Newbie DM

Syndicate content
www.    Newbie DM    .com
An Ennie Nominated D&D Blog & Podcast. Home of tutorials, advice, and downloads for new DM's
Updated: 1 min 25 sec ago

Is the D&D module dead?

Tue, 09/22/2015 - 08:31

I know this question is maybe a little sensationalist, but I think it’s fair.

Is the module dead? Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 10.24.46 AM

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.

Full disclosure: The Amazon links above are linked to my Amazon Associates account.

If you would like to support, perhaps you’d consider visiting for your next rpg related purchase. Check out the following products:

World of Greyhawk AD&D Boxed Set

Menzoberranzan AD&D Boxed Set

Conquest of Nerath: A D&D Boardgame

Legend of Drizzt: A D&D Boardgame

NewbieDM Review: Encounter Decks 3 by Inkwell Ideas

Wed, 09/02/2015 - 12:20

During Gencon, I saw that my friend Mike, who runs SlyFlourish, picked up a deck of cards with what looked like an encounter and a map on them. These cards intrigued me, so I looked around and picked up a batch from Drivethru RPG. I picked up the bundle that includes the PDF of the deck, and the physical products. I’ll give me thoughts on this print-on-demand service at the end of the review, but first let me get to the cards…

Encounter Decks are basically a set of cards with a ready made map and plot ideas for a nights worth of gaming.

The deck includes 54 cards.

The deck includes 54 numbered cards, with one side showing a quick line or two about the hook of the adventure, suggestions for getting the PCs involved, encounter ideas, and suggestions on how to expand the story past the presented adventure. The other side includes a map suitable for the adventure. Here’s the map for card #25 “And the Children Shall Lead” from the picture above:


As you can see, they cram a lot into a regular poker sized card, perhaps too much, but in essence you are getting a solid framework for a night’s worth of gaming in each card. A good GM might take these cards and be able to randomly pull one for that night’s one shot or side trek.


Each card has either a Sword & Sorcery or a Science Fantasy theme, although it would probably be easy to re-skin these into any theme you need for your campaign. The plots range from dragon cults stealing livestock in the area, to stopping a brain connected to a super computer from taking over the city….

To me what’s most valuable about these cards are the hooks and encounters. The maps don’t do much for me because in order for them to be useful I’d need to blow them up larger, and they aren’t keyed anyway, so they can really just serve as inspiration for making my own maps or by hand or whatever. The fact that they managed to cram so much into a regular playing card is enough for me though, and I appreciate the effort, I just don’t know if I’ll get to use the maps. They even suggest using maps from other cards interchangeably, so they are playing fast and loose with them as it is.

There’s probably going to be some bit of prep time for the average GM that chooses to use these cards. I know that I’d probably take the time and flesh out the plots a bit and make them custom for my game, tie them in to my setting, etc, but some people may be content with a beer and pretzel “shuffle the cards” and lets see what comes up. For both those types of gamers, I think the product shines.

As far as Drivethru’s physical quality, I was really impressed. The cards are strong, not flimsy at all, rounded corners and have a gloss to them. They came packaged in a sturdy acrylic box with a removable lid, and I paid about $12 for the whole thing.


Overall, I think these Encounter Decks are a solid product from Inkwell Ideas. I appreciate having 54 adventures ready to go, and even if the maps are perhaps a bit too small for the cards to use as intended, there are workarounds and ways to use them effectively, so I feel comfortable recommending the product.

If you would like to support, perhaps you’d consider visiting for your next rpg related purchase. Check out the following products:

World of Greyhawk AD&D Boxed Set

Menzoberranzan AD&D Boxed Set

Conquest of Nerath: A D&D Boardgame

Legend of Drizzt: A D&D Boardgame