329 Customizing Published Scenarios

I like to run prepublished scenarios, but that doesn’t mean you can’t inject your own ideas and pivot from what’s been already typed into the book.

Talking about this Monday, Feb 15 at 8pm on Twitch.tv/gaming_and_bs

Find the audio version coming later next week
http://gamingandbs.com/329 or in your podcatcher of choice.


Ooh. Nice topic!


I’m guessing this one is Sean’s topic!

Maybe. Single or double track with very few switches. Wooo Wooo!


This is my bread and butter.
Either bolting things on, or trimming things out. Mostly because I don’t play the systems for most modules, but like to scour for ideas.

My two current games are Barrowmaze run in HackMaster. For a dungeon crawl, there is a LOT of social stuff going on with the party in a very small hamlet. Not really SUPER well baked in, but that’s what part of the party is digging. The other is DemonPlague in Castles and Crusades. To this point, most of the customization is just smushing 5e into C&C, but we’ll see what else mutates from there.


Like Laramie - this is where I live.

Wrench, tweak, reuse, from the Caves of Chaos up to Nightfang Spire.

Almost all my scenarios are lifted from older stuff, I steal villains & maps & re-purpose scenarios.

I’m happiest finding a new use for a module I’ve run 10 times before.


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I always cut out repetitive encounters. There are some modules that are filled with endless rooms that are empty and/or filled with the same kinds of fights. Sometimes these come from random encounter tables that are either too short or have entries that all feel the same. Figure 2-3 encounters per session. Decided about how many sessions your players will enjoy in this space. Then find the best stuff and cut the rest. In other words, let’s say you are in Ghosts of Saltmarsh and are infiltrating the Sahuagin base. You want to spend two sessions max on it. That means you have about 6 encounters. (Give yourself 8 or 9 knowing they will bypass some.) Cut everything but those 9, literally bypass rooms, truncate hallways, or as players move through just tell them fast-forward the boring bits with stuff like “you pass three empty rooms”. This makes every adventure better.


PS. I usually print out a copy of the map and hand-edit it, or redraw it in my journal as a smaller, more compact thing.

This is gold, right here.

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Fantastic topic!

I expanded Storm King’s Thunder to go to 20th level and incorporated each character’s backstory into an arc during the story.

I took Tomb of Annihilation and slowed down the Death Curse so that it ran more as a hex crawl. Then I added in locations from all sorts of resources. (for example the group explored the Mine of Phandelver, though I didn’t call it that).


I normally don’t run published material and when I have in the past I tried too hard to stick to the script and it was clunky. I am running the module from the Humblewood box set and I am definitely adding my own flare for the NPCs, skipping encounters that seem monotonous, and making sure encounters happen that are cool.

Two examples:
In the beginning I felt like there needed to be a stronger connection to the village and the PCs. They were sort of outsiders and I wanted to add hooks to why they would care about the village. I had each character receive an item from a villager before they departed. It was a spontaneous decision and I really liked how it worked out. My favorite one was probably the hand drawing from a child given to a PC of that child’s father who may or may not be captured by bandits.

The other example was there was this cool big toad but it would only appear if the player characters failed on 3 dex saves when trying to capture frogs for a hedge witch (She is literally a hedgehog and a witch). I thought it was a cool encounter because when the giant toad appears there is a cocoughiny of frog noises. I wanted this encounter to happen and I didn’t think it was likely they would fail 3 dex saves. So I just decided the giant toad will show up once they have filled their bag with frogs. It ended up being a fun encounter because one character was swallowed by the toad.

Lesson learned for me is I can totally use published stuff but I need to run it how it makes sense to me and fits my story telling.

Look forward to the cast!

(Full disclosure, I have not yet listened to this episode.)
I missed the chance to make this comment last time prepublished adventures came up as a topic. I just wanted to throw out a theory and see if people agree.
I do not like to run prepublished adventures, but I wish I did.
My inference here is that people prefer prepublished or homebrew based on whichever one is easier for them to do. I don’t think either has an innate advantage. I think DM’s all just prefer to do the least amount of work.
An example: I have tried to read modules to run them. I just get so bored, that I have never successfully read one all the way through. I have skimmed through to the end of the first module in “Tales from the Yawning Portal,” and to date that is the best I could manage. However, with homebrew campaigns I can prep for a session in 30-60 minutes no sweat.
I have serious respect for people who can run prepublished anything, because I just don’t seem to have the skills to pay those bills.
People who like homebrew more, I imagine are in my boat, where it’s easier to slap something together now, then fill in the more tedious details during actual play.
My hat is off to Sean, who inspires me every couple of months to try reading through and running a real module instead of just relying on my usual BS.


We’re of a sort.

For me, it’s much more difficult trying to understand an adventure—how all the disparate pieces come together into something meaningful (or not, because one is reliant on the ability of the original author)—than to just make one up. If I make it up, I automatically understand it—bonus!

Also, one can “make it up” in whatever way is ideal and efficient, be it through sketches, lists, notes, or dense narrative—I tend to use all of these. With pubs, in most cases you’re going to be deciphering text and interpreting intent.

Edited to accommodate peeve (see below) :wink:.

You hit one of my pet peeves here. Published. Not prepublished.
Sorry. Sometimes when a peeve comes up, the peeve hammer comes out.
With that out of my system, I can calm down and think about the topic… My preference for campaigns is to homebrew using bits and pieces from published adventures. This could be a map from one place and an encounter from another, mixed with my own surrounding creatures. I enjoy figuring out how to tie disparate scenarios into the main storyline. For conventions, I tend to run my own unpublished stuff, mostly because I know it better. As some others have said, for some of us, creating is easier than understanding. What I like about working with something I know well is being able to answer the questions that inevitably come up that I wasn’t expecting.


I like my adventures post-published.


My humble apologies. I willingly stand corrected.

My bile is meant exclusively for Sean! It is exclusively an aural peeve. And I note that both S and B went out of their way in the most recent episode I listened to de-pre their lingo. Thanks guys!
Aaron—it doesn’t look like you took offense, but I’m sorry you felt the need to apologize—I should be more careful when I swing the hammer! So many fingers holding the nails we’re using to build this community.


Haha, no worries. I just wanted to be polite and recognize my mistake.
On another note, the email notification I got showed your name in the subject line. Your last name is Hungarian. Are you, by chance, Hungarian?

My father was born in Hungary, so yes, to some extent. I know only a dozen mostly food-related words; we did visit some decades ago and I do enjoy making an occasional Hungarian dinner. Your name also came through, and it looks less Hungarian, but perhaps you have a similar connection? (as we slide waaaay off topic. Sorry all the rest of you non-Hungarians!)

Indeed, we’ll just step out into an eastern European left field for a side conversation.
No, I am not Hungarian. I served a 2 year mission for my church in Hungary. It was very cool! I loved it there. I was going to visit with my family to see some old friends and go to my favorite restaurants, but then the quarantine cancelled all of our plans.