Archive for January 26th, 2009

Why Most Supplements Suck

2009 Jan 26

Cross-posted from SG, where Adam asked whether folks would be interested in D&D4 material based on Transit City, a setting he’s working on.

So this setting sounds really awesome, Adam, and I’d love to play it with you, but recently I’ve been thinking, like, “Why would anyone play in a D&D setting that wasn’t something they made up together with their friends?” I’ve been thinking about this because I’m working on a Shang Dynasty-inspired thing for D&D4, based on some of the ideas we put forward in Hard Boiled Cultures and have been trying to decide if there’s a One Bad Egg product in there somewhere. And my conclusion is like, maybe? Not because I really think other people want to play in my Shang Dynasty fantasy setting (though they might), but because I think the way I’m implementing the setting in 4E might serve as an inspiration for other folks who want to hack 4E into a more “new school indie gaming” style experience. So, yeah, while I’d totally love to see what you’re doing with Transit City, I’d be interested to steal ideas for implementing them in a setting that I created with my friends here, not because I actually want to play in Transit City.

In my mind, the way most D&D products work is ass-backwards. What you want, in my mind, is to inspire people to create their own super cool stuff and provide them tools that allow them to do that in a way that is satisfying and effective at the table. Setting stuff can do this, sure, but, as we’ve discussed here [on SG] recently, setting is most inspiring when it’s a largely unfilled map that sets out the boundaries of a playground in which players can let their own creations loose. Sure, it may feel a bit less exciting as a game designer to not have hundreds of folks roaming around an imaginary place that you created, sending you emails because they’re demanding that you write a product about secret society XYZ, but, honestly, I think there really is something in teaching folks to fish instead of just selling them fish.

Ultimately, I’m more interested in doing awesome stuff the way that you do awesome stuff, without doing the exact same awesome stuff that you’re doing, if that makes sense. Just my 2 cents.