The New Core Rulebook
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    The New Core Rulebook

    No, it isn't the Player's Handbook. Nor is it Heroes of the Fallen Lands or even the Rules Compendium. What is it then, you ask?

    D&D Insider.

    There has been a lot of talk about Essentials and whether or not it is "4.5" or "4.25" or just another series of splat books with new options akin to the Power books. I'd like to take a slightly different route.

    D&D Insider is the one and only core rulebook. It includes all the rules in Compendium, all the options of character creation and advancement in Character Builder, and all the monsters in Monster Builder. Eventually we may see Adventure Tools such as Encounter Builder, Adventure Builder, World Builder, NPC Builder, Class Builder, Powers Builder, etc.

    What about the dead-tree rulebooks? Well, they are supplements and updates to D&D Insider; the flavor-focused books like the Dark Sun Campaign Guide or Manual of the Planes will not enter DDI, and thus are true supplements. But the crunch-focused books like Psionic Power and Heroes of the Fallen Lands act are more akin to rules updates and add-ons to the core D&D rules as represented by DDI.

    DDI is 4E; 4E is DDI. 4E isn't only DDI, but DDI is the core rulebook for 4E. Everything else is subject to being revised, updated, superceded, and even negated by newer material. In some sense DDI is the river of 4E, while the books themselves--the crunch-focused books, at least--are snapshots of the river (the flavor-focused books are more akin to islands in the river, specific configurations and applications of the rules of the river).

    Because of this, there is a quite simple (and cheap) starting point or basic package for 4E: You start with a one-month subscription to DDI and buy the Rules Compendium and you're off and running; you have all the monsters and character options and treasure that you need in DDI, and a handy desk reference in the RC. From that point you can specialize in whatever area suits your campaign. If you need DM advice, get the DM's Kit or the two Dungeon Master's Guides. If you want a campaign focused on undead, get Open Grave. If dragons are your thing, the two Draconomicons.

    To put it another way, DDI is core - it is the primary rules set, and everything else is secondary (or tertiary).

    For better or worse, this is how things are. One positive benefit of this model is that it makes micro-updates to the rules relatively painless; that is, if you have DDI and use it as the primary source for the rules. It even makes larger changes, if not seamless, then at least do-able. It also makes it likely that if and when 5E comes out, for it truly to be "5E" it would have to be significantly different from 4E, at least as different from 4E as 4E was from 3.5E. Why? Because DDI can handle all but the largest of changes and unless there is a drastic change to the core structure of the D&D game, there is no real reason to change the edition. So DDI may extend 4E much longer than we initially thought.

    (with the caveat emptor that if WotC does not find a way to continue to make 4E profitable, they might have to reboot in order to keep the D&D line viable; for whatever reason, Dungeons & Dragons as a brand name has not garnered the kind of invincibility that, say, Coca Cola has; all Coca Cola has to do to remain on top is a steady stream of advertisement. They don't really have to make new products; they do, afaik, but they don't have to. Coca Cola simply has to keep the name in the public awareness and the ship will keep sailing. The same is true of D&D to some extent, but what happens is that it booms and then dwindles to a relatively stable core of diehards; what doesn't happen is that it booms and then stays at that level of boom but shrinks back down to a much smaller size; again, afaik).

    This also means that we could easily see revised Player's Handbooks and even revisions of other books over the years because they wouldn't be invalidating the core, because the core would shortly reflect any changes that these revised books would offer, and these revised books would be snapshots of the same stream a bit further down, with everything that has happened since--not just errata, but rules modifications, add-ons, etc--integrated into the text. And it would work because the revised book itself would not be the new core, but simply a new expression of the core that has already been revised.

    In other words, we're in very different waters than we were with any previous edition. Uncharted waters, really!

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    Does it really matter what is a core rulebook? You know what a core rulebook is? It's a marketing term. It's "this book is really important if you want to play D&D, you have to buy this!" Since that can't work for every book, they market "non-core" books as supplements. It says "this is awesome! It adds to an already awesome game!"

    What's core and what's not is largely just a matter of how it's marketed. Anything else is just internet chatter.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Mercurius View Post
    Because of this, there is a quite simple (and cheap) starting point or basic package for 4E: You start with a one-month subscription to DDI and buy the Rules Compendium and you're off and running; you have all the monsters and character options and treasure that you need in DDI, and a handy desk reference in the RC. From that point you can specialize in whatever area suits your campaign. If you need DM advice, get the DM's Kit or the two Dungeon Master's Guides. If you want a campaign focused on undead, get Open Grave. If dragons are your thing, the two Draconomicons.

    [snip]

    In other words, we're in very different waters than we were with any previous edition. Uncharted waters, really!
    I think the above is exactly why we're going to see the DDI tools become online only. There currently is a huge incentive to not go for longer than one month. There will be a lot of gnashing of teeth over it, but it amazes me that WotC even allowed the system to get to this point.

    But yes, I agree with you, the online aspect of the rules, with easy errata and changing certainly makes it a different era.

    And I don't have a problem with that really. D&D is turning into a living system.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fanboy2000 View Post
    Does it really matter what is a core rulebook? You know what a core rulebook is? It's a marketing term. It's "this book is really important if you want to play D&D, you have to buy this!" Since that can't work for every book, they market "non-core" books as supplements. It says "this is awesome! It adds to an already awesome game!"

    What's core and what's not is largely just a matter of how it's marketed. Anything else is just internet chatter.
    I hear your point but that isn't what I was talking about in terms of what I mean by "core rulebook." What I mean is the core rules, canon, what is needed to play the game. It is the touchstone, so to speak, that everyone comes back to, refers to; "rules headquarters," if you will. What I am saying is that this has shifted away from the traditional PHB/DMG/MM to D&D Insider itself.

    Quote Originally Posted by ArcaneSpringboard View Post
    I think the above is exactly why we're going to see the DDI tools become online only. There currently is a huge incentive to not go for longer than one month. There will be a lot of gnashing of teeth over it, but it amazes me that WotC even allowed the system to get to this point.
    While they may have to I see it being a huge PR disaster, depending upon how they handle it and WotC does not have a history of good PR.

    A better solution might be to have different subscription tiers that allows different degrees of access, frequency of updates, etc. Of course this doesn't solve the problem of dependence upon wireless signal that an online service would have, but maybe they can find a way that you could still have the various tools on your computer, but not access "premium" content without online access (and a more expensive subscription). I haven't thought too deeply into but you get my gist.

    Quote Originally Posted by ArcaneSpringboard View Post
    But yes, I agree with you, the online aspect of the rules, with easy errata and changing certainly makes it a different era.

    And I don't have a problem with that really. D&D is turning into a living system.
    Yes, that is the good side and what, imo, ultimately redeems it - as long as we still good hard copy books because no matter how what DDI's potential is, it can't replace a nice hardcover book or box set!

  5. #5
    I just wish they would stop charing for the books. Im in my second year of subscription and Im alot poorer for having paid both. I like the concept of "user pays" more than the ownership model. "Rent the rules" as such, pay for them as long as you use them, and rest assured that the rules are constantly evolving and broadening for your money.

    WOTC gets lotsa subsrcriptions (rather than many one-month subscriptions), we get alot of material without needing to kill trees. Everyone is happy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mercurius View Post
    I hear your point but that isn't what I was talking about in terms of what I mean by "core rulebook." What I mean is the core rules, canon, what is needed to play the game. It is the touchstone, so to speak, that everyone comes back to, refers to; "rules headquarters," if you will. What I am saying is that this has shifted away from the traditional PHB/DMG/MM to D&D Insider itself.
    1. You're way behind. People have been citing the rules online since the SRD was posted. The SRD was rules headquarters 10 years ago. Look at any rules heavy 3.x thread, most of the time people cite the SRD rather than the rulebook the passage they're citing was printed in.

    2. So what?

    I'm being serious here. You've taken your opinion and framed it in objective conclusory language: "D&D Insider is the one and only core rulebook." and "DDI is core - it is the primary rules set, and everything else is secondary". You used core rulebook knowing it's both a marketing term and (I suspect) that it has special meaning to many people. Where do you expect this thread to go?

    3. Based on what we know, the books are developed first. Also, we don't know what percentage of D&D players use DDI. In order for DDI to be a rules headquarters it would need to be where most people get their rules. Without that statistic (or a way of deriving) you're just speculating.

    4. I'm sorry, but this post is to conclusory for my purposes. You have a valid opinion, and you make good point about the cost of entry. But it's surrounded by language that seems specifically designed to inflame because of the way you have stated your opinion.

    Because of the above, I predict that there will be a back and forth between two posters who have different opinions on the meaning of the word "core rulebook" and each will use it's meaning in prior editions to support their claim. No one will change their mind. You will make many posts stating "that's not what I meant."

    [spoiler]Of course, now that I've predicted it, people will likely try to avoid having the thread devolve into that. That would be nice.[/spoiler]

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    fanboy2000, you're unhappy with my "objective conclusory language"? Really? Really?!

    As for your actual points:

    1. True, but DDI is a whole 'nother ball game, no?
    2. If the topic doesn't interest you, move along, but don't spoil the waters for those that might find it interesting, like myself, by assuming that the OP is trying to inflame by voicing opinions without saying that he is voicing opinions.
    3. Yes, the books are developed first, but my point is that centralization is shifting towards DDI.
    4. See 2 above, rinse and repeat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mercurius View Post
    fanboy2000, you're unhappy with my "objective conclusory language"? Really? Really?!
    Really. And I didn't say I was unhappy with it.

    1. True, but DDI is a whole 'nother ball game, no?
    Not really. The Compendium isn't as useful as the SRD was in terms of accessibility. But it makes up for that in terms of scope.

    2. If the topic doesn't interest you, move along, but don't spoil the waters for those that might find it interesting, like myself, by assuming that the OP is trying to inflame by voicing opinions without saying that he is voicing opinions.
    I do find it interesting. A discussion about how DDI can help new people get into the game is an interesting one. (You read my post right?) Also, looking at individual reports of how DDI is used in their game is also interesting. I think it's a fair criticism that titling the thread "The New Core Rulebook isn't going to further that discussion. You are, of course, free to disagree. It's possible that I'm wrong. (It's not like it would be the first time.)

    3. Yes, the books are developed first, but my point is that centralization is shifting towards DDI.
    Ok. What do you mean by centralization? Is just that all the rules are in DDI? Or is the number of people using it relevant? Is it enough that all the crunch is available to anyone who pays, or does it matter that some people chose not to use it?

    4. See 2 above, rinse and repeat.
    Since you don't like "objective conclusory language" may I offer needlessly hyperbolic language? Also, I just want to point out that I said it seemed like it was designed to inflame. I don't think you actually intended that, though I can see a reasonable person making that inference.
    Last edited by fanboy2000; Wednesday, 20th October, 2010 at 06:19 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fanboy2000 View Post
    Not really. The Compendium isn't as useful as the SRD was in terms of accessibility. But it makes up for that in terms of scope.
    But DDI as a whole is marketed as more central to the game than the SRD ever was. To put it another way, DDI is a product, the SRD was not.

    Quote Originally Posted by fanboy2000 View Post
    I do find it interesting. A discussion about how DDI can help new people get into the game is an interesting one. (You read my post right?) Also, looking at individual reports of how DDI is used in their game is also interesting. I think it's a fair criticism that titling the thread "The New Core Rulebook isn't going to further that discussion. You are, of course, free to disagree. It's possible that I'm wrong. (It's not like it would be the first time.)
    Why is the title "The New Core Rulebook" potentially inflammatory or controversial? I honestly don't get it.

    Quote Originally Posted by fanboy2000 View Post
    Ok. What do you mean by centralization? Is just that all the rules are in DDI? Or is the number of people using it relevant? Is it enough that all the crunch is available to anyone who pays, or does it matter that some people chose not to use it?
    I mean that DDI has become/is becoming the central source for rules because it A) compiles just about everything in one place and B) is updated to reflect new rules, errata, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by fanboy2000 View Post
    Since you don't like "objective conclusory language" may I offer needlessly hyperbolic language? Also, I just want to point out that I said it seemed like it was designed to inflame. I don't think you actually intended that, though I can see a reasonable person making that inference.
    Oh, so I'm being hyperbolic now? What was hyperbolic about my original post? Furthermore, "objective conclusory" and "needlessly hyperbolic" are very different beasts. Which is it, or both?

    And then you say that the OP "seemed like it was designed to inflame" but that you don't think I actually intended that. If you don't think I intended to inflame, how could it seems like that was what I was trying to do?

    Who exactly is trying to inflame here, fanboy?

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