Gygax On…Preparing Modules

First and foremost I’m a DM (or GM depending on the game I’m playing) and I spend rather a lot of time preparing adventures—both my own and those made by other companies. I am one of these D/GMs that likes to be very prepared.

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)
By William McAusland (Outland Arts)




I know what the weather will be like during the adventure, I’ve got all the stat blocks printed out, I’ve got detailed random encounters just in case I need them and so on.

But that’s all supplementary material. It also takes a long time to actually prepare the module and sometimes bits of it (normally, the backstory) don’t jive with my overall campaign. After all, my campaign is a personal thing that is different to every other DM’s campaign in a myriad of ways. What am I to do?

So what did Gary say?

“Become familiar with this module, then make whatever additions or changes you feel are necessary for your (emphasis Gary’s) campaign.”

The Keep on the Borderlands (page 3), Gary Gygax

I think that this is one of the shortest of Gary’s quotes I’ve featured, but it’s one of my favourites. Even from the very beginning of the hobby the creators acknowledge the individual DM knows his campaign and players best. That statement is incredibly empowering and more importantly it gives the fledgling DM “permission” to modifying official modules by tweaking and changing things as he sees fit. I love the fact this hobby expects me as a DM to do just that so that I make my campaign is unique and not some clone of the official game.

Related Articles

Do You Mod Mods?

Do you see what I did there?

Do you modify the published adventures appearing in your campaign or do you run them pretty much as written? Let me know, in the comments below.

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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

11 thoughts on “Gygax On…Preparing Modules”

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Gregory. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks also for the link–it was an interesting read! Ideally, I’d be more like you and design more of my own campaign from scratch. Sadly, I’ve found that in recent years I just can’t devote the time to it I’d need to to do it “properly.” (I’m the kind of chap who likes to be jolly organised and prepared).

  1. I sometimes refer to this as “cutting mods up for parts”. I like to take pieces of modules, such as maps, boss-NPCs, or organizations, and combine them with other mods that have similar elements.

    About 10 years ago, a friend offered to sell me his collection of Dungeon magazines. I spent the best part of a summer (really, the best summer) reading the mags, and picking which ones I wanted to use, or thought I could bend to fit to my campaign world.

  2. I modify constantly, especially when converting 2e modules to fifth (which is what I bin doing lately). Some of the old planescape modules necessitate DM participation as huge chunks of the setting, character motives, and so forth, are left entirely vague or entirely absent.

  3. You are the man, Creighton. It’s nice to hear folks talk about the same things I do. I think I’m about half and half when it comes to mods and original material. Lately, ai’ve been spending more time modding. But that is fun because you can relive favoruite adventures with a new skin on it, or try new ones with your own flavour added.

    As a DM I am always looking to grow. At the end of each session I ask my players what they liked, what they thought I could do better, and I catalogue that for future games. It helps me find out if there were pacing (or other) issues during play. I’d be interested to hear what your thoughts are on improving your game, if you don’t have an article already.

    1. I’ll think about that very topic Justin. Certainly I’ve touched on it before, but I don’t think I’ve devoted an entire article for how to improve your game. Interesting subject–thank you–and one all GMs could benefit from!

  4. I have been running old classic modules, and have needed to change very little. Sometimes it gets a big laugh to just blame Gygax or Cook for the muderously hard trap or monster. We all have a good laugh…they use up all the expendable healing they have. The players are poor, again, and its time to go into some dark and dangerous place to earn some gold. Like a steading full of drunken hill giants.

  5. I always modify a pre-written module to make it suit the game.
    Including modifying the supplied maps!

    Some bizarrely placed secret doors have been removed or just moved to make the flow more believable and usable.

  6. I’ve rewrote mods for time changes, relationships of the locals, typical pets, aspirations of the children- time related and most importantly based more on historical town layouts . Further, after a party has gone through, it changes further, new residents, …monsters or people.

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