DriveThruRPG Review – The Anatomy of Adventure

A collection of essays on game design from writer and designer M.T. Black.

A review copy of “The Anatomy of Adventure” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using my affiliate links and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: M.T. Black Games

The Anatomy of Adventure looks like an academic journal, but it’s actually a collection of essays on adventure design, marketing, and the creative process, from one of the most well-known and successful creators in the DMs Guild, M.T. Black.

The 100-page book is an insightful journey through Black’s publishing career on the DMs Guild, beginning with his first adventure, Temple of the Nightbringers, in early 2016.

Each chapter smartly focuses on one of his adventures, providing a peek into his creative process, as well as a post-mortem on what changes or updates he would make years later.

For example, when searching for a goblin cave map for Nightbringers, he instead found a temple and ran with it, changing the dungeon to an old temple of Shar, and adding necromantic magic and zombies, noting that many times your constraints can work to your advantage.

Ask any creator to revisit their earlier work and you’ll be met with lots of groaning and collar-pulling, but Black is critical while remaining confident — yet never approaches self-aggrandizing. Each essay reads less like a lecture hall and more like a comforting blog post from a peer, and I mean that as a serious compliment. When providing advice it’s easy to come off as haughty and unapproachable, but Black’s writing is quick and easy to parse.

Later chapters include helpful notes on how to properly steal ideas from other creators, adding interactivity in dungeons outside of monsters, traps, and NPCs, and exploring the importance of player choice — and not just the illusion of choice that so many video games fall back on.

One of the most interesting chapters is about marketing. Black correctly points out that a self-publishing creator must also be a self-marketer. It’s such a great chapter that I’m going to quote a paragraph (p35):

I have seen many superb products disappear into the abyss of low sales. There is no inherent justice in the marketplace, no guarantee that hard work and talent will be rewarded. The history of creative endeavor is replete with stories of brilliant artists who were unrecognized and unappreciated during their lifetime. If you want to avoid this grim fate, you need to make an effort to connect your product with the people who might like your product. This is the essence of marketing.

Black explains how to develop a marketing strategy (make it a game!), how to add cross-promotion and brand recognition, and the importance of bundling products together. How many of you have purchased the Complete Adventures of M.T. Black? Not only is it one of the rare Adamantine sellers, but the author divulges that it’s nearing 10,000 copies sold!

As Black points out, even the most veteran Game Masters can falter when it comes to quality adventure design. This book provides critical insight into a successful creative process that spans multiple years and tens of thousands of sales. But more importantly, it’s an easy, quick read on designing D&D adventures from a helpful, knowledgeable source.

 Pros:

  • Tips on designing adventures and dungeons, and how to utilize the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
  • Insightful post-mortem on the designer’s early adventures.
  • Helpful chapter on marketing as an essential tool.
  • Bibliography lists dozens of adventure design books and webpages.

Cons:

  • No art whatsoever.

The Verdict: The Anatomy of ADventure features a collection of insightful, helpful, and easy to read essays on adventure design and marketing through the career of one of the most prolific and successful DMs Guild creators.

A review copy of “The Anatomy of Adventure” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using my affiliate links and pledging via Patreon.

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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