Rethinking the 3-Book Model


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    Rethinking the 3-Book Model

    I was going to post this over at the "Should magic items be in the PH" thread, but decided it wasn't really on-topic and decided to start a new thread instead.

    The "traditional" 3-book model is one Player's Handbook, one Dungeon Master's Guide (which also contains traps, hazards and magic items) and one Monster Manual.

    I wonder if a better approach might be to take out the information on traps, hazards, magic items, etc. and put it together with the information on monsters into a separate "Homebrewer's Guide" (there may be a better name). Into that book would also go the advice on encounter design, adventure design (including allocation of treasure and magic items), campaign design and world design.

    What would be left in the DMG would be generic DM advice on running the game and engaging and interacting with the players, and maybe a sample dungeon which a beginning DM could use to practice his game-running skills. (So there would be a small number of monsters and treasure in the DMG - those in the sample dungeon.)

    The real advantage to this approach (from my perspective) is that we slash the size of the DMG so that it doesn't look so intimidating for a beginning DM - it actually looks possible to sit down, read through and absorb the information inside within a reasonable period of time. A second advantage is that we separate the role of the DM as designer from the role of the DM as referee. A DM who plans on just running modules will have all the information he needs in the DMG. Should he decide to come up with his own adventures in the future, he just needs to pick up the third book.

    For everyone else, it doesn't make a difference since you'll still get the same content, just distributed differently. In fact, it might even make adventure preparation easier since you only need one book to do it.

    Thoughts?

 

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    Interesting idea but I'm just not sure it's worth it. While I can understand splitting the DMG, I don't think it's the DM who needs to worry about information over-burdening. I think the DMG could be 500 pages long and most would view that as brilliant rather than too much. Have the first section of the DMG be about running the game and keep it succinct, but give me a 100 appendixes of stuff and I'm going to be a very happy DM with lots of stuff to just sit down, read, absorb and enjoy. More important perhaps is reducing the size of the PHB than splitting the DMG.

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    I don't think I'd really want to buy two DMGs just to get the content that really should be in one. I don't want to see such a strongly delineated divide between running a game and prepping a game.
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    Honestly, I'd rather buy two fatter books - the Players Handbook which would have chargen, equipment (not magic items), spells and other character advancement stuff, and all of the core rules (combat, exploration, etc etc). And then the DMG, which would have rule options, DM's advice and How to be a DM type stuff, a big section on encounter/dungeon/environment design, a monster manual type section on traps, a core bestiary of 'essential monsters,' magic items, and all of the other stuff that traditionally goes in a GM's book (that hasn't been put in the PH).
    I'd probably throw some other stuff in both books but that's how I'd like to see it broken down if/when they go with a core book model.
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    I think the PH is going to be way overloaded so I would like to see the core combat rules, social rules and exploration rules in separate book.

    So I would like a: 1) D&D rulebook, 2) PH containing all feats, classes, themes etc abilities/powers feats rituals, 3) DMG with magic items, traps, treasure, DM advice home brewing /modularity explanation and 4) MM

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    Speaking as someone who's run some pathfinder recently, I really, really hate the bloated core book for that game. It's very hard to transport, and very hard to look something up in. I'd far rather have different PHB and DMG books.

    Likewise DMG/MM split. Bigger is not better.
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    I havn't seen the older books in paper, but for 3rd and 4th Edition, the core books are all just way too big. Or rather, there is too much text inside them. All the books of the Dragon Age RPG have 440 pages combined. The same material in D&D 3rd Edition is almost 1000 pages.
    D&D does not have to be as lean as DARPG, but I think there's still huge room to make the game less complex and the books smaller.
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  • #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    I havn't seen the older books in paper, but for 3rd and 4th Edition, the core books are all just way too big. Or rather, there is too much text inside them. All the books of the Dragon Age RPG have 440 pages combined. The same material in D&D 3rd Edition is almost 1000 pages.
    D&D does not have to be as lean as DARPG, but I think there's still huge room to make the game less complex and the books smaller.
    I think the page count is about right. Actually, my 4e PHB (only hard copy RPG book I have) is one of the thinnest books I own; I wouldn't mind it being a little thicker if that means more juicy stuff.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    I havn't seen the older books in paper, but for 3rd and 4th Edition, the core books are all just way too big. Or rather, there is too much text inside them. All the books of the Dragon Age RPG have 440 pages combined. The same material in D&D 3rd Edition is almost 1000 pages.
    D&D does not have to be as lean as DARPG, but I think there's still huge room to make the game less complex and the books smaller.
    I just checked - The D&D rules cyclopedia (1991 - compilation of the Frank Mentzer box sets of OD&D) clocks in at right about 300 pages and that is literally all of the rules you need. It's still the best most self-contained version of the D&D game IMO.

    1e AD&D (Monster Manual, PH, and DMG) clock in at 462 pages total and include this magical thing called an index (that most RPGs today sadly can't be bothered with).

    Third edition (the last one I purchased) was significantly thinner than 3.5 but I don't have the books where I can get at them so I can't tell what the page count difference was (I only recall much in the way of significant differences of content in the DMG). I can't speak for 2nd edition (I don't own that one)

    Either way, I think you've a very good point and it's one that I agree with.
    Last edited by Serendipity; Monday, 14th May, 2012 at 11:15 AM. Reason: clarity
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    I'm very much of the opinion that 5e should have a single Core Rulebook of a reasonable size - about 250 - 300 pages feels about right. If the game is so complex it cannot fit in that amount of space, then it's too complex, IMO.

    However, if WotC do retain the three-book model, then I'd strongly prefer that they keep the arrangement of the books mostly as-is. There are two changes I would prefer they made:

    1) Move the magic items back to the DMG. My thoughts on placement of magic items are probably worthy of a thread of their own, but basically the placement of such things should be almost entirely in the hands of the DM, and so magic items should be in the DMG.

    2) Move traps and environmental hazards to the MM, turning it into a more rounded "book of challenges". Basically, this has the effect of putting everything needed for building and running encounters into a single place.

    (Of these two, I would say they should definitely make the first change. The second is a personal preference, but is extremely minor - it won't impact my buying decisions one iota.)

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