How I Want to Build a Module

Still working on the module. I have a few basic layout assumptions that differ from how a module is typically done, so I wanted to talk about them and see if anyone has input.

One Page Dungeon Format Extended
The One Page Dungeon layout puts a map on a page, with a sidebar for an encounter table, and the room key below. The map is typically 30×30 squares, which means the key can’t have too much detail. My version puts the key on the facing page and any map notes under the map instead. This way if you have the module open to a given page, you’ll have all the info you need for that area or dungeon level without page flipping. I find that I still need to be terse in room descriptions. Other tricks help this terseness!

I have minidungeons with their keys, and the tentpole dungeon has a map-and-key spread for each dungeon level. Outside that format I change it up as needed, again minimizing page flipping.

No In-Line Descriptions for Monsters or Treasure
You’ll see a monster listed in the key, but it has no stats. WTF? The monster list is on the inside cover of the module and you’re expected to (A) unstaple it and use the cover as a DM screen, (B) make a photocopy and use up some of your table real estate, or (C) flip to the cover to refer to monster stats – which is pretty easy to do because of the difference in paper textures. Monster stat blocks also suffer from repetition, wasting space in the key repeatedly. Magic items mostly don’t need in-line descriptions of their powers because those come into play generally when PCs use them, and you can flip to the magic item section to see that. I can see an argument for having in-line magic item descriptions though, especially for monsters who use them during the encounter.

Art is Strictly Kept in the Player Handouts
I believe that art in a module is there primarily to clarify and to direct the imagination. There are subtle areas where the art can conceal a clue or something, but that’s typically not the case. For example, in my copy of Temple of Elemental Evil, there’s a Trampier illustration of a rat on a shelf. It’s lovely, and I would hate to see it left out of the module. But if the DM is the only one who sees it then the art is working only upon a tiny fraction of the people at the table. If he has to cover up the rest of the page and awkwardly show the players, it takes a long time to get the art out there and the DM might make the decision to just not show it. If the players don’t see the art, the only way it affects them is indirectly, if the DM is inspired by it and puts more into his game as a result. So my criteria are (A) the art will be present only if it’s going to be viewed by everyone, and (B) the art should be easy to pass around. So there’s an art handout with numbered pages and the DM can pass the packet around and trust the players won’t go flipping through it to see the rest.

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