Just a quick update as to where things are in the production cycle: the writing is, effectively done, and I’m now playtesting the entire module. With each session that I playtest, I go back and tweak some of the writing here and there to make a point clearer in tactics or character background.
One of the things that has become interesting is how to deal with the size of the module: as it currently stands it is written as 15 encounters (not including the wandering encounters, which should add another 2 or 3 small skirmishes at the least) and is clocking in at about 45 page before the maps player handouts. Should be plenty to get the 5-player party from 1st to 2nd level. Almost all of the encounters written has a “background” session which describes a bit of area history and monster motivation. My goal being, that I want the adventure to have a rich story to help draw the characters in – I like my adventures to feel “thematic”. When I write the adventure, I envision how it would play out if the adventure were a movie, with exposition, action, and then either a denouement and/or cliffhanger.
The goal has always been to publish the module and distribute to game stores, as well as publish via PDF for those who prefer that medium (I actually prefer both and am trying to figure out a clever way to make that happen as well… I can’t remember where I read it, but I do remember one 3rd party publisher who would send a free PDF version to anyone who sent in a digital picture of themselves holding the paper version of their module. Very clever!) As such my editor asked me to potentially consider cutting into 2 modules if there was a natural breaking point. It is an intriguing idea.
It leads me to wonder: what will be the magic ratio of story-to-combat or “fluff to crunch” ratio when it comes to buying a 4ED module to a modern audience? If you spent your hard earned $15 (or so) on a printed module, and it had 15 encounters with detailed backstory is that a fine value? Does the modern audience have an expectation as to how many monsters to fight? Does it all depend on the preference of the player of story vs. dungeon crawl? Will it all depend on the quality of the writing?
I think writers, DM’s and game designers included – tend to “write about what they know”. In my case, I wanted this adventure to feel a bit like some of the “open-ended” adventures of my youth – Dwellers of the Forbidden City or Lost Voyages of Sinbad style of adventure, complete with promises of future adventure to follow. As such the story flowed where it needed to flow, and the length was what it was.
I suppose the market will speak soon enough. Plan A is to print the module as written. My fabulous graphic designer is putting the document through its InDesign paces as we speak, and while the module may not come out in February, it won’t be far behind.
Curious to anyones thoughts on the modern story to combat ratio.