What do you think of the 4E release 'balance'?


4th Edition


I'm somebody who buys books much more for 'fluff' than for crunch. In most systems I find that the core rulebooks provide me with everything that I need to run a game and I don't have a lot of appetite for new rules. So while I do buy the occasional rule expansion (I thought the APG was very good for instance and Skills and Powers from the 2E days is one of my favourite books) my collection is dominated by more flavour focused books. Whoever is GM in my group usually uses their own game world, but I simply find setting books and to some extent adventures a lot of fun to read.

As such my 3.5 collection has a lot of setting books (a bunch of stuff from the Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, etc), but not much in the way of new rulebooks (such as the various complete books, epic rules, psionics, etc). My Pathfinder collection is following a similar trend and though I had to drop the subscription recently the campaign setting is my favourite line.

Belatedly getting to the point there really isn't much that has come out for 4E that has interested me. I like the game system and enjoy playing it pretty much the same as Pathfinder/3.5, but my 4E 'library' is very bare compared to those other systems. They've moved to a new model for supporting the various campaign settings where there isn't a great deal about the world as far as I can tell after the initial release. I can see some sense in this approach I suppose, but it just doesn't give me a lot to buy.

I'm just curious as to whether anybody else feels this way?

Or whether there is more flavour focused 4E content around elsewhere that I've missed?

So far I have the Forgotten Realms book, I'll be getting the Dark Sun book and am not very interested in Eberron. Beyond that there really haven't seemed to be very many of the books that I like to buy coming out.


4E has been moving a bit more in a flavor-heavy direction in recent days, particular in the magazines and the Essentials products. For myself, I prefer a balance - some of the recent products, like the Monster Vault, seem to fit right in the sweet spot. The new upcoming Monster book (Threats to the Nerath Valley) seems even more awesome in that regard.

It's true they only have limited campaign support. However, what you might be more interested in are the 'location and creature' books. In a way, they are basically setting books for the core cosmology.

Location Books
Manual of the Planes
The Plane Below (The Elemental Chaos and the Abyss)
Underdark
The Plane Above (The Astral Sea)
The Shadowfell: Gloomwraught and Beyond (The Shadowfell)
Upcoming: The Feywild

Creature Books
Draconomicon 1 (Chromatic Dragons)
Open Grave (Undead)
Draconomicon 2 (Metallic Dragons)
Demonomicon (Demons)

Of the above, I'm a big fan of the Demonicon, the Plane Below and Plane Above, and the Shadowfell book. And the Underdark book has gotten good reviews, though I don't have it.

Anyway, not sure how much interest you have in these, but it would seem to be where 4E puts most of its 'flavor' content.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I agree wholeheartedly. I like to read rpg books as much as or sometimes even more than I enjoy playing. Slogging through rules and character options bores me to no end. The current line is that setting fluff is not in demand and buyers want to consume rules.

If you think about it with the exception of perhaps Legend of the 5 Rings and Golarion there is a notable lack of campaign worlds that are supported with more than two or three supplements.

Hellfrost from Savage Worlds has some meat.

I'm saddened by the move to rules! rules! rules! at least character upgrades and feats. The rules I want to see..... kingdom building....resource management.... are not in demand as of yet. I see evidence that is starting to change thankfully.


The location books do indeed sound like the kind of thing that I'd be interested in, so thanks a lot for pointing those out. I always seem to end up getting Underdark and Planar books in various systems and might just have to check those out. I'm suffering a bit from 'creature burnout' right now since I've bought a few monster books lately so I'll put those books on the back burner, but dragon books are always tempting.

Are you able to give me an idea on the sort of information The Plane Above covers? The idea of a book on The Astal Sea sounds appealing, but I'm really not sure what would be in it.

It's certainly encouraging that there seem to be quite a few more flavour-heavy books than there were the last time I looked.


Blood stained Sunday's best wrote:
I'm saddened by the move to rules! rules! rules!

I very much agree. As much as I enjoy the Pathfinder RPG it's really the attention that they have paid to Golarion which got me hooked on Paizo. I've never really gotten into L5R despite having some friends mad on it, but I picked up Hellfrost recently after seeing it recommended on these boards. I haven't had a chance to read through in great detail yet, but I've definitely liked it so far.

Shadowrun always had a great game world too I thought. Though I haven't bought anything from the line for some time and it's a bit of a different genre.


Berik wrote:
Are you able to give me an idea on the sort of information The Plane Above covers? The idea of a book on The Astal Sea sounds appealing, but I'm really not sure what would be in it.

They've got quite a few excerpts at the WotC site which might give a good idea of the content.

The Plane Above is where the dominions of the gods can be found, so it has a solid focus on those, as well as the Nine Hells. It fleshes out some interesting background of the cosmology (both it and the Demonomicon do quite a bit of that), while also giving advice and ideas on running campaigns on the Astral Sea. And, of course, presents various new locations and monsters and the like.

I've probably gotten more use out of the Plane Below, between the City of Brass and the Abyss... but I think the Plane Above is the more ambitious of the two books, and has quite a bit of novel ideas in it.


Blood stained Sunday's best wrote:

I agree wholeheartedly. I like to read rpg books as much as or sometimes even more than I enjoy playing. Slogging through rules and character options bores me to no end. The current line is that setting fluff is not in demand and buyers want to consume rules.

If you think about it with the exception of perhaps Legend of the 5 Rings and Golarion there is a notable lack of campaign worlds that are supported with more than two or three supplements.

Hellfrost from Savage Worlds has some meat.

I'm saddened by the move to rules! rules! rules! at least character upgrades and feats. The rules I want to see..... kingdom building....resource management.... are not in demand as of yet. I see evidence that is starting to change thankfully.

Frankly this seems odd, if you can only think of three campaign worlds getting regular support. There's far more than that.

If you want kingdom building and resource management, and a world that's getting more than two or three supplements, then the obvious place to look is Mongoose Runequest 2. Runequest Empires for the former, and Glorantha for the latter. Though I could suggest others. Though my experience is that there are far more people running homebrew settings than there are using pre-made campaign worlds, and long may that continue. Even the best-made campaign settings don't fit the style of a GM as much as their own work can.


Matthew Koelbl wrote:

They've got quite a few excerpts at the WotC site which might give a good idea of the content.

Thanks again, that looks pretty interesting. The presence of the City of Brass makes Plane Below hold some appeal too and the excerpts on the Shadowfell make it sound pretty cool. Glad to see that there seems to be more of my kind of thing around than I thought, last time i'd been around by FLGS only really had rulebooks.


The problem with extended printed campaign support is that you start to tread in TSR territory. They did go broke, after all.

If I make four books for Forgotten Realms, only people who like FR are going to buy them. If they're niche books, I've just cut the market down even more.

The basic idea with 4e campaign releases is to shy away from worlds that were so full that DM's couldn't actually stretch out and play them. You have two books with the basics and neccessities with a double scoop of potential plot lines.


I also have to say that I like they way the 4e settings, location and creature books are layouted. It's much easier to get an overview than with the respective 3e books, and it doesn't get quite so lost in details...


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Bluenose wrote:

Frankly this seems odd, if you can only think of three campaign worlds getting regular support. There's far more than that.

I honestly can only think of a few. Golarion is the most developed followed by Hellfrost (even this is slim), L5R, and you're right Runequest and Glorantha have some support. I do have Runequest Empires but I wasn't that impressed with it.

What other big expansive campaign worlds are there?

Warhammer fantasy has switched to more of a player option/rules production line.

I think the 40k FFG lines are doing an admirable job.

I know the current logic is that if you produce multiple campaign worlds your company will collapse due to a fragmented customer base but sometimes I get the feeling that someone posted that TSR argument and everyone just kept reposting it blindly.

Yea, TSR went bankrupt but they had a long long run.

WEG had some great campaign worlds....Torg and tons of development for Star Wars.

What are the big campaign worlds receiving regular print support in your eyes?


ProfessorCirno wrote:

The problem with extended printed campaign support is that you start to tread in TSR territory. They did go broke, after all.

If I make four books for Forgotten Realms, only people who like FR are going to buy them. If they're niche books, I've just cut the market down even more.

The basic idea with 4e campaign releases is to shy away from worlds that were so full that DM's couldn't actually stretch out and play them. You have two books with the basics and neccessities with a double scoop of potential plot lines.

TSR went broke, but it was seemingly the mismanagement of how they supported product that did them in, not the campaign support itself. They spread themselves extremely thin and were trying to support a lot of campaign settings at the same time.

WotC seemed happy enough pumping out setting book after setting book for 3.5 Forgotten Realms and only slowed down towards the end of the life of the system. Paizo put out a lot of setting books for Golarion and they seem to be doing pretty darn well too. So I don't think it's true that providing ongoing support to a campaign world is in itself a bad idea.

I get the idea that they want to reduce the apparent barrier of entry for newcomers to a campaign world, but I think there's a middle ground between excessive support and the current model. They have a number of campaign worlds, so they could give greater exposure to some lines and leave others simply dependent on one or two books.

I've no interest in actually playing a game set in the Forgotten Realms for instance, I just enjoy reading well written setting books. Unfortunately 4E hasn't been proving me with too much of that sort of thing, though I do intend to check out some of the books Matthew recommended since they seem at least to be closer to what I'd like to see.


Blood stained Sunday's best wrote:

I honestly can only think of a few. Golarion is the most developed followed by Hellfrost (even this is slim), L5R, and you're right Runequest and Glorantha have some support. I do have Runequest Empires but I wasn't that impressed with it.

What other big expansive campaign worlds are there?

Warhammer fantasy has switched to more of a player option/rules production line.

I think the 40k FFG lines are doing an admirable job.

I know the current logic is that if you produce multiple campaign worlds your company will collapse due to a fragmented customer base but sometimes I get the feeling that someone posted that TSR argument and everyone just kept reposting it blindly.

I'm not sure I agree that that's the logic. I think that the idea is that publishing a lot of material that most of your customers aren't interested in is a bad idea. I am pretty certain that far more people play with their own homebrew setting than play with a published work. That's probably only not true for highly specialised games such as Pendragon, and even there I know someone using it for Greek heroes. Effectively, a campaign-specific book is one that a majority of your audience won't be interested in, and there's a limit to how much of that is economically sustainable.

Quote:
What are the big campaign worlds receiving regular print support in your eyes?

Well, you've named some of them yourself, though I'd argue that WFRP has quite a bit more background than you're giving it credit for. The books on magic and religions contain significant amounts, and their next product is a guide to dwarfs.

But if we just look at Mongoose, they're publishing RQ material for Glorantha, Elric, starting Wraith Recon. Then there's the Third Imperium and Judge Dredd for Traveller, Magnamund for Lone Wolf, Barsaive for Earthdawn, Alpha Complex for Paranoia. Glorantha also has 3rd Age material for Heroquest coming out, and very nice Sartar and The Sartar Companion are too.

Or Cubicle 7, and their products Qin, Victoriana, Clockwork and Chivalry, and some Call of Cthulhu material. CoC is supported by several publishers. Green Ronin and their M&M game/setting, Catalyst with Shadowrun, Kenzer with Aces and Eights, Kalamar, and the Hackmaster supplements.


Berik wrote:
WotC seemed happy enough pumping out setting book after setting book for 3.5 Forgotten Realms and only slowed down towards the end of the life of the system. Paizo put out a lot of setting books for Golarion and they seem to be doing pretty darn well too. So I don't think it's true that providing ongoing support to a campaign world is in itself a bad idea.

I don't have any links or proof of ~*~insider information~*~ but I recall reading that the extended books of FR and even of Eberron weren't big hits and generally got more flak then praise.

The thing with Golarion is that it's one world. With D&D you have far more then just one.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Maps Subscriber

I am a bit in the middle, I think WotC got it just right with teh Eberron line for 3.5.

The core campaign setting book
15 campaign supplements
Four scenarios that can be linked
A campaign adventure

Its enough to have a fully fleshed out setting, but not so much that you couldn't read it all.

I was actually pleased when WotC said for 4e Eberron would only get a Players Guide, a Campaign Guide and a scenario, because to be honest I prefer 3.5 to 4e, have all the 3.5 books for fluff and so didn't want to rebuy a load of books - but I am also a completionist and knew I woudl buy the 4e stuff too. So I got to buy the 4e Eberron stuff without having to buy loads of books. However, if all WotC had put out for Eberron during its 3.5 run was three books I wouldn't have felt sated.

Golarion on the other hand has for me past the point of setting bloat. There is so much out there that I couldn't possibly get it all and have a chance to read it and still spend time on other RPGs.

If PF was all I wanted to play and Golarion the only setting, then it may be okay, but its not. Also I believe it would always irk me that the setting material is split between 3.5 and PF RPG.

And with me I am a bit of completionist, so its all or the bare minimum (and in the case of the latter it won't be my preferred setting).

So for Golarion I have bought the Gazateer, and then just buy the odd PDF that interests me - Guide to Absalom (due to it featuring heavily in PFS), Guide to Dark Moon Vale (as my main PFS character comes from there) and I just read the Osirian Player Companion (as my second PFS character comes from there). I don't plan to buy the campaign guide or really any more Golarion stuff and I don't plan to play in the setting other than for PFS.


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DigitalMage wrote:

I am a bit in the middle, I think WotC got it just right with teh Eberron line for 3.5.

The core campaign setting book
15 campaign supplements
Four scenarios that can be linked
A campaign adventure

Its enough to have a fully fleshed out setting, but not so much that you couldn't read it all.

I was actually pleased when WotC said for 4e Eberron would only get a Players Guide, a Campaign Guide and a scenario, because to be honest I prefer 3.5 to 4e, have all the 3.5 books for fluff and so didn't want to rebuy a load of books - but I am also a completionist and knew I woudl buy the 4e stuff too. So I got to buy the 4e Eberron stuff without having to buy loads of books. However, if all WotC had put out for Eberron during its 3.5 run was three books I wouldn't have felt sated.

Golarion on the other hand has for me past the point of setting bloat. There is so much out there that I couldn't possibly get it all and have a chance to read it and still spend time on other RPGs.

If PF was all I wanted to play and Golarion the only setting, then it may be okay, but its not. Also I believe it would always irk me that the setting material is split between 3.5 and PF RPG.

And with me I am a bit of completionist, so its all or the bare minimum (and in the case of the latter it won't be my preferred setting).

So for Golarion I have bought the Gazateer, and then just buy the odd PDF that interests me - Guide to Absalom (due to it featuring heavily in PFS), Guide to Dark Moon Vale (as my main PFS character comes from there) and I just read the Osirian Player Companion (as my second PFS character comes from there). I don't plan to buy the campaign guide or really any more Golarion stuff and I don't plan to play in the setting other than for PFS.

It's a little off topic, but I'd really recommend city of strangers - it's a fantastic setting book.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Maps Subscriber
Steve Geddes wrote:
It's a little off topic, but I'd really recommend city of strangers - it's a fantastic setting book.

Sounds interesting, is that the city that resulted from Rise of the Runelords? However it sounds like more a book a GM would use, rather than somewhere a character of mine would come from.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Bluenose wrote:


I'm not sure I agree that that's the logic. I think that the idea is that publishing a lot of material that most of your customers aren't interested in is a bad idea.

And that is where my gripe is! I'm a person on the Internet, so naturally I feel my way is best. At one point and time I believe people enjoyed fluff as part of their game world and were very interested in purchasing fluff centric products.

Yes, TSR went under, but they sold a bundle of boxed sets chronicling a score of vibrant, well developed settings. The reason given for their failure was that they fragmented their customer base. Ravenloft people bought Ravenloft and so on and so forth. But each of these settings had die hard fans that consumed all of the fluff available for their respective worlds.

Now the logic is customers aren't interested in fluff.

Why did this change? I have to believe that at one time customers were interested in fluff. In theory Forgotten Realms died under the weight of its fluff. People still wax reverently over Greyhawk and Dark Sun.
Why is fluff no longer viable?

I feel people switched to this rules! rules! mentality and in the process the game lost something.


Blood stained Sunday's best wrote:
Bluenose wrote:


I'm not sure I agree that that's the logic. I think that the idea is that publishing a lot of material that most of your customers aren't interested in is a bad idea.

And that is where my gripe is! I'm a person on the Internet, so naturally I feel my way is best. At one point and time I believe people enjoyed fluff as part of their game world and were very interested in purchasing fluff centric products.

Yes, TSR went under, but they sold a bundle of boxed sets chronicling a score of vibrant, well developed settings. The reason given for their failure was that they fragmented their customer base. Ravenloft people bought Ravenloft and so on and so forth. But each of these settings had die hard fans that consumed all of the fluff available for their respective worlds.

Now the logic is customers aren't interested in fluff.

Why did this change? I have to believe that at one time customers were interested in fluff. In theory Forgotten Realms died under the weight of its fluff. People still wax reverently over Greyhawk and Dark Sun.
Why is fluff no longer viable?

I feel people switched to this rules! rules! mentality and in the process the game lost something.

I think people are plenty interested in fluff!

But I think it makes more sense to have generalized fluff like Plane Above then to have setting specific books.


Blood stained Sunday's best wrote:


Yes, TSR went under, but they sold a bundle of boxed sets chronicling a score of vibrant, well developed settings. The reason given for their failure was that they fragmented their customer base. Ravenloft people bought Ravenloft and so on and so forth. But each of these settings had die hard fans that consumed all of the fluff available for their respective worlds.

Now the logic is customers aren't interested in fluff.

Why did this change? I have to believe that at one time customers were interested in fluff. In theory Forgotten Realms died under the weight of its fluff. People still wax reverently over Greyhawk and Dark Sun.
Why is fluff no longer viable?

I feel people switched to this rules! rules! mentality and in the process the game lost something.

The argument was that it was never viable, as a separate market, to begin with - that's why a titan like TSR could die. Purportedly each setting box did great (which is why TSR kept pumping them out) but after that there was never enough demand to pay for the follow on products - worse yet the 'generic' D&D products began to suffer because the customer base wanted specifically Ravenloft or Darksun and Dungeon Level #3 of the Endless Crypt of Penultimate Doom would not sell because it had no place in Dark Sun or Ravenloft.

It does not matter how die hard the fan base** is, what is really needed is lots of customers. Its worth noting that during the 3.x era WotC was willing to license out places like Ravenloft, but with the exception of Dragonlance, few where interested in licensing these worlds, the general feeling among the 3rd party publishers was that they would not make money...not even enough money to satisfy a small d20 publisher.

** there is an exception to this - Matrix Games sells computer games, mostly war games. Usually they are based on newish but not anywhere near bleeding edge technology...and they sell some of these games, Like their massive Pacific War game for $100 dollars a pop (and you download them to boot). The games are unbelievably detailed...for the hard core purist only and in this way they can make money. Their die hard fans are willing to shell out three times what a computer game normally goes for in order to play these games - its boutique computer gaming basically. Hence if Ravenloft fans where so hard core that there where willing to shell out $120 dollars for a book that, if it where some other RPG product would go for $40 then there would be a market. At this point the belief is that trying to sell Ravenloft Hardcovers for $120 a pop would be an utter failure.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

I don't really know anything about it, but the story I heard that made sense to me was that what really pushed TSR over the edge was an unsuccessful push into the mainstream. As I heard it, all of their RPG product lines were doing at least okay - but they banked on massive sales of softcover novels which never eventuated. In addition, there is a 'standard clause' in book distribution deals where the big distributors buy stacks of your product provided you agree to buy back what they can't sell at the end of the year.

As I understood it, TSR had demand for their various sourcebooks, they just ran out of cash due to suddenly have to buy back several truckloads of softcover novels which hadn't sold. So they were left with a bunch of unsellable stock and no cash nor remaining credit to produce the various boxed sets, campaign supplements and so forth for which there was still demand.

That was all from 'some guy on the internet' of course so who knows how true it is. I remember thinking that the account he gave (which was far more complete) made a lot of sense - certainly more than the popular alternative which seemed to be that TSR just blithely continued as they had always done, churning out more and more product lines and 'fracturing their market' whilst they slowly ran out of money.


Berik wrote:
Blood stained Sunday's best wrote:
I'm saddened by the move to rules! rules! rules!

I very much agree. As much as I enjoy the Pathfinder RPG it's really the attention that they have paid to Golarion which got me hooked on Paizo. I've never really gotten into L5R despite having some friends mad on it, but I picked up Hellfrost recently after seeing it recommended on these boards. I haven't had a chance to read through in great detail yet, but I've definitely liked it so far.

Shadowrun always had a great game world too I thought. Though I haven't bought anything from the line for some time and it's a bit of a different genre.

Hellfrost is a great setting, I think it's an amazing setting, rich in flavor and style. What's great about it is that you can buy the gazetteer and not have to worry about mechanics at all. It's completely system free so you would have everything you need to Hellfrost your 4e, PF, fantasy-RPG-system-X, etc.

I like to think of Hellfrost as the Golarion of Savageworlds and Tripleace Games as the Paizo. Not that Pinnacle is anything like Wizards (after all, they do damn good flavor and fluff in their products, ooh diss :P), but the whole 3rd party company thing, TAG seems to be the best 3PP for Savage Worlds in my not so humble opinion.


Steve Geddes wrote:

I don't really know anything about it, but the story I heard that made sense to me was that what really pushed TSR over the edge was an unsuccessful push into the mainstream. As I heard it, all of their RPG product lines were doing at least okay - but they banked on massive sales of softcover novels which never eventuated. In addition, there is a 'standard clause' in book distribution deals where the big distributors buy stacks of your product provided you agree to buy back what they can't sell at the end of the year.

As I understood it, TSR had demand for their various sourcebooks, they just ran out of cash due to suddenly have to buy back several truckloads of softcover novels which hadn't sold. So they were left with a bunch of unsellable stock and no cash nor remaining credit to produce the various boxed sets, campaign supplements and so forth for which there was still demand.

That was all from 'some guy on the internet' of course so who knows how true it is. I remember thinking that the account he gave (which was far more complete) made a lot of sense - certainly more than the popular alternative which seemed to be that TSR just blithely continued as they had always done, churning out more and more product lines and 'fracturing their market' whilst they slowly ran out of money.

TSR was pushed over the edge by the hater that was 'she who must not be named'.


DM Doom wrote:

TSR was pushed over the edge by the hater that was 'she who must not be named'.

Look, LW isn't freaking Voldemort.

She's also the one that saved D&D when it was being looted by the Blume family; people tend to skip that little factoid over.

Contributor

Removed some posts and their replies. Please post civilly and respectfully.


Berik wrote:
I'm just curious as to whether anybody else feels this way?

Reading D&D fluff is alright if I have nothing else to read, but I like full novels for my fiction fix. And since I tend to write my own gaming fluff anyway, fluff is a low priority when I'm buying game books.

That said, I can see how 4e books would be a disappointment to a game-fluff-lover. (That sounded vaguely inappropriate, but I can't say why...) 2e books put later game fluff to shame; in fact Planescape is the only published setting I've ever been gaga about.

So, you could download or find hard copies of earlier fluff books. You could also check out the blogosphere for the huge quantity of unofficial game fluff.

And with that shameless plug, I bid you adieu!

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