Erik Rood made this little calculator to show you how little free time you have left in your life. It’s a bit depressing.
I generally turn to tabletop RPGs to fend off things that are a bit depressing. There’s a catch, though. RPG require free time.
There are a few interesting subjects that come out of this train of, and one is the question: Do premade adventures save time?
The language in the poll above deliberately avoids a “Maybe” or an “It Depends” option.
I can think of some situations when a pre-written adventure will save me time because it offers up something I cannot do; props and maps. I don’t have any skill in creating those. If someone has done it for me, then I’ll absolutely be better off accepting their help than struggling on without it.
Last week, we talked about ways to make it easier for the GM to run historical settings. That’s another example of when someone else can do a ton of reading and learning before condensing it down into an adventure.
The last scenario for which I concede in which a premade adventure will save the DM time is if the scenario has been made to do just that. Such products exist. For example, a recent addition to the DM’s Guild is Ashton MacSaylor and Sun Sailor Production’s The Magister’s Tomb. In essence, this is a single-paged D&D adventure module.
I spoke to Ashton about the time-saving aspect, and it rang true. He told me;
We’re a husband and wife team. We’re making one-sheet adventures for busy people because we are busy. Who’s got time to read thirty pages to prepare for a four hour game?
These are two pages–one side for the players and one side for the DM, with enough content for a full four hour game.
We just give the essentials and lean on the DM’s own creativity to fill out the rest. We’ve got a 2 year old, and have had a hard time using most published modules for this reason. So we’re creating the kinds of adventures we wish we could find more of in the world.
The exception that proves the rule
If I had to pick either “Premade modules save GM time” or “Prewritten adventures don’t save GM time” then I would go with the latter.
I think The Magister’s Tomb and research-heavy adventures are the exceptions that proves the rule. I think most experienced GMs can adlib and adjust on the fly comfortably in their own scenario. I think this freewheeling becomes awkward when you need to stick to a script produced by someone else and so pre-written adventures demand their toll in prep time.
This cost in time does not mean premade adventures are not worth their price in cash. There are certainly times when a GM’s mind goes blank or cannot focus on creating a scenario for a night. Premade adventures are convenient then.
It’s also common practice to borrow bits and pieces of premade adventures to Frankenstein them together into something new and unique.
What do you think? Do premade adventures save the GM time?