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Advice on how you can write great adventures - from the company that has published more than 200 top-notch adventures!
3,247 backers pledged $125,456 to help bring this project to life.

Next stretch goal cleared! Add-on items! And Merle Rasmussen's Favorite Adventures!

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Hi everyone,

Welcome to the 300+ new backers in the last day! For the new folks, here's a reminder on our add-ons. And then we'll check out the next installment in our "Favorite Adventures" series!

Add-On Items

You can add items to your pledge to help us clear stretch goals. All add-ons are Print+PDF. Anything you add on gets shipped to you (of course) and also counts toward stretch goals.

The add-on items are not our entire library of titles. You can find everything we offer at our web site. Here we have selected a subset that are specifically related to the themes of this Kickstarter (including some titles that several backers have requested).

Shipping cost. For US add-on orders, please add a flat shipping charge of +$5. For International add-on orders, please add a flat shipping charge of +$10 (Canada) or +$20 (everywhere else).

How do I add on something? Simply increase your pledge "dollars" by the amount of what you want to add. At the end of the Kickstarter we will send out a BackerKit survey. In that survey you can designate what the funds are for.

And now on to the fun stuff!

"Favorite Adventure" Essays

Over the past several weeks, we have published a lot of essays about "favorite adventures." The contributors to this project are all great adventure designers who have in turn been inspired by the adventures that came before them. As one of the features of this Kickstarter, we asked them to describe their favorite adventure modules, and what they've learned from them. So far, the designers of How to Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck have contributed their thoughts on all of these adventures:

Today we continue this series with Merle Rasmussen's favorite adventures!

My Favorite Adventures

By Merle M. Rasmussen

The first D&D® adventure I remember playing must have been home grown. A longtime friend, James Thompson, invited me to play with a group of gamers who were members of the SCA (Society of Creative Anachronism). We met in the basement of the YMCA on the Iowa State University campus. I remember that my character, Elrem, was assigned to lead the expedition’s pack mules through the dungeon. (When was the last time you took pack mules on a dungeon crawl?) Bored with this mundane task, Elrem decided to look inside the packs. He was immediately threatened with severe bodily harm by several members of the expedition who did not want Elrem snooping. Elrem never did find out what was inside the packs. He resumed his lowly job of pulling the mules forward as the rest of the party fought skeletons and mummies. Since it was October 1975, I thought it was a Halloween game.

Lesson #1: Be more inclusive. To encourage new players, include them in the action. Otherwise they may become bored, create a new role-playing game genre, and leave your name out of future publications.

The first module I remember receiving by mail was Dungeon Module G1: Steading of the Hill Giant Chief by Gary Gygax, first copyrighted in 1978 by TSR Games. TSR Games needed me to write a mission module to go in the box with the TOP SECRET® Espionage Role Playing Game Rules. It should be noted that G1 is the first of 3 modules for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons®. On the cover is a seal with the words, “Official D&D Tournament Module used at ORIGINS ’78.” It was sent to me as an example of how to write a module.

I remember G1 was covered by crisp, clear shrink wrap. The outside cover was printed in orange and black ink. The inside cover contained Upper Level and Dungeon Level maps printed in blue ink. The module was printed in black ink on 10 pages. Room 3 on the Upper Level is a Dormitory with 12 young giants. The text reads, “There is no treasure, but by wearing the young giants' garb, with suitable padding, the party could pass as the youngsters if not seen closer than 20’.”

Lesson #2: Do not give dubious advice. Having to kill 12 young giants that fight as ogres is difficult enough (perhaps even unethical). Trying to pass as a young giant (in blood stained clothing) inside the giants’ stronghold seems a highly implausible tactic. Will the disguise fool a wandering orc or a pet cave bear beyond 20’ away? Modules need to have both internal and external logic. The laws of nature apply unless there is a good reason they do not.     

The first module I remember studying intently was Dungeon Module B1: In Search of the Unknown by Mike Carr, first copyrighted in 1979 by TSR Hobbies, Inc. It is for use with D&D® Basic Rules and an Introductory Module for Character Levels 1-3. On the Upper Level is a Room of Pools. Each of the 14 pools appears differently. They include a Pool of Healing, Acid Pool, Pool of Sickness, Green Slime Pool, Drinking Pool, Pool of Wine, etc. I suddenly realized that the only way a player could determine what was in each pool was to test it! The Room of Pools was attractive and dangerous at the same time!

Lesson #3: Not every treasure is guarded by a trap. Greed and curiosity can be as harmful as encountering a monster. Of the 56 rooms in this dungeon, I only remember this fascinating Room of Pools 38 years later.

Dungeon Module B1: In Search of the Unknown was a watershed adventure for me. I borrowed heavily from it when writing mission module OPERATION: SPRECHENHALTESTELLE for the TOP SECRET® Espionage Role Playing Game. This special instructional module was first copyrighted in 1980 by TSR Games. The introductory setting is ideal for learning TOP SECRET® and can be played again and again.

Lesson #4: Keep titles short and simple. Although memorable for its length and difficulty in pronouncing, OPERATION: SPRECHENHALTESTELLE should have been shortened to OPERATION: PISCES.

OPERATION: SPRECHENHALTESTELLE has three maps: Above Street Level, Street Level, and Below Street Level. The four-page Agent File 001 contains a Player’s Background Sheet, Players’ List of Potential Characters, Tips for Players, and sketchy Sprechenhaltestelle Agent’s Map. The 28-page Administrator File 001 contains “Human Target” instead of “Monster” and “Object Target” instead of “Treasure & Location.” There is a Human Target List and an Object Target List with which the Environment can be keyed. There is also an extensive Personal Language Knowledge and Usage Chart. Each NPC (non-player character) can speak 4 languages at varying proficiencies. Many NPCs communicate with other NPCs by various methods. Most NPCs know some secret Code Phrase.

Lesson #5: Dead men tell no tales. You might want to suggest to paranoid players to not attack everything that moves. Players should be informed if a communications web exists among NPCs. Players need to be informed if NPCs might carry secret information that can help player characters (PCs) with their adventure.

I was not impressed by fantasy, but I was inspired by roleplaying. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® led directly to the development of TOP SECRET®. A couple of years after TOP SECRET® was published, TSR hired me as a game designer. As the newest designer, I was primarily assigned to write D&D® modules.

Lesson #6: Players want detail and maybe even want to learn something useful. To add to verisimilitude, I lace my adventures with technical jargon plus weapons and gadgets that could really work. When writing TOP SECRET®, I spent a lot of time at the ISU Library. Nowadays, I use the internet extensively.

Although I am known for writing fantasy and espionage, I did write three adventures for GDW’s PARANOIA® SCIENCE-FANTASY ROLE PLAYING GAME. I hope to soon be published in science fiction and the old west genre. Please watch for them!

Merle M. Rasmussen’s TOP SECRET® Espionage Role Playing Gamewith Mission Module Operation: Sprechenhaltestelle (TS001) was published in February 1980. Next came Ace of Clubs (TS006), Quagmire! (X6), Lathan’s Gold (XSOLO), Ghost of Lion Castle (BSOLO), Midnight on Dagger Alley (MV1), The Savage Coast (X9) with Jackie Rasmussen and Anne C. Gray, and “Tortles of the Purple Sage—Parts 1 & 2” with Jackie Rasmussen, TOP SECRET® Espionage Game Companion, and The G4 File: Guns, Gadgets, and Getaway Gear with Jackie Rasmussen. NUTZ & VOLTZ! A Robotic Science-Fantasy Role-Playing Game by Merle and Jackie Rasmussen appeared in WHITE WOLF Magazine Issue #10 in 1988. Additional role playing modules appeared in The Dragon®, Dungeon®, and Challenge® magazines. 

Jim McLaughlin, Rompcat, and 20 more people like this update.

Comments

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    1. John Warren on

      B1 was my first experience as a D&D player and it made a huge impression on me. Looking back now, the map of the upper level makes virtually no sense, but it's great fun.

      The pool room was brilliant, and I have re-used it many, many times in various forms over the last 35 years.

      The other thing that I will never forget is that one of the first thing adventurers find when they enter Quasqueton is a couple of dead bodies. It's a simple touch, but it adds a huge amount of verisimilitude to the adventure. Someone else has been here! Something killed them! It definitely added to the suspense of exploring the place.

    2. Colm Doyle
      Superbacker
      on

      Great news!

    3. Jay Watson
      Superbacker
      on

      SPRECHENHALTESTELLE was a great adventure. I miss playing TOP SECRET and I drag the rules out every so often to reminisce. Some great advice there from M.R. :)