Adventure Background – Who Needs It?

I am a subscriber to the Pathfinder Adventure Path series and I have oodles of modules coming out of my ears.  I literally have three years of modules that make up probably 6 years of weekly play in real game time.  I would like to say that I have read them all too but that is just not true.  But when I do get around to it I read the module and I am impressed by the depth of detail and the way the stories are pieced together.

I have one complaint though.  I have all this beautiful history and justification of events that I truly appreciate as a GM but how much of it gets back to my players?  In answer to this it would be very little.  So why even bother with it all?  The modules have a great deal of information up front about what is happening and in each encounter as well but the players do not see a tenth of that information.  In fact, at times I wonder if the players even know why they are doing what they are doing or if they are just rolling on to the next encounter to be tested.

Oodles of information but what really matters?

I try to use my NPC’s to give away as much about the over arching plot as I can but what is their motivation to do so.  Should not the players be peeling back layers and asking these questions and should there not be a way for them to discover it?

Or is all this information there for a separate purpose?  Is the background information there so that the GM becomes aware of motivations and the history that is involved so they can portray the scenes in a suitable manner?  Certainly if there is a rift between NPC’s or organisations the GM should be aware that an NPC will react poorly to certain actions.  This again leads me back though to the players.  If they see an NPC act out when they mention the dwarven sage shouldn’t they be trying to work out why?

These questions are relevant to me at the moment as I am spending a lot of time building histories for various areas in my module.  I find that the overall relationships in an area to be seen as valid and realistic need some kind of history there but I am wondering if this is for my purpose or for the use of the GM and their players.

My module is set in a particular area that has a long history that directly relates to the adventures the PC’s will undertake.  It is not important that the players know about it but to me it is that the GM does as the representation of information in the history directly relates to how they should present monsters and NPC’s as well as the area itself.

How do you see this extra information.  If you are a GM, how do you use it or do you ignore it?  As a player, do you like to learn this material or are you just focused on the encounters put in front of you?  I am keen to get a conversation going around this issue so let me know in the comments.  Until next time, keep rolling!

1 Comment

  1. I don’t run APs, but I do write a lot of lore for my campaign. My strategy is to compose it in one to three short paragraphs that can be delivered as a legend or part of a legend by an NPC. Perhaps the PCs can ask others about the legend if they need it all.

    If it’s not presented in a way I can deliver it to my players, I feel it’s kind of pointless. The only time it matters for me to know something is when they’re not supposed to, like enemy tactics and HP.


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