Lackluster adventures, or “Why I Hate the GSL.”

As I said last time, the game began in June of 2008 in earnest. I had players, though my core group would not materialize until much later, and we were meeting every Thursday, 6PM like clockwork.

Given the fact that we were all new at this, and that I didn’t have a hell of a lot of time to prepare (I work full time, after all), we were using the Wizards of the Coast published adventures.

I am going to speak frankly about them, and thus I apologise to anyone who worked on them who happen to read this blog, but, in my humble opinion… They suck.

In the beginning, it was just lack of story detail. And I suppose that’s more my fault than theirs, my fault for not reading them word for word before trying to run them. The problem is that I had been following the Paizo-headed Dungeon Magazine for over two years at this point, before Wizards and their noisome “Game System licence” took third-party support- the lifeblood of 3e- and shot it in the head. Under Paizo, however, Dungeon became a thing of beauty. Yes, the adventures tended to be fairly short, but they came packed with plot, story hooks, compelling characters and memorable encounters. In this case, less was indeed more.

Meanwhile, Wizards has already gone down on record as saying that they don’t want to bog down people with facts “nobody cares about.” You know, little details like PLOT, CHARACTER, and, oh, MEMORABLE ENCOUNTERS.  Oy.

But I wasn’t about to let that bog me down. Oh, no. While Keep on the Shadowfell was a wreck, Thunderspire Labyrinth and Pyramid of Shadows at least had interesting locales and cinematic encounters to their credit, even if the details were kind of sketchy.

Then we get to King of the Trollhuant Warrens and Demon Queen’s Enclave. I won’t get into details on those right now, but my group found them boring, disjoined and generally not fun. Worse, Demon Queen’s Enclave ended in the Shadowfell, and the next three adventures after it ALSO spent time there. I know they were building up to a final encounter with Orcus, but there were ways to do this that didn’t involve locking the players into a rather boring progression.

And this brings me to why I REALLY hate GSL: After some ten years of profiting from the Open Game licence, few companies were willing to subject themselves to the GSL, as that required one to never again make OGL-based products. Yes, you heard me: The GSL stated that one was allowed to sell off back stock on OGL products, but could never again print or produce such products. As such, very few have agreed to this, and who can blame them?

The problem is that this robbed the 4e DM of the options 3e DMs had: To buy adventures not made by Wizards.

Things improved greatly once I took things “off-rails” as I put it and started doing my own thing, vowing to never again use published adventures. And until things improve greatly, I intend to keep that vow. My players deserve better than being stuck in one plane for half their careers…


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