Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A few DragonQuest adventures, a rant about the need for supplements

The question showed up on a DragonQuest list if the Judges Guild produced supplements were worth hunting down. For those who wonder, after the latest hubbub about the game, this what I replied:

I actually took them out and thumbed through them.

The one called Magebird Quest contains some deckplans for a couple of boats and an inn or two. Apart from that it seems to be only a small section of travel speeds by boat which might be of interest as far as rules and crunch go. I think I spotted a new monster as well.

The Starsilver Trek contains more specific crunch. It has a description of the Prospector skill and stats for magically irradiated creatures. Also, probably a new monster but I don't know the DQ monster list that well. The cover illustration is depicting a fight between dwarves and lizard men. What is there not to love? :)
 Now every completist out there knows there is a new skill to get!

Another supplement with characters, to be used as NPCs or whatnot, was summarized as follows (not by me this time):

I seem to recall that Heroes & Villains had a lot of "rules violations". That is characters ranked in weapons they didn't meet the requirements for and similar issues.
That made me thinking... (Rant ahead!)

Back when I was hanging out on the Necromancer Games forum, I remember how I was saddened, and annoyed, when people moaned about "rules violations". You see, NG had put out their first adventures when the SRD was not finalized, and they worked from a draft and the rules they had used from older editions. Naturally this meant that there was quite a few instances when the stats wasn't really "by the book" or maybe some game mechanic referred to some procedure which wasn't like that any more. I thought it meant you as the DM just had to be creative.

Then WotC put out the revised 3rd ed. Everyone was scrambling to "update" their stuff and for ages after that people kept asking Bill and Clarke to publish a revised edition of the flagship monster book Tome of Horrors. At this I more than once posted some urgings for people to be creative and just fix it on the fly or sit down and do it themselves. The steam had began to cool in the 3rd ed. engine by that time and I knew that no revised printing of ToH would come. You can maybe still find my post where I heckle and tease people for their lack of creativity and ask how they became DMs with that attitude.

If you want to call me arrogant and maybe even a bit rude I wont argue the point. But, it brings into focus the "problem" with Heroes & Villains mentioned above. How much will it bother you to have a supplement miss a few facts about a monster, or a NPC?

The reason we buy supplements is that we as DMs don't want or can do the work, and thus pay somebody to do it for us. Frankly, if you have the rules of a game you really never need to buy anything. Considering how many freely available games there are, you never need to buy anything! But we do, and for some pretty good reasons.

Is it then ok for those supplements to not be perfectly "legal"? As you can guess, I think it might be ok. For me it don't work as well when I write it all myself. I'm not a world builder, plotter, NPC designer and dungeon digger. I am duck tape, patching together things behind the screen, rolling dice and saying "yes". My last 7th Sea game showed this again to be true.

Now, I see the point that having bought something you expect it to be worth your money. But, being worth it for many seem to mean they get annoyed when it don't pass the legal review. Why do you even bother to get agitated? Spend that energy to design your own, right? I think, especially looking at those Judges Guild booklets in cheap newsprint, that today we have probably forgotten the level of amateurism that have ruled this hobby for most of its life. Today we expect professionalism, or at least glossy paper and colour on our maps. What's you money worth?

I still think that a DM worth his or her salt should be able to take something and combining it with some of that other stuff over there. Hey, isn't the platonic ideal the DM who writes everything by herself? I have met more than once who boast of that proficiency. Maybe it's not for everyone, but if I can patch half decent stuff back into playable games with player enthusiasm as glue, then I think anyone can do it! I'm not that special.


  1. At the same time: if I had the time to write an adventure I wouldn't be giving someone else money to write one for me: Even if I didn't have the creativity to take a plot from a short story or book and turn it into an adventure I could take one of the six million ones on the net and convert them. But that takes a fair bit of time that I just don't have. So while I'm willing to use a 3.0 adventure with 3.5 (or was when I DMed those systems) and I'd just fudge the numbers if it turned out to be far more challenging than I expected due to changes in the monsters. However if a monster is written in a blatantly wrong way, such that I can't fix it on the fly then I've wasted money on the adventure, as it will take me time to fix it.

  2. I agree with you, but it's not a popular attitude, especially with the modern D&D incarnations, which place a lot of "official" emphasis on being precise and correct with stats. It's a whole culture of gaming that has arisen, and whom, in my opinion, doesn't "get it" on a fundamental level when it comes to being a DM. But what can you do? It is what it is. I hope they enjoy their hours of endless stat-checking and adjusting.

  3. In my case I distrust homebrews because every experience I've had with them has been terrible: No regard for playability, handing out powers normally gained at 11th level at 1st, blatant GM favoritism... I can avoid all of this if I a) DM and b) Don't screw around with the rules.

  4. I decided to post some of the thoughts of this post in a more succinct form without the barbs and sarcasm.


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