View Full Version : Prepping AL Modules only Once

May 22nd, 2020, 20:27
I started my first go at running AL sessions in January. My original intent was to prep the modules once and be able to host a season at least one or two more times. My group and I are about half way through Season 2 Elemental Evil. And as I get more and more proficient at prepping a module, I am becoming more and more aware of shortcomings in Fantasy Grounds.

If one runs a "big book" module, say Princes of the Apocalypse, one preps before each session, adding little things here and there, maybe more maps, maybe more images, maybe more tokens. One might pad an encounter, edit some read aloud text. Things like that. This prepping will likely be for a module that is run once and never again. Or it might be years before one runs that module again. Also these big books are pricey, maintenance and robustness by FG (thanks Zacchaeus) is pretty much mandatory. Any additional prep material for big books probably does not need to be "persistent".

Some of the things I have noticed are:
1) Verbiage errors or inconsistencies
2) Non-persistent links to external images (pictures, maps, tokens) as described here (https://www.fantasygrounds.com/forums/showthread.php?57946-Getting-All-Assets-(e-g-Images)-into-the-Module-(-mod)-File)
3) Incomplete Effect Parsing as described here (https://www.fantasygrounds.com/forums/showthread.php?58252-NPC-Effects-that-go-Unparsed-in-the-Combat-Tracker)

There are others I am sure, just can't think of them at the moment.

I have already written two extensions that I use to help migrate pdfs and maintain data consistency, plus an extension that helps me develop extensions. And now I am thinking I need a couple more.

How are you other AL DMs handling this? Am I over thinking this? Over preparing? Or do you run a season once, then done?

Thanks for any help you're willing to provide.

May 23rd, 2020, 14:45
Hi MintyFresh, this is a rundown on my AL experience creating modules and prepping for sessions:

I have been running Season 5 as a 'one-shot' and Season 9 Tier 1's on repeat for a few months now. I create my modules by taking the pdf and exporting it to Word. I then do a read through so I understand how the game session is going to flow. I then parse everything in manually via copy and paste from the Word document to my Storyboard. I do have to do a final read-through of my Story text as there are some errors from the pdf export but once fixed they are good to go after module export and don't reappear on module load.

As far as maps I do have the same issue when using maps out of my library. Now that I know it's an issue it takes me about 3 minutes to get them configured before the session. The maps that I "lift" out of the pdf's and import manually are always how I saved them at the time of module export.

As far as NPC's 100% of what I use I get out of the Monster Manual (or similar source) from my library. I just rename the NPC's to match the contents encounter and they load as I desire. I annotate any special abilities in the "Playing the Pillars" that are unique to the NPC and just "wing it" during gameplay.

All in all I have parsing an AL module from a pdf document to a FG module to about 2-3 hours. I don't have a 100% facsimile of the pdf but I do have everything I need to run the session successfully. I keep the pdf open during gameplay but rarely have needed it for reference (I think I have a pretty good mental clock and memory from reading the pdf's to not interrupt the pacing of the game session). Prep time for a new module I created is about 15 minutes. Prep time for a module I have run before is about 5.

I know that not much help but gives you some insight into how another DM goes about it. 2-3 hours for creating a new module might seem like a lot of work but to me once I have it its mine for life, plus it's tailored to my style of DMing.


Greg Rex

May 24th, 2020, 15:22
Thanks GregRex for such a thorough explanation of your process. Often we DMs work in a bit of isolation and gleaning perspective of what others are doing and how they accomplish it can be invaluable. Your post is enlightening, though, for me a bit disheartening - I spend easily 10x that amount of time on the process. My perfectionism is a real bane. I’m finding myself losing interest in continuing and so I am exploring other avenues and methods for session prep. For instance, I am no longer importing the text of the module into the Story library. When I run a session I work solely from the pdf that’s been marked up with highlights and pop up notes. Because I spend so much time on initial prep, the idea of “persistence” is very appealing and necessary. I don’t want to have to repeat that prep should I have occasion to rerun a module sometime in the future.

May 24th, 2020, 16:13
Just to throw in the voice of someone who is decidedly non-perfectionist.....

If the module that I am prepping doesn't come with a FG mod, usually all I do is snip the maps and set up the encounters. Occasionally I will add in images of handouts or puzzles if I feel they are needed for the players to see. For everything else, I just work directly off of the PDF. This allows me to prep an AL mod in about 30 minutes, and the players see the same thing on their end. Usually once I am done with this I will export the results and that way I have a module that I could use to run the game again if I needed to.

That being said, I almost always search out adventures that either have a predone FG module, or at least has the maps in jpg format just to make it easier on me. And for me the "holy grail" adventures are the ones that are designed to last 2 hours only, and also include a FG mod. Something about that time frame just hits a sweet spot for me.

May 25th, 2020, 01:40
Thanks timdog88. Additional perspectives and hints, might help me and others, especially new AL DMs, get that ‘prep time’ down to something manageable.

The some with .mod scenario, some without, is exactly why I’ve started note taking right on the .pdf. I don’t care if there’s a .mod for that piece of the prep. As you say, having the .mod alleviates me from encounter construction and image stripping/import.

After running six of the Season 2 modules now, I have a pretty solid group of players so I don’t mind multiple sessions per module. I actually encourage it, it keeps me from having to prep the next one so soon. :)

Myrdin Potter
May 25th, 2020, 16:45
I develop modules for the store so I suffer from "perfectionist's syndrome". If you are only going to run the 4 hour module once, then no need to develop it to that standard. Grab the maps, a little Map Align work, build the encounters and then they are done. Some of the earlier seasons have extra map packs if you want them. The conversions done 5+ years ago (the ones on the DMs Guild for the earlier seasons) were prepared with the old program, so the parsing is worse than today.