These days I’m preparing The Tomb of Horrors for my gaming group, and with it, I’m checking out a few old modules and books for inspiration or simply to convert to 3.5 and play with my gaming group. Over the course of my reading, I’ve realized one thing: unlike many of the various splatbooks or sourcebooks for other games or editions, these books make me wanna play.
If I pick up the D&d 3.5 corebook (or the 4E, or even the WFRP 2nd edition corebook to an extent), I see a great book. The rules are, in most cases, well explained, the artwork is great, and they provide a great foundation to many hours of fun… But there is nothing in there that makes me hyped for playing (small footnote. WFRP’s careers do make me wanna play, but it’s a minor thing in the book).
Meanwhile, I read The Enemy Within, Against the Giants, any of the “Volo’s guide to…”, or the descriptions of the planes in the 3.0 Manual of the Planes, with their exotic locales and the various plot hooks, and the first thing that comes to mind is “man, this is cool! I could make this story that…” or “it would be awesome to play this…”
In the end I’ve come to the conclusion that we strive to make great books, with an awesome presentation, that are completely coherent, but we often forget to play up the “why do you wanna play this?” angle, and that definitely hurts the final product a little.
And to close with stuff that makes me wanna game…