March 6, 2012

Y U Make So Many 1st Level Adventures?

WotC is releasing Halls of Undermountain next month. I fully expect, that similar to Madness of Gardmore Abbey, it will be well written and a lot of fun to run. But I think it is a wasted product. It is designed to be run for starting characters from levels 1-5. I do not need any more starting adventures, certainly not for level 1 starting characters.

The market is already inundated with adventures of these levels. Every new company whose goal it is to release adventures always feels the need to start at level 1. This partly makes sense if they are planning on releasing a series of adventures. And yet they seldom complete the series either due to lack of interest on the part of consumers or even the writers. So, we inevitably keep adding a bunch of new level 1 adventures with no adventures for higher levels.

First level adventures are useful for only two things; one shots and the start of a campaign.

Since I personally do not run one-shots, that aspect is lost to me. I can see their use for a one-shot, but the adventure would have to be stellar-would have to make the DM say “This NEEDS to be run!”. Most starting adventures do not fall into this category. Starting adventures are often the beginning of a campaign and purposely leave plot open, which is the antithesis of a one-shot.

As for starting a new campaign, I already have the first adventure planned out. It is this initial adventure that drives a campaign for me. I use the first adventure to set the tone of the campaign and introduce the basic setting, premise and goal. A published adventure can not do these things for me. Thus a published starting level 1 adventure is the last thing I need.

For an “older” game system like 4E there is no need for a new level 1 adventure. Sure, such an adventure is almost mandatory at the release of a new system, such as the upcoming 5E, but for systems that have been around for a few years, there are already enough to choose from.

This applies to any game system that has been on the market for some time such as the OSR, Pathfinder, etc. Do online search for these and you will see multiple level 1 adventures but very few for anything higher (though Pathfinder does a pretty good job of getting out higher level adventures-though they still put out lots of low level stuff).

A higher level adventure can be plugged into an ongoing campaign. Case in point is Madness of Gardmore Abbey. My current campaign was nearing the level of the adventure so I simply integrated it into my campaign. I made a few adjustments to have it fit my setting (instead of human knights it was a stronghold for the ancient naga in their war against the forces of Chaos) but otherwise kept the same stats and sub-plots.

It is easier to adapt a high level adventure than a 1st level adventure. You can scale the adventure down or up depending on what you need. A 1st level adventure can only be scaled up and then seldom beyond the beginning levels. I also find that level progression tends to slow down the higher in level you go, so I find I need more adventures at the higher levels of play than at 1st level.

What I would like to see are more high level adventures. People have been clamoring for good epic level adventures for 4E and yet WotC seems incapable or unwilling to produce anything in this range (at least not recently). Heck, I would like to see more of those for any of the level based game systems out there.

In the end this all comes down to market dynamics. The market for level 1 adventures is saturated. The market for higher level adventures has a limited consumption but there are far fewer products in this market. But as a consumer, I do not want or need new level 1 adventures.

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