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Splatbook Cancer

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In the never-ending quest for power they forged an idea: the splatbook (expansion book). Revenue, alternatives, exotic-ness, all for the price of admission. Unfortunately designers desired for their exotic class to be the one ruling class and power creep spread like a shadow. More splatbooks furthered it like mutating cells and the cancer took root in the industry.

The flowery language is to describe something I’ve observed over decades. Splatbooks have power creep. More splatbooks make more power creep. More power creep makes cancerous character builds. Cancer characters castrate core characters.

For d20 system games the power creep can be extreme. It is not limited to them. Some games have power creep that destroys its internal narrative: Exalted, for example, where Solars become the least capable of the celestial reincarnations once splatbook cancer sets in yet the narratives says they are the world-savers. The main focus of expansions ought to be world building and campaign. Character classes are where the splatbook cancer creeps and requires the most vigilance to prevent class destabilization. What I recommend is buying world/source books over character class expansion books.

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Why Mechanics & Rules Matter

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When you enter a new system there’s usually a setting attached. It doesn’t have to be provided by the publishers because it’s inherent in the way the rules allow characters to interact with their setting. If uber-powerful reincarnated gods can be mowed down by a single squad of archers when the rule descriptions say otherwise then there’s a dissonance which undermines the fundaments of the game; and that is detrimental to fun.

Of course it’ll be impossible to make perfect mechanics because of preference differences. We can see that some rulesets expect an adversarial game-table in the way they describe the game running. Others expect the GM to provide for player desires and adapt to whatever they want, implying the GM is their to provide for the players. We all come to the table to get something out of it so it is best to co-operate.

I have a little saying: “Practice the 3BCs”.

  1. Be constructive. No matter what you do try to move towards building something for your game.
  2. Be co-operative. Work with everyone else at the table. Build characters to feed of each other. Consult the GM for ways to have hooks built-in to your background, or to get place-names incorporated into your BG.
  3. Be creative. With the above provisions you can fuel the creative fires and start building an awesome campaign.

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