Wizards of the Coast has had a lot of surveys, and the one thing I always make sure to address in my comments is … GAME BLOAT!
Back in 2000, Wizards of the Coast released the Third Edition of Dungeons & Dragons … and it was a good thing! They also released an Open Content third party rule system called “The D20 System.” This was a new an exciting way to allow other publishers to make “official” D&D Third edition sourcebooks and material. It made sense, because back in the days of AD&D there were always some companies making AD&D books that were “unofficial” supplements to the game. For example, Role-Aids jumps to mind with their yellow corner shouting that it is compatiable with AD&D.
So anyway, the D20 license comes out and suddenly all these Third Party companies are making books for D&D Third Edition. At first it seemed great! It was a unprecedented phenomenon. Suddenly the market was flooded with all kinds of adventures and sourcebooks for use with D&D Third. We had companies like Necromancer Games, Malhavoc Press, Green Ronin, Goodman Games, and Mystic Eye pumping out all kinds of (usually affordable) books that flooded the market.
… FLOODED THE MARKET AND BLOATED THE GAME …
And FEATS were the worst part of it as far as I am concerned. There were a gazillion books that added a gamillion feats and they were usually absolutely terrible and annoying. It made the job of a Dungeon Master more difficult because players wanted to use all these KEWL POWERS that made the game unbalanced and less fun.
I remember sitting down with a player who wanted to make an Eldritch Knight. When we got together to create the character, he slapped down ive different Third Party books along with the Player’s Handbook. By the end of the session, I wanted to strangle him. It was horrible.
In fact, at one point there was an entire marketing campaign by D20 Monkey to create a Character Builder that allowed you to make a character for D&D Third using all the Core and Third Party publishers. It literally took a computer program to sort through all the nonsense a make a single character. By the time a player had a character built, and a DM could actually run a game it was obvious that there would be no killing that character within the storyline. I mean, who wanted to kill a character off and have to go through all the trouble of making another FREAKING character with that Character Builder program??! It suddenly made sense why Marcie was so upset. She didn’t want to have to use the D20 Character Builder to remake Black Leaf.
After a few years the D20 System wasn’t that awesome anymore. It actually started to become associated with licensed garbage. If you saw the pretty like white and red D20 symbol the first thing that came to mind was “yuck.” Most of the products being released were half-assed and absolutely horrible. “Oh look,” I’d think to myself. “The D20 Book of Half-Gnomes. Just what I wanted to go with the D20 Book of Erotica and the D20 Ultimate Guide to Treasure #5.” These low quality products filled the marketplace with junk and annoying material, including rules that were poorly tested and not thought out for game balance. All it was for these companies was a money grab with twenty sides.
Don’t get me wrong, some of the D20 products were great. I loved just aout everything that was put out by Necromancer Games, Swords & Sorcery, and Malhavoc Press. Rappan Athuk, Iron Heroes, and Blackmoor are some of my favorite D20 books. I also was happy to see D20 versions of Call of Cthuhlu and Star Wars but only so I could loot the contents and add things to my games of Dungeons & Dragons. If I wanted to play either of those games, I’d be playing the Classic version. For example, there is no better game of Star Wars – in my opinon – than the classic d6 system games! And I really enjoyed games lke D20 Modern and Dark*Matter. But the low quality of these other Third Party companies gave the impression that the D20 product line was garbage.
I’d like to point out books like “Good” and “Evil” by Alderac Entertainment Group. I admit that I did buy their “Dungeons” book but it was regretful to be honest. They literally just released a series of ONE WORD BOOKS with mostly fluff material and some half-hearted artwork.
As a Dungeon Master, I was happy to see that there were a lot of adventurers hitting the scene with the D20 System. There were awesome ones like the Rappan Athuk series.
But in the end there was just too much crap out there and the game suffered for it.
I’m glad to see that for the past few years, Wizards has introduced a good amount of material for D&D 5th edition without creating BLOAT. I like the idea that Wizards is working hand in hand with companies like Kobold, Sasquatch, and Green Ronin to produce materials. I’m happy that they made the DM’s Guild to allow folks to create materials under a license that it’s like the D20 license. And I’m really glad that Wizards is being smart in playtesting additions to their game through the use of articles and surveys.
Hopefully in 2017 the game continues to expand without BLOAT.
Happy New Year!