For this episode, I will be spending some time thinking about how long to make my adventure so that I have a reasonable chance of actually completing it while still providing something of substance that can be enjoyed over multiple game sessions. For today, I will be focusing on the big picture in terms of page counts. Next episode I will look at breaking the module down into each of its components and assigning them with both page and word count budgets.
Over the years, Paizo has published adventures of varying lengths ranging from 16-page mini adventures that they give away for free on Free RPG day, to their 96-page flagship Adventure Path modules. While their format and lengths are different, I have noticed that they all share one similarity – their page counts are all multiples of 16 (excluding the front cover, inside front cover, inside back cover, and the back cover).
- Mini adventures (“Revenge of the Kobold King”) – 16 pages
- Short adventure modules (“Treasure of Chimera Cove”) – 32 pages
- Medium length adventure modules (“Daughters of Fury”) – 64 pages
- Adventure path modules (“Dance of the Damned”) – 96 pages
I would hazard a guess that this has to do with efficiencies during printing and while I can’t find any examples of either 48 or 80-page adventures in my collection, I would imagine that they would be viable lengths as well.
Since my adventure will never be printed to hard copy, and assuming that my speculation about the printing is correct, there is really no reason why I need to be constrained to these specific page count lengths. At the very least, I think is does make a lot of sense to go with an even page. Let’s just keep those numbers in mind for now.
Adventure or Campaign
Although I have to be realistic with my goal and focus on writing a single adventure – a worthy task in itself, I would still like to leave the door open so that I may expand it into a full-length campaign in the future if I should so choose. That means that it will be very important at this stage to put a little thought into the adventure length as it relates to a larger body of work. That is, what range of levels will the future campaign take the players through and how many adventures it will take to do so?
Pathfinder Adventure Paths typically take a party from 1st through to around 18th level by their completion. I like the idea that a campaign spans the characters entire ‘career’ and mine will do the same if I decide to go down this road.
Adventure Paths so far have all been 6 modules long and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. There is probably some marketing analysis, scheduling issues, and resource allocation that went into deciding on this number. For me, there are a couple of reasons why I am going to go with 9 adventures instead of 6. For one, more adventures means shorter modules which will help to keep my timelines achievable – something that is especially important considering that this is my first adventure. This second reason is that I identify the six-part Adventure Path with Paizo. I wouldn’t call it part of their trade dress per se, but whenever possible, I think that it makes sense to make decisions to distinguish my work from theirs as much as possible (as if the lower level of quality wouldn’t be enough). I want to put my own creative spin on my adventure and do not want to simply clone their products which could potentially get me into trouble if I was too successful in doing so.
Page Count Math
So if there are six modules per Adventure Path, and each is 96 pages long, we are looking at 576 pages total for the entire campaign. If we extract all of the supplemental material like appendices, short stories, advertisements, table of contents, credits, etc., there are only 47 pages for adventure itself (or 282 pages for the campaign). This is using the Medium Character Advancement table.
If I were to divide these 282 pages by 9 modules, I am looking at about 32 pages of adventure content for each. To be honest, I’m a little concerned that I won’t be able to cram my adventure into this small number of pages. I guess that means I need to scale back my visions of grandeur for each module unless I want to use the Slow Character Advancement track which I think would be a poor choice. For now I am going to proceed with the 32 pages and re-evaluate this decision during Phase 2 – Pre-Production to see if it still makes sense.
As far as the non-adventure pages go, I am going to go with 32 pages here as well. This should give me plenty of space for formatting and appendix-type material. If I find that I need more adventure content pages, I can always change the ratio to say 40 adventure pages and 24 other.
Character Advancement per Module
Now that I have established that a future, would-be campaign would be 9 modules long, I can also determine how much experience (or levels in a more general term) the characters should gain throughout the course of this adventure. This is easy:
Adventure #1: Start at 1st-level and advance to 3rd.
Adventure #2: Start at 3rd-level and advance to 5th.
Adventure #3: Start at 5th-level and advance to 7th.
Adventure #4: Start at 7th-level and advance to 9th.
Adventure #5: Start at 9th-level and advance to 11th.
Adventure #6: Start at 11th-level and advance to 13th.
Adventure #7: Start at 13th-level and advance to 15th.
Adventure #8: Start at 15th-level and advance to 17th.
Adventure #9: Start at 17th-level and advance to 19th.
That’s a gain of 2 levels per module.
So to summarize, my adventure module document will be 64 pages long; 32 of which are targeted for the actual adventure itself. It will use the Medium Character Advancement track and will be designed for 1st-level characters who should advance to 3rd-level by it completion.