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Day 4: Do you use pre-published adventures or write your own?

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Since I started GMing tabletop RPGs five years ago I’ve done a mix of both, and before that the PBP RPGs I participated in were entirely plotted out by the people playing them. Lately I’ve been turning to the pre-published material more and more out of time concerns, but also because I want to keep up on what’s been done and what’s shiny and new in the industry.

Today was the second session of a monthly campaign of Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle for the Teen Intro to D&D class that I lead at the local library, and I’m hoping to get a weekly group together to play through the Murder in Baldur’s Gate season of D&D encounters. Over the years I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of my DDI subscription, and have I-don’t-know-how-many unplayed adventures sitting on my shelf (Dungeons of Dead S1-S4, Peril at King’s Landing, the Second Darkness Adventure Path, and all of the WFRP3 adventures, to name a few–and let’s not even look at my RPG Drive Thru Account). Besides from suggesting that RPG books are to me as shoes are to Carrie Bradshaw (an analogy I’m not denying), suffice it to say that I have plenty of material to work through before I have to worry about exhausting my supply.

So naturally, I’ve been itching to write my own saga lately, even though I don’t even have a system or premise in mind yet. They say it’s a Piscean trait to always want to begin new projects without finishing the ones you’ve already started first. Boy am I guilty as charged in that regard. And I can almost guarantee that as soon as I start I’ll begin to feel overwhelmed and start rifling through my books to find usable material when I’m feeling blocked or crunched for time.

I’ve seen the question framed in a divisive and derisive way, but it really shouldn’t be, and I hope I haven’t perpetuated that in asking the question. I don’t see why some (probably merely a vocal minority) consider themselves “above” those GMs that use pre-published adventures. In my view, writing an adventure and running one well are different skill-sets and should be judged separately. Pre-published adventures have their merits: they’re amazing time-savers, they can help teach good GMing practices, and they should exemplify the gameplay for the associated system. And inventive GMs who can craft compelling stories custom-tailored for their group should be lauded as well, but not at the other GMs’ expense. Because at the end of the day, what matters most is that you got your group of friends together and had fun playing your characters, not whether that session’s story came lives in a pretty hardcover book or a coffee-stained notebook.

Do you use pre-published adventures or write your own? Link your answers in the comments below! You can find the rest of the 30 Days of Gamemastering Challenge prompts here. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on finding inspiration in other artists’ work.

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