D&D General D&D 3E Style Guide Peeks Behind The Scenes

Alex Kammer of Gamehole fame, the convention and the wonderful museum of every TSR D&D product and game room also has a copy of the D&D 3.0 Style Guide!

Interesting parts include the 3 million active monthly players, the primary and secondary target audiences, the list of "do's and don'ts" and cursing!

The primary audience was college students ages 18-24, with a secondary audience of young people form 13-16 and adults 25+.

"Dos and Don'ts" include "do show monsters as fearsome, evil creatures. They're not misunderstood--they're EVIL!", and "don't show the game being played by children or pre-teens".






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the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
I would love to see more. How many pages long was this guide? And I wonder was this produced before, during, or after the core books for D&D 3.0 were published?

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Victoria Rules
I'm relieved to see their intended core market was college-age rather than younger; with 2e (and 4e and to some extent 5e) it often seemed/s like they're targeting and designing for younger, which IMO does the game no favours.

Most of those points I quite like. Don't market to children, monsters are EVIL, etc. - 5e could learn some good things here.

A few exceptions:

I disagree with "Don't show the heroes dying", in that characters can and will die; and players should be made aware of this right up front such that character deaths don't come as a shock later.

I've never bought into the concept that PCs are generally expected to be heroes. PCs can be whatever their players want them to be.

I disagree with "Don't show the heroes in an impossible moral dilemma between two evils". (I guess this one's for adventure design) While it's something that can certainly be overdone, denying it completely seems like overkill.

And - sigh - even after the Neo-Pagan boom of the 1990s they still equate pentagrams with demonic symbols. Idjits.


the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
The art and styling suggests early 3.0, so I wager 1999-2001 era.
I was not clear in my question, I guess. Yes, these are from the D&D 3.0 era (1999-2001). My curiosity is whether they were written before 3.0 was released (guiding its development), concurrently with D&D 3.0's creation (as they wrote it, they said, "some of what we are doing can be codified into some guidelines"), or after 3.0's release ("here's what we do going forward"). Just my idle curiosity.


Heh, must remember this when I'm told that D&D absolutely was meant to be marketed to the over 30 crowd and how the over 30 crowd was a major consumer. They're barely mentioned here and in a pretty distinct 3rd place. But, I keep getting told that the over 30 crowd was this HUGE market that drives sales. :erm:

Fascinating read though. Excellent.

Sorry, if I missed it, but, when was this printed? This was the style guide in what year? And, I wonder if different style guides were printed/made over the years.

I get the marketing rules about no kids no nerds and no dress up. Their was a stigma they were fighting.

In high school I was a proud gamer, but once I went off the college (mid 90s) I hid my passion for RPGs and was ashamed to tell people. I still don't actively talk about d&d. I have friends I have known for 20 years who don't know I play. Sometimes I wonder if they also hid their love of the game as it was not cool to be a gamer.

I wonder now if I was a 18 year old kid heading to college if would be more proud of my hobby and less ashamed. Probably.


Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I doubt there was internal friction over it. The issue of monsters being fearsome and evil dovetails with multiple other bullet points about emphasizing the heroic nature of the PCs and avoiding choices between evils (the classic paladin trap). They were going for a simpler moral spectrum of their presentation and that continued on through 4e at least with respect to the pre-release marketing materials.
That was my impression as well. I was a bit younger than their target audience when 3e came out, but I remember at the time that violence in media was a concern among parents, but that most parents were generally more accepting of such depictions of violence when unambiguous good triumphed over unambiguous evil.


Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Goodness I despised those covers. Believe it or not, they contributed to me skipping the edition!
I loved it! As a kid slightly younger than the target audience, I would see my friends’ older siblings carrying them around and it made them look like some kind of ancient tomes containing all the secret knowledge about this mysterious and fascinating world I would overhear them talking about every day at recess. Every time I got a chance to peek at a few pages of one was like a forbidden glimpse into a world of magic and wonder I wasn’t old enough to get to play in yet.

I found 3.5e unnecessarily complex and cumbersome when I finally got a chance to try it years later. But luckily for me 4e came out not too long after that and was much more to my liking. But I adore 3e’s aesthetic, which to this day has a powerful influence on my conception of D&D.

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