Why D&D should be more like Warhammer 40,000

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36 Responses

  1. Asmor says:

    Ah, Games Workshop. Such wonderful flavor, why must it belong to such a shitty, terrible company?

    You do make some good points, but I just can’t imagine any company trying to pattern itself after GW. It’s a wonder to me that GW is even still in business, the way it’s constantly shitting on its fandom.

    “Fuckers built a fansite? Send ’em a C&D.”

    “Someone mentioned Warhammer? Send ’em a C&D.”

    “Someone praised our game? Send ’em a C&D.”

    “Someone is offering our stuff for 10% off MSRP? Sue the fuckers!”

    • greywulf says:

      Yeah. Games Workshop went through that awful period of slamming down on the merest mention of their name online. Thankfull that’s all in the past now and they’re much more mellow about fansites and the like – I hope, otherwise this might be the last thing I write for a while :D

  2. Joshua says:

    The Codex thing works for 40K because you don’t care about a faction or its Codex if there isn’t a player at the table with that sort of army, who can be counted on to have the Codex… and the expense of the Codex is small compared to building the army. The same thing would be a disaster for D&D. Sorry, not only can you not play a dwarf if you didn’t buy the Codex, but you can’t even meet any in the world unless the GM has shelled out for the book. This was a real problem people had with the proliferation of splat-books in the twilight of 3.5… now imagine it if there was no core and every race and probably class required a splat-book… it’s a marketer’s wet-dream, but it would be terrible for pulling in new hobbyists.

    • greywulf says:

      Not necessarily. The GM would just need the DMG and MM (which has GM information about the Core Races), as usual. I should have mentioned that :)

      The Codexes would only be needed at the players’ side of the table – tough it wouldn’t hurt the GM to peek for inspiration or if he wanted to run a campaign around a specific race.

      • Seb says:

        I was going to add this but it seems it has been solved. Alas, I shall comment nonetheless. I think that if they went down that road, they would have to publish all the race information in one tome, either the PHB or the DMG (or both) but that you could buy these Codex style books for the fluff, artwork and otherwise background information you wouldn’t get normally.

  3. Great piece! DDI is a tad pricey if you have a DM and 5 players that is between $30 and $60 a month for the character builder, compendium, and magazines. There are other tools but I am not a fan of them and they are not very useful and need updates. If you are only a player then Dungeon isn’t really for you either so the value is diminished. You should expect to spend some money on a hobby but it should be kept reasonable. That being said you only need 3 books to play the game and everything else is optional. The problem comes when one player has access and another may not. I know that some people probably share their DDI accounts but that isn’t really on topic. Oh by the way you are right, keep the gnomes in the closet.

    • greywulf says:

      Yeah. D&D Insider’s pricing isn’t geared toward the target audience at all. If they expect a game group to be made up of 1 GM + 1-5 players then there should be a D&DI price structure to support that. In my experience, one account is shared between a whole group, meaning WoTC are losing revenue yet again by not supporting multiple-gamer accounts.

  4. Playing Space Marine has made me want to play Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader. Not sure how I feel about your ideas. Doesn’t that remind you of the plethora of specialized books we had for AD&D 2nd ed? Did you like it back then?

    • I think I need an extra comment in order to “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail”…

    • greywulf says:

      Absolutely. I loved the Complete Book of Humanoids (was that the title?) and the rest. Bring those up to date and give the race entries some more love, that’s what I say!

      By which I don’t mean D&DI articles containing a handful of Racial Feats – I would love to see books chock full of fluff content, artwork and elements which make the races truly special again. Not just more Feats.

  5. Darktouch says:

    I can’t get on board with the one universe thing. For too many people the height of D&D was that time during 2nd Edition when you were getting Dark Sun, Spelljammer, Planescape, etc. If you lock it into a single world you’re just killing it. I was so relieved when White Wolf took the world of darkness and backed away from that.

    On the subject of having a Codex, you might want to take a look at Dungeon World… and by extension Apocalypse World. They game has what they call ‘Playbooks’ which are all of the rules necessary to run a single class for the game. Only one class per game… so there will only ever be one Wizard in the party for instance. Adding that playbook doesn’t just add the class but adds the trappings of that class to the world you’re playing in. So up until that player picks the Wizard there won’t be any Wizarding Schools or the like. The concept is a little bit more fleshed out in the Apocalypse World side of things.

    • greywulf says:

      I’m not just thinking about one world – but one whole shared Universe/Multiverse which encapsulates all that, and more.

      • Darktouch says:

        Oh, so making Planescape/Spelljammer/Chronomancer/The World Serpent Inn much more immediate to the worlds involved.

        I like being able to mix in variant cosmologies together via the Phlogiston or Far Realm or whatever. Even made charts ;-) http://drkt.ch/v15phT

        I do think that might hurt certain world concepts. Athas for instance would have some difficulty as the moment an adventurer finds a portal that goes somewhere that isn’t Athas, they’re never coming back. No, never ever.

  6. Thorynn says:

    I know this is probably blasphemy, but I really liked the splat book from back in 2eAD&D. I loved all the detail and the art. I know mechanically the “kits” were a little hard to deal with from a DM’s standpoint, I used to love going to the book store and seeing a wall of interesting content.

  7. Lord Byte says:

    The problem is indeed that DnD isn’t linked to a world. That should be awesome, except it doesn’t support ANYTHING outside of their little circle of campaign books. And even those seem so stapled onto the rules system it’s scary.
    I like 4E too, but having created a brilliant campaign world only to get frustrated by how much I have to house-rule to keep my flavour, how much errata there is over the amount of splat-books.
    You can’t keep track with the character generator, you can’t house-rule that one, and trying to get a third party character gen to work needs requires a PHD in futile effort.

    • Elton says:

      Greywulf, you are on the right track in saying that 4e isn’t perfect (well, it’s not how I envision my D&D game, since I really like Pathfinder).

      I think the person above is right, though. 4e is Proprietary. If I run 4e, I have to run it in Eberron, that’s it that’s all. If I want to create my own universe, I use Pathfinder — since Pathfinder is less proprietary and can rely on 3rd party content if it’s written well.

      4e has to go back to a basic general setup. The rules have to be less proprietary in order to capture some of their back fans. As for the next generation, you’re also right.

      But one thing is assured, the game will survive beyond the Apocalypse because of what happened in the early 2000’s.

  8. Adam Weber says:

    I have to weigh in on my love of the 2E “Complete X” series. Those books were awesome. I loved the kits, and the extra equipment….ahhhh great memories. I would feel stuck for an idea, crack one open, scan a few lines and have tons of nifty “what ifs” running about my brain.

  9. Reverance Pavane says:

    I think it would also serve well to compare why W40K does better than than WHFB, and that is because, apart from a certain amount of innate awesomeness in regard to Space Marines and the like, it’s simply that the canvas is so huge, which gives a great potential for local variation. Themes are recognisable, but there is always room for adding more stuff. Such as the Tau being a prime example.

    In this regard WHFB suffers from the same problem as D&D. It’s very limited, with the components (the Empire, Bretonnia, et al) all being strongly defined. But I also think D&D has the potential to assume a vastly larger canvas than it currently does by virtue of it’s very high fantasy milieu. In fact, they have already proven this with the Planescape series. There is an increasing move away from the OD&D 9 named levels to 20 levels in 3e and 30 in 4e. So why not take formally that higher level game into the cosmic arena, rather than trying to keep playing in the same sandpit that your low level characters were playing with.

  10. Dave R. says:

    “You want that, right?”

    Personally, no, I want none of that. I want graph paper dungeons and hex-crawls above ground, and arbitrary and arcane random tables, and above all a world where the GM uses personality and elements of myth and archetype to bring alive the admittedly somewhat generic monster entries.

    But if you’re talking 4E and not D&D, then yeah, what you describe would be an improvement.

  11. DBV says:

    Regarding player race “codexes” , I know that 4e tried to go in this direction a bit more with the Players Handbook: Races books (dragonborn and tieflings). I thought it was an interesting approach, but clearly not for everyone, as they haven’t produced them in a while.

    I think DDI is one of the biggest places where the game could be improved. As a magazine tool, it’s bad. The character builder is buggy, slow, and infrequently updated. The website is an atrocity. The extra tools? They don’t exist anywhere yet.

    I personally would love to see a 4e lite, similar to what they did with essentials, but pared down even further, to accomodate old-school style gaming a bit more. (Kind of how Gamma World 4e simplified character creation). Keep it in heroic tier, because that’s where most of the adventure is, and move on.

    Also re: Reverance – the default assumption for 4e is that paragon-tier dips into other planes – the DMG2 (unofficial DMG of the Paragon Tier ™) uses Sigil as a sample Paragon tier area. Epic pretty much assumes Astral Sea and Elemental Chaos (heaven and hell) as locations – so it’s moved in that direction quite a bit. Heroic tier basically maps to the 1-9 named levels. Once you pass that, the pond grows exponentially.

  12. GWBlows says:

    Warhammer 40K??…. long prep time, boring backstories, orks-in-space… D&D is in trouble enough as it is without you encouraging it flush itself deeper into the sewer…. all the problems you cite with it have been argued to death… patterning it after a verbose shuffle-plastic-men-around game with few similarities to it isn’t the solution. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGGGHHHH!

  13. ggodo says:

    Having been involved in the community of both games I can say this: Games Workshop is terrible at making games balanced, but is really good at marketing them so that even though most folks who play 40,000 know that it’s kinda shit, they still enjoy it through the fluff unless they’re That Guy. Then they just use the broken to heck, easily abused, rules to Win At All Costs. Which is fine if there were any semblance of an even playing field. All the examples GreyWulf sites for great rules writing are in the core book, which has some great core mechanics. The issue comes when the codices come out with much less attention to how the core game functions, leaving us with wargear that shatters some rules to tiny pieces and still others that serve no purpose because their phrasing does nothing.

    WOTC is already notorious for not really keeping track of what they’ve printed, now imagine if you had to wait for a new elf book to play as an elf, then discover that it’s not consistent with the core rules, and you abilities that break the game either direction. That’s not good. It’s more allowable in RPGs than in wargames simply because the GM has Fiaty power over what can be used, but it’s still not fair to the dwarf who got nothing of the sort because his book was written closer to core.
    Plus, look at the release schedules. There’d be a lot of separation time between the race books. This wouldn’t be much of an issue if they were primarily fluff books, but if they’re required to play you’ve just lost me as a customer for the same reason GW did. I’m all for more setting and more minis though. I really miss the minis.

    Honestly, Games Workshop amazes me it still exists. It’s so terrible to it’s customers and yet the players are so loyal to the game they can’t give it up. I don’t want WOTC to go that way because I still kinda like them. Even after Mythic Rares. I’m not likely to buy another 4e book, not unless a local DM will let me play a Half-Vampire Vampire Vampire, Then I might have to get that Heroes of Shadow book. I’ve got everything I want for 4e, though I do look forward to 5th edition and seeing what changes it shall bring. 40k 6e is rumored to come out soon and hopefully it might make Fearless into a positive. I really hate that they price Fearless as a boon when it really, really isn’t.

  14. mordicai says:

    I’m with you on the rules, totally. Big Book wise, rather than make it “Big Book of Elves” or whatever, make it “Big Book of Fey” & have elves, drow, eladrin, gnomes, whatever else you want. Big Book of Goblinoids. Big Book of Giants, with goliaths & half-giants & ogres & whatever.

  15. Rafael aka LordArchaon says:

    I agree with a few points you made. There are some details of the game that could really be changed in this direction, namely the writing style, maybe a better subdivision of books so that only one core book is needed by a group and then each player modularly builds a small set of little books based on their characters; but I think that’s it and even there I have objections.
    First of all the big “no”s: world. W40k has a lot of players for sure, and offers a lot to players of different tastes in the form of different armies, but D&D is another animal. In D&D we got DMs that want to represent *their* world, and want material that helps them do so. You could say “a standard world wouldn’t hurt though”, but that’s exactly what 4e is all about. Ok, they have taken a few years to shape a true world, but you can’t say now that Nerath is not a playable or flavorful setting. Just flip through the recent monster manual dedicated to Nerath (forgot the title), and you’ll see exactly what you’re talking about.
    This brings to two points. One related to the books thing. A true DM would like to have ALL those books about the races, because he would need to build a world on them. It’s ok to have cooperative story-telling in the game, but we can’t have players say to the DM: “But that’s not true! My Dwarven kingdom has never forged an alliance with the hill giants of the south!”… So your book model looks very difficult to implement if you don’t transform the game completely. Maybe the contrary could be better: a lot of flavor-centered and history-centered DM-only books, and very few player books. But that’s been more or less the model until now.
    The second important point about worlds, a bigger one. The two games have completely different purposes. Obvious right? But think about it game-world-wise: D&D is about adventuring in a world and imagining a whole “second life” in a fantastic world, in which you play characters that can be your alter-egos or maybe not, maybe something completely different. Big how it may be, a W40k-style universe puts a lot of constraints in this direction. If you want to create your character’s background in such a world, you’d surely use some of the world’s history etc. What if you want to invent something? You might say you still could, but then your character would feel like the black sheep in a party of stereotype white sheeps. Having “open” worlds in D&D is (IMHO) crucial for the DMs as it is for the players. Because they will be able to actually crate stories and feel them more true than in possibly any other game. You can do that in W40k but if you really want to create something new then you’d feel out of the setting, and if you want to create something on the lines of the setting, well… You haven’t actually created much, you just invented a few names, put some bricks together and added something that could have already been there right in the codex.

    Completely agreeing with you: the DDi thing. But I wouldn’t have a ready solution for that problem. Maybe a free Character Builder & Compendium that only give you the material you can certify you bought, via serial numbers…

    • Elton says:

      I would get rid of that idea about DDI. Maybe get rid of DDI altogether. DDI is killing Wizards of the Coast (not the game — re: Pathfinder). Wizards of the Coast should have never been bought out by Hasbro. The company should have stayed small and out of the hands of big conglomerates.

      RPGs is necessarily a SMALL market. One that a small company can cater to.

  16. 123 says:

    You can’t lock the Gnome players in the cupboard!

    They’re supposed to sit in the garden.

    Kind of invalidates your whole argument now, doesn’t it?

  17. anarkeith says:

    An advantage of what Greywulf is proposing here is that a more defined core setting for D&D can also provide a template for DMs interested in crafting their own variations. It sets an established set of “fields” for DMs to input their own data if they choose.

    Imagine it as a paint-by-numbers thing. WotC tells you that this zone should be “4”, you consult the material and find that 4 = orange. But you’re not required to put orange in that zone. If you want to swap it out for blue, you still get your own picture.

    The advantage is that DMs pressed for time can generate their own setting more easily by having a structure to choose from. Now imagine if each WotC campaign setting was developed along these lines. You’d be free to swap elements back and forth between them!

  18. kelvingreen says:

    This isn’t just one Realm (populated with Dark Elf Rangers of whirling death, Elminster-dust, etc), but a whole multitude of them all linked by arcane portals and the like. One of them takes you to a cellar underneath a tavern in the city of Greyhawk. Another dumps you near an oasis in Athas, etc. The portals may indeed be forgotten and awaiting discovery, be savagely contested or open for use by all. The whole of D&D’s history is laid bare as a shared setting with your PCs able to move from one game world to another with relative ease. The Feywild and realm of Shadow may be other Realms, or something entirely different, almost portals in themselves.

    You do remember Planescape right? ;)

    The Warhammer 40,000 site, in comparison, is brilliantly laid out, open to all

    Aside from the forums, of course.

    Give me a pack of 30 kobolds, a battlemat and a scenario booklet for $25.

    They have sort of done this with the D&D board games — we’re not playing the games anymore but are cannibalising the parts for our Pathfinder campaign — but they just need to figure out that next step.

  19. Sayge says:

    Someone beat me to it, but yes, Planescape came leaping into mind when you mentioned portals in the basement and such. If anything, it was Planescape setting that kept me playing AD&D2e when I would have quit the game otherwise. The art work was beautiful to the eyes, the writing and imagination that went into the setting was one of the best settings ever to cross the D&D multiverse of worlds or works. To this very day, I still use Planescape and the city of Sigil as a bases for many a 4e game.

  20. Why D&D should be more like Warhammer 40,000: http://t.co/A56Lcp9Y

  21. Via @greywulf and @symatt: Why D&D should be more like Warhammer 40,000: http://t.co/9VjjQP0H

  22. I still remember all the way back to D&D 1st ed (red and blue boxes) so please excuse joint-groaning noises here.

    When AD&D started releasing so many supplemental books, half the battle was to stay up to date with all their wonderful hardbacked ideas. WoTC followed that model after buying it up, but never really came close to putting the same backstory support into the title as Forgotten Realms et al had done for TSR had.

    WH40k on the other hand was world building almost right from the start (though not so much with novels as TSR had), and kept pretty much stable, new material expanded on what came before more than tossed it all out the window.

    From a creative juices side, WH ends up giving players and GMs a much more consistent universe to set themselves in (if GW would quit trying to squelch creativity from its customers in expanding it solo). WoTC seems to just look at AD&D as isolated skeletons.

    Of course, the solution to this dilemma is pretty obvious to me – go buy Tunnels & Trolls 7.5ed, a perfect xmas present. Perhaps you might consider also getting Vvarr’s Quiip as an adventure to get you started. Of all the games, T&T is the best, even if it doesn’t have the endless hours of amusement I love called *Master critical hit description tables :)

    (Sorry Grey, you knew I had to – at least I didn’t slam yer elves :) )

  23. I always hoped the 4e PHBs would cover different kinds of campaigns. Like the first PHB was the traditional fantasy game. Then the 2nd PHB would focus on more “savage” campaigns like Conan with things like we saw in Dark Sun like inherent bonuses and bone weapons. 3rd PHB would focus on city based campaigns like Lies of Locke Lamorre. Maybe including psionics. Basically playbooks with elements of PHB DMG & MM in each book to mix & match campaigns.

  1. November 7, 2011

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    […] Lair opined that the D&D universe should be more like Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40k universe. (Go get a snack for this one, it’s […]

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