essentially little more than a "pick-a-path" adventure, where the DM would read what happens and give the players two or three choices. Then the DM would read more of what happens to their characters, and so on. The characters, and thus the players, did not drive the action, they were driven by it!


While I agree with this, it's not true of ALL adventures published after 1989...Ruins of Undermountain being a prime example (here's a giant underground dungeon of three levels, here are some set encounters, here are lots of empty spaces to develop your own encounters/scenarios, go for it!)

Another factor in this was the "dumbing down" of the position of DM. In order to enable more players to become DMs, they produced modules that required minimal preparation time and investment of ability on the part of the DM to run a game... I guess this was to get more people playing overall, maybe. Not my cup of tea, but I guess if it worked for the players, more power to them. I know, after playing in several games from the era, the so-called "adventures" just bored me to tears.


Once again, a lot of 2nd edition stuff reads like tournaments...dumbed down tournaments, at that.  For fun you can read through them and pick where the different "signposts" in the adventures are for giving points in the original tournament.
I never really understood the "dumbing down" aspect, but it was definitely there.  What's surprising to me is that there seems to be Ed Greenwood's stuff, and Carl Sargent's stuff,  and then, everyone else, like no one else even thought they could contribute to such a complicated cosmology as those two and thus just gave up.

As for people complaining about Undermountain, that's just the cheap-ass nature of gamers coming to the fore. You'll not please most gamers with the amount of stuff they get in a $20 boxed set until it includes 500 pages of books, 22 maps, 46 cards, and a $50 bill...


Yeh, so they just raised the bar to $100 boxed sets full of goodies...cmon, game designers out there, isn't there a happy medium? Castle Whiterock looks cool, but $100 is just pushing it....

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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 1:58 pm 
 

Badmike wrote:I would love to see the look on a college professors face when you told him that   :D


You are still missing the point.  Even if the College Professor would think I was crazy for saying so, that doesn't make it any less of his own opinion versus mine own opinion.   Both are firmly rooted in one's own personal preferences and are not rooted in facts.  If you want to say that a guy writes with a much greater vocabualry or writes with a more complex storyline, those are measurable things that can be compared.  However, that still does not make one better than the other in everyone's opinions.  Some people prefer to be able to understand what they are reading without having a dictionary nearby too look up all the words that they don't understand, while others may prefer less complex storylines, but it all boils down to a matter of personal preference and none of what ones personal likes and dislikes are, are rooted in facts.


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 2:21 pm 
 

Ekim Toor wrote:
And the U series deals with "smugglers"?... for the first half anyways.

No one has mentioned the Doppleganger in A1, talk about an evening of good old-fashioned paranoia, even better than Ned in U1.


Yeah, we had a lot of fun with a doppelganger ... their ability to mimic items is crazy.  But, he couldn't mimic a cure light wounds, unfortunately.  Splat.



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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 3:38 pm 
 

Badmike wrote:If none of it is objective, then truly, Dr. Seuss is as good a writer as Salmon Rushdie.  


Off Topic: When asked who the best fantasy writer was, Harlan Ellison replied Dr. Seuss.  I don't think he was joking.

Also Off Topic: I'm an Alabama football fan.  Thus, I'm cracked.  And it is very difficult to assess my favorite team without resorting to sentimentality: Alabama is among the elite college football programs historically but is currently an average program.  However, Alabama's fortunes could (cough, cough will) change.

On topic: A dungeon module like G1 isn't going to change.  Only our perception of it changes.

For me, railroading was not a bad thing.  In fact, it helped because I had a group of players who took chaotic alignment to heart.   When I  found a tournament module back in the day, I welcomed the chance to drop it into my world since it helped me maintain better control over the situation.   I preferred to home-brew my dungeons, but it was a hell of a lot of effort to tailor them for my devious and unruly players.  Hell, maybe that means I just wasn't a good DM.

The one thing I could always count on, though, was getting their attention with a good intellectual trick or trap.


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 3:39 pm 
 

While I agree with this, it's not true of ALL adventures published after 1989...Ruins of Undermountain being a prime example (here's a giant underground dungeon of three levels, here are some set encounters, here are lots of empty spaces to develop your own encounters/scenarios, go for it!)


Oh, very true, but they were the exception rather than the rule. On a whole, though, most modules from that period were poor fare for experienced DMs, and worse examples for new DMs. Coddling them by making it easy and thus, boring, didn't help grow the market.

Yeh, so they just raised the bar to $100 boxed sets full of goodies...cmon, game designers out there, isn't there a happy medium? Castle Whiterock looks cool, but $100 is just pushing it....


1991, The Ruins of Undermountain boxed set contained: A 128 page book describing Undermountain, its history, its horrors, and details of the first three levels of the dungeon; A 32 page adventure book for use exclusively with Undermountain and Waterdeep; Four full-color maps of the vast and dangerous dungeon; Eight Monstrous Compendium pages of new monsters; and Eight durable cards loaded with traps, treasures, and trinkets to fill your dungeons. MSRP $25. Based simply on the rate of inflation today, that would run $37.20.

2007, Castle Whiterock boxed set will contain "four 128-page books about the dungeon, a 32-page map booklet (yes, there are that many maps!), a 64-page gazetteer, a book of player handouts, the poster map, and probably some other stuff I'm forgetting" (according to Joe Goodman). Note that that was when it was scheduled for ~500 pages; Joe now mentions that it will more likely have ~700 pages, so add another 128-pager to the box. So that's more than four times the detail (~704 pages versus 160 pages), double the map area, probably double the handouts, and probably even more stuff... for less than three times the equivalent costs ($100 < $111.6). And considering the quality of the maps that Goodman included in the Known Realms setting box, the maps will be of much higher quality, to boot.

And this is all at modern print run quantities, which are significantly lower than the print runs back in the TSR days (save maybe for the last year or so, when TSR runs were rather small). It cost TSR a lot less per unit to print 10,000 copies, especially with their contracts, than  it costs Goodman to print 2,000 units of Whiterock (that's an estimate, by the way, I don't know the actual numbers). So Joe is eating a LOT of the costs on this product to bring it in at $100.

Please, please, PLEASE stop judging the prices of modern game products on the prices we paid back in the day. Unless you stopped getting raises 20 years ago yourself, it just doesn't make any sense... That 32-page $6 module you bought 25 years ago should be $14.15 retail just based on inflation alone, let alone the higher costs of better production values, the much much higher cost of paper, a much smaller market (ergo much smaller print runs) and other factors. The fact that most such modules are priced even lower still than the rate of inflation is indicative of how hard hit the people in the industry are today, and why writers and editors in the game industry get paid a tenth or less of the rate they would writing novels or in other literary endeavors...


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 3:50 pm 
 

serleran wrote:In no particular order, in my opinion:

Tomb of Horrors
Keep on the Borderlands
Castle Amber
Ravenloft
Descent into the Depths of the Earth
Lost Tamoachan
Assassin's Knot
The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun
The Village of Hommlet
Expedition to the Barrier Peaks
White Plume Mountain
Queen of the Demonweb Pits
The Giant Series
Dark Tower
Caverns of Thracia
Tegel Manor
Treasure Hunt
Isle of Dread
Isle of the Ape
Shrine of the Kuo-Toa
Frank Mentzer's R-Series (I forget all the names of them, individually)

(Probably more I'm forgetting, but I'm tired.)


From this list -- setting sentiment aside -- I would choose:

White Plume Mountain
Tomb of Horrors
G1
G2
G3
The Village of Hommlet

I bought the Caverns of Thracia last year and read it for the first time.  It seemed solid enough from what I recall.

Once I own a copy of A4 again (In the Dungeons of the Slavelords), I'd like to re-assess it against my own criteria.


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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 3:56 pm 
 

Well..this thread got stupid in a hurry.  Sorry, that's an opinion, not a fact.   :roll:

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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 3:57 pm 
 

bclarkie wrote:
You are still missing the point.  Even if the College Professor would think I was crazy for saying so, that doesn't make it any less of his own opinion versus mine own opinion.   Both are firmly rooted in one's own personal preferences and are not rooted in facts.  If you want to say that a guy writes with a much greater vocabualry or writes with a more complex storyline, those are measurable things that can be compared.  However, that still does not make one better than the other in everyone's opinions.  Some people prefer to be able to understand what they are reading without having a dictionary nearby too look up all the words that they don't understand, while others may prefer less complex storylines, but it all boils down to a matter of personal preference and none of what ones personal likes and dislikes are, are rooted in facts.


Obviously we are not going to agree in the slightest on this issue, no matter the opinions expressed.  I'm going to go forward with "Some modules are definitely better written than others" while you'll stand by "Every module is the best module ever made in someone's mind and we should respect that preference."  Neither is right or wrong, to ourselves, but at this point there IS no point in commenting on our positions to each other any further.... :)

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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 3:59 pm 
 

jamesmishler wrote:The fact that most such modules are priced even lower still than the rate of inflation is indicative of how hard hit the people in the industry are today, and why writers and editors in the game industry get paid a tenth or less of the rate they would writing novels or in other literary endeavors...


This I can speak of from experience, you don't get paid much for freelance writing. But if you can look beyond that, its always great to see something you did write get in print :)

Curious what you got Mark for your adventure in Dungeon Magazine #6.

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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 4:04 pm 
 

Keith the Thief wrote:
Off Topic: When asked who the best fantasy writer was, Harlan Ellison replied Dr. Seuss.  I don't think he was joking.

Also Off Topic: I'm an Alabama football fan.  Thus, I'm cracked.  And it is very difficult to assess my favorite team without resorting to sentimentality: Alabama is among the elite college football programs historically but is currently an average program.  However, Alabama's fortunes could (cough, cough will) change.

On topic: A dungeon module like G1 isn't going to change.  Only our perception of it changes.

For me, railroading was not a bad thing.  In fact, it helped because I had a group of players who took chaotic alignment to heart.   When I  found a tournament module back in the day, I welcomed the chance to drop it into my world since it helped me maintain better control over the situation.   I preferred to home-brew my dungeons, but it was a hell of a lot of effort to tailor them for my devious and unruly players.  Hell, maybe that means I just wasn't a good DM.

The one thing I could always count on, though, was getting their attention with a good intellectual trick or trap.


Railroading is another interesting and sometimes misunderstood concept.  In a sense, EVERY module is "railroading", except maybe some existentialist writing, in that we are put into a situation given specific parameters and expected to discover a solution or come to a certain goal.  Personally, I don't WANT to hand my players a map of a continent and say "Wheverever you guys want to go, whatever you want to do, go for it!".  I do like a little structure. Mostly, I enjoy setting up certain situations, with many different approaches or definiations of "victory" (including running away!), and seeing how they knock it down or break it even.  I think the best written modules give us this approach, rather than the linear Room 1 through Room 100 type advancement. Although, under the right circumstances, a linerally advanced module might be fun to run on occasion..I just don't personally perfer them, and neither do many old school gamers.
 Like you Keith I sometimes liked just dropping a fully formed dungeon into my campaign to give me a rest at writing...sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn't. The more difficult they were to shoehorn into my expectations, and my party, IMO showed the inflexibility of some of the material.

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Post Posted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 4:29 pm 
 

jamesmishler wrote:

Please, please, PLEASE stop judging the prices of modern game products on the prices we paid back in the day. Unless you stopped getting raises 20 years ago yourself, it just doesn't make any sense... That 32-page $6 module you bought 25 years ago should be $14.15 retail just based on inflation alone, let alone the higher costs of better production values, the much much higher cost of paper, a much smaller market (ergo much smaller print runs) and other factors. The fact that most such modules are priced even lower still than the rate of inflation is indicative of how hard hit the people in the industry are today, and why writers and editors in the game industry get paid a tenth or less of the rate they would writing novels or in other literary endeavors...


Except EVERYONE is ALWAYS going to make value judgements based on this.  Anyone complain about gas prices? Why?  It's still a huge, huge value when compared to the rate of inflation...I was paying $1 a gallon 25 years ago, I'm only paying $3 a gallon now? What a bargain!  Yet I'm going to bitch just like everyone else....I'm a bit of a miser though... I won't pay $100 to see a modern sporting event because I don't feel like blowing $100 on three hours of entertainment, so I'm probably not in the norm...most kids are blowing $100 a week on whatever kids blow money on now, so to them it's probably not much of a sacrifice.

The test will be if the value in the product is sustained. If I can run an adventuring party for two years through Castle Whiterock with little or no personal input (as I did with ruins of Undermountain), then it's worth $100.  I know products nowadays have to have "flash" to sell, but personally I don't need every room and encounter fleshed out, and every map colored, and every stat block detailed ( I bet one of the 128 page books is devoted just to stat blocks...)  Personally, since I don't run 3rd edition games, and have plenty of gaming material, I am curious about CAstle Whiterock but don't have a need for it.  If I was running a 3rd ed campaign, I'd probably run out and buy it the first day it was on the shelf...

The print run quantities make a lot of sense, and I'll give you that.  It made sense for Necromancer to charge $75 for Rappan Athuk reloaded, when they were only printing 1000 of them, and it's truly a very nice looking product with lots of gaming goodies inside.  If Castle Whiterock is that quality and quantity, it will be a  great deal even at 100 smackers.  

To put it in perspective though, if Ed Greenwood was independently publishing "Undermountain: The Lowest Levels" and it was exactly the dimensions of the Castle Whiterock set, I would be there the first day to buy one. I guess I'm just an old schooler at heart... :wink:

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