Game Books and Power Creep

I noticed a trend among gaming companies, whether it be a huge corporate publisher or smaller game companies.

Each book after the initial “core” book release seems to introduce more powerful characters and equipment. I have a couple of ideas as to why this happens, one is benign, the other is market driven.

The benign explanation is that the subsequent books are poorly play-tested, in the interests of time to market. Remember, the initial book probably spent months or even years in development. Once it hits the market and demand grows, there is far less time to playtest supplements. Or even worse, the original creators farm out the supplements to contractors. A contractor is hired to write a book. Playtesting and game balance likely fall to the wayside to meet a deadline.  Basically, quality control for the entire process begins to fall apart under tight deadlines and market demands.

The second reason is pure marketing evil.  Strictly speaking, you only need a “Players Handbook” for “Dungeons and Dragons.” That and a little imagination will keep you going for years. This is a lousy business model. The only way to sell more books is to give consumers something new, something exciting and most importantly, something “cool.” Nothing says “cool” like more powerful PCs or equipment. People will spend money on a cool new book.

Do not misunderstand me, I think that many game companies produce insightful, creative game books. I buy supplements too, but I just wish the supplements focused more on the story and creative ideas that initially excited me about the game instead of just firepower or PC gimmicks.

Trask, the Last Tyromancer



Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.