Ah, Adventure. To venture upon; to expose oneself to danger or risk; to hazard everything for the sake of excitement or gain. The whole world laid out, filled with the unknown, the unusual, the unimaginable. Just the sort of thing for an enterprising party member to experience to the utmost.
Believe me, the webmasters of Official D&D have you covered. They have a whole page dedicated to "adventure tools."
Well, "whole page" might be overstating it. Actually, to be honest, "adventure tools" is overstating it. What the Wizards of the Coast has is, erm, monsters. Yes, you can find four wonderful tools about monsters: the monster list they have; the fact that the monster list is Mac & PC compatible; the ability to save monsters; and the ability to import monsters. My, my, my. These are adventure tools aplenty.
A month ago I took note that if I never needed something to write about, I could go dig up the senior manager for the D&D research and design team. Well, I'm not in a very good mood, and the fuckwits at WOTC do not disappoint.
Here's the scoop, by the way, for all you players of this game. You are not expected to create anything. In fact, the design team specifically does not want you to lift a freaking finger. Just sit in your DM's chair, open your fucking mouth and swallow this nice spoon of olive oil the "experts" have prepared. It's tastes like shit, yes, but its good for you. It will get you comfortable with moving your bowels when you associate with their products.
Humorously, it happens that yesterday some corporate grunt called Tom LaPille wrote a corporate blogpost about monsters, beginning with,
"In D&D, monster entries give DMs pre-built enemies to throw at characters."
Foolishly, I immediately presumed from that first sentence that it was going to be the usual banal diatribe about how that's a bad thing, as if there's any person left in the game who doesn't know it ... except, marvelously, LaPille doesn't know it. The article goes on and on about just how tailor-made those monsters are, for your non-thinking convenience. Oh, they use the "minimum number of unique mechanical effects that still gets across the fundamental nature of the monster" ... but the more "setting-specific information a creature requires, the longer we need to make the flavour text."
Thus, the fundamental nature of the monster is clearly defined by its setting specificity ... please, let's not have any thinking outside the box, people. Let's not have any thinking. An adventure is monsters - and monsters define the adventure. Q.E.D.
I don't suppose anyone has considered that an adventure, or that a tool for an adventure, might include something more than a monster. I don't suppose we'd want anything that would help players of the game design a world, or a town, or even a building in that town. We wouldn't want to design a structured social system that enabled players to plug in NPC descriptions or motivations or what imaginable expectations a mythical association might have of its players. We wouldn't want a systematic, downloadable plethora of 4,000 mundane or unique settings, or 4,000 sim-like graphics that could be imported, saved and applied to your own desk-top design. No. We wouldn't want you, the player, heading off with some tool and making your own module, would we? No. Still, we have modules for you, so shut up and buy them. Here's a monster toy for you to chew on. Good doggie.
It wouldn't be easy to create 4,000 unique character descriptions. It would have to be more than just a list of abilities or backgrounds; it would have to include that particular character's motivations, and how that character would be likely to aid, obstruct, mislead, motivate or manipulate the party. Ten such descriptions would have very little use. A hundred descriptions might suffice for just the bartenders one might want to conjure. 4,000 descriptions would probably cover a magnificent array of prepared NPCs ... and if they could be selected in a kind of I-Ching manner, it might be possible to organize the descriptions to fit types of scenario-specific adventures. Such a list might even be overlaid on top of monsters.
Nor would it be easy to conjure the necessary graphics for every kind of fortification, temple, house, hall, workshop, settlement or other construction imaginable ... but having them all set up online, so you could quickly jumble them together like letters on a scrabble board, to create an instant combat scenario, would be phenomenal. If we had the ground plans for 70 types of ordinary houses, or 90 types of workhouses, or 250 prefabricated villages - without any need for description, or pre-determined contents ... wouldn't that be something? Plug and play ... and stuff your building full of 4,000 sofas, palattes, cabinets, pools, plants, art, etcetera, to boot.
No, certainly not easy. Not impossible, either. If we could just for a few minutes recognize that monsters are not the only things that can be plugged into an adventure.