25 October 2020

A Very Happy Unmodule to You!

Nowadays, it is not uncommon to hear someone refer to "sandbox," "hex crawl," or "point crawl" to refer to methods of player agency in determining where, when, and how a party adventures, but this jargon was unknown in my gaming circles in the 1980s. We didn't have terms or a precise methodology for the choices player characters were offered, but sometimes we were forced to create terms just to save the time it took to explain it. That is why I coined the term unmodule. It was inspired by that scene from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass wherein the Mad Hatter explains to Alice the concept of the unbirthday. If an unbirthday occurs on all the days of the year that is not your birthday, an unmodule is played whenever the players gather to play without a module. (For those who are unaware, a "module" is what TSR called their published adventures, and what many gamers called their own written adventures.) Typically, if my players finished a module that did not lead immediately into another (and especially if I needed more time to read or write the next one), I would declare the next session an unmodule and the player characters could pursue their own goals, which sometimes meant getting themselves into trouble. They could shop for equipment, meet with friends or professional contacts, plot acts of revenge, make a pilgrimage, consult an expert, get something repaired or specially made, go carousing, pick some pockets, enter competitions, pursue training, embark on a hunting expedition, do some herb gathering, or even go on a side quest. Nearly anything was a possibility, and I was obligated to wing it to the best of my ability. Unmodules were fun, and it ensured that player characters had a part in steering their own destiny.

Any role-playing activity occurring outside the bounds of a module and primarily driven by the player characters' whims.

No comments:

Post a Comment