I haven't been interested in blogging much this week. Mostly it's the realization that some people are actually reading this. My newest competitor comes to mind, and that has a rather chilling effect on reporting anything substantive for fear of gross misunderstandings. There was also the game industry PDF thread. You know, the one where I feel like a tool for hosting a battleground on digital content. So yeah, maybe some contemplation is in order.
The other, more interesting reason is that I've been busy writing a D&D adventure. I finished this afternoon. The page count is approaching 65 pages, mostly of 12-point font stat blocks and pretty maps. For you D&D players, 4E is interesting in its flexibility. I took a 20th level adventure from Dungeon Magazine and made it suitable for 7th level. The maps in the adventure were perfect for my needs, even though the structure is fairly haphazard and modular.
For the most part, you can use the Difficulty Class and Damage Per Level chart in the DMG (after you fix it with the errata) to scale one level to another, even vastly different levels. A DC 30 check is considered hard for a 20th level character. Hard for 7th level is DC 23, so you just adjust it. Monsters are only slightly more difficult. You take the role of the higher level monsters and replace them with lower level monsters with the same role. If the adventure was well written, there are often synergies. For example, the monster might slide you 3 squares into a trap or hazard. It takes a little more work, but you can usually find a similar low level monster that does the trick. The D&D Insider Compendium tool is invaluable for this kind of work. The biggest caveat for scaling is mobility. Higher level characters have no problem moving over or through just about anything, while low level characters are often stuck with a coil of rope and ingenuity. There are a few other gotchas, but by following examples in the DMG, they're easily surmountable.
My big question is whether this modular build style has any soul. Is it just a big mechanical jigsaw puzzle, or is it a compelling game? I feel more like a computer programmer about to foist my code on the world, than a creative DM. Still, I think 4e has as much soul as 3e. If you thought it was a miniature combat system grafted onto a role-playing game in 3e, you probably won't find it much changed. However, if you were into deep storytelling and role-playing in 3e, I don't see why you can't do it in 4e, provided you don't rely too much on those "gamist" traps of quests and skill challenges. Playing with some very experienced RPGA guys last month taught me that with enough experience, the rules become second nature and stop feeling center stage.
About those skill challenges: I'll be trying my first real skill challenge in this adventure, but I had a lot of help that moved it well beyond the stated rules. I'm running one of the examples in the DMG, but it's heavily modified. There's a reason why skill challenges have three articles and an errata about them. They're complicated and not fully baked as written, if you ask me. I think with tweaks they just might work.