There are two types of modules

There are two types of modules…

A number of years ago I came across on online forum where they were discussing video game design. I was skimming through the comments when one line in particular caught my eye. I didn’t consider much of it at the time. But since then, I have found myself thinking back on it again and again. The line was this:

“There are two fundamental approaches to video game design – either the designer sets out to fill the player’s time or the designer sets out to waste the player’s time.”

Filling vs. Wasting

I used to work with this young guy (early 20’s) who still lived with his parents. He told me that on a typical day, after work, he would go home, and pretty much right away start playing video games. He would then usually play until after midnight. And then on weekends he would play even more. He literally played video games more than he worked. This was someone who was looking for video games to waste his time.

I, on the other hand, have all the demands of the real world to deal with. In a typical week I am sometimes lucky to have even an hour or two to set aside to play video games. My time is not only limited but very precious to me. Therefore, I hate it when a video game is obviously just trying to waste my precious time.

Quality vs. Quantity

One aspect of this is the old quality vs. quantity argument. Now I’m sure the majority of people would say quality is more important. But if you look at most video game reviews, first and foremost as a point of criticism is almost always the length of the game. “This game has over 100 hours of gameplay!” “I was disappointed this game was only 10 hours long!” Only of secondary consideration seems to be whether any of that content was actually interesting or fulfilling.

Pointless Busy Work

Some builders put in their modules meaningless FedEx quests and large, meandering areas that serve no purpose other than to keep their players busy. Consider this actual example I once encountered. The cook needs my 7th level paladin to fetch a cup of flour from the pantry. And the pantry, rather than being located right next to the kitchen, as logic would dictate, is inexplicably located on the opposite side of this palatial mansion and on a completely different floor. And the cook, while obviously knowing where the pantry is, never bothers to tell me that useful bit of information. So, my paladin is then forced to wander aimlessly around the building, searching from room to room, until - eventually – he finds the pantry. And the mansion, while supposedly someone’s home, is laid out in labyrinthian fashion. Making going from point A to point B both confusing and tedious.

The only way any of that makes the slightest bit of sense is if the module builder thinks the whole point of the game is to try and waste as much of the player’s time as possible.

Mindlessly Repetitive Combat

But by far the biggest offender when wasting players time is mindlessly repetitive combat. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played a module for an hour and a good 50 minutes of that consisted of nothing more than fighting the same few monsters over and over and over again.

This especially offends me as a module builder because I understand just how cheap, facile, and unimaginative it is. All one has to do is lay out a large, empty space and then put down the same monster encounter again and again – like a child with a rubber stamp.

Now that is not to say combat doesn’t have its place in a module. Because it definitely has. It just doesn’t need to be so repetitive.

I remember when NWN first came out. There were only available a few different area tile sets and a handful of monsters. So, every other module involved entering a cave and fighting a bunch of goblins.

But this one module I played was different. (I wish I could remember what it was to give credit where credit is due. But this was 20 years ago.) In one area a couple of goblins with crossbows ambushed you as you tried to cross a bridge; in another there was a worg trainer with his pet worg; in another there was a room filled with goblins – all weak but numerous; in another there was goblin champion – alone but powerful; in another cave was a goblin shaman spellcaster; and so on.

The module still involved entering a cave and fighting a bunch of goblins. But it was obvious that the designer had put thought, effort, and imagination into making each encounter individualistic and interesting.

Video Games vs. Pen and Paper

What complicates matters further is that NWN is an adaption of pen and paper Dungeon and Dragons in a video game format. So, it often can look and feel like a video game – to the extent that some designers set out to design their modules just like video games.

In standard video games it is normal for the player to be attacked by wave after wave of the same enemy. This has become so prevalent that it is now a long-established trope of video games, and everyone accepts it as normal. Part of the reason for this is that in the early days the system power and memory were very limited. So, a typical game could only have a handful of different enemies overall.

But another reason for this is most video games test a player’s hand-eye coordination along with their endurance. So, an effective tactic is to throw wave after wave of enemies at them to try and eventually wear them down.

By contrast, D&D is a game of statistics and probability. And if you can defeat one monster of a particular type – than in all likelihood you can defeat other monsters that are identical to it.

Video games are a physical activity - while pen & paper D&D is a mental one.

Trimming the Fat

Way back when, back when I was a teen, and first learning to play D&D, I read what advice I could find from experienced players. And one of the best bits of guidance I found about dungeon design is that if you can take something out, and doing so will have no effect at all, and no one will miss it – then it doesn’t belong. It is just fat that needs to be trimmed. And I have carried that philosophy over to my module design in NWN.

Whenever I create a module for NWN, I try to imagine acting as Dungeon Master, playing it as a pen and paper version with a player, sitting around the table.

The thing is – when I play someone else’s module - I tend to think of it the same way. And too many times I imagine the scenario would play out like this: “You throw open the door – and inside the room you find… a group of orcs completely identical to the groups of orcs you fought and defeated in the previous nine rooms!”

In Conclusion

The reason for this rant is that I’m constantly hearing that my modules are short. For me, they are just as long as they need to be – and no more. Of course, I could always pad out my modules to make them longer. Simple enough – just add in some meaningless side quests, some large areas for the players waste time crisscrossing back and forth, and, naturally, a whole bunch of repetitive encounters.

But as I would not want to play a module myself that sets out to waste my time – I would not build a module that waste others time.

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short modules are great! Sometimes all you have is an hour or two. Playing Hordes of the Underdark or Eye of the Beholder is a massive commitment of time. I love them both but I work six days a week every single week. There’s just not the time to spend on something like that other than in the dead of winter. A short module lets you get something done with a sense of accomplishment without feeling like you’ve taken critical time away from the obligations of real life. There’s no shortage of long modules but I think there is a shortage of shorter modules.
Just my two gold coins worth…

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I endorse most of your statements. Bad level design, stupid side quests and repetive encounters don’t make a good module. Having 300.000 words of dialogue (or more) to explain the background or 120 hours+ playtime (yes, this exists) is imo no indicator for quality, most commonly it’s the opposite.

But if the main story is too simple, if there are no unexpected twists, no things the player has to figure out, no exploring and interresting and helpful finds, no imersive details, no character development then the module is probably a bit too short.

One could say, that playing computer games is a waste of time in general. So if you offer a module, then you’ll waste the time of some players for sure. It’s just a question how you do it. Hopefully the player feels himself well entertained, after “wasting” his time with it

This is my very personal point of view. I’m fully aware, that there are players who love it to get 100xp and 10 gold for fetching a sack of flour. Or fighting the hordes of underdark with a level 1 character by luring them one by one out of the mob.

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I agree with what you are saying. Bad design is simply bad design.

But the criticism being offered by others is not that a module was underdeveloped or was lacking in interesting things to do or was too simplistic.

The criticism is that it is short.

It is all about length and nothing about content.

By the same token - I often see modules praised for nothing more than being long. I’ve played highly rated 20 hour long modules where a good 90% of it was just repetitive combat and pointless side quests.

Again, I think a great deal of this is how the design is approached. That “fetch a cup of flour” side quest stands out in my mind because it was obvious that the builder wasn’t trying to add anything of substance. His whole purpose was to occupy the player’s time with meaningless busy work - all to stretch out the length of the module as much as possible.

There is a pervasive mindset, both with builders and players, that puts emphasis on the length of module.

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I mostly agree with what you (and mmat) say, but there are two points that I think one could also view a bit differently:

  1. There might be more to fetch quests than them being an unimaginative attempt to waste a player’s time. An author could use them to either give you some time to ease into the game, get to know the setting, or to direct you to certain areas and encourage players to explore. In that case it’s less about the goal of getting what you were asked to get, but about the adventures and discoveries you make on the way. Of course, even the best intentions don’t automatically translate to good design. If the whole experience is just navigating a tedious labyrinth full of empty rooms and same-y encounters with no rhyme or reason, the journey is probably not worth it.

I don’t know what those particular critics wrote exactly, but reading your quotation here makes me think that, on the contrary, it might actually have been indirect praise precisely for your content. Maybe they didn’t ask so much for a random module of specific length (quantity over quality), but just for more of the quality found in your modules? Maybe they were having so much fun with your style of design that they would have loved for it to continue a while longer and they were sad that it was over so quickly? I’d just take it as a compliment wherever possible and explain that module building takes time or that you felt you had told everything you wanted in this story but that there will be others.

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@hartunga

I know this is a NWN1 thread, but it’s about design and so I think this is worth sharing … I have also written a NWN1 module (very different from your standard type), but much of my design time is with NWN2 and the campaign I am writing there …

However, and here is my addition, too many games /modules also seem to lack “Player Agency” for an RPG, in my opinion. Maybe that is also what may be causing some angst … Anyway, rather than rewrite my entire blog post, you’re welcome to take a read of it here …

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  1. I can understand putting in some simple side quests to help add diversity and to give players more opportunities to earn experience and the like, I have no problem with that. But I don’t think the “Can you drop my laundry off?” kind of side quests add much of anything. :grinning:

I’m actually a lot more forgiving when it comes to poorly designed side quests. Because as a builder I know that even the simplest side quest involved a bit of effort and script work on the builder’s part.

Whereas repetitive combat encounters are just lazy and unimaginative. For a builder it is one of the easiest things to do. Give me a large, empty dungeon and I can have it filled with repetitive combat encounters in a matter of minutes.

  1. Sometimes by the context of a comment you can tell when a player said “short” what they really meant was “I enjoyed it so much I wished there was more.” But many times the word “short” is clearly intended as a critique.

And then you get comments where they say when they saw it was short they weren’t going to bother downloading it, but then they thought they’d try it anyway. There is an evident prejudice and aversion to short modules.

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By all means - as you said this thread is about design. And in that matter there is not much difference between NWN1 and NWN2.

In regards to “Player Agency” - one thing when I started building NWN modules was I had to learn that designing for NWN is quite different for pen and paper D&D. In pen and paper the DM plays alongside the players and there is a great deal of flexibility, innovation, and adjustment as the game proceeds.

However, with NWN the builder has to set everything up ahead of time. And then has to leave it as it before the player even touches it.

Just look at the commercial RPG’s that are out there. These are produced by a whole team of professionals who have dedicated years to it’s design. And even with those many times I am not given the choices I want or am forced to play sections of the game a particular way. Because these are all computer programs and have many limitations.

Player Agency in a program will always be a pale shadow of what it is in pen and paper.

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I come from a PnP background and I design my NWN modules along the same lines as my own PnP scenarios I write. In fact, I am even transferring some of my old scenarios into the campaign. Yes, it is extremely difficult to try to accommodate many possibilities, especially when you are only one builder, but with some careful attention (which I think this post is about), then I believe that “illusion of freedom”, (which even PnP is only really), can be achieved. In fact, that is what even life is about … and is why my own modules relate to Predestination … i.e. Freedom is something people think they have, but look hard enough … anyway, I digress. :wink:

Player Agency is achievable in a CRPG … if you give the player enough leeway to use tools that you allow them to have in your designed game. Much of the illusion is to design “systems” that do much of the work for the builder. (That blog post explained the main ones a designer should try to incorporate.) The more you have in place, the more the player has the sense of control … and that is the design element that makes a game enjoyable. If you stifle that illusion of control and freedom, then a game becomes stale and dreary along the lines you speak.

And such a design can be achieved in a game that runs for more hours, but it is more work than most are prepared (or have time) to put into a module. I first released The Scroll (module one) in 2016 … and I am still updating and ensuring it runs better with each release. I started writing it in 2008. That’s 8 years plus in the making! (Module 2 started alongside this back in 2018. So that’s been 4 years in the making already.) Sometimes it goes back a step (when I bodge something), but mostly it is moving forwards and is now capable of multi-module support - meaning that “freedom” I was speaking about allows players to continue their adventure … for more time … and in their way of playing with the gaming tools the campaign offers.

As an example of something becoming greater than its design for a well-designed module (as I see it), is my wife recently managed to develop a suit of armour using crafting skills (within the system I devised), but it was not something I had imagined likely … not impossible, but it took some forward planning and player agency to make use of the systems available to get there.

But, going back to your sentence, I believe that a CRPG can still “offer” more along the lines of what you imagine, as long as the designer is prepared to add depth to their design from the start. I am someone speaking from experience when playing PnP D&D and designing CRPGs with NWN. After all, I know (and recall) only too well the times I had to swing a story back on track if my players wondered too far off the designed track. i.e. PnP scenarios/modules are still designed within their own boundaries and limitations. Only the format differs, and yes, the player can talk to a DM for more off track info in a PnP game. But, even things like that can be considered in an CRPG, in the form of additional conversations and possible books to be found.

Basically, I design NWN modules in the same way I do PnP ones. I have a story concept, I consider what I would be attracted to as a player and then design the module around those key features - gradually filling out content as required … and players give feedback. i.e. If someone asks for something, I try to accommodate it in a later release, just as if I was “improving a PnP scenario on the fly”.

Bottom line, a DM helps a player achieve what they need from a PnP game … a well designed module will have the tools in place that offer very close to the same. The only real difference is a poorly designed module may appear to show its boundaries more easily than a PnP one where the DM bluffs and smudges the scenario’s boundaries instead.

If you have NWN2 and fancy a look at my module, to check out its design, please do. Maybe I can check out some of your NWN1 modules too. I also have a NWN1 module, called Soul Shaker, which won a Golden Award, but due to its very unusual design (set in a demi-plane), it has acquired tastes … but it was a homage to System Shock 2 … so if you like that game, it may have some appeal. NB: It does not run on the newer EE version of the game and so you would need the original disks with DLCs (or Diamond version).

Anyway, interesting to discuss such things from time to time. :slight_smile:

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I don’t think I have that much to add to this discussion other than I agree with you that a module filled with repetitive hack and slash can really get boring fast. I remember (don’t know which one) a module for NWN1 where there were 5 levels of dungeons to get through. I remember being completely drained once I had completed the 5th level. I wished all the time that “Oh, now we’re on level 3 down here, now this must surely the last one”.

I think it’s extremely hard to design interesting quests and modules in general, but after creating 4 modules for NWN2 (that very few play), I have discovered I really just do this for my own sake, because I enjoy it. When it comes to CRPG everyone’s taste is different. Some find leveling up, looting and crafting and maximizing your character and tactical combat is what is fun. Some find lore, advanced new systems and lots to read and get into, is fun. For me, I prefer dialogue, character, mystery, mood and story. Most of the other stuff is just fluff for me.

I agree that a module shouldn’t be long just for the sake of it, but if it’s too short, IMHO, it can take away from the experience. Sometimes you need to immerse yourself. My modules have almost all been around 8 hours in length, and I think it’s a good average length, but that’s just me.

P.S. One of the newer games that I enjoyed, that comes to mind, that weren’t that long but was still very good, is The Forgotten City.

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Did you tell the story you had in mind? People who don’t care about the story will be just as happy to play Candy Crush as D&D. They really are just out to kill some time. If you end up with a story on the screen that follows the one you had in your head, the length is probably what it should be.

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I see. But those players obviously aren’t your target audience, so I’d say their criticism does not need to bother you. On the internet there will always be people who are so self-important that they feel the need to comment on everything, regardless of whether there is a point to doing so or not. They might just as well have written “you made a module for NWN, but I don’t like NWN! why don’t you make something for Minecraft instead?”, as if anyone would force them to even look at your page. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I used to play a game called Fight The Dragon, basically a very simple Zelda-style action RPG with gameplay that gets repetitive very quickly, and a loot and level up system that feels kind of pointless in the long run, but the game comes with a level editor and allows players to create their own maps, and some authors have done really creative things with it, maps that stand out due to their storytelling, humour and puzzles. I played a lot of these maps, not because I enjoyed the basic gameplay so much, but because these authors managed to make the game fun despite the repetitive gameplay. And yet, apparently there were lots of players who only wanted featureless maps full of enemies and without story or puzzles, just to farm xp, which seems like an awfully drab way to spend your time. Some would also complain about creative maps because all the storytelling distracted them from their monotonous grinding and didn’t give enough xp (aka random numbers with hardly any meaning to them). I guess the players who complain about short modules probably also care more about leveling up their characters than what stories you have tell. I fear you won’t ever convince such players of appreciating your work, so it’s probably best to just ignore them when they feel the need complain.

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The criticism is that it is short.

I need to apologize, that my critique was “too short”. Sidequest are not useless and a waste of time in all cases. They could be part of the character development and give some interesting diversion.

A too simplistic main story can lead to the impression, that the module is too short. Such things as presenting the location of the bad guy on a silver platter. Or giving no reason why all this happens.

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First of all, thank you for sparking this debate. There are too few design discussions on the vault, and I think we ought to have more of them.

In regards to your central thesis, I don’t object. Some people play games to waste time and cure boredom, others carefully set aside their time to play specific games for their aesthetic or entertainment qualities, perhaps even to appreciate them as works of art. It’s the same with films and books, too.

But I think you might be missing the real point of some of the criticism that your latest module has received. In essence, I think you may have your observations reversed! The longer module can absolutely feel shorter than the short module.

Allow to me illustrate by way of comparison:

Your old module Dweller in the Darkness is a true “short module”. It consists of 11 fairly small areas and has about 7000 words of dialogue. It also possesses many of the literary characteristics of a short story, with a small cast of characters and a limited scope in terms of space and time. Few people would thus criticise it for being short, since it’s obviously intended to be. It’s just short, but there’s nothing wrong with it. It has a singular and focused arc of rising tension and climax.

The Black Death, in contrast, has a much grander scope in terms of characters, time and space. It has about 45 areas and a much larger cast of characters. However, there are only about 6000 words of dialogue. This makes it feel much more compressed in terms of storytelling, even if it is objectively longer in terms of playing time. There is something of an incongruity here between the module’s scope and its actual length. The scenes are a bit like episodes, but they are not as fleshed out as that singular episode which the entirety of Dweller in the Darkness is devoted to portraying by approximately the same word count.

Here’s a somewhat apropos excerpt from Edgar Allan Poe’s Philosophy of Composition, which should be required reading for anyone and obviously not limited to the topic of poetry:

If any literary work is too long to be read at one sitting, we must be content to dispense with the immensely important effect derivable from unity of impression- for, if two sittings be required, the affairs of the world interfere, and everything like totality is at once destroyed. But since, ceteris paribus, no poet can afford to dispense with anything that may advance his design, it but remains to be seen whether there is, in extent, any advantage to counterbalance the loss of unity which attends it. Here I say no, at once. What we term a long poem is, in fact, merely a succession of brief ones- that is to say, of brief poetical effects.

The Black Death appears to me to be something like Poe’s “long poem” masquerading as a “short poem”. It very much consists of a succession of brief poetic effects, a series of vignettes or sketched episodes that have their own little arcs of tension and release, like a full-fledged module series in bonsai miniature. And these scenes do not necessarily all contribute towards the overall climax in the way that I think Poe would emphasize for a short poem, that is trying to achieve what he termed the “unity of effect”. This “unity of effect” is more readily achieved in Dweller in the Darkness, that work being so much more unapologetic about being a short module with a limited story.

Now, I enjoy both these styles! I prefer shorter modules in general, preferably less than two hours long (about feature film length). But the composition of The Black Death is certainly more experimental in terms of how shorter story modules are usually made. It’s more compressed, terse and economical in detail, lending it a sort of sketched, impressionistic aesthetic. That’s a very neat set of techniques that I know you’ve been honing over many years making these now, and I find the effect very enjoyable. But it’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea, and the perceived friction between scope and length could reasonably be expected to garner it some criticism for brevity, like a graphic novel reviewed by someone who’s only ever read 200,000-word novels. That would understandibly feel like a very brief read in comparison to the narrative scope.

My two copper pieces.

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@ Aspirinsmurf

Interesting and insightful. Thanks!

Thank you for your comments. They show intelligence, insight, and depth. Unfortunately too many people - and the ones this thread was about - are dedicated to the simple notion that short is bad and long is good.

The critique that a module was short wasn’t only applied to my latest work, “The Black Death,” but to every single module I’ve ever made. And not once or twice, but repeatedly. And after a certain point you get fed up with it.

The mindset of a quality of a thing is dependent on it’s length is something I not only encounter with my modules, but with others as well. In fact it is a mentality that pervades the entire video game industry.

Consider the other end of the spectrum - the long module. The builder prominently proclaims in the description “20 hours of gameplay!” In the comments section, I read a number of reactions from players such as “20 hours long! I had a great time! 10 stars!” So I download and play it. Then I quit after just 1 hour. Because of that 60 minutes only about 10 minutes of it had any substance. The other 50 minutes consisted of wandering around a vast, sprawling forest and fighting the exact same wolves, badgers, and boars over and over and over again.

It becomes evident that this is what should be a 2 hour long module that has been stretched out to 20 hours by simply dumping in a whole bunch of repetitive combat encounters.

What is disheartening is that a number of people - both builders and players - embrace that approach.

Granted, there are certain players who all they want to do is fight monsters - so they can get treasure and experience - so they can level up - so they can fight more monsters - so they can get more treasure and more experience - ad nauseum. But one would hope that sort of shallowness would be rare.

On a side note - you brought up “Dweller in the Darkness” as a “true short module.” But you have to realize that this was when I was just getting started creating modules. So there was a great deal of experimentation. I was testing out different approaches to see what worked and trying to find my “voice.” As a consequence I was producing a lot of bite sized modules. “Dweller in the Darkness” was tightly focused because it was limited in scope. But the same could be said of my other modules at the time.

What happened with “Dweller in the Darkness” is that I began to realize a few different aspects about making modules for NWN.

One, I had a knack for horror.

Two, building for NWN was very different from DMing for pen and paper D&D. Pen and paper D&D was where you were always participating and adjusting as you went along. It was an organic experience. But with NWN you had to design every single aspect of the module beforehand. Also, the rules of D&D were created for team play. But NWN (at least back then) could only be played solo. Therefore the whole approach had to be different.

Third, and most importantly, I began to think of the toolset in a new way. When I first started, I used to view the toolset only in terms of its models. For example, in a tower a troll guards a +1 sword. “Dweller in the Darkness” is when I first thought of the toolset of what it didn’t have and that I needed to bring to it myself. These consisted of elements like atmosphere, dialogue, characterization, and narrative.

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But this is true of every artistic endeavor! No commercial author today can survive by writing exclusively short stories or poetry. They’re all novelists now. A film director who’s only ever directed short films isn’t considered a real director. A band without an album can’t possibly be a real band. A composer who’s never written a symphony or opera isn’t more than an amateur or a dilettante. This attitude is pervasive across all media. Even films have become much longer now, and some people dismiss even the feature film as somehow inferior to film and TV series. It’s the zeitgeist.

Now, I like reading poetry and I enjoy reading short stories (can’t stand most short films though, but they’re more like micro-fiction anyway). And I prefer shorter NWN modules. But I’m obviously part of a niche audience, and it consists of people who are obviously looking for something that’s different from the mainstream taste. Moreover, I think we should have the humility to recognize that making NWN modules is a niche market for a niche audience too – in fact, I think module authors should embrace being amateurs as well, and this should encourage them to fearlessly experiment in form, style and length. After all, a NWN module made by some unpaid enthusiast can never rival a game made by a large team of paid professionals. It’s outsider art. But that won’t stop the majority of people playing NWN from having preconceived notions about what a computer RPG should be.

As for PnP RPGs, I think that’s actually one of the few artistic areas where shorter works can thrive to a greater extent than in many other media. Stuff like convention one-shots and the Adventurer’s League thrive on shorter, more focused works. But that won’t stop most players from preferring longer campaigns, at least in a game like D&D. And this acceptance of the short format in RPGs is mostly due to the fact that these works are written for DMs to interpret and not for the players’ own enjoyment in and by themselves. If that were the case, we’d be seeing novel-length splatbooks full of questionable design decisions instead, of which there are also plenty.

As an interesting observation, I think horror is the one genre that can really benefit from being short and focused. So it’s no surprise that a knack for horror and a preference for shorter works goes hand in hand. Just look at famous short story writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Clark Ashton Smith or H.P. Lovecraft. These are some of the few authors who are at least somewhat famous without having ever written a novel. And they all wrote horror stories. But they weren’t really all that famous in their own time, with the notable exception of Poe, who everyone knew of because he had a single poem that essentially went viral, like a 19th century Gangnam Style.

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@hartunga

I hear what you say about “lack of substance” in a game. Too many games (for me) do appear to lack “gameplay” or " substance" when being offered as an RPG. And I am not just talking about “mods”, but even some AAA games.

However, I note this comment about one of your own mods …

NB: I have not yet played this mod, and neither do I suggest quantity affects quality … However, if 6000 words is the total amount of dialogue in this module, then I would consider it a “small mod” … not necessarily meant in a detrimental way, but in what you may be considering “substance”.

Let me try to explain that … and it has to do with this statement you make again … emphasis mine.

Your 6000 words for a module (irrespective of the number of areas) may well be considered “brief” for this reason … It would suggest a potential lack of choices or alternative responses. Now, I immediately want to add this is NOT a criticism, but a point of note with respect to what you say people have commented about your module, and, in turn, about what you consider “substance”.

I can only give you a comparison with some of my own building … In one main conversation alone, it has 11588 words according to its word count. That is almost double your entire module word count in one conversation … and here is the point > It is large due to its diversity of conversation options and different potential outcomes for a player and their PCs. In other words, to help give the “impression” of a fully rounded NPC, it required a lot of words to cover potential interests of all players. NB: I deliberately use the plural “players”, because the module has also been written to cater for MP coop.

In other words, to reiterate the point I was trying to put across in a previous post, much of the work one puts into a module to give it its “depth of play” may not even be seen by the player, especially on a first play through. An example from my own module … In the majority of instances, a player will speak with this NPC (with 11588 words) about a quest, and be given keys and quest as many may consider the “normal path”. For most builders, this is where their commitment (normally due to time constraints) ends. However, (coming from a PnP background), I also considered what would happen if a player chose to approach this quest from a different way … Have a PC with picklock get in from another way. Now, this same NPC has to respond completely different to how they first reacted to the PC when encountered.

Now, not only do we have depth of gameplay, but also depth of character interaction. But, to cement this, I also had to consider other aspects for this particular NPC, such as PC alignment, character options, other knowledge of the PC since last speaking, etc. So what may at first appear to be only a simple conversation has now turned into a living and breathing NPC with depth of its own within the total module.

Well, again, I appreciate it takes much more time and effort to write for a coop game, but both NWN1 and NWN2 do supply the tools we need to accommodate such. However, once again, coding for such requires more time. However, I am not speaking about tasks where one PC/Player does one thing while another does something else. That kind of “team play”, while easy enough to include in a module, does not appeal to me as a builder. On the other hand, the shared experience where different player’s PCs bring their own skills to play in a coop game is what I am after, and hopefully, achieved. As another example … introducing different gameplay styles to accommodate the different player preferences needs to be considered. I mention this too because adding such differences adds “depth” to a module again, and “depth” is what adds “substance” and “substance” is what makes a game feel “longer” without feeling tiresome … one hopes.

Some stats to show campaign words to date (modules one and two) … NB: Module two is not yet complete.

image

To emphasise, the large word count is to demonstrate depth of choices available, as I am the first to admit that quantity does not equate to quality.

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Comparing dialogue word counts between different authors somewhat misses the point though. Hartunga’s modules characteristically tend to eschew branching dialogue options in favor of drama and pacing, so it’s a workable metric for length when considering his works specifically.

A module like Science Macabre has a word count of more than 20,000, yet it’s substantially shorter than any of the ones we’ve discussed previously. I think I finished it in less than 20 minutes. It has girth, but there’s no length.

I suppose there is an argument to be made that a having a great deal of branching dialogue could provide the player with more decision points and thus gameplay (as in having interesting choices to spend their time pondering over), but that’s not necessarily the case. Those decisions could very well be trivial and done in an instant.

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@Aspirinsmurf

That’s not the point I am making … :slight_smile:

The original poster was discussing “shortness” comments on his modules. The word “short” does not always equate to “small” for some people. As you point out yourself, differing modules with the same number of words can “feel” different in length.

My point was to illustrate that “depth” (which can be interpreted as length) can be achieved by offering more conversation options that support actual gameplay. As I say above, the actual number of words alone do not demonstrate this, BUT, and here is the point I was trying to make … To achieve that kind of depth that players may perceive is missing, I believe you need a larger word count that supports the adaptive play, which in turn is the main thrust of this discussion.

Let me put this another way … If you have a module with a more linear approach, the number of words required to support such style of gameplay can be reduced because you no longer need to support different approaches by different styles of play. Limitations on gameplay can also make a game feel shorter.

Therefore, a low word count tends to suggest such an adaptive style of play may not be quite as “deep” as one that has a larger word count … BUT that is not (as you allude to) always the case. I shared the word count to illustrate that to accommodate such style of deeper play, you cannot, in my own experiences and expectations, avoid a larger word count.

This appears to be a “short” module in its truest sense. Without playing it I cannot comment to any great extent. However, its “stats” and “info page” suggest that it is a brief experience, even if it may have allowed for variety of choices.

I suppose our goal, as builders, is to hit that sweet spot of being able to deliver both a degree of quantity and quality, but with a depth of gameplay to support it.

I believe we can probably fail to deliver on either of these two points (depth or length), which can make a player feel a game is “short”.

Furthermore, the aspect which is lacking for a given player may well determine when they consider something is “short” or not, simply due to the way they approach and play a game.