Friday, February 5, 2010
The Need to Know
In that model, since there is only one dungeon master per playing group (in theory, at least), only the game master needs to shell out the money for the complete set of rulebooks. The non-DM players can, if they choose, only purchase the PH and get along fine. Obviously, in real life, that wasn't the case in the majority of cases, as players wanted to see what was in that DMG, or swapped out the role of DM and needed all the books. But in theory, that's how it worked.
The other end of the spectrum is to put all the rules into a single book that both the game master and the players would use during play. Often, they would be internally divided into a "players section" and a "game masters section", because the game master would need a lot of information that was completely superfluous to the players; how to create planets, etc. The thing is that as supplements come out the players need to buy them all, if they are to have access to the full panoply of the rules available to them.
I most definitely lean towards the splitting of books by type, and will be taking that approach with Emprise!™, but in the process of going through the PH, DMG, and UA books, I must wonder at some of the choices that were made as regards to what is included in what book. In the end, I put it down to the production process; since the DMG came out a year or so after the PH, it perhaps contains additional information that might have made it into the PH if time had allowed it to be so.
There are some things that, I think, absolutely need to be made available to the players. The mechanics of turning undead, for example. I see no reason why such information would be for the DM's eyes only; that's why in my game, it's going in the Players Manual. Ditto for the details regarding followers at higher levels; it's a simple roll on a table-- hardly an arcane mystery-- and I see no reason to keep it from the players.
The Game Masters Guide would have a lot more information on conducting the game and campaign design. There are some assumptions built into the rules that require the game master to make some decisions; just how far does the local druid hierarchy extend? What sort of special powers and spells are available to clerics of different faiths in the campaign? Rather than a whole book detailing the statistics of various sorts of gods and goddesses, there's going to be a couple of sample pantheons of deities, to give the game master an idea of what he needs to do in his own campaign (or what he should expect to see in a pre-packaged campaign setting). What sort of cultures are available to have as homelands for barbarian player characters? Hell, for that matter, what sort of decisions does the game master need to make before starting anything more than a pickup game? Are you going to allow drow and deep gnomes? What are the implications of doing so? Plus those game mechanics that the game master really does need that are superfluous to the players (or at least the sausage that they don't need to see being made). The combat tables. Magical items. Random tables to help when help is needed. That sort of thing.