Friday, October 13, 2006

Apply Directly to the Forehead

Races of Boredom--A title for WotC's upcoming book? Nah, they already produced it under three other names--Races of the Wild/Stone/Destiny. I was just flipping through the second of these (I own the first two) when it occured to me what utter crap it has within its over-priced pages. I opened to a random page and my brain was lavished with the details of gnomish grooming. Dear god, how have my games gone on without this priceless knowledge?! A few more page turns and I learn that gnomish weddings last up to a week. How 'bout that for a juicy roleplaying tidbit? Ugh; I paid real money for this?

Over the years, I've found that sourcebooks on races and classes we already know about to be filled with this type of superfluous bric-a-brac. If Wizards wants more people to buy their stuff, perhaps they should fill the books with, oh I don't know, new and interesting information (notice the second condition "interesting"). Whether I'm a player or a DM, I'd like some shred of information that either: a) I can directly port into my next game; or b) inspires me to think of something that I will use/mention in my next game. For me, it is often a matter of that old mantra: "Less is more." Several chapters in the aforementioned books can be reduced to a handful of paragraphs. Gnomish psychology? No thanks. How about more new races like that goliath? Okay, perhaps they're not that good either but at least it's something new and interesting! And don't even get me started on Races of Destiny. Devoting sections of the book to explaining humans to human players is akin to explaining the concepts of D&D to 'ol E. Gary Gygax.

So how does this rant tie in with the entry's title? Well, if you live in the US, you must have seen the Head On commercials where a model applies some type of pain reliever "directly to the forehead." The tagline annoyingly repeats three times in a row. One of my bosses looked this stuff up online and discovered that the primary ingredient is some type of wax. No wonder it has no usage limitations! And yet, demand has apparently risen to the point that the other boss decided to stock the crap in the store (I noticed when stopping there to visit my sister today). My point is that both the Races books and Head On are pretty much interchangeable--both offer a lot of glitter without the gold.


Blogger Axel said...

Luckily, I only own one of those three books, the Races of Destiny, and that one I only bought because I saw there was some city relevant information in the back, and because the illumians? looked cool. They are cool, and there is certainly some cool prestige classes in here, and city relevant spells, but its waaaay to race specific, and yes...two whole chapters devoted to humans, half-elves and half-orcs? If only they had given us something new...but its all way to generic and pretty much useless.

I'll stay clear of the last two though.. :) However, I am looking forward to cityscape coming out next month..

2:44 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Totally agree.

I kind of liked "Races of the Dragon" for the kobold stuff, but still thought it was overpriced for the content I actually could use. I'd rather have weird variants (aquatic kobolds, maybe?) instead of in-depth psychology and cultural explorations that are probably best summed up in a paragraph or two.

Most good sourcebooks, IMHO, are toolboxes that help me add good and interesting material to my game. Maybe other folks have been happy with the tools provided in WotC's "Races" books, but for the most part, I haven't been one of them.

8:27 AM  
Anonymous Brad said...

At least the Head On commercials are funny. The Races of books, not so much.

I looked through Races of Destiny/Stone/the Wild and really came away unimpressed. It wasn't awful, but I just didn't find anything that made me think "damn, why didn't I think of that?"

I actually like Races of Eberron because it's campaign specific and has stuff that I would actually use playing a character in Eberron.

I think the Catch 22 with the generic Races products are that the DMs that are running homebrew campaigns can already come up with more interesting and relevant to *their* world. The DMs who are running Forgotten Realms or Eberron want something more specific to the setting.

7:16 PM  

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