I’ve been reading campaign reports from very early D&D and Tèkumel campaigns. Boy did they focus on dungeon crawling. Sure, the player-characters were more than attack/defense scores, but gameplay centered on descents into old, underground areas that the GM had already mapped out (or generated randomly).
There’s a reason that the term is Dungeon Master.
That’s why so many people who started writing for RPGs started with adventures. They wanted more dungeons (or temples, or what-have-you) to explore. Even today, that’s how most folks start: with an adventure.
But adventures are not the future.
If D&D (particularly classic D&D) makes up the bulk of your RPG experience, adventures are common and useful. But once you’ve played Star Wars games and superhero games and Cthulhu games and hard science fiction games, exploring another set of dusty stone corridors and rooms to slug at monsters soon feels limiting (as exciting and fun as it can be).
Players now want agency. They want to be true investigators, Jedi, Batman; not hired hands told to extract idol #5 from dungeon #38.
Is there a place for adventures? Absolutely. New GMs need them, and experienced GMs with little time need them.
However, there are already plenty of free adventures out there (here are 83 for D&D 4E). While there’s nothing wrong with writing one or two, especially for your own experience, how many do we need?
Adventures aren’t the future. Settings, scenarios, and mechanics are the future. As useful as an adventure can be as a platform, we need to move beyond it.
This is fantasy. Almost anything is possible, given the appropriate constraints–and we can define the constraints.
We don’t need more medieval European geegaws. We don’t need more ways to be Conan or Elric.
I want to play in worlds inspired by The Wheel of Time and Dune and Ringworld and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. (And to those of you poised to type “There already is an RPG for The Wheel of Time,” re-read what I just wrote.) I want to see those ideas spun off and incorporated into new worlds. I want to see Aes Sedai and Bene Tleilaxu and Pierson’s Puppeteers in other settings.
This is not variety for variety’s sake. If this hobby is about white guys in armor beating up vaguely European monsters, it’s going to appeal mostly to white, European guys. If we want this hobby to expand and be more fun and interesting, we need it to expand. Expansion doesn’t mean yet another tomb to explore; it means new ideas and worlds, and ways to interact with those worlds. It needs settings, scenarios, and mechanics.
Let adventures die. Let’s look up to new horizons and new universes.