My First Module

I’m a reasonably experienced GM but I’ve never written an adventure that other people could run. I’ve run D&D many times, but only with published modules and campaigns, some of which I kit-bashed. I also ran a homebrew Gumshoe campaign to completion, but it was play by post and also based on contemporary Earth, which means I could get away with my entire prep for the whole campaign being a few pages of notes and then wing it with Google Maps. But I’ve never written something in enough detail that someone else could run it.

I’m calling the module I want to write “Treasure of the Satrap’s Army.” The idea is a hybrid of a hexcrawl and an “escape the dungeon” scenario. Let’s call it “escape the hexcrawl.” The players start out with all the treasure and their goal is to keep most of it as they cross a lot of hostile territory to reach one of several safe havens where they can cash in the treasure for XP. My key inspirations were Xenophon’s Anabasis and the movie Triple Frontier.

The premise is that the players are with the camp or baggage train of an army when they learn the army is defeated and the enemy is closing in to pillage and massacre so they best grab what they can and get out. I want the tone to be sword and sorcery and the setting to be vaguely Silk Road, with the defeated army being a sort of fantasy Persia and the victorious army fantasy steppe nomads.

I’ve already written 2/3 of a version of this module and ran it for some friends (thanks for playing guys). We had fun, but I noticed a few mistakes and issues. As inspired by Angry GM live tweeting his composition of a mega dungeon, I figure the best way to do it is to think carefully about all the various issues that are involved and writing about it. Notably, I can already see the following dilemmas:

  • What character level should it be written for?
  • What system should I write for? Should I assume GMs have access to that system’s bestiary?
  • How much treasure (and by extension, XP) should they get?
  • What form should the treasure take and how should the players suffer for weighing themselves down with too much treasure?
  • Should the treasure just be sitting there or should they have to role-play searching for it as the enemy approaches like a sword and sorcery version of Supermarket Sweep?
  • Hexcrawl or pointcrawl?
  • OSE style “control panel” or traditional paragraphs?

Eventually we will get to questions beyond the actual writing of how best to package and circulate it, which will involve such issues as:

  • What price point?
  • What kind of art to source / commission?
  • Kickstarter or straight to DriveThruRPG?

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  1. John

    Anabasis is great source material. I ran a few sessions inspired by it where the players started already victorious on a corner of the battlefield separated from the main body of the force by a hill, with a runner arriving and telling them the emperor who hired them had been killed and his force routed. It was clear they had to flee, with two major options: going west back the way they came, where they would likely be pursued, or north into unmapped hill country full of orcish tribes – and worse.

    Not great to give them that choice for a written module though, because I branched to very different content in the two cases (the first session had similar encounters either way, then I prepped for the route they chose, which unlike Xenophon was straight west).

    I like the “how much treasure can you keep” theme. Detailed coin counting encumbrance can be annoying, but a bit more gamefied approach sounds exciting. They could start with wagons full of treasure, moved faster if they abandon them and take the draft horses, and can ultimately leave those and only take what they can carry. Easy for me to make the switch to that as a DM though without in-module support.

    With regards to level, low level is easier, but available modules are numerous. Highest level where magic users don’t have teleport style spells would be cool.


    1. gabrielrossman

      Thanks, the first time I ran it I did it as a hexcrawl where they started dead center in the map and had three viable destinations. I may stick with that but regardless of whether I do it as a hexcrawl or a pointcrawl it has the down side that I’ll effectively be writing 3x more material than any group will actually use.
      You and I are thinking similarly in terms of gradually ditching vehicles, target level, etc.


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