Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about how publishers shape our game. GMs—obviously—are in theory the ultimate arbiter of what appears in their campaign, but publishers wield considerable influence over what material makes it to the table.
After all, publishers produce and market the products you and I buy. And—of course—powerful commercial forces drive most gaming companies. Speaking candidly as a publisher, it’s nice not to go out of business. I want gamers to buy my stuff. I want to eat and buy shiny new trinkets.
But, as a publisher I also have a responsibility to my customers (and by extension their players). I shouldn’t mindlessly churn out books that will inevitably and rapidly disappear without a trace or which include things that break the game in new and exciting ways. What’s really the point, beyond making money? I’d argue broken, overpowered characters, complicated or ill-conceived rules or bland, unnecessary options don’t necessarily add to many people’s enjoyment of the game. In fact, they can suck the fun out of a session pretty quickly and actually make the game worse.
Rather, publishers should focus on producing products designed to make their customers’ games better.
(Better as defined as more enjoyable for EVERYONE at the table, not better as defined by how the publisher thinks they should play or by how one person wants to play. Thus, the definition of “better” will change from table to table).
Because when a game is better, everyone—including the GM—wins. (And here, I define “wins” as “has fun”.)
As a publisher, if it won’t make the game better, why publish it? As a GM or player, if it won’t make the game better, why buy it?
The Final Word
Before you include something new in your game because it is the new, shiny thing stop and think: is this really something you want to include? Will it make your game better? If the answer is no, don’t include it. Often, less is more.
What Do You Think?
Do you include everything from your favourite publisher in your campaign? What are your criteria for including something new in your game? Let me know, in the comments below.
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