Wednesday, October 5, 2011

No PC is an Island

Recently I’ve heard many attacks on published RPG materials and on the people who buy them. Why do I need to pay for stuff I can come up with by myself? Where’s the fun in running some other person’s adventure? What makes the writer more qualified than me to think up worlds anyhow... and so forth.

I think people who make these claims are vain and dumb. They are the people who know everything, the people who think they embody the lawyer, the doctor, the mechanic, the political analyst and God in one sexy, sexy body, even as they usher anyone willing to take their advice into untimely death. But I understand that nowadays simply calling people “vain and dumb” doesn’t count as much of an argument and so, without further ado (whatever the hell this word means...) I present you with my four points:

1) The Variety
Your mind does not encompass the whole of creation and everything in it. You’re neither Doctor Who, nor the less famous but still popular God. If you won’t read the works of other authors, you’ll only be able to go so far with your supposedly limitless imagination. Sure, you can think of some stuff by yourself if you’re the creative sort, but why not take ideas from other writers and combine your wits with theirs to create something much better than you could ever hope to achieve by yourself? Newton saw far because he stood on the shoulders of giants, not because he was an arrogant dwarf who bit giants’ ankles and ran back into a dark cave to giggle.

2) The Immersion
Using published materials often saves time by removing the need for a lengthy exposition of your world prior to the campaign. Players having knowledge of hundreds, if not thousands, of locations and NPCs in the world enjoy the game much more than newbs going through endless lectures of introduction. This also adds depth and clarity to the game, as players feel they’re adventuring in their own world, not exploring a Minesweeper field. And, while we’re at it...

3) The Community
Using published materials gives players and DMs a sense of being part of something greater than themselves. “Yeah man, I saw Cthulhu last year and just can’t stop chewing on my toes ever since...” “I feel you brother...” Players who gamed in published settings can share their experiences and thoughts with other players of the same setting to a degree that players of unique and isolated worlds never could. A published world is a ticket to a new club or a subculture. This added value is not to be ignored. Don’t be a hermit, come and live in our fun and happy community!

4) The Art
Published materials are accompanied by art that helps players and DMs to visualize the world and its people and to get a better feeling of the atmosphere of the game. Ever heard of the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words?” Well, that’s a lie. Pictures and words operate in entirely different planes and appeal to entirely different receptors. And let’s be honest, while most DMs can write, very few can draw well enough to convey emotions and complex ideas. Pictures are not just eye candies, they are an important part of establishing the mood and tone of the setting.

These are my five points. Accept them or be forever cast from the garden of Eden.


  1. As requested!

    How about also 'The time'. Putting together a solid adventure of any major length and quality takes a considerable amount of time. Sometimes GMs don't want to spend that much time on something and they just want to play a quick session. Or they might want to run a session around something that doesn't require multiple weeks or more of planning.

    For me that is likely one of the larger reasons people use the Published adventures. But you make some extremely good points as well, I especially like #1.

  2. ...and we have a point #3! :)

    Great point!

  3. I favor openness of plot and adoption to the PCs over your advantages in most cases. Therefore I usually stick to homemade stuff. Also because it is so much fun to create your own adventure/setting. Truly it costs MUCH more time, at least for a setting. For adventures it depends because I at least usually have to adopt published material. Though i do use published settings but with my own adventures (Dark Sun currently).

    Especially openness is a frequent issue. Published adventures always lack some information on how to expand the adventure at certain points or simply assume a rather railroady stance (at least partly). It surely is part of the thing "You never know how people will play your published stuff" but it raises the need to modify the adventure for the GM nonetheless. And modifying some adventure of which you don't have a good background is difficult.

  4. Hello,

    firstly : sorry for my bad english ( I'm a french guy in a french town...)

    secondly : Thanks for the Great job you share with us.

    Thirdly : Ok : criticizing published RPG is not good, but in an other way : there are a lot of "everyday RPG's creators" that do a nice job.
    If you allow me :

    1. someone who create his own RPG game is influenced by a lot of things : his own experiences in RPG, literature, movies, comics, etc. I don't think he has necessarely the pretention to invente everything, quite the contrary : he chooses in all this diversity what he likes (rules, dices, universe, kind of stories...) (and what his friends/gamers like).

    2. for every game (published games and personnal creations), there'is a begin that takes time . The first time you play D&D, the GM explanes a lot of things (how to create a character, the spells, the skills, etc). If fhe GM does not have to explane everything about an heroic fantasy world, thanks M. Tolkien.

    3. Really right. When I play Cthulhu, DD, Warhammer, etc, I feel like you describe (the feeling to belong to a community). But when i play friend's RPG (or when I masterise my own's Game), we have the nice feeling of an unique experience (that is a least as cool as belonging to a biiig community) shared with friends

    4. Illustration in books are cool when you read it, but are unnecessary during the game, a cool description of a landscape, monster, etc, is more immersive I think.

    People practising RPG are often imaginative and creative people, that's why a loft of them create their own's RPG.

    bye, keep on playing, and thanks for sharing your experiences.