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- D&D And Content Creep
Donny the DM asks, "Is 4E beginning to creep too much?", by which he means if you think that 4E is coming out with too much content, too quickly.
Thinking several years back, I want to say that its about the same. I seem to recall 3rd Edition books coming out in singles or pairs each month, and thats basically the same rate as now. Checking an online listing, I found that back in 2004 we got essentially ten real books, along with a few minis expansions and accessories like Deluxe DM Screen, Dungeons & Dragons Dice, and Map Folio One. I'm not sure during which months these were released, but all in all there were 21 "official" D&D products released during that year, so there was certainly overlap. This doesnt take into account Dragon and Dungeon magazines, which were also "official" D&D products that added content that my DMs never let me use (and my players rarely bothered to use, either).
Compare to, say, this month, where we got Monster Manual III, PH Races: Tieflings, and Deserts of Athas dungeon tiles, and I'd hazard to say that its really on par. One book is for DMs, another is for players, and the last one is just an accessory (nothing to study or learn). Hell, PHR:Tieflings is insanely light reading when compared to the crap-quality Races of... books from 3rd Edition (I owned them, but never really used them). Last month was Player's Strategy Guide, Dungeon Magazine Annual, and HS1: The Slaying Stone, a player book and two DM books respectively. PSG didnt add any crunchy content, and the latter two books were adventures. Next month is Demonomicon, HS2: Orcs of Stonefang Pass, Tomb of Horrors, and Vor Rukoth, all of which are intended for the DM (monster supplement book, two adventures, and an adventure site).
Really, thats the trend I've noticed going back a few months: often the players get a book intended for them, but usually the DM ends up with one or more products aimed at them. Of course, there is also Dragon and Dungeon to take into account here, especially since Dragon has all those Class Acts and Winning Races articles that heap tons of content onto the already growing pile. So, after that analysis, I'd say that the rate of used content has gotten increased quite a bit since 3rd Edition: most of my players actually have DDI subscriptions and actively use content from Dragon.
Well, the Character Builder. See, back in 3rd Edition I was the guy with all the books that had most of that shit memorized. Players would ask me questions on if this class had any cool shit from Dragon or some supplement, and we'd ask the DM if it was okay. Too often the DM would say no because they didnt have the book, or werent sure if it would break the game. Now everyone has access to all the mechanical content via DDI. Its simple for a DM to look up the feat, magic item, power, etc and make a call. Mostly though I think its the fact that Wizards has worked hard on ensuring that everyone has the mindset that its all official, so everyone is free to make a character with whatever options you want.
So, despite 4th Edition having more content that before, I dont feel overwhelmed. I can make any character I want and not have to browse through five different books to make sure that I have most of the content at my grasp. Its also easy to ignore large blocks of "useless" shit like Guild feats and the like by simply collapsing the category. Also, errata gets incorporated so I dont have to explain to a player or DM that something they wanted got changed without them knowing.
I'm not going to touch the bit about Adventure Tools, however. :-P