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5E Is 5e being too stingy on fluff?

Li Shenron

Adventurer
I've been under the impression for 5 years now that 5e actually increased the importance of "fluff" compared to the previous 2 editions, by fluff meaning everything not mechanics-related: narrative, descriptions, artwork... 5e Monster Manual was definitely an improvement for me.

5e books are lighter than 3e books, there is definitely less focus on numbers and stats. There is also in general a much lower words count in books of similar number of pages (just compare the font size), and here is where things become iffy...

I've always praised the lower word count in rulesbook. It means the game is more solid, rules are clearer, and CORE 5e doesn't feel a bit lighter to me than CORE 3e in terms of what players and DMs can do with it.

On the other hand I don't get the same good feeling about settings material. There is nothing around for 5e nearly as valuable as older editions settings sourcebooks. I wasn't much into the game in the glorious era of 2e, but in 3e there were very valuable settings books like FRCS, ECS, Dragonlance, Ravenloft, Rokugan... I still read that a lot of people use those old books for fluff, andso do I.

I know that 5e doesn't have nearly the same release schedule as 3e, but that's not what I have in mind: it's not about WotC releasing very few settings books, it's about the fact that when they do, these books actually have very little information compared to similar books of the past.

For instance, any regional FR book of 3e easily contains more fluff information (history, locales, NPC...) than SCAG, which is the only FR book for 5e. Ravnica is essentially a regional book of the world of MtG, in the 3e era they would have started with a more comprehensive book of the world at large.

It wouldn't be a problem if these slim books were part of a series, but inserted in 5e slow release schedule, they give me a feeling of always only getting "previews" of settings, which will be fleshed out more later on.

The FRCS and RCS of 3e gave me instead the feeling that I could game with those for decades. And in fact... I am still using them!!

I don't know if it's just me, but I wonder how the others feel about it.
 

S'mon

Legend
5e is definitely light on fluff & adventures; I tend to use stuff from older editions, often from DMs Guild/drivethrurpg.
 

clearstream

Explorer
5e books are lighter than 3e books, there is definitely less focus on numbers and stats. There is also in general a much lower words count in books of similar number of pages (just compare the font size), and here is where things become iffy...

I've always praised the lower word count in rulesbook. It means the game is more solid, rules are clearer, and CORE 5e doesn't feel a bit lighter to me than CORE 3e in terms of what players and DMs can do with it.
I don't think it is lighter in terms of what the rules are doing. Only in terms of the more natural mode of expression, and better turned language.

On the other hand I don't get the same good feeling about settings material. There is nothing around for 5e nearly as valuable as older editions settings sourcebooks. I wasn't much into the game in the glorious era of 2e, but in 3e there were very valuable settings books like FRCS, ECS, Dragonlance, Ravenloft, Rokugan... I still read that a lot of people use those old books for fluff, andso do I.
This thought came up for me in another thread. Could it be that they are reserving material in order to serve their modernised format? I mean where adventure modules contain world fluff and crunch on top of the adventure fluff and crunch, while monster manuals contain world fluff and crunch on top of the bestiary. Compare SKT to the SCAG. There is that middle section of SKT that seems to have a lot of crossover with SCAG. Or the OOTA underdark hexmap with the SCAG hexmap. Or look at the crossovers between OOTA and Mordenkainen's.

It could even be that their "mistake" is publishing books like Xanathar's (much as I love it) and SCAG at all. Perhaps the whole of that material should instead be distributed into their modern adventure and MM formats? Maybe even the MMs should not exist, and we should receive instead wonderfully high value adventure modules?! I mean, OOTA's fluff in a way weirdly ignores the Mordenkainen's fluff, they should be one thing.
 

Tallifer

Adventurer
4th Edition D&D was my favourite edition, so to me 5th Edition has excessive fluff to wade through. Whenever I copy-paste information from the spells, monsters or classes onto a character sheet or dungeon plan, I feel compelled to shorten or delete numerous sentences, even to delete entire paragraphs.
 

schneeland

Explorer
...
On the other hand I don't get the same good feeling about settings material. There is nothing around for 5e nearly as valuable as older editions settings sourcebooks. I wasn't much into the game in the glorious era of 2e, but in 3e there were very valuable settings books like FRCS, ECS, Dragonlance, Ravenloft, Rokugan... I still read that a lot of people use those old books for fluff, and so do I.
...
I don't know if it's just me, but I wonder how the others feel about it.
That is, indeed, one of my major gripes with 5e - I really had hoped for new editions of the campaign setting books (revised according to the progressed time line). However, there are two problems that probably stop WotC from doing so:
  1. If I look at my old books, the amount of lore on the Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft or Dark Sun is excessive. Even though I loved them back in the day and have even bought back a few, I think a campaign setting books/boxes would need some prudent pruning in many places to get that down to fewer pages (I would say: one book, but then I cannot imagine how you would fit all Forgotten Realms content into one book that is not a massive tome)
  2. The general assumption for 5e seems to be that everybody loves to play adventure path-style campaigns as published by WotC. And the sales numbers seem to indicate that they are not entirely wrong about that. Campaign settings, however, always seemed much more useful to me when you fit smaller modules into them or run homebrew campaigns.
  3. Generally, the publishing model now seems to be that every book mixes content for different audiences, so "there is something for everybody in every book" (a.k.a. you have to buy all the books, even if you are interested only in a fraction of the content). So a dedicated book on a setting might not be a good fit for their current publishing model.
So yes, I would love to see revised campaign setting books/boxes for 5e, but I don't see it happen any time soon.
 

R_J_K75

Explorer
And that you can use your old books.
Provided you have the old books or pdfs, which I do. Some people may not. I dont worry about the lore too much anymore when writing adventures, I just make sure I have a cursory understanding of the area Im writing my adventure for and make up the rest.
 

R_J_K75

Explorer
If I look at my old books, the amount of lore on the Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft or Dark Sun is excessive. Even though I loved them back in the day and have even bought back a few, I think a campaign setting books/boxes would need some prudent pruning in many places to get that down to fewer pages (I would say: one book, but then I cannot imagine how you would fit all Forgotten Realms content into one book that is not a massive tome)
I was just thinking, the Forgotten Realms has been around since 1E. Imagine researching for a campaign set in the Dalelands, besides reading on the Dales themselves youd probably want to consider their proximity to Cormyr, Sembia, Cormanthor/Myth Drannor and the Moonsea. Over 5 editions thats alot of reading. I could see that making a good mini campaign setting to put it in the current timeline, but seeing as there is so much material on these places already (except for Sembia, which has always been purposely kept vague) probably wont happen.
 

dnd4vr

Explorer
I think the fluff is fine...

In fact, in many ways I think there is too much junk. For instance, a player at our table picked up CoS and wants to run it. We all thought that was a good idea when we are ready for a break. So, he asked me if he needed to pick up a copy of the DMG. I told him, not really, other than the magic items you hardly need it. And even for those you can always just make up your own unique items anyway. So, over half the book is completely unnecessary IMO. The sad thing is, there are magic items from 1E that aren't even in 5E and would have been nice to have.
 

Shiroiken

Explorer
I think they're being a bit stingy on the fluff because not all fluff works for all games. There's been a lot of fluff from 5E that I've just flat out ignored, because it's changed from what I know and love. For example, in every previous edition, elves averaged 5 ft in height, except in the Realms and the Valley Elves of Greyhaw where it was a setting specific change, but in 5E all elves are as tall as humans, because reasons. Gnolls are now demonic descendant, ignoring the prior editions gnoll deities. There are other examples, but those were the ones that jumped out at me.
 

JeffB

Adventurer
I don't know if it's just me, but I wonder how the others feel about it.
IMO, Wizards has NEVER done a good job on revisiting anything that was created during the TSR era, Their "rewrites" of Dark Sun, FR (3 times), GH since the buyout of TSR have been awful**. I think it's a generational thing- "younger" authors just don't "get" the material. The Bruce Cordells, the Monte Cooks, the Chris Perkins'. They just don't know how to portray a fantasy setting in the mind with words like the Ed Greenwoods, Steven Schends ,Jeff Grubbs, Roger Moores, etc can.

HOWEVER- When WOTC have done their own thing-Eberron, Nentir Vale- The lore for 4E in general They have done a bang-up job.

I can pick up my copy of Volos Guide to the Dalelands, or the OGB, or The Adventure Begins and read them near through in a sitting if I have time. When I pick up the FRCS, or SCAG, of the LGG, within 5 minutes it's hit my face cause I fell asleep.

**Exceptions- EGtoFR (Greenwood), The Adventure Begins (Roger Moore).

EDIT- I would also add that the Bruce Cs, Monte Cooks, etc also do a bang up job on their own creations.
 

R_J_K75

Explorer
I think they're being a bit stingy on the fluff because not all fluff works for all games. There's been a lot of fluff from 5E that I've just flat out ignored, because it's changed from what I know and love. For example, in every previous edition, elves averaged 5 ft in height, except in the Realms and the Valley Elves of Greyhaw where it was a setting specific change, but in 5E all elves are as tall as humans, because reasons. Gnolls are now demonic descendant, ignoring the prior editions gnoll deities. There are other examples, but those were the ones that jumped out at me.
I dont see why the needless changes that add absolutely nothing.

FYI: the elven entry states, Size. Elves range from under 5 to over 6 feet tall and have slender builds. I think here they were trying to cover all the elves in all campaign settings, from your generic 4'-6" elf, to your hman size FR elf and the 6'+ towering Athasain Elf, only they forgot to add context to it. The human entry in the PHB is even more hilarious, they added all their sub-races which mean absolutely nothing without context. If you were new to the game you had to wait for the SCAG for this to mean anything.
 

R_J_K75

Explorer
The Bruce Cordells, the Monte Cooks, the Chris Perkins'. They just don't know how to portray a fantasy setting in the mind with words like the Ed Greenwoods, Steven Schends ,Jeff Grubbs, Roger Moores, etc can.
The last 2 years or so of 2E Forgotten Reams books, especially those written by Dale Donovan and Steven Schend were some of the best Ive ever read.
 

JeffB

Adventurer
The last 2 years or so of 2E Forgotten Reams books, especially those written by Dale Donovan and Steven Schend were some of the best Ive ever read.
I remember talking to Schend, either here or on the old WOTC boards about how much I loved Lands of Intrigue. He was curious, as apparently it had not moved a lot of copies. Sadly I ended up selling my copy about 14 or 15 years ago along with most of my other 2E materials (laid off from my job)
 

R_J_K75

Explorer
I remember talking to Schend, either here or on the old WOTC boards about how much I loved Lands of Intrigue. He was curious, as apparently it had not moved a lot of copies. Sadly I ended up selling my copy about 14 or 15 years ago along with most of my other 2E materials (laid off from my job)
Lands of Intrigue and Empires of the Shining Sea and Calimport were my all time favorites. I still have my copies but I can sympathize. I too have sold off lots of RPGs due to lay offs and moving over the years which I regret.
 

Wiseblood

Adventurer
I think it is because WotC hires mechanics authors instead of creative authors. Also their tone is weird. I mean the books read like a Buffy script. Only semi serious like they’re afraid of serious stuff so they break tension with jokes. I like Buffy because it is lighthearted and weird but I would like something heavier.
 

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