The Neverending Cycle of RPG Editions

Enough is enough.  It’s time the industry started finding a solution to rebooting RPGs from scratch whenever there’s a new edition and obsoleting shelves full of supplementary material in one fell swoop.

I get that we need new editions of rulebooks, I really do.    I just don’t like it when they’re used as an excuse to release all-new versions of all the support material that you’re going to need too.

I like to play a current, supported game.  Anything that isn’t in print and doesn’t have new material coming out from it’s publisher I view as a “dead game”.  That isn’t just something in my head, it’s for practical reasons too – finding players for a dead game is much more difficult than something that’s in print and popular.

I’m happy to move to a new edition if the old one is broken.  However, the last ten years or so have seen entire new editions (with accompanying swathes of releases) used in both iterative and experimental processes.  This, quite frankly, needs to stop.

Pathfinder exists because people didn’t want to move on from the 3.5 edition of D&D.  They’re happy with it and have no reason to need a new edition of anything.  Pathfinder uses all their existing material, if they want to use it.  From day one of the rulebook release they were able to use it alongside a D&D 3.5 (probably even a 3.0) Monster Manual, at least until they picked up a Pathfinder Bestiary.  D&D Campaign settings (as well as the numerous third party D20 SRD-based ones) are pretty much plug-and-play with the Pathfinder rulebook.

There’s simply no need to draw a line under it all and start from scratch again.

Some people complain about rules bloat.  I agree, it’s true that over time the number of additional rules added through numerous supplements gets difficult to handle.  The problem, however, is that starting from scratch from a new edition doesn’t solve a single thing about that – all it does is reset you back to a smaller base set of rules which is going to grow again through numerous supplements until that, too is bloated.

The solution is not to keep on starting again, growing the game, then resetting it all back to square one.  The problem is that for certain publishers, they see the profit in redoing everything and forcing their customers into repurchasing new versions of everything.  It’s time the customers turned around and said “no, not this time”.

I don’t know what the alternative really is, but I’m damn sure I’m fed up with doing things the same way we have done up till now.  I’m pretty sure (or at least, I hope) the makers of Pathfinder felt the same way when they released it, too.  Perhaps some means of solidifying the interface (which is mostly stat blocks) between core and supplemental material early on, so that the core rules can be removed and replaced without it affecting the other 90% of your library.  I’m more than happy to replace three or four core rulebooks every four or five years, as long as it doesn’t keep on invalidating everything else I own.

I do know, however, that D&DNext holds very little attraction for me other than a curiosity about the new core rules.  Beyond the core rules (which I’m presuming will be in the usual three-volume set) however, I don’t see myself replacing my 3rd edition Forgotten Realms books, or the numerous rules supplements.  I’m not interested in a 5th Edition Book of Vile Darkness.  I’m not interested in buying half a dozen more monster manuals.  I’m not “buying into” the new edition the same way I have in previous years.

I also know that Pathfinder proves that it’s possible to keep on going with the same set of rules if they’re not actually broken.  Yes, it introduced changes, but not to the degree that existing material stopped working.  That is what matters.

Enough is enough.


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