Ask the Game Master: Can I alter a published D&D adventure?

Got a gaming question? Ask the Game Master to make a ruling, provide advice or referee your gaming troubles. Send your questions to critforbrains@gmail.com or reach out on Twitter or Facebook. This week, we’re talking about published adventures and when it’s OK to make changes to them.

So I’m running a published D&D adventure, and it’s mostly going well. But one of the players knows every twist and turn. I don’t know if he has played a version of it before or he has the book and is reading ahead of the adventure.

He is kind of ruining the experience for the other players since he seems to know everything before it happens, so to keep everyone on their toes, I’ve been changing things a little bit. While keeping the spirit of the adventure (the goals, the plot, NPCs, etc.) the same, I’ve been altering monsters, moving treasure around and generally making small changes to make it a little different.

This has angered the player who knows everything, but everyone else seems to be having a great time. The one player is upset every time something homebrewed is injected into the game, and it’s really frustrating. Is it alright to alter a published adventure?

Let’s start here: YES!

Change the published adventure. Do your own thing. Add in things you think would be exciting. Take out stuff you just don’t like or doesn’t fit at your table. A lot of folks run a published adventure top to bottom and never change anything, but tons of people bring in their own things. A friend of mine adds in older material from previous D&D editions, extra adventures from 3rd party publishers and even makes up new NPCs and plotlines.

There are even folks who published extra adventures to be added to official adventures. Do a search on DM’s Guild for any published adventure and you’ll find a lot of extra content that can be tacked on.

Do what works best for you.

But perhaps the more important part of your question is this player’s behavior.

If you haven’t spoken to them about what they’re doing, now is the time. Most any DM has had a player or two who seems to know what’s coming, and it could be that they’ve been played a long time and know the story beats of most any D&D adventure. It could be that they played it before. It could be that they bought the book and read it all.

First, you should talk to them. Ask them outright if they’ve played the adventure before or if they’re reading ahead. As always, there’s a difference between player knowledge and character knowledge, and if they answer “yes” to either of the above, you should tell them they’re violating the spirit of that rule. Even if they’ve simply played the adventure before (many longtime players have run through an adventure more than once), their character would have no knowledge of that.

And frankly, if they’re reading the adventure to gain an advantage while playing it, that’s simply not cool. They shouldn’t do that.

If they can’t hold it in and play their character like it has no knowledge of what’s ahead, they may end up ruining the game for everyone else. (If they’re getting noticeably angry at the table, maybe they already are.)

Then it might be time for a second conversation wherein you ask them to leave the table.

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