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D&D General The Importance of "Official"

How Important is "Official" to you?

  • I will only use "official" material in my D&D games.

    Votes: 7 7.0%
  • I will use some unofficial material from specific sources.

    Votes: 34 34.0%
  • I will use a mix of official and unofficial material in my games.

    Votes: 47 47.0%
  • I use mostly unofficial material in my games.

    Votes: 5 5.0%
  • I don't even play D&D. How did I get in here?

    Votes: 7 7.0%

  • Total voters
    100
The usual issue with Wiki stuff is that careless players find it on the Internet and assume it's official rules, rather than something anyone may have written. This definitely gives me as GM a prejudice against it, I get tired of having to google the source of some unlikely stuff. It's too much like my day job teaching!
Hey, I'm not saying the reputation isn't deserved. It totally is. Almost everything coming out of that wiki is rank garbage that makes Dragon Magazine look tame and balanced by comparison. But because it's gotten special callouts for super-ultra forbidden-ness, even in otherwise painfully permissive games, it gets a callout here.

As I said, a lot of attitudes of this kind--e.g. "core books only" and the like--cropped up particularly during 3.X, and have lingered since, shaping the overall zeitgeist of play. I can't tell you the number of conversations I've had that could've been solved by someone not presuming a hierarchy either literally the same as the one I listed, or a sufficiently close equivalent as to not make any difference.
 

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As a player, I never assume any 3PP is available unless specifically offered by the DM. I'm also not going to pester the DM about it, unless I feel it's an oversight (e.g. playing in Midgard, but not listing the Heroes Guide to Midgard). I'm also leery of using Homebrew, since it seldom has solid balance.

As a DM, I've not yet allowed any player facing 3PP, but would consider it. DM facing things get used all the time, but largely because I can balance on the fly, and change it if I need to. It's fairly easy to make these changes without disrupting the game for the players, whereas player facing things might ruin a PC if altered.

Second parties are the people using the first-party product directly. In other words...the DM and/or players. So formally, second-party products would be anything custom made by either you as DM or made by your players.
Never knew this. I guess we should start referring to it that way, but I doubt it'd catch on.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Official doesn't guarantee quality, but it often tends to in comparison.
I've seen this perception at work fairly often in my local gaming scene. First-party materials operates under an assumption that it's been carefully playtested and "balanced" to integrate into the existing framework of extant materials. Third-party materials, conversely, are presumed to be unbalanced and potentially disruptive until proven otherwise.
 

payn

Legend
I've seen this perception at work fairly often in my local gaming scene. First-party materials operates under an assumption that it's been carefully playtested and "balanced" to integrate into the existing framework of extant materials. Third-party materials, conversely, are presumed to be unbalanced and potentially disruptive until proven otherwise.
I take it as a guideline, or a starting place. I dont hold to the idea as gospel.
 

Never knew this. I guess we should start referring to it that way, but I doubt it'd catch on.
The main reason it almost never gets used is that it's almost never actually useful or relevant. You'd basically never hear of 2PP, because...that would be purely in-house, yet still a product of some kind? As soon as it starts being proposed to other users, it's automatically either a third-party product if it's still an add-on for the original first-party product, or it becomes its own first-party product.

E.g. while it was in playtesting, arguably, Pathfinder was a second-party product for Paizo itself, because it was product created "for" 3.5e, but only to be used internally by Paizo. But as soon as Paizo started selling its Pathfinder system on its own merits, it became a new and distinct first-party product based on the same fundamentals.

It's a bit like how there are lots of first-person games or narratives, and lots of third-person games or narratives, but very few second-person games or narratives. A second-person novel would be incredibly difficult to write and a really weird read. A second-person video game is...well I'm not even sure if it's possible, but I suppose something along the lines of Black & White might qualify, where the actual "participant" is not the player, but an artificial intelligence being given non-binding instructions by the player. (Similarly, "second-person perspective" is basically never used, because that would mean basically being at the level of having a conversation with the player character, which would be...really really difficult to employ in a gaming context.

So yeah. Technically "second-party material" does have a meaning, but it's so incredibly narrow and uncommon that there's not much need. Particularly since the vast majority of (actually-used) "2PP" is simply DM homebrew/house-rules/improvisation and thus not really a "product" proper. 2PP does sometimes actually come up in a software-design context, though, if a licensee of a particular product makes their own software for internal use that depends on the licensed product. For example, you license the Havok physics engine and then make a software module that builds off of it to provide some other useful functionality. Perhaps, for example, you build a cinematic-recording suite that can be used in any of the games your company makes as long as they're using the Havok engine; that recording suite would be second-party product as long as it stays within the company. It would become a third-party product (relative to the Havok engine) if you sold that recording suite to other people.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I am mainly "official-only".

"Official", includes noncore, like Tashas and Xanathars.

However, as DM, I am a worldbuilder. Creating new worlds is official. But new settings can both create new content and dismiss official content. So there is a blurry line between official and homebrew.

For example.

The core Cleric class alters to be more like Eberron, to be more inclusive of diverse ethnic spiritual traditions, and not-necessarily polytheistic. I use the Xanathars "cosmic power" Cleric straightforwardly. I want 50e to rewrite the core Cleric description to be about "cosmic power". In the meanwhile, does it count as "official" if it overrides the core?

I create new backgrounds, that are pertinent to the choices of species and culture. This is "official", but, you know. Various official adventures also create new backgrounds, and I do so to about the same degree.

Even creating a new player species is "official", in the DMG, and I did so to make mythologically accurate Charisma elves available. Now Tashas allows ability swaps, and I use Tashas straightforwardly. So all my species are now "official". Except I still allow players to swap out Darkvision for the choice of any cantrip. This is slightly beyond Tashas, which can swap Darkvision for a weapon proficiency. But it is official as part of DMG worldbuilding.

I have no Wheel in the Astral Plane. I have 4e-style Astral Domains. Each culture has its own domains in the Astral Plane. Even so, in the Astral mindscape, there is still an "affinity" between two persons of the same alignment, so they are still potentially "near" each other conceptually. Mostly I grant advantage or disadvantage to any checks where this alignment affinity might be a factor.



Generally, I consider my play style strictly official. But the line is blurry because of worldbuilding. So I chose option 2, "I will use some unofficial material from specific sources."

I am not opposed to adopting 3rd-party content. But I havent so far, and it would have to be amazing, to make it worth disrupting the by-the-book shared assumptions.
 


Yaarel

Mind Mage
I've seen this perception at work fairly often in my local gaming scene. First-party materials operates under an assumption that it's been carefully playtested and "balanced" to integrate into the existing framework of extant materials. Third-party materials, conversely, are presumed to be unbalanced and potentially disruptive until proven otherwise.
So basically.

1st-party: innocent until proven guilty.
3rd-party: guilty until proven innocent.
 


Yaarel

Mind Mage
The main reason it almost never gets used is that it's almost never actually useful or relevant. You'd basically never hear of 2PP, because...that would be purely in-house, yet still a product of some kind? As soon as it starts being proposed to other users, it's automatically either a third-party product if it's still an add-on for the original first-party product, or it becomes its own first-party product.

E.g. while it was in playtesting, arguably, Pathfinder was a second-party product for Paizo itself, because it was product created "for" 3.5e, but only to be used internally by Paizo. But as soon as Paizo started selling its Pathfinder system on its own merits, it became a new and distinct first-party product based on the same fundamentals.

It's a bit like how there are lots of first-person games or narratives, and lots of third-person games or narratives, but very few second-person games or narratives. A second-person novel would be incredibly difficult to write and a really weird read. A second-person video game is...well I'm not even sure if it's possible, but I suppose something along the lines of Black & White might qualify, where the actual "participant" is not the player, but an artificial intelligence being given non-binding instructions by the player. (Similarly, "second-person perspective" is basically never used, because that would mean basically being at the level of having a conversation with the player character, which would be...really really difficult to employ in a gaming context.

So yeah. Technically "second-party material" does have a meaning, but it's so incredibly narrow and uncommon that there's not much need. Particularly since the vast majority of (actually-used) "2PP" is simply DM homebrew/house-rules/improvisation and thus not really a "product" proper. 2PP does sometimes actually come up in a software-design context, though, if a licensee of a particular product makes their own software for internal use that depends on the licensed product. For example, you license the Havok physics engine and then make a software module that builds off of it to provide some other useful functionality. Perhaps, for example, you build a cinematic-recording suite that can be used in any of the games your company makes as long as they're using the Havok engine; that recording suite would be second-party product as long as it stays within the company. It would become a third-party product (relative to the Havok engine) if you sold that recording suite to other people.
So, "customization" = 2nd-party?
 

So yeah. Technically "second-party material" does have a meaning, but it's so incredibly narrow and uncommon that there's not much need. Particularly since the vast majority of (actually-used) "2PP" is simply DM homebrew/house-rules/improvisation and thus not really a "product" proper.
I think the only real advantage would be the ease of typing 2PP over homebrew/house-rule. I might start doing it just to confuse people ;)
 



HammerMan

Legend
I have always been 3rd party friendly (I own role aids form 2e for demons and Archmages) however they are VERY hit or miss.

I have a lot of 3pp that I love, but I also have paid for things that will never get used because the quality is low.

I have WotC stuff I don't like too (Wild sorcerer will NEVER be in a game I run and you better believe I will complain if it is in a game I play)

so what is the difference? in my mind 98% of WotC stuff is playable and I LIKE 80% of it but can deal with the other 18%.... 3pp I would say is closer to 50/50 maybe even 40/60 of play ability.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
so what is the difference? in my mind 98% of WotC stuff is playable and I LIKE 80% of it but can deal with the other 18%.... 3pp I would say is closer to 50/50 maybe even 40/60 of play ability.
My percentage is way higher, but I'm pretty careful in how I curate 3pp. I have trusted patreons and Kickstarters, and mostly rely on the Unearthed Arcana subreddit, which has pretty high standards.
 

HammerMan

Legend
My percentage is way higher, but I'm pretty careful in how I curate 3pp. I have trusted patreons and Kickstarters, and mostly rely on the Unearthed Arcana subreddit, which has pretty high standards.
well part of that is I don't but alot of 3pp anymore so MOST i buy are useable.
 

Yeah, that and the homebrew stuff on D&D Beyond, and UA. I feel kinda bad telling players "no" repeatedly, but I've always been clear on what I do and don't allow. I think, more than anything, it shows that there can be real confusion as to what "official" means.

The usual issue with Wiki stuff is that careless players find it on the Internet and assume it's official rules, rather than something anyone may have written. This definitely gives me as GM a prejudice against it, I get tired of having to google the source of some unlikely stuff. It's too much like my day job teaching!
 

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