5e: Updating the Awesome
Yesterday, we rereleased Deadly Delves: Along Came a Spider in PDF for Fifth Edition. The original was our first adventure we released for 5e and I think it deserves a mention as to why. The answer will give you a better picture as to who we are, the way we approach game design, and where we are going from here.
First some history. When we first released Along Came a Spider, there was no OGL or DMs Guild for 5e. If you were releasing products for 5e, you did so hoping you wouldn’t get into legal trouble with WotC. You had to be sure you were right, legally speaking. You had to know what you were doing or that might be the last thing you published. If you remember, the playtest lasted two years and it look another two years for the 5e SRD to be released. Add to that their slow release schedule. While it helped them sell books, it meant that if you didn’t want either of the adventures they released that year, you had no other options. So it was in that environment we decided to go ahead and publish for 5e without a net, so to speak.
Along Came a Spider was designed to be both a Pathfinder release as well as a 5e release. It was written by Joel Flank–a freelancer I trusted as being excellent with Pathfinder and like me and some of my editing crew switched to 5e during the playtest. We loved the new game and wanted to be apart of it right away. Heck, our adventure Rescue from Tyrkaven was written during the playtest and was converted to Pathfinder when some license wasn’t released for it right away, but that is a take for a different day.
When it came to making it a 5e module, we had a number of hurdles about which we had to make tough decisions. Everything from the monster stat blocks to the use of advantage and disadvantage had to be discussed. Ultimately, we decided to go with a Pathfinder-inspired monster stat block since we were using the Pathfinder OGL as our base. Doing so, however, meant that our monster stats did not look like 5e stat blocks. While not a big deal as all the stats were 5e stats and not Pathfinder, it was a barrier to using our module effortlessly. A core philosophy in our modules and any other GM-related products we create is to make the GM’s job easier. We decided that the benefit of a GM having the option of another module to choose from outweighed any barrier of having the monster stat blocks and similar legal hoops we jumped through to make this safe. When we decided to redo this module, fixing the monster stat blocks and similar barriers was at the to of our to-do list.
Then there is the issue of layout. The original version of Along Came a Spider appears almost identical our Pathfinder version. Having run far more Pathfinder modules than 5e modules at that point, I was quite use to having monster stat blocks right in the text and did not like having to flip to the back of the book for all the monsters. Since that time, we have heard from many 5e fans that said they prefer having their monsters in the back. Since those early days, I’ve run more 5e modules and I must say I like having all the monster together when I am running a module from a PDF because it means I can print out the monsters and not have to print out the adventure along with it.
There is one other major difference in this version over the original: a third map. Our budget for modules back in those days was pretty low. We had just enough for only two maps. We decided the maps should cover what we felt were the most critical and visually appealing fights. Ultimately, we decided to not have a map for the final few fights since they were in caves, figuring a cave map is pretty easy to come up with. All the reviews and comments we received concerning Along Came a Spider mentioned the lack of a final map and I knew that if we ever revisited Thai adventure, this would be one of the things we addressed. I am happy to report, those final fights have a map that we can be proud of that will inspire GMs and players in these final moments.