Should a TTRPG have a singular Core Rulebook or more?

What should a TTRPG's Core Rules look like?

  • One book, complete.

    Votes: 43 49.4%
  • Two books.

    Votes: 13 14.9%
  • Three books.

    Votes: 5 5.7%
  • More than 3 books.

    Votes: 2 2.3%
  • A boxed set.

    Votes: 3 3.4%
  • Something else.

    Votes: 21 24.1%


There are a few different models of core rules for TTRPGs, including D&D'Souza classic 3 book model, the core book plus bestiary of Pathfinder and the solo core book.

I am just curious what people think about core rules presentation.

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Not your screen monkey (he/him)
I voted something else mainly because I think it depends on the game. It's pretty difficult to justify a 3 core rulebook method for something like Masks. But it would be pretty hard to pack everything for D&D into a single volume. And even a lot of one core rulebook games have lots of supplemental rulebooks and sourcebooks to provide the utility that the DMG and Monster Manual/Bestiary provide for D&D/Pathfinder games.

As a rule of thumb, I agree with @jdrakeh : one book for players and one book for GMs is a good separation.
The main exceptions I can think of is that if either setting description or bestiary are extensive, they might go into their own book. I still prefer if a bit of basic information in the GM and player books (appropriately distributed).
And naturally, if they game happens to be more compact, a single book will do just fine.
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I think the old FASA Star Trek boxed set had three books, one for the players, one for the GM and a setting book for Starfleet.

I'd go for the three book model plus one book for extra setting materiels that can be used by all.


Makes no difference to me, that is more a matter of how much content you have.

I’d want at least a player only book, even if that is a subset of one core book rather than one out of several core books


For the core rules, I think one book is a good option. It means that is all a group needs to play the game.

My definition of core rules includes rules for both creating and playing PCs and running all the other game elements as GM. It should include a generous helping of opponents, and guidance on making your own.

I like additional optional books with more content, but would not see that as ’core’ in this context.


Well, that was fun
Staff member
Every game should have what it needs. The idea that one format fits all games is pretty silly, IMO. Big books, small books, light games, crunchy games, you might as well ask how many books a story should be told in. The Very Hungry Caterpillar or The Lord of the Rings? How many episodes should a TV show have? 6? 12? 24? 120?

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
When I got into Pathfinder 1e, I really enjoyed being able to buy the Core Rules in one book, for less than the core 3 D&D books cost.

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