Monday, December 05, 2005

Plotus -- A Book as Unweildy as its Name

For just $120, your 672-page copy of Monte Cook's Ptolus can be yours. Order soon, and you can get a nice 32-page Player's Handbook -- five copies of it in fact -- so your players will not be killed by this monstrosity of a book.

What the fuck? Who in their right mind would shell out over one hundred bucks for six hundred pages of a setting? Oh, but it's cross-referenced! It's got color illustrations! Yes, and it can kill babies.

But wait, there's more. This book? This tome? This monstrosity of an abomination of game design? It includes no rules. This works with D&D 3.5, folks. It requires the GM and Player's Guides (which are what, $35 a piece or something?). So yes, this complete game can be yours for the low-low price of two hundred dollars. And then you have to read nearly a thousand pages of material in order to play it.

Here's what boggles my mind: if the entire thing can be condensed into a 32-page Player's Handbook, why isn't that the product?


At 3:09 PM, Blogger Bradley "Brand" Robins said...

This makes my ENFJ hurt.

At 4:19 PM, Blogger Fred said...

Nothing succeeds like success. Monte Cook is one of the premiere people in the D20 universe, and anything he touches turns to gold.

Why shouldn't he capitalize on his success?

After all, he isn't selling this monstrosity to anyone we're going to play with.

At 12:55 AM, Blogger Joshua BishopRoby said...

Pride: Monte Cook believes he can sell anything with his name on it.

Injustice: Some kid buys a setting book for $120.

Sin: He makes his friends play it.

...and then the demons attack.

At 1:18 AM, Blogger Victor Gijsbers said...

Ouch - that's bound to lead to Hate and Murder if the Blacksmith's Watchdogs don't arrive in time!

At 7:13 AM, Blogger Rob Muadib said...

600 page setting is crazy, I guess Monte wanted to publish some Door stop fantasy of his own, and decided to publish it as a game instead of like, you know right a novel and send it to a publisher.

And yeah, $120 for a game book is insane. I mean I can get a bigger George R.R. Martin book for like $25, and I might as well just get the novel, since no one is actually going to PLAY this book. They're gonna read it at nights in bed, and then use to keep their door open.

At 10:49 AM, Blogger Bankuei said...

See: the success of the World's Largest Dungeon.

In a D20 field filled with pretty much similar product all around (monsters, feats, items, adventures, classes, races, sigh), people are looking for ANYTHING to stand out.

It's aimed to sell to two crowds- the people who read but don't play (hey 600 pages of crap to read!), or the people who play but would rather drop $120 on "ammo" instead of trying to figure out how to prep it all.

Odds are good though, that in play, you still end up having to do a bit of work trying to smoothly navigate that much info.

At 11:05 AM, Blogger John Kim said...

It's actually not new at all that there be a setting which has over 600 pages written on it, or that you can spend $120 on -- especially since it appears that this includes ready-to-use adventure material. You could easily have that much in price and size by putting together several of the HeroQuest books, for example. What's different is that it's being sold as a single mega-volume which includes setting, city, and several complete adventures.

I'm not much of a D&D player, but if I was going to run a long-term D&D campaign, I could see buying something like this rather than buying a bunch of piecemeal books for background, city, and dungeons -- assuming it was of equivalent quality (which I'm not sure that it is).

At 11:17 AM, Blogger Bradley "Brand" Robins said...

The thing about it is that people will play Plotus. I guaranfuckingtee it. Some groups will play in the setting for years, and get more than their "money's worth" out of it. Others will play in it for years with a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction, never knowing why they aren't happy with the experience but never unhappy enough to walk away. Others will, of course, read and not play -- but then folks do that with Dogs as well. I guaranfuckingtee it.

Of all the huge ass settings I've seen recently, Plotus looks like a viable model for doing it. The whole thing is right there, no expansions and more to buy, no endless deferment of fun until the supplement covering the cool stuff comes out. Boom, pay your money, load your ammo, and walk. Better than the $300 you'd be spending to get all the setting books for Exalted.

The reason I said it hurts my ENFJ is because I, like many on this thread, don't like the very idea of that kind of big heavy setting. However, I don't like it because it doesn't fit my play style, or the things I want out of game. This DOES NOT mean that it doesn't fit anyone's play style, nor that it is somehow a product designed to be read rather than played (page count has nothing to do with that), or that the people waiting to buy it are having BAD WRONG FUN.

It just means that we're really getting to the point where the "hobby" is becoming "the hobbies." Which, Josh, is the answer to your question: "Because it isn't for the games you play. Its for those other games."

At 12:17 PM, Blogger John Kim said...

Bradley "Brand" Robins said...
It just means that we're really getting to the point where the "hobby" is becoming "the hobbies."

Well, but is this a change? There have always been incompatibilities within role-playing. Some players have always had narrower tastes than others. Some would only play D&D; others would only play Amber, etc. Not everyone would fit in everyone's games. This is especially true if you include live-action and online role-playing into the mix.

I guess the point where you would declare it a real split would be if there were a fundamental divide of role-players into a few exclusive camps. But I think there's actually a fair amount of overlap between types of role-playing. I certainly enjoy both detailed-setting games (like Glorantha or Harn) along with light-setting games (like Polaris or Dogs in the Vineyard) -- and I think there are many others with similar taste.

At 2:15 PM, Blogger Joshua BishopRoby said...

People will play, yeah. People will enjoy playing with their friends. I don't know if people will enjoy playing this book; I don't know if this book could accurately be said to facilitate enjoyable play. I mean, admittedly, I haven't seen it. I really have zero idea what's inside. But the very format -- encyclopaedic, cross-referenced setting information dump -- suggests to me that it is not very useful in play. But then hey, maybe I'm totally wrong.

I just have a hard time seeing six hundred pages written to be consistently appropriate and applicable for any given playgroup that happens to pick it up. As Chris suggests, the thing will probably be heavily modified when played.

At 5:29 PM, Blogger Bradley "Brand" Robins said...


I dunno, maybe, maybe not. I know that these days when I'm at the FLGS and people get talking to me about RPGs I NEVER have anything useful to say to them, or they to me, as we don't play the same style of games. There was a time when I did, but more and more I don't. Really, I have as much in common with most of the RPers because we have a "joint hobby" as I do with the anime fans who don't.

Actually, that's a lie. I have more in common with the anime fans.

However, I'm willing to admit this could just be me and my increasing grumpy assholeness of old age.


I'd agree with you if it wasn't for one thing: when it comes to setting rich gamist settings, Monte Cook is the king. He does things that we don't get around to on the Forge, but he does them with as much verve and deliberate thoughtfulness as most Forge designers. He has thunk mighty deep about game design, and if anyone can make this thing work, it'd be him.

By contrast, I'm not certain how many people will get maximum utility out of Wilderlands of High Fantasy. Other than for killing puppies, of course.

At 10:21 AM, Blogger John Kim said...

Bradley "Brand" Robins said...
Really, I have as much in common with most of the RPers because we have a "joint hobby" as I do with the anime fans who don't.

And that's fine and has always been true. There are darn few individual players whose tastes run the full range of the hobby. And some players' tastes will be extremely narrow. There are plenty of people who will only, say, play their particular fantasy larp and have no interest in tabletop or online gaming. There are players of Amber who have zero interest in dice-using games.

But as long as there is a large set of people with overlapping tastes, the hobby doesn't have any clear lines by which to fragment into. Many larpers will also play tabletop. Many Amber players also play other games. And similarly, while you might not have any interest in such games, there are plenty of people on The Forge who continue to play games like D&D, Tunnels & Trolls, The Burning Wheel, and so forth.

Whether you call that a "diverse hobby" or a "diverse set of hobbies" is just semantics.


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