My previous blog post got me thinking:
What is an adventure’s intended use?
A lot of adventure writers (myself included) design adventures with a “commercial software” approach: the user will install the software and start using it immediately, probably without a manual, and it needs to work well up-front. It should guide the user in its use and require minimal fiddling to be useful.
What if one were to take an “open source software” approach, in which the user is expected to customize the tool and manipulate it dramatically?
Compare something like HandBrake–insert DVD, select drive, select preset format, and click “Go”–to something like ffmpeg–you have to find the combination of command-line options that will convert your video into the appropriate format, but man there’s an option for everything.
Imagine an adventure that’s divided into several major sequences, and where each sequence is described more like a historical record than a blueprint. Stat blocks appear, sure, but the writer is trying to describe the mood and implications of the situation, not the scaffolding. Reading the description of a sequence should leave you a little breathless with the possibilities.
In other words, what if the writer focused on making the adventure vivid instead of detailed? Imagine an adventure that reads less like a technical manual and more like a Conan story. Give me a neat story to run, and I’ll find the monsters and maps.