Not too long ago at a convention, we overheard a lamentation about play limits on various Organized Play campaigns for modules and scenarios. This sparked a fiery debate about module replay and its actual impact on games, both Organized Play and home games. A lot of us could only afford so many modules as kids and ran them relentlessly. So what are the ups and downs of replay?
Module Replay (Pros & Cons)
Now, before we go too far let it be said we are not talking about “grinding” the same module with the same party (MMO-style) but rather talking about different parties encountering the same adventure at a later date. Let’s look at the differences from standard games:
- Look Ma’ No Prep – A GM dusting off their old favorite adventure will often take substantially less (if any) preparation time. This allows them to focus more on descriptive language, correctly running encounters and all-over delivering a better game. Or you know, their job.
- Stylistic Difference – You will never see a more clear difference between GMs as watching them run the same scenario or module. This can be worth a replay exercise all by itself. Like covers of the same song you will see a thousand variations of the same gelatinous cubes, pit trap scenes and NPC voices by watching as many GMs.
- Party Composition – In a “standard” 4 player group the party makes up at least 4 5ths of the story. Imagine the Fellowship swapped for the A’lthor boy, Caramon Majere, Durzo Blint, and Kelsier. Even if the Ring stayed the same, the story would be completely different.
- Player Composition – Much like the above, a new player is a new game. The differing view will mean altered choices and new reactions. An ideal replay scenario relies on new players to “lead” the party of re-players. They in-turn become a vicarious first time experience for even the saltiest of dogs. As an added benefit this sort of first hand initiation will often times allow new group memebers into the shorthand and references of that particular module or scenario. And when someone says “Like Mines of Morath” the new player is not going to miss the reference anymore.
- Random is Random – Dice happen. The exact same group, with the exact same characters can still roll very differently. Replays from this simple fact can mean a totally different play experience. We have watched scenario reading cheaters get trashed dozens of times by bad die rolls. Knowing about the lich in 4a doesn’t mean a thing if you die before you get there.
- Nostalgia – Nothing like troglodyte blood in the morning. Replaying old group favorites can be a blast for glory-day-ing or even as a reconciliation tactic. Though that last one can backfire if a replay falls flat.
- Out-of-Character Knowledge – This is the big one. And sadly, people are going to do it. But the good news is, people are going to do it. Polling dozens of gamers it was clear to us that nearly every day at a convention in most Organzied Play campaigns people ran into a player who had clearly read the scenario. Even before their first play. Adamantine weapon blanches ring a bell? If this is your sole worry about replaying a module, it’s probably already happened and it didn’t ruin your fun. If there is a cheater at the table then they are there either way.
- Boredom – How many times do you want to face the dread lich, in the room with the acid pits and hellhounds? This might be a more real danger than out-of-character knowledge. The monotony of a fifth replay of the Deadly Dungeons of Raoh can wear on someone.
- Missed Ships – You may sincerely want to play as many scenarios or modules as possible. This is the most factual conflict, we are all ultimately limited in our game time and it may simply not be worth missing a new option to replay an old one.
- Nostalgia – Yep. This is a great pro. And yet it can be terrible if you aren’t in on it. Make certain in a mixed replay/first-play group that the new players are okay with the experience. Letting them lead is a great tactic to help them overcome outsider syndrome and getting a new angle on revitalizing the experience.
Replay can be a fun tool but is probably best used sparingly. Consider GM swaps, new party make-ups and letting new people take point and you’d probably be surprised how many runs you can get out of something.