Favorite Adventure You Ran
The only published scenario I have ever run faithfully is ‘The Hall of Risk’ for Stormbringer. Wish I still had a copy.
I tried some small D&D dungeons (forget which ones) but there was no spark. When I ran ‘Hall’, it was like lightning in a bottle.
‘Hall of Risk’ is a gonzo ‘special episode’ type of adventure that is far removed from the dungeon. Adventurers go to the gaming hall of Balo, Jester of Chaos, and play such games as craps, chess using themselves as pawns (about 15 years before Harry Potter did it), and some other things I disremember, for the chance of getting Chaos-tainted powers.
It was a laugh riot, a micro-dungeon that really hit the aesthetic of Moorcock’s Elric novels and allowed Stormbringer to step out of D&D’s shadow, which prior scenarios like ‘Tower of Ykrth Florn’ did not. It also showed me that my mind worked better with freeform mini-sandboxes, which basically describes the adventures I have successfully run since then.
Which brings me to my next answer – NOT the dungeon. I don’t loathe dungeons, but I don’t run them well, so don’t often try. My mind works better grasping a whole gameworld or even multiverse loosely than trying to get the details right of a small locale like a dungeon. My players seem to enjoy when I do this, as do I, and I even enjoy playing in someone else’s dungeon. But I don’t usually run them. I am hankering to run B2 or White Plume Mountain just for the experience, but more drawn to sandboxes like Isle of Dread.
I even submitted an adventure to Chaosium back in the day that was kindly rejected by Lynn Willis. In it, players worked for a treacherous exiled Melnibonean nobleman aiming for the throne of Imryyr, and had to travel from Melnibone, to the Plane of Air, to the Shadow Realm, to World War Two Italy, and one or two others I forget to get materials needed. The scenario is lost to time, but when I read Rogue Mistress I thought how much better my adventure would have been.
I guess another reason I dislike running dungeons is that I feel old D&D traps are somewhat cheap or gimmicky. Roll or die. Lose three PCs on a chest with 30 copper coins in it. Fall in a pit. Yawn, isn’t this supposed to be a game/fun? Grimtooth’s traps were fun to read, but drew cries of ‘Unfair!’ when they mashed adventurers to a pulp with no real chance of escape.
I think for traps/puzzles to work (i.e. to add to the enjoyment of the game) they need to have two elements, namely 1) risk and 2) reward. And as the risk gets bigger, so should the reward. The pit in the 1st cave of B2 is basically roll or fall in, with no real reward and lots of risk. That’s lame.
Which takes me back to ‘Hall of Risk.’ It has both these elements, and players willingly risk their characters for the chance of a reward. In other words, the puzzle/trap of ‘Hall of Risk’ is a mini-game itself, and players who know the rewards will willingly throw themselves into it again and again. In D&D, the dungeon itself is a successful trap/puzzle itself, drawing adventurers who risk death for coin and experience. Where D&D sometimes falls down, in ALL editions from what I’ve seen, is posing arbitrary traps with little knowledge of what’s at stake and the chances of success.