4th Edition and the 3rd Party Publisher
It seems to me that the utility, convenience, and thoroughness of DDI’s D&D Compendium and Character Builder work against the success of 3rd party publishers.
While I’ve no scientific evidence to back up this claim, it does seem on some accepted level a good number of 4e players & DMs use the compendium and certainly the Character Builder (for it doth rock!). These are very useful tools that give you everything published by WotC in a ready to use computer application. So thorough and useful are they, they even limit my desire to buy WotC books.
Doesn’t the prevalence, convenience, and restricted nature (WotC material only) of these tools put a bit of a crunch on 3rd party publishers? For example, Adamant Entertainment’s Warlock Pacts are awesome. But unless I manually update my Character Builder with the needed information (and in this sense the builder is still a bit of a chore), my players would rather capitalize on the flash and functionality of the abundant material already presented.
Other player options fall under this umbrella as well. While it is all fine and well if a 3rd party publisher produces a book of magic items, there still seems to exist a tendency to rely on those readily described, easily inserted items that are constantly updated on the character builder. Same goes with new powers, rituals, etc . . .
DMs face no less temptation. The D&D compendium is chock full of more monsters than you could use in 50 campaigns. They are fully developed, printable, copy-ready, and easily accessible. In addition, there is a certain fun and fancy free draw to creating your own enemies in 4th edition. This temptation is buffed by myriad tools to assist in that endeavor. Monster books are great, and still have a draw, but it seems their utility may be lessened.
Now, admittedly I am being bleak on some levels here. You can still enter in houseruled (i.e. 3rd party supplement material) into the character builder. You can easily use monsters from another publisher, and even enter their stats into certain tools to produce a viable, copy-ready statblock.
The difference exists in 4th Edition’s emphasis on the use of their digital tools. Before you had to manually enter a lot of things regardless, unless you were using some webtool to create characters . . . often a restricted or dicey proposition in and of its self. Now the publisher of the game offers a great, easy-to-use, and comprehensive builder, so a small chore becomes evident when dealing with publications that fall outside the realm of WotC.
Me? I still use 3rd party material because I am a D&D geek. However, I think where 4th edition is practically begging for 3rd party support is not in class functions, more monsters, or treasure, but in story/campaign elements and adventures. Books that can speak directly to the game, or provide a rich campaign or ideas for the DM, and adventures that give DMs with little prep time what they need to play . . .
I don’t know. I am done rambling. What do you think?
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Tags: DDI, Rambling