Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Adventure Template Library?

So I was over at EnWorld (hey, it was the wee hours of the morning, cut me some slack), and there was a thread bemoaning how 5e was doomed because  not enough gamers were going to abandon their current systems of choice to pay WotC's bills.  I suggested that perhaps Wizards should focus instead on producing quality modules in pdf format with variants for each of several 'supported' editions (like what Troll Lord does with their Hex Crawl Chronicles, or Dwimmermount being aimed at both LL and ACKS).  This idea did not gain much traction, and in any case Wizards is committed at this point.

But it did get me thinking - if Wizards won't do it, maybe we as a community should.  But I don't mean 'we the OSR community'; I mean 'we the tabletop FRPG community.'  We have many free, excellent, community-driven systems, but relatively few free, community-created adventures of quality.  I propose therefore the creation of a cross-edition open-source adventure-template library, comparable in purpose and workflow to sourceforge.  Someone (or several someones) creates an adventure for their game and decide to upload it.  They strip out edition-specific elements, creating a 'template' of maps, NPC personalities, room descriptions, and other invariants, and throw that into the web licensed such that it can be fully modified with attribution.  Other users go "Man, that's a nice backbone for an adventure" and fill in the edition-specific gaps, then upload their modifications.

Is it a silly idea?  Maybe; transcribing adventures is a pain in the ass, and maybe the differences in assumptions between editions make such a 'universal template' nearly impossible.  Perhaps the DMing community isn't big enough compared to the programming community to generate an open-source movement of volunteers in the same way.  But we as DMs already do most of the work writing descriptions and such (Alexis notwithstanding), and I can't help but feel that a fair few of us would like to show off that work (especially the parts the players never did find).  Maybe I'll start things off by templatizing Sandygates and the Bleak Academy and put my money where my mouth is.


  1. I'd like to see this idea get traction. It has a great deal of merit - and the idie/small game press would so well to help back and promote it.

    While there is a TON of stuff published for the various flavors of d20 the amount of adventures available for smaller titles is near 0. By supporting an open source, mechanics-neutral
    library of adventures less well known games might have a better chance of getting played, and thereby being afforded a better opportunity to grown on the merits of the gameplay rather than the development budget of the authors or publishers.

  2. I like this idea, particularly since I have a dozen bits of adventures sitting on my hard drive gathering cyberdust. If you can do some examples to show the sort of format you are thinking of I will gladly write them up and contribute.

    (BTW I was linked here from in case you're wondering)

  3. Hmm... thanks for the interest! I will work on converting a couple of mine.

  4. Did you have any thoughts on what format to use for whatever is in the library? If the idea is have people edit old contributions and upload revisions, you'd need to pick a widely-available document processor's format, and then you'd likely get into editor wars. PDF is widely readable but not editable.

    When I posted a question in about what format to use for some hypothetical game rules I was thinking of posting, several people including one with visual impairments said that HTML was the way to go.

  5. Yeah, this would be kind of cool! I'd use it.

  6. By the way, John, I was recently reminded of this. Did anything actually come of it? Or would it be okay if I took a run at it?


  7. Hey Keith,

    No, nothing came of it, but by all means go for it!