Modular, Imaginative, Massive, Easy, and Reusable: My Five Design Principles

Thank you very much to everyone who read Doom Desert in the Decanter of Delirium! I hope you enjoy playing it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

We’re just getting started here at Watcher DM. If you enjoyed Delirium, get ready for some absolute madness: Moon Elves’ Masquerade is coming to you soon! From a pleasure barge to the moon, this 4th level adventure mixes social and role-play opportunities with a high-stakes, low-gravity boss fight your players will never forget. Coming soon to email inboxes near you, so sign up now if you’re not already on the mailing list. It’s free stuff!

There are many modules out there, so we know that our best shot at standing out is delivering a high-quality product. What does that mean to me? Well, my rhetorically convenient friend, I’m glad you asked. It just so happens that if you keep reading, you will find a five-point list of design principles that I try to keep in mind while writing these things.

Modular

I don’t think I’m wrong that a big part of the audience for modules is DMs who run their homebrew campaigns, looking for ideas they can poach for their home games. Although these modules are cohesive and complete, they can also be disassembled and reformed however you like. D&D is a game of imagination, and we want to be provocative as well as practical. So, if you think your campaign might benefit from crazy carousing tables, rules for low-gravity, or some civilized toads, check out Moon Elves’ Masquerade when it comes out and see what you’d like to borrow.

Imaginative

Regardless of whether you’re spending your money or your time, you should get some bang for your proverbial buck. When I buy modules, I want a density of imagination. I want every room to be unique, every monster to be something wild. I want to say ‘whoa’ more than once a page. I don’t want to read modules that slot predictable monsters into uniform rooms straight from the manual.  I don’t want to write them. So I promise to pack as much crazy stuff onto the page as possible. I’m talking about bio-bishops of long-lost lunar huntress cults, smoked concepts stolen from planes of platonic ontology, and trans-temporal space whales. “That” type of crazy.  I want a filler-free experience. No 10×10 rooms containing three orcs and twenty-five GP. Just wall to wall awesome.

Massive

if you work for a living, like most people, you may find that you don’t have enough time to write your own games. Modules are the traditional solution to this, but I think we should expect more. According to my design principles, I don’t just want an adventure that can replace the one I didn’t write; I want a game that feels bigger than the one I would have written. A game that would take more time to write and plan than to play.

Easy

it has to be “pick up and play.” If I have to study a module like it’s a textbook to run it, I’m just not going to run it. Sad, but true. We’ve got a very cool system for organizing encounters, hoping that DMs will run these games without too much preparation. A quick read, followed by some mid-game referencing, should be all you need to play. We’re working hard to deliver a product that makes your job as DM easier, not harder.

Reusable

I want something worth more than one night. Maybe that’s a silly thing to expect from something that costs less than an hour’s work, but I always feel a little cheated by modules that only invite me to a single playthrough. I like getting to the end of an adventure and thinking about all the paths not taken. I want to wonder what secrets I missed. In the DM’s chair, I want to know that I’ll get to use it more than once if I spend money on something. Anything less feels disposable, which disagrees with how cheap I am. So I aim to make these modules multi-linear and mysterious in the hopes you and your friends will want to play them twice.

Goals

Well, we all have goals. In any case, why not comment below and tell us what you think ours should be? Do you think these are the right goals? If you’re like me, you’ve been buying modules longer than I’ve been writing them. Tell us what you like, and we’ll do our best to provide it! Our most important design principle is that you matter, and designing for you is our purpose.

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to comment. And remember: if you like WatcherDM, tell your nerdy friends! And if you don’t, say nothing to nobody!

  • ADH
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