Saturday, July 31, 2021

I Made a Module: The Robo-Yakuza of Hammer Street!

Before this post begins: if you're a Swede who runs Firefox on a Mac... leave a comment please? You know who you are.

I was halfway through reviewing and editing part 2 of Oni Mother Okawa when I became altogether disillusioned with the project. I wondered if 5e shovelware adventures were worth the effort. I wondered if the whole genre of linear one-shots should simply be cast into the pit. 

I reconsidered, and found that it was a little too harsh. For sure, the quality loss from pumping out one-shots at top speed is unavoidable, but linearity does not a bad adventure make on its own, especially for a beer-and-pretzels one-shot. Those modules have a place in the RPG marketplace, and while it's not a high and glorious place, like those occupied by bespoke RPG books like Patrick Stuart's Veins of the Earth, or by impressively terse and functional books like Melan's Castle Xyntillan, it's still a place of value.

Goodness knows that they can provide inspiration, and when you've got a weekly game coming up and don't have anything prepped, a good one-shot can be heaven sent.

But it's undeniable that the market is flooded with products of poor quality. Some are bad because they were made on a minimal schedule. Others just had minimal effort put into them. Some are by designers who could make good stuff with extra time, while others are by designers who've fallen into design cargo cults (as Melan pointed out here) who lack basic understanding of design structures or what GMs need at the table. Yet others aren't written for use at the table at all, but rather as fiction, for GMs to fantasize about running the game. 

This flood does call into question what a good one-shot of this sort would look like. A linear, combat-focused, altogether unsophisticated one-and-done adventure. It'd have to be concise, easy to use at the table. It would use read-aloud and boxed text, but intelligently and in moderation. It would be evocative. 

I resolved to write such an adventure, to demonstrate that higher standards should be held for the genre and to show that I'm not just a blowhard critic.

So I did.

An unrelated pulp cover for the thumbnail
Looks awesome though

I took my notes for a pulpy, combat-focused one-shot I ran months ago, and in the course of a few days turned it into a 3 page module. You can download it here

Is it publishable? No. At least, not to my standards. The formatting is amateurish and done with a free website, and I definitely missed a typo somewhere. I've only playtested it once. There's no artwork, and the statblocks are in plaintext. 

I'm looking to fix all of those, get some more eyes on it, some art, more playtesting, and eventually publish it. But even without any of that, I'd confidently place this draft against most published modules in the same genre. 

It knows what it is — linear pulp schlock — and seeks to excel as that. It is



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  1. The Swedes on Firefox are going crazy... I too would like to know who they are

    1. So it's not just me! That's a weird sort of relief.

    2. Shuttered Room also noticed this when looking at site traffic. For a moment we both joked that it was researchers at Fria Liga looking for ideas to steal from the OSR blogosphere... but really we have no idea. I think something like 55% of site traffic to my blog came from Swedish-Mac-Firefox users last month, a demographic that was not really represented in the past.

      It's disappointing because for a short time I thought I was genuinely reaching a new audience!

  2. What site did you use to make the file?

    1. Homebrewery. It's a bit finicky and I haven't figured out what makes some of the text boxes go all wonky, but it's better than WinWord.