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On the Idea of Adventure Recycling

Many years ago, I went to visit some friends of mine that were having a get together.  We knew each other mainly through online forums and the like, and this was a great chance to hang out and game.  The guy that was hosting the lot of us had pulled out an old adventure module that he wanted to run, and we made up characters accordingly.

What made it interesting was that he’d pulled the module from an entirely different game system and was running it in a system that all of us knew and loved.  Had he not had the module in front of him, it would have been hard to know that there was any conflict.  It was a good adventure, with an intriguing plot, and we had a lot of fun playing through it.

Looking over the release schedule for 5th Edition D&D and noting the run-up advertising on Wizards of the Coast’s online PDF store where they intend to make all of the old material available digitally, I’m generally struck by two things.  First, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of real innovation for this new edition (but I’ve already covered that ground), and they’re grasping at the straws of All That Which Has Gone Before to keep their corner of the industry afloat.  No one really looks back on the various adventures or supplements from 4th Edition (or 3rd Edition, for that matter) that were produced by Wizards with any real nostalgia, and all the great material seems to date from the Gygax Era primarily, with some affection attached to the settings brought out in 2nd Edition.

Secondly, I’m given to think that the availability of these modules from back in the day will probably be a good thing, though not in the way that Wizards would intend.  Personally, I’d love to have good quality electronic copies of these modules, so I could convert them over to Pathfinder.  I mean, I’ve already made the effort to run a bunch of 3rd Edition adventures in Pathfinder, so it’s not any stretch to convert over earlier stuff.  Most of the monsters in the early books have made the subsequent transitions into modern age equivalents, so that’s not any real problem.  The main focus of a lot of these adventures tends to be plot or architecture rather than stat blocks anyway, so for my purposes, the conversion isn’t the crucial part so much as the narrative.

The same sort of logic can be applied to most games and modules.  I’ve spent years running old Top Secret modules as Torg based espionage adventures, and that’s proven to be wildly successful.  It means much less preparation on my part, and my players can be often counted on to have never seen Top Secret in the first place, let alone be familiar with the text of the adventures.  It works on a number of levels, and the quality of these now-ancient books is high enough that they’re still really fun.  And the previously mentioned get together had us playing a Star Frontiers module with D6 Star Wars rules and characters.

Another forum that I’ve browsed has debated working on an up-conversion  of old WEG-era Star Wars modules and boxed sets to use with Fantasy Flight’s Edge of the Empire game.  There doesn’t seem to be much forward motion on these fan conversions, but then again, EotE is only about a year old at this point, so there’s still time.  (It doesn’t help that Fantasy Flight has been slow to put out the various supplements.  Sure, the quality is extremely high, but we’ve only seen three non-adventure books thus far, with a new one just announced.)  Of particular interest is the idea of bringing the boxed sets into the new system.  Most of the rest of the Expanded Universe material will make it eventually, like the myriad of alien races, but there’s never going to be an official update of things like DarkStryder or Lords of the Expanse.

For those who are unfamiliar with the products, Lords of the Expanse was an interesting setting within the Star Wars galaxy that had noble houses feuding in a sector that was largely removed from the larger conflicts of the Empire Era.  Most of the action was concerned with secret societies, political machinations and working to manipulate the lurking Imperial presence within the sector.

In contrast, DarkStryder was a mammoth project, set in the early days after the Battle of Endor and the collapse of the central Imperial government.  Most of the characters were part of a New Republic strike team that was sent into an Outer Rim sector to apprehend a hold-out Imperial Moff.  When the Moff escapes, destroying most of the extant survey maps and leaving behind remnants of mysterious technology, it’s up the characters to mount a pursuit into unknown space.  They have a heavily modified capital ship in the form of the Moff’s personal strike cruiser, but they need to recruit members of the local populace in order to properly crew the damned thing.  This opens up all manner of weird secret agendas as some of the recruits are secretly part of the Moff’s own political machine.

The campaign divided itself along rankings, as each of the players were expected to play a member of the command crew, a member of the mid-echelon crew, and a character of their own creation within the crew.  The command crew characters had semi-scripted expectations for certain scenes that the players were trying to fulfill, the mid-echelon crewmen were given a fair amount of leeway, and the enlisted characters were offered free reign.  It was something of a troupe-style set-up, but most of the emphasis for the adventures was among the lower ranking characters.  And to capitalize on the novels of the time, the opening fiction was written by Timothy Zahn, who wrote the well-regarded Thrawn Trilogy.

For my own part, I’ve always wanted to run these modules.  DarkStryder opens out like an adventure novel, with the familiar space combat, mystery and archaeology aspects, conspiracies and treachery.  The Fantasy Flight ruleset is more than adequate for the job, with a little work to make sense of the weirder aspects of the setting, but the biggest hurdle that I face with it all is having the time and wherewithal to be able to run it properly.  Besides the boxed set and the adventures therein, there are also three separate books, all of which run about 100 pages or more.  This is not a minor undertaking, and it represents the best that WEG had to offer at its height.  I would not approach this lightly or without the proper group to pull it off.