Too many Dungeon adventures end up in a dungeon crawl

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Maybe I am not representing the majority of the DMs out there, but I wish we could see adventures with more plot twists and less dungeon crawl.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not allergic to maps and tactical combats. I enjoy them a lot. I'm just tired of those 20-rooms (or call them areas if you want) that you need more or less to clear to go to the final showdown.

I'd rather see adventures a bit more like an old Eberron adventure : Shadows of the last war. It was a nice mix of action and intrigue. I would like to see different factions jumping into the adventure, and create interesting choices for the players.

If I was a great novelist, and if I had so much time for it, I would just do it myself, and not bother anyone here. Unfortunately I'm not that gifted for plot design, and I don't have that much time to prepare.

When looking at some of the Dungeon adventures, I'm somtimes wondering if I shouldn't just erase most of the "non-essential" rooms, so we don't get bored during a session.

Sometimes I have the feeling that we give a cool objective to the players, but the obstacles are not as interesting as you would find in a novel.

Anyone else feeling the same, or maybe having advise on how to use the published materials to better suit my tastes ?
I have the same feeling about the adventures. There is not enough plot and too much dungeon crawl. I prefer to be able to complete an adventure within a single session or maybe 2 at the most. Ideally, I would like to see about 3-4 combats at most before reaching the next plot point (major or minor). When there are too many fights, when you get to the next plot point, it really diminishes the impact or significance of it because it was so long ago when the plot took you in your current direction.

I'm currently running Rescue at Rivenroar with my group right now. I found that there were too many encounters that were there just to have a fight. There is one room where when the PC's enter, a monster happens to appear at exactly that time and attacks the party. I took that fight out of the adventure as it seems to server no purpose other than combat. I took out other encounters that didn't make sense and change others around so that PC's can potentially interact with them in a non-combat sense.

It's taking a few sessions to get through this adventure. I find it is simply dragging out far too long to get to the end. I'm hoping that it only takes one more session so that we can move on. What I intend to do in the future is to really cut down on much of the combat that I feel is needless. I'll probably take pieces of adventures and just use those pieces that are good and incorporate them into something smaller so that the plot is more in the forefront of the adventures rather than the combats.

I think that for certain audiences, these adventures are good. For me, I actually prefer something smaller like the old Cliffhanger articles on the D&D site in 3E. Those adventures are short enough for my liking.

I still find these adventures of value. I normally modify adventures to fit what I like and what my group likes. I decided to try to run Rescue at Rivenroar mostly as is because we are starting out in 4E and I wanted to see for myself how 4E works and how this adventure sets up encounters before I start making changes. The first part of them is very useful as it outlines the background and synopsis of the adventure. If you do not like the long dungeon crawls, I think it would be pretty easy to just cut out a lot of it and either use only bits and pieces of the details or customise your own dungeon or other adventure setting to fit the plot.

I plan to run Keep on the Shadowfell next, but will definitely cut down on much of the dungeon crawling.
<\ \>tuntman
Agreed. Far too many dungeon crawls...I didn't mind at first, but 4e's been out awhile now. It's time to take the training wheels off.
Thanks everyone for your reply, and thanks to Aberzanzorax for the link.

I am not alone, but we are not many ... apparently. Only three people reacted here, so my guess is that most subscibers are happy with the adventures found in Dungeon magazine.

If this post would grow up, maybe Wizards would consider hearing us. But as a matter of fact, they are not going to change anything for 4 guys, while the rest of DDi subscribers are happy ... or just quiet. ;)
Of course one could also take silence for agreement, simply posting agreement is frowned on if not prohibited.

I've certainly been critical of the dungeon crawl nature of the adventures (Rescue at Rivenroar in particular).

However until the submission guidelines are finally published it seems unlikely that we will see much in the way of variation.
I really ignore the adventures in Dungeon altogether because of their repetitive dungeon crawls. It's really hard to find any adventures on the market that even try to establish a more balanced design between dungeon crawl / combats and roleplaying encounters / intrigue...
Cailte basically summed it up for me. I have an adventure I'd love to submit someday, but I won't consider it until I see the submission guidlines updated and evidence that submissions are being accepted from people who don't have existing relationships at WotC. (No offense to people who do like PirateCat, I just don't hold any expectation that my submission would be reviewed/considered at this point.)
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Thanks everyone for your reply, and thanks to Aberzanzorax for the link.

I am not alone, but we are not many ... apparently. Only three people reacted here, so my guess is that most subscibers are happy with the adventures found in Dungeon magazine.

If this post would grow up, maybe Wizards would consider hearing us. But as a matter of fact, they are not going to change anything for 4 guys, while the rest of DDi subscribers are happy ... or just quiet. ;)

Since you're hoping volume will help, I'll add my voice for more variation in the adventures. My group has also found that play isn't as fast as most people seem to think it is (maybe it's just us), so more "in between" content would certainly be welcome.
Certainly too much of something can get old, but is what do most people mean by "dungeon crawl"?

Should we define it mostly as:

"An adventure with long strings of purely fighting encounters, no matter how interesting they may be,"

or should it be "A series of boring encounters that seem to have no place in the overall storyline,"

or "Lots of fun combats and skill challenges, but little background information given to PCs,"

or "Some NPC dialogue mixed in, but end result is a foregone conclusion anyway and hearing them/talking to them doesn't help the completion of the adventure."


I think it's tough to be sure what we're actually talking about here, and if we can't give more specific information it would be hard for any future improvements.

I find that while a great deal of backstory and history makes adventures a better read for the DM, they rarely trickle down to the actual Players (unless you assume the DM is able to strongly capture the mood based on the background).

So how would be best to get the players involved, aside from talking to NPCs? Dropped notes, dark hints on the wall, believable monster tactics?

There's no one answer for making something "not" a dungeon crawl, but I think it would help to discuss what in particular everyone feels is missing from these so-called "dungeon crawls" which is holding them back.
http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19670890/Keep_on_the_Shadowfell_Character_Errata
Maybe the training wheels will come off when Eberron comes out.
That is my hope anyway.
I'm pretty sure most of us mean: a series of encounters tied together by location rather than plot.

There are a few adventures where the locations are tied together by plot.
There are even a couple where the encounters are tied together by plot.

But the majority of the adventures are "go to this location and kill everything there", or more simply: dungeon crawls.
Maybe I am not representing the majority of the DMs out there, but I wish we could see adventures with more plot twists and less dungeon crawl.

In theory, Dungeon takes submissions (although, so far all the content seems to have been written in-house).
I would suggest proposing a number of investigative or intrigue based adventures to Dungeon and hope one of them gets picked-up. If its good enough you can set an early example.

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As mentioned previously it would be easier to make submissions if the submission process was actually updated to reflect WotC's current desires.

(Which considering the lack of movement on this front seems to be "not to have submissions")
I agree 100%. I also ignore most of the dungeon adventures because they all seem to be dungeon crawls, and my D&D group are way passed that point.

A dynamic adventure that I have been converting to 4E is Shadowdale - Scourging of the Land. While there is a bit of 'crawling' involved, it is upto the players when and where they go. I'm also incorporating skill challenges into the adventure that affect the final outcome of the adventure as well as the difficulty.

I think what people are looking for is more dynamic adventures and less dungeon crawling.
I think what people are looking for is more dynamic adventures and less dungeon crawling.

OK, then let's define "dynamic."

I assume you mean that rather than one large complex, there are several varied sites of encounters?

Perhaps it could be easier to point out specific adventures which are "dungeon crawls" in people's views?
http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19670890/Keep_on_the_Shadowfell_Character_Errata
But the majority of the adventures are "go to this location and kill everything there", or more simply: dungeon crawls.

My personal gripe is that "everything" in RaR is a lot. It's just way too much combat to get to the payoff of succeeding. I personally find that you start to lose track of your goal because it's just fight after fight after fight. I think for some scenarios, you want to have a feeling that it is a war of attrition.

I would prefer fewer combat encounters. With fewer combats you get a sense that each fight is more significant. When there are too many fights, each one feels like the adventure just drags on.
<\ \>tuntman
I love a good dungeon crawl and I'd certainly not like to see them sidelined - but one of the advantages of Dungeon as a premium service should be a range of adventures. Between the retail modules, Dungeon Delve, and the last ten issues of Dungeon I feel I have more dungeon crawl than I'm likely to get through over the entire lifespan of 4E.

I was hugely impressed with Old_Dawg's winning submission to XDMC #9, featuring a pastoral manners comedy-slash-whodunnit. Prior to seeing that I would have sworn it was the sort of story 4E couldn't handle, and I was proved wrong. That's the sort of new ideas and unique adventures that I want from my subscription service.
OK, then let's define "dynamic."

Did you read the post you replied to?

Its fairly clear that the poster means modules with a wide array of choices, including but not limited to when to go into the dungeon.

In short character choice driven modules where the plot informs the choices of the characters.

Now I certainly don't expect every Dungeon adventure to go that way, but I'd love to see more of them at least move into being plot driven where there is a clear reason to move from place to place which is not just "get more xp"

Consider:
Turn the dungeon crawl of Rescue at Rivenroar into a complex challenge where the PCs must secure a key room and cause confusion and chaos among the New Red Hand while at the same time rescuing each of the prisoners, until at last they must confront the Lords and Sinruth.

Choices are things like what order to rescue the prisoners eg put two in peril and make them choose order...

Instead of go into the dungeon and methodically room by room kill each of the bad guys until its all done.

One is interesting with complex choices, the other is a yawn fest.
I started a similar thread a few days ago, have a look:

What I expect from a great adventure
Yes I agree. While 4e lends itself very well to the dungeon crawl, having just about every single new adventure boil down to just a dungeon crawl gets boring.

It's why after Heroic level I barely use any published stuff or Dungeon Adventures and instead focus on writing my own, which are often more open, and have fewer dungeon crawls and more things like skill challenges, open-world exploration, puzzles, etc. As my players advance higher in level they will begin to get involved in the campaigns politics and intrigue. Etc.

So I agree, if there is a patition around, I'm willing to sign it. I don't know how many of Dungeons adventures anymore are written by fans who submit their work compared to WotC employees, but there needs to be a great deal more variety. I swear if I read one more adventure where the players need to stop xxx bbeg before they finish a ritual and open a portal to xxx plane, I'm going to puke! It's a great idea, but it's been over-done like mad.

So yea, less dungeon crawls. I know 4e is all about the combat and works really good for dungeon crawling, but please, we need more variety from Published and Dungeon magazines.

Edit: just as an example, I'd love to see more adventures like Last Breaths of Ashenport (Dungeon 156.) Also some of the Scales of War adventures are a lot more open and free-form rather than pure dungeon crawl.

Oh and Demon Queens Enclave. IMHO by far the best published adventure yet. It's got a solid bit of dungeon crawl but a lot of other great play elements.
The problem I'm having with both Scales of War and the H-P-E series is that the combat encounters often don't seem fully designed with 4e in mind. Many writers still seem to have the classic D&D "war of attrition" mentality so deeply ingrained that they just can't shake it. But in 4e, long strings of nickel-and-dime encounters are nothing but boredom inducers. What you need to do is have fewer, but bigger, fights. That way each one can be exciting and memorable.
The problem I'm having with both Scales of War and the H-P-E series is that the combat encounters often don't seem fully designed with 4e in mind. Many writers still seem to have the classic D&D "war of attrition" mentality so deeply ingrained that they just can't shake it. But in 4e, long strings of nickel-and-dime encounters are nothing but boredom inducers. What you need to do is have fewer, but bigger, fights. That way each one can be exciting and memorable.

isn't the excitement and memorability of each encounter up the players and DM though?
isn't the excitement and memorability of each encounter up the players and DM though?

Only partially. Memorability is very much fueled by an emotional response to the situation. If the fight is dreadfully "normal," doesn't threaten the party to the point players fear for their characters' lives, and doesn't pull out some amazing and unexpected twists/humor, there's not much that can make it memorable for a player.

Behind the scenes a DM might agonize over how horrible a fight went, but that is generating an emotional response.
http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19670890/Keep_on_the_Shadowfell_Character_Errata
The problem I'm having with both Scales of War and the H-P-E series is that the combat encounters often don't seem fully designed with 4e in mind. Many writers still seem to have the classic D&D "war of attrition" mentality so deeply ingrained that they just can't shake it. But in 4e, long strings of nickel-and-dime encounters are nothing but boredom inducers. What you need to do is have fewer, but bigger, fights. That way each one can be exciting and memorable.

I think that's more a case of having to squeeze and entire level's worth of encounters into an entire area while working with a deadline. The result is fewer interesting encounters and many by-the-books fights designed to fill space.

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Only partially. Memorability is very much fueled by an emotional response to the situation. If the fight is dreadfully "normal," doesn't threaten the party to the point players fear for their characters' lives, and doesn't pull out some amazing and unexpected twists/humor, there's not much that can make it memorable for a player.

Behind the scenes a DM might agonize over how horrible a fight went, but that is generating an emotional response.

i think wizards makes pretty cool encounters. if the players aren't threatened then that's the DMs fault. think of it like this. wizards is like that martha stewart show. she makes what i'm sure are amazing dishes but if you at home don't know how to pull off the recipe right then your meal is gonna be just as bland as ever
Well certainly a great DM can make any encounter better.

Since encounters are a large part of this "dungeon crawl" issue, what are some examples of encounters that people feel were very memorable, and why?

Certainly not all or even most fights have to be masterstrokes of genius and flair, but which ones stand out to people as players?

I remember the fight with Kalarel from Keep on the Shadowfell (original version, *shudder*), and another one on a bridge attacked from all sides, but I'm fairly sure it stemmed more from my feelings of danger for the character, and frustration at what I would consider poor monster design.

I've played through just four 4th edition official adventures, and from one of them I don't recall any particularly interesting fight at all.

Trying to see this from the player's perspective is important, because while reading an encounter and understanding the motivations of the monsters, the backstory, the potential complications, the relative "importance to the story" etc. and enjoying a read can color the DM's perception.
http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19670890/Keep_on_the_Shadowfell_Character_Errata
Encounters are not a large part of what creates the "dungeon crawl" issue - its the lack of plot tieing encounters together.

Yes good encounters can make a dungeon crawl interesting and fun, but they are not what makes an adventure a dungeon crawl.
I think its simple. Plot is hard to develop. Dungeon Crawls are not. (By comparison).

I mean, a dungeon crawl can be plopped into anything.
A plot, in order to really grab the PCs, needs to be more detailed and twisting and such. That's much harder.

Setting up intrigue, where the subtle motivations of the evil Baron, the misleading harangues of the local zealot, and the off-putting nature of the town's priest all need to be detailed, well that's much harder than filling a dozen rooms with a certain level of encounter.

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I am not alone, but we are not many ... apparently. Only three people reacted here, so my guess is that most subscibers are happy with the adventures found in Dungeon magazine.

Just quiet.

It's not only the quality it is the quantity. When you sign up for D&D Insider it tells you.

Dungeon magazine provides Dungeon Masters with 3-5 new adventures every month—something for each tier of play (heroic, paragon, and epic)—so, you'll always have a game that’s ready to run.

May - 2 adventures, Heroic and Paragon
April - 3 adventures, Heroic x2 and paragon.
March - 2 adventures, Both Paragon - One "Delve" Heroic
Feb - 2 adventures, Both Paragon - One "Side Trek" Heroic
Jan - 3 adventures, Heroic, Paragon and Epic
Dec - 2 adventures, both Heroic

So once in the past six months they have actually delivered what they said they would. They have failed to even produce 3 adventures, 2/3 of the time.

Going back further.

Nov - 2 adventures, heroic and epic - one "side trek" paragon
Oct - 3 adventures, two heroic one epic
Sept - 3 adventures, two heroic, one paragon.
Aug - 4 adventures, three heroic, one paragon.
July - 3 adventures, two heroic, one paragon. Plus two "side treks" for heroic.
June - 2 adventures, both heroic. Plus three side treks all heroic.

While they still seem to neglect Epic they at least managed 3 adventures more often and even managed to throw in some side treks as well. They even use to include Map of Mystery, but they seemed to have dropped that now they have our money.

Still over 12 months only once have they delivered what they advertise (at least one of each tier), and half the time they haven't even managed to meet the minimum number of adventures they said they would. Only once have they provided more than the minimum, and never the 5 they said the magazine might contain.

May's issue is shockingly thin at only 79 pages, where as other issues have been around 100 to 120. It's clear it is missing a whole adventure.
"Some NPC dialogue mixed in, but end result is a foregone conclusion anyway and hearing them/talking to them doesn't help the completion of the adventure."

Truly, truly tragic.

At first, I assumed that Wizards shyed away from printing adventures that relied on heavier role-playing, detective work, and intrigue simply because 4th edition was new...

And combat is easier to write for rather than detective work. I mean, there's all sorts of investigative traps and subtleties that might need house rulings or eyeballed DCs that the Wizards staff wanted to have hard-and-fast adventures with established rules first.

Then a year passed.

Perhaps this is the 'back to basics' approach WOTC is taking; perhaps this will be permanent. Taking the game back to its roots as a simpler dungeon'-crawlin' in-universe game seems to be similar to their current strategy as well with Magic: The Gathering, which has a focus on "casting spells" and "planar dueling" rather than "playing cards" and "ending the match."


If you are hungry for mysteries, homemade adventures (which are tremendously difficult to write) may be your best bet... or to look through old issues of Dungeon.
I will recall my all-time favorite adventures ever revolved around a very Batman-esque scenario in Sharn, where vigilante players fought the evil detective, Victor-Saint Demain. I would like to formally implore all of you to look up the best-written mystery Wizards has ever published outside of actual novels.

The third chapter, "Hell's Heart" is available on the WOTC website, but it makes no sense without the first to chapters, "Quoth the Raven" (Available in Dungeon 150) and the spectacular first adventure, "Chimes at Midnight" (Dungeon 133).

I can't tell you why Wizards shys away from re-hiring Nicholas Logue; he wrote two published adventures (Voyage of the Golden Dragon and one other) as well as dozens of adventures and columns in Dungeon. Every piece I ever saw him write revolved around nothing short of a Dick Tracy story arc, a Batman hardcover, and better-written than half of James Patterson's work.
has anyone talked or e-mailed with anyone at Wizards about this issue?
I've been bothered by the same lack of non-dungeon crawl adventures as well. Playing d&d had always been as much about roleplaying political intrigue and mysteries and toehr sych as much as killing monsters and stealing their treasure.
And the limited number of adventures they seem able to present vis-avis what they promise is troubling as well.

My gut reaction is that we are looking at a situation where a small number of people is just not able to keep up with their work. Sloppy editorial as has been noted many times before is a clear sign of people rushing to meet deadlines.
Anyone know how many people work on dungeon and dragon?
I don't think anyone is trying to do a bad job but I think managment is failing the fans here. Content should be delivered as promised and to a professional level of quality.
I like variety, so an occassional foray away from combat being the most common type of encounter in an adventure would be ok.

Classic D&D includes non-combat encounters - look for some adventures that have skill challenges and puzzles, for example, and you'll find a few. And that's probably the right number. But if you want your game to swing heavily towards non-combat encounters, for example, and focus on political intrigue, then yeah, you're usually going to have to come up with more stuff yourself based on some examples you've seen - whether in D&D or in any other media or game.

Personally, I miss Side Treks a lot - that's why I love Dungeon Delve. It's a book of 30 Side Treks! Not enough short adventure modules (which are infinitely easier and more time-saving to prep for) get published imo, so Dungeon Delve was refreshing.
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My main problem is lack of continuity and focus on random combat encounters.

We are in an age of RPG video games where the combat mechanics, graphics, and fight scenes are extensively researched and developed to an awesome level. While computer games can do math, speed up the encounters, and will always have faster pace action than tabletop DnD, there still is a void left by video games... rich, deep, dynamic storytelling!

I want dungeons that are continuous to a large campaign - where an object come across on the first day will have massive implications in level 30. I want a well written campaign with playable, continuous modules that are 60% encounter, 40% non-encounter. Of the 60% encounter, 75% i want to be fighting, the other 25% to be skill challenges or puzzles. (I define an encounter as anything that gives you XP).

DnD Excels at this, but we aren't getting written material. We're getting action paced encounters that are loosely strung together with a minor, poorly crafted plot, that ultimately get boring because of overuse. i.e. we're getting Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. I want Batman Dark Knight.
I've hated the emphasis on dull, linear, hack'n'slash dungeon-crawls that has dominated 4E since its inception.

'All combat, all the time' gets boring very quickly. We've seen nothing as free-form as 'Assassin's Knot', as epic as Dragonlance or Castle Amber, or as complex as 'Great Modron March'.

The game's been out for over a year and all we've seen is dungeon crawls.

That said, the Forbidden Forge adventure set in Eberron is actually okay. Different starter hooks, an open ending and an outside chance the final battle can be solved by diplomacy. It's no masterpiece, but maybe it's a start. I've never liked Eberron before, but perhaps it might actually be a source of non-combat adventures this time out?
I was reading an old article about adenture design : http://ptgptb.org/0012/design1.html and http://ptgptb.org/0013/design2.html.

I feel dungeon adventures are light years from these concepts.

For Heart of the Forbidden Forge, well it's again a series of rooms. Ok, there might be interesting stuff in these rooms, but it gets boring to start the adventure at room #1 and hack your way to the BBEG room.

When I read the adventure hooks, I thought it would have been much more interesting to have a first part in the adventure where the PCs stumble upon the problem of the forge. For instance, in the adventure hook : missing agent, it is said
the PCs learn the Citadel is concerned because
an elite agent, an artificer named Jelia, is missing.
She was recently working on a case involving war
research in Old Cyre, and her last report indicates
that she went to Darguun in the company of goblin
mercs.

It would have been much more interesting to know only that an agent went missing while working on a case involving war research in Old Cyre. But the PCs would have to discover that she went to Darguun in the company of goblins mercs on her own will (I could see some red herring where the PCs are not sure wether she was captured or not).

Basically I would have loved an investigation part and then the forge itself.
This is the whole problem with the 4E adventure design.

Eberron sells itself as 'fantasy noir', but all we will get is soulless dungeon crawls. And while I think 'Forge' is better than most, it's still a dungeon crawl.

Despite what is claimed in the 4E DMG, I do not feel WotC will ever feature an adventure outside of the 'twenty combat encounters and a skill challenge' format.

Though I would LOVE to be proved wrong.
Dungeon® magazine has always been *the* place to publish adventures of all stripes, and it publishes the best of what it receives.

"Dungeon crawls" have been a staple of D&D since the very first 1st Edition adventures (Keep on the Borderlands, Slave Pits of the Undercity, Descent into the Depths of the Earth, Tomb of Horrors, Against the Giants, etc.), but when we look at the submission pile, we look for great adventures — not just great dungeon crawls. (Incidentally, most of the submissions we receive from the gaming community are dungeon crawls. What does that tell you?)

Chris
Given the "theme" of 3e (or was that 3.5?) was "return to the dungeon" and how all of the 4e adventures (published or in Dungeon) have been dungeon crawls, I wouldn't even think about submitting an adventure that wasn't. Not if I wanted it to see print...

Speaking of going to the submission pile, exactly how many submissions have made it into the magazines so far? Have their been any "great" fan adventures yet?

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>(Incidentally, most of the submissions we receive from the gaming community are dungeon crawls. What does that tell you?)

It tells me they are a LOT easier to write.

Sure, there have been dungeon crawls in the past, but there have also been a lot of adventures -both in Dungeon and in published modules - that were NOT dungeon crawls.

Please don't try and airbrush investigative or role-playing adventures out of D&D's history just because 4E has come along.

Question for the 'Creative Manager' - wouldn't it be more creative to actually have a balance of adventures?

None of my group like 4E. I've tried to like the system for a year now, but I'm accepting it's just not for me. I accepted the first few adventures would likely be dungeon crawls as the system found its feet, but I was hoping that eventually the system would 'take the training wheels off' as someone on this thread said. But that hasn't happened.

Page 136 of the DMG boasts 4E can handle different genres:

Horror
Intrigue/Mystery
Swashbuckling/Urban
Low-magic Conan-style Swords and Sorcery

If that's the case, let's see some adventures like that. A chance to do something beyond a pure combat adventure might go some way towards keeping people like us loyal to the system we've played for 20-30 years. Let's see something like 'Assassin's Knot' or 'Arena of Thyatis'.