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Modules and Toolboxes

Date of Expiration is such an amazing module in spite of the tech theme. A module with a map this quality, encounter tables this rich, and cross-references this thorough… one of the top adventures I’ve ever ran.

I was comparing Date of Expiration, Ruins of the Grendleroot, and Scarlet Citadel. DoE has everything spelled out and ready to run, is super blorby and tight and also really well organized. Scarlet Citadel, I was so hyped for (I posted that photo of me holding up the book) but the book is so verbose and has plenty of real really handwavy “DM decides” sections.

It’s possible to salvage SC by prepping but all those areas are spread out over a huge book.

RotG is somewhere in between. It has horrible and confusing hard-to-read layout and requires prep, but the “todo list” for the DM is much clearer than for SC. I’m gonna have to do more prep than I need to do for OSR modules but my “checklist of things to fix” is straight-forward. (It’s kinda frustrating that “lazy” DM wrote a book that requires so much work.) I’d almost compare it to @lumpley ‘s glorious failure, The Seclusium of Orphone of the Three Visions. Or, more generously, to a Sine Nomine book and those are amazing, but you do need to prep, roll up some tags and piece them together. That’s the sort of book RotG is. I look forward to spending some more time in its environments.

Toolbox books work even better when they are pull-driven. When they help the DM answer questions as they arise as opposed to be a box full of puzzle pieces that fall out all over the floor when you open the box wrong.

To restate all the above:

SC are some amazing concepts but has missing pieces (the overlays?) and overly handwavy / DM-cheaty sections. It’s neither a module or a toolbox, it’s… they almost could just as easily stuck a novel or comic book in my hand for all the work I need to do to adapt it into a playable game. (Richter’s Guide and Fire on the Velvet Horizon also go here but those are anthologies of shorter sections so it’s easier and worth it, and they’re super evocative,)

RotG, and SN books, and SoOotV (except that later one doesn’t work for the contradictory map and lists that don’t really measure well together) are “workshop toolboxes”. As is Veins of the Earth for that matter. Good but requires work. The work is spelled out but needs to be done.

Hot Springs Island and Neverland are pull-driven toolboxes. The prep is fast enough to roll on the fly (especially for Neverland which is a much cleaner and better organized book than HSI). Maybe these are among my favorite modules. Stuff is very dynamic but it’s a deterministic process.

DoE isn’t a toolbox, it’s a finished product —toolboxes have longer lifespan but require more assembly. This is just a ready made, living machine. Curse of Strahd also goes here. So wonderful.