D&D’s beating heart is its wealth of adventures. Recall titles such as Keep on the Borderlands, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, Ravenloft, the Shackled City adventure path, and Tomb of Horrors. Remember the images that modules such as Pharaoh, City of the Spider Queen, White Plume Mountain, Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave, and the Temple of Elemental Evil conjure. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Vault of the Drow, Madness at Gardmore Abbey, The Gates of Firestorm Peak, The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun—
Let’s take it as given that D&D contains a mighty corpus of great published adventures, to say nothing of the millions of campaign adventures played at card and kitchen tables around the world over the last forty years. What happened to the rest of the party after the wizard probed the lightless confines of the great green devil face by jumping through, what occurred when you woke up in a coffin to Strahd’s voice coming through the thin wood, and what happened in the aftermath of a thousand-foot fall when you were clutching a cracked cask containing a piece of the sun: these and stories like these circulate around game tables, growing more epic with each retelling.
Such stories, when they include published adventures especially, serve as the nostalgic mortar that binds even disparate groups of gamers. Even if every group didn’t lose half its number to a disguised sphere of annihilation, or befriend Meepo, many encountered Acererak’s leering trap and nudged a weeping kobold in the ribs. These shared experiences are a storied tapestry that weaves even far-flung groups of D&D players together into a community of gamers.
Which brings me to Mike Mearls’s Legends & Lore column from a few weeks ago, where he contemplated the idea of one-hour adventures. To be sure, no one’s going to play through the Caves of Chaos in one hour, but they might clear out a cave of goblins looking for a kidnapped merchant’s son or a misplaced relic hidden in a keg of vinegary wine.
Moving forward into the next iteration (or version) of the game, we’re likely to see adventures that can play out in the space of just an hour. But we’ll also publish some adventures that require a few hours, and some that take several sessions of play. What’s important will be the commonality of experience that such adventures can generate among the community of D&D players.
Individual adventures always have overarching styles, though of course the best adventures usually include several elements. For example, urban adventures are often heavy on the roleplaying, while dungeon adventures feature exploration. But I’ve certainly played urban adventures that included a lot exploration in sewers, warehouses, and manor houses, and I’ve had my share of alliance-making in the depths of mazed dungeons.
So, which of the following elements are most appealing to you in an adventure? Pick up to three.
Alternatively, which of the following elements are least appealing to you in an adventure? Pick up to three.