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before the D&D starter set comes out #5 “.. that’s a whole game for $5!”

May 8, 2014

 Previously: first post, second post, third post, fourth post,


Since listening to a recent episode of the NPC Cast podcast I’ve started wondering if roleplayers use the word “game” slightly differently from the rest of us when discussing rpg products. In an episode devoted to Fate Core, NPC-del expressed surprise and delight that Evil Hat were selling their Fate Accelerated product for $5.

“That’s a whole game for $5”.

I love the NPC Cast (they have the only actual plays I’m able to stand listening to), and I’m not trying to have a go at Del, it’s just that the words “whole game” jumped out at me and whacked me on the head. I’ve read the Fate Accelerated book, it’s great, but I hadn’t thought of it as a “game”.

I’d describe it as the rulebook to a game, or perhaps a tool-box for making a game.


This reminds me of my first attempt to play a roleplaying game back in the day … and my first rpg surprise.

runequest box

My 14 year old friends and I spent two fruitless weekends trying to work this game out – then we put it away and never spoke of it again.

On opening the Runequest box and going through the various booklets we finally realised that it was up to us to “make” the game, that is, one of us was going to have to invent an adventure before we could start playing. DM’s writing adventures is such an expected part of roleplaying that I wonder if roleplayers can understand just how weird a thing that seems to outsiders. I’ve been trying to think of any other games where such a thing is asked of the players and I can’t come up with one.


And finally there’s this quote from the 2011 D&D Starter Set Player’s Book:

“You can find a number of ready-to-play adventures, both in print and online, that will provide hours of gaming fun for you group. But part of what makes the D&D Fantasy Roleplaying Game special is that you can build your own adventures, tailoring them to the players and their specific characters.”

A strange down-playing of published adventures against DM written adventures – particularly in a product aimed at beginners.


All of the above is by way of pointing out the importance of the published adventure for new groups of players and say, for those people at least, if it’s anywhere, “the game” is in these adventure books.

And I’d like to suggest to roleplaying rule-book writers that they add a statement like those other hobby products have such as “Some assembly required”, or “Batteries not included” so as to manage beginners expectations.

Perhaps something like: “Beginners are advised to buy one of our Published Adventures to really get anything out of this rule book”.

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