New Games vs. Supplements

As I am working on my next project, a blend of Chinese mythology, folklore, history, and wuxia (kung-fu) literature and film, I find myself wondering whether to approach it as a unique game unto itself, or as a supplement for Adventures Dark and Deep™ (and thereby with most OSR-type games as well). There are arguments on both sides.

On the one hand, handling it as a game unto itself has the obvious benefit that it could thereby appeal to fans of the wuxia genre who might not otherwise be interested in the sort of Tolkienesque medieval European fantasy that Adventures Dark and Deep embodies. It would also obviate the need for flipping between two books to find needed information; no need to consult the Adventures Dark and Deep™ Players Manual for the description of a spell that happens to be the same for a wu as a cleric.

The downside is that players and fans of the original game would need to wade through a lot of duplicate material (the basic combat system, for instance, will be the same, as will certain character classes like the fighter), and would thus be paying extra for duplicate information.

On the other hand, the concerns are somewhat reversed when the mythic China material is handled as a straight supplement. It would presuppose that players and the GM have some “base” set of rules to use with it, such as Adventures Dark and Deep, Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, OSRIC, or even AD&D 1st Edition. Some folks are simply not into “traditional” fantasy RPGs, and they would be, if not cut out, at least dissuaded from partaking. Too, it would require a certain amount of flipping through multiple books to find information, the removal of which is something that the ADD project in general had in mind as a goal. It is somewhat odd to combine elements from six books into one, only to require a second book for play in a different cultural milieu.

The upside of handling such a thing as a straight supplement are likewise the inverse of the above. A supplement by its nature will be shorter, less expensive, and more focused. It also doesn’t add to the already crowded field of OSR RPGs, whose even most enthusiastic members must betimes roll their eyes at the announcement of yet another “restatement of Basic D&D with some changes” being published*.

So the question I would put to you is, do you prefer to see new self-contained rules, or supplements intended for use with other, already-extant (or the sort of generic OSR “Basic/1E compatible”) rules?

* Yes, I am aware of the irony.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

15 thoughts on “New Games vs. Supplements

  1. Perhaps this is impractical, but—much like you did with AD&D (full books & the Curious Volume)—you could do both.

    My current tactic is to make a custom player guide for each campaign with the relevant bits from various sources. Assuming I continue to do that, then either form works for me.

  2. If it is more or less compatible, you should make it a supplement to Adventures Dark and Deep, a la Oriental Adventures. Just my two cents.

  3. I would prefer to see it as an Adventures Dark & Deep supplement, but let's be honest: I'll be buying it as soon as it's available either way. 🙂

  4. It really depends very much on your marketing strategy. Most of the people here, myself included, are going to say "supplement", as we are likely to already own ADD (as well as AD&D 1E, OSRIC, and a ton of clones). If you are trying to develop a new market, it might be possible that the route of presenting an entirely new, complete game might be best.

    That said, how likely is it that a bunch of new players who aren't already invested in the products you've made are going to be beating down your door? I don't have the marketing data available, but it seems to me that you'd be better off serving your existing customer base, and trusting that anyone actually interested in wuxia roleplaying who might come along will be willing to pick up the core rules and also the supplement.

    But, obviously keep in mind that my only dog in this fight is what I'd have to pay to get the new material. Like everyone here, I am coming at this with my own interests at heart. In the end, BRW is your bread and butter.

  5. I think the subset of people who would be interested in it, but refuse to "own" (I use the term loosely since there are several available as free PDFs) a classic D&D variant has to be very small. Particularly because if its going to be largely compatible with an OSR game, are you really going to find many interested gamers who aren't already fans of OSR games?

  6. If it was yet another medieval Europe OSR game, I'd say supplement. Since no one has published an OSR China game, you really should make it standalone. If you absolutely must make it a supplement, make it a supp for a game people know about like OSRIC or L&L or S&W.

  7. I did it as a supplement for my game. While the settings, background, and mythology are different, rules-wise, you're still dealing with fantasy Medieval combat.

  8. I'm another in the supplement category but, given much of the other books is already in electronic format, how hard would it be to do both?

    Couldn't the various sections that repeat (combat, some character generation, and so on) be lifted whole? You could even build a tool chain to do it for you (not sure what you do for a living but The Pragmatic Programmer discusses how the gents at Pragmatic Publishing do books as builds the same as programs).

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