Let’s play Modules & Modrons!
Potentially one of the most exciting aspects of D&D Next’s development (for me, at least) is the concept of Modules adding new elements to the rules. Let’s take a moment to look at what that word means, both historically and for the next edition of the game.
In the context of Dungeons & Dragons, modules (like all the best ideas) are nothing new. Back around the time of AD&D, the word was synonymous with “Adventure”. You would buy the latest Forgotten Realms Module, for example. The Module would likely contain a plotline, map and monsters all contained within a loose cardboard screen which doubled as a (quite flimsy) GM screen while the game was played.
D&D Next Modules aren’t those. Not quite. Well, maybe they are. I’ll explain shortly.
Modules in D&D Next parlance refers to an extra set of optional rules you can bolt onto the game to enhance play. Again this is nothing new, and that’s a good thing. The AD&D Player’s Option books would, in D&D Next terms, contain many optional Modules, as would parts of the Classic D&D Gazetteers, and the various GM and Player’s Handbooks from Third & Fourth Edition. Optional rules have been a part of the D&D game since the game first existed.
D&D Next’s Modules go just a bit further than that. The stated goal of D&D Next is to create as simple a core set of rules as possible then give gamers the freedom to pick and choose the Modules which suit how they want to play the game. The core rules should be playable entirely in their own right (and our own playtest of what we’ve seen so far bear this out to be true), but most groups will doubtless want to customize the game and use Modules to put a bit more depth into the game.
It has already been said that the initial release of D&D Next (whatever it will be called) will contain the core rules and several key Modules that many groups could want to use right from the start. The Modules for using a battlemat and minis will be there in the box (or book, or holocube, or whatever) and I suspect so will a Module to customize how healing works, depending on whether the group want the game to be more or less gritty or realistic.
I love the idea of Modules, and have my own personal wishlist of Modules I want to see. Here. I’ll share it with you. I’m sure you can add to it as well.
- Mass combat
- Aerial combat
- Castle & Domain ownership
- PCs as Demigods and Avatars of Deities
- PCs as common men (0-level play)
- Freeform class creation
- Alternate magic systems
- Magic Item creation rules
- Alliances replacing Alignment
- Modules for real-world historical settings (Renaissance, Age of Chivalry, etc)
- Random dungeons
- Random creature creation (no, really)
I could go on, and probably will. All of these have been a part of D&D at one time or another, and D&D Next is an excellent opportunity to bring them back using Modular design as a framework that allows GMs and Players to make D&D truly the game they want to play.
Mine isn’t a big wishlist, but add everyone else’s list to it, and it becomes huge. It’s not something which Wizards of the Coast could (nor necessarily should, from a financial standpoint) try to complete on their own. I hope that D&D Next’s license allows fans and Third Parties to create and publish their own Modules. This will fill any niche gaps, and the advantage of the Modular concept is that it doesn’t matter if there are overlaps; just choose which Module works for you, and use that.
One tantalizing snippet is that WoTC are considering the possibility of publishing Modules packaged with an Adventure which puts the Modules to use. For example, the rules for Mass Combat would be released with an Adventure set during a time of war, or the rules for Castle Building include an Adventure where the PCs gain the rights to create their own Stronghold.
And we’re back where this post began, with Modules resembling something from the days of AD&D. These “Adventure Modules” would solve a few problems that D&D had in the past. They would hugely boost Adventure sales as the Modules would offer long-term re-use of the purchase, and the optional rules themselves would feature a fully fledged ready-to-use context so GMs don’t necessarily need to do much extra work to implement them in their game. It’s a win all round.
If Mike Mearls & co could find their way to creating a Birthright Adventure Module for D&D Next which features Domain Management, I will personally have their babies.
In summary, a Module is a new definition of an old role-playing term to describe a different old concept and they will be presented using the old definition to offer the new definition in as appealing a package as possible. I hope that’s perfectly clear.
Till next time!