Anyone who has ever put pen to paper in this hobby knows that is the $1,000 question. It would be the million dollar question, but, let's face it, very few of us (if any) are making that much off this gig.
I've given my own answers in the Dispatches series (published by Purple Duck Games), particularly the 2nd volume. If interested, you can find them here: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, and Volume 4. However, my goal here today is not to talk about my own work, but the work of others.
How To Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck is by Joseph Goodman, Chris Doyle, Brendan LaSalle, Adrian Pommier, Rick Maffei, Mike Ferguson, Jeremy Simmons, Ken Hart, and Andrew Hind, and is published by Goodman Games.
Adventure Writing Like a Fucking Boss and How to Game Master Like a Fucking Boss are both written by Venger As'Nas Satanis. The first book is illustrated by Bojan Sucevic, Monstark, and Glynn Seal. The second is illustrated by Zarono, Terry Pavlet, Randy Musseau, Monstark, Jez Gordon, Craig Brasco, Joshua Burnett, and Stephan Poag. Both books are published by Kort'thalis Publishing.
It should be taken as a given that I don't agree with all of the advice given in these books. The current Goodman Games book was written during the era of 3rd Edition publishing (the text is copyright 2007), which means that some of the advice is based around what amounts to the highly structured adventures of Wizards of the Coast Dungeons & Dragons - a far cry from what is needed in a Dungeon Crawl Classics or an Old School adventure IMHO.
I would have love to see an updated version with essays by the likes of Harley Stroh and Michael Curtis. It looks like that is coming! In fact, I think some backers have already received theirs; I will try to comment on this more when I have a copy of the new text in my hands.
Meanwhile, much of the advice in the version you can get from RPG Now is solid, though, and if you hope to write for Goodman Games one day it is probably worth your while to know what Joseph Goodman is looking for. You might want to try to get the expanded version from your Friendly Neighborhood Game Store, though.
There's actually quite a bit of material on adventure design to be gleaned from How to Game Master Like a Fucking Boss. Adventure Writing Like a Fucking Boss could easily have been an appendix to this larger work.
I've owned How to Game Master Like a Fucking Boss for a while now. At first, I bought the book in pdf, but I was impressed enough to buy dead tree copy. It's worth getting. For one thing, there are far more extensive (and useful) tables. For another, it gets a bit into the author's philosophy on running games - not only how, but why, we do this. Even if you don't agree with everything Venger says (and I don't - is it really important to have matching dice? I tend to think not) the essays are none-the-less thought provoking.
So, which should you get?
- If you are playing 3rd Edition, Pathfinder, or a similar system, the Goodman Games offering currently available on RPG Now is going to be very useful.
- If you are trying to write for Goodman Games, obviously, the Goodman Games offering is going to be useful, and you might want to spring for the new edition.
- If you want to read interesting essays from a variety of people, Goodman Games has that. I would imagine that is true for either version.
- If you are playing Dungeon Crawl Classics, you will probably want the newer version of How to Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck. Be aware that the link in this post is to the older version!
- If you want an in-depth tutorial of the philosophy of GMing, How to Game Master Like a Fucking Boss is worthwhile.
- If you want a reference work with stuff in it you can draw from repeatedly, How to Game Master Like a Fucking Boss is worthwhile (but certainly not alone in this regard - books like The Dungeon Dozen, The Dungeon Alphabet, The Monster Alphabet, etc., also come highly recommended).
- If you want to be inspired right now, with a minimum of fuss or cost, Adventure Writing Like a Fucking Boss is a good pick.
- If nudity or sex offend you, avoid anything by Venger As'Nas Satanis!