|What gives, bro? You've been my game since high school, and this is how you do me?|
I've got a secret to share with you, though. Bloat doesn't exist.
The Reason Why Bloat is a Figment of Your Imagination
Let's take a game like Pathfinder, for example. It's been around for several years now, and it seems like every time you turn around Paizo is putting out new material for it. There are new supplements, new splat books, new adventure paths, and even new DM tools like the buff deck. You can buy these books physically, or buy them as .pdf files.
"Can" is the operative word here. Because, no matter how many books Paizo and other companies put out, you never have to buy more than the base handbook (and possibly a storyteller guide) to run their games. The same was true about the World of Darkness, Dungeons and Dragons, Savage Worlds, and the dozens of other RPGs out there that people have accused of getting "too bloated to play."
|Holy shit, another book? How am I going to afford that?|
Think about all this additional content like DLC in video games. Would it have been nice to get it included in the original? It sure would have. However, nine times out of ten, this additional content is made in response to a game getting popular... when it comes to RPGs, at least. The publisher sees that lots of people are playing their game, and those players are clamoring for more stuff like the initial release. So, that's what the publisher creates.
Now, there are two major complaints when it comes to additional content. The first complaint is that there's just too much of it. Even if a DM likes certain additional books, or enjoys content that fleshed out parts of the game that felt a little bare, taken as a whole there's entirely too much stuff to read, learn, remember, and use. If you feel that way, take a deep breath, let it out, and remember that you are the master of your own gaming group. If you don't want to use anything but the base book, you don't have to. If you want to use a certain setting, but remove certain classes or pieces of lore, then that's also your prerogative. The material is here to help you, and if it isn't helping, you don't have to use it.
The second major complaint is that publishers are just releasing new material to get more money out of their fans. To that, I have a very simple reply.
The Realities of Succeeding as a Publisher
The companies that produce the roleplaying games we love are, first and foremost, publishers. In order for these companies to stay in business, and pay their staff, we have to buy their stuff. Since the basic package of core rule book and storyteller's manual only goes so far before sales slow to a trickle, publishers need to keep coming up with new stuff to entice us to expand our collections. Maybe that means putting out a race guide, or maybe it means a supplement book with new base classes, spells, and feats. Maybe it means releasing a guide to your campaign setting, full of all the tasty fluff a DM could ever ask for to make games feel more organic and authentic.
I repeat, you are under no obligation to buy these bonus books, cards, map packs, minis, tee shirts, special edition dice, or whatever else a publisher releases. However, if you do, then you are choosing to support that company, allowing them to create even more stuff.
|This sends messages loud and clear to publishers.|
That's the part lots of players and DMs don't think about when they start throwing around their "bloat" complaints. They don't want Paizo, Wizards of the Coast, or the publisher formerly known as White Wolf to go out of business, because those are the people who made the games they're playing. The games these players ostensibly really like. And there are at least a few supplement books these players like, value, and are glad the publisher produced. But they're frustrated that there's just so much extra material that comes out when a game gets popular.
Publish or perish, my friends. When publishers stop releasing content, that's when the game dies.
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