I know this question is maybe a little sensationalist, but I think it’s fair.
Is the module dead?
First, what do I mean by module? I see modules as cheap, short, low prep adventures that a DM can run in a few sessions and be done with it. The kind of adventures we’d get in Dungeon mag, or on the shelves of the local game store. The kind of product you would only pay a couple of bucks for.
Yeah, I think it’s dead.
A lot is said of the price of entry for D&D, and what you’re basically talking about is the “big three” books, PHB, DMG and MM, and lets not forget the starter box (and more about that in a minute…). Usually, and correct me if I’m wrong, the burden of owning most of the books falls on the DM, who is usually also the one that has to corral a gaming group together and get things grooving.
So if we look at the price of entry, (and I’ll use Amazon prices here, so we can see how cheap it ~can~ be) we are talking about an $85 investment at its lowest price.
But there’s no adventure.
We have a lot of tools to create adventures with, sure, but if you are a newbie… well…. you’re kind of out of luck, unless you go with yet another hardback. The newest one, Out of the Abyss, will run you $31 on Amazon. Now we’re talking about a $116 investment if you decide that you need a pre published adventure because you either don’t feel confident in writing your own, don’t have the time, etc etc.
What about the starter set? Yes. It’s a great product. Yes, it includes a very good adventure. Yes, it’s cheap. Yes I highly recommend it. It’s going to cost you about $13 at Amazon, and it’ll give you a REALLY nice entry ramp into D&D, for sure. But once you get past it, you still need to have something to run. So you are still looking to drop more cash on a hardback that to be honest, might not be very newbie friendly to run. Hell, I had trouble with the Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure when I started it. I actually didn’t finish it.
Let me be a realist for a second.
I know modules are probably not very economically sound for WOTC. At least not the cheap ones. I get it. And print magazines are dead. I get it. I don’t think it’s realistic to ask for a trip Back to the Future for the way things used to be.
Here’s what I’d love to see, and you tell me how realistic you think this is… How about officially sanctioned short scenarios, that can be easily dropped into existing campaigns? Maybe written by the community, with the D&D Seal of Approval ®.
How about DNDClassics? That place is FULL of modules. D&D’s past is riddled with Tombs of Lizard Kings, Frost Giant Jarls, and Tombs of Horrors. Lets take advantage of that. I’d love to see conversion guides for those old adventures.
I should point out that some of what I’m asking for is being done…. ENWorld is running a patreon that produces adventures. I’ve never read them, so I can’t tell you if they are good or not, but someone saw an opening and took it. 🙂
I think there is an untapped market for shorter modules. Not everyone has the time or patience to run a large hardback. Not everyone is going to find the storyline in the big hardback adventure interesting enough to run. So there is a place for smaller adventures.
Maybe it’s the community’s job to get this done. Maybe it’s for third parties to tackle (where’s the license?… I keep hearing Fall).
I know I’d love more shorter modules. But it seems that for now the module is dead. Long live the module.
I was reminded by @alphastream about a few sources of third party modules… First, Merric B (a prolific and well known member of the D&D community) keeps a 5e review site with tons of third party content information and there’s also the D&D Adventurer’s League, which has modules available that require public play to get access to. Public play is something I don’t really write much about because my experience with it is nil. Perhaps somebody can comment.
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