4e D&D Player’s Strategy Guide: How Much Will It Suck?


Warning! Old Guy Ranting Ahead

Coming out in May 2010 is the D&D Player’s Strategy Guide and judging by the pre-release blurb, it is going to suck big time. Just read the blurb, just look at the cover art.

The D&D Player’s Strategy Guide is aimed at D&D players who crave the envy of their gamer peers. If you want a character that is jaw-droppingly cool, this book is for you. It provides tips and tricks for optimizing your D&D characters โ€” to make them more awesome and fun to play at the game table.

Notice those words – “envy” “cool” “optimizing” “awesome” – does that make you think this will be a book that enhances your game? Or do you think it is the sort of thing 13 year olds will buy to make them better power gamers?

Hey Wizards! How about a player’s guide that stimulates player’s imagination? After after, D&D is a game of imagination not a board game where the person with the most powers wins.

Or how about a book that focuses on improving characterisation or how to enhance the experience of everyone in your table by using better descriptions and narrative to your play? How about ways of improving your problem solving skills or even better table manners and tactics for making your group work better together? What about a vocabulary guide so players can say something more intelligent than “cool” and “awesome”.

I appreciate that I may be judging this book by its cover and it would not be the first great book ruined by bad publicity blurb. If this is the case, I apologise to author James Wyatt and direct all my bile towards which ever editor at Wizards approved decided on the marketting strategy.

Just in case you think the book doesn’t look bad enough alreay. Here is the rest of the blurb:

In addition to character optimization tips and player advice, this book includes entertaining sidebar essays written by celebrity gamers and a distinctive comic art style unlike other books in the D&D game line.

The worst thing about the D&D Player’s Strategy Guide is that it is going to sell by the truckload.

Now excuse me, I’m off to cry over my mint copy of Chainmail.


    1. I could only think of Wil Wheaton for celeb gamers.

      The style of art work on the cover looks familiar and I suspect it is going to be good comic art work but why? The rest of the 4e line has pretty decent art work.

  1. The celebrities include Tycho & Gabe of Penny Arcade, who also are the artists featured in the image above.

    1. That explains the why the art style was familiar and at least the comic book art makes a little bit more sense now.

  2. @Chgowiz –

    Nope, I really think the book is going to suck (for certain definitions of suck).


  3. Heaven forbid they try something fun with the IP other than the standard text book drab that RPG’s are accused of being from the outside ๐Ÿ˜› Why is it a cartoony representation on the cover and a fun, tongue in-cheek approach is suddenly against inspiring the imagination? Many of us cut our gaming teeth alongside Phil & Dixie and Nodwick; my teenage years involved introducing some friends to gaming via Knights of the Dinner Table.
    .-= Rev. Lazaro´s last blog ..A Reply to the Boston Herald =-.

  4. *hands you a shotgun full of rock salt*
    Here ya go… you chase those whipper snappers off your lawn.

    I think the reaction I’ve had to your post is exactly the one you had to the book blurb. It riles my hackles. Basically, the book isn’t going to be aimed at you. It’s aimed at people who think reading about Will Wheton and the Penny Arcade crew and the PvPonline guy is going to be amusing or interesting. It’s aimed at people who don’t think having a character they can call “Cool” or “Awesome” is a bad thing. It’s taking advantage of the psuedo celebrity status of these folks and appealing to their crowd, who may or may not really be into RPGs to begin with. *Shrug*

    So for you, yeah the book will probably suck with teeth. For others it’ll be good.

  5. @Tim

    There is nothing to indicate the book is meant to be humourous and according to the blurb,only the sidebar essays will be entertaining. This suggest that the book will be predominately power builds for those who “crave the envy of their gamer peers”.


    I have no problem with them having fun with their IP. But if this book is going to be a light-hearted take on D&D, wouldn’t calling it the “Penny Arcade Guide to Playing D&D” make more sense?

    Instead, apart from the style of the cover art, it appears be no different from any other splat book. A splat book aimed at making players into power gamers. That is what I have problems with.


    Thanks for the shotgun.

    My mileage will certainly vary from some, perhaps most, players but it is not entertaining essays by PVP, Penny Arcade et al that concern me. In fact, they might be some of the best bits as they are more likely to inspire imagination amongst the readers.

    It is the focus on “optimizing” and appealing to people who want “envy” that really gets my goat. RPGs should not be all about powers or game mechanics or getting envious looks from your players.

    It is about playing a role, hence the name of our hobby.

    Sure, this involves game mechanics but these are the tools with which we build the role. The mechanic who inspires their fellow mechanics is the one who creates the best machine, not the one with the largest tool box.


  6. I listened to all the PA/PVP podcasts – they were entertaining and funny. I won’t be buying this book, but I can see that it’s got a decently large target market, and I’m sure it will be both amusing and interesting, at least from an art/humor point of view.

    The podcast series is arguably one of the most successful things Wizards has done to promote D&D, and with the PA guys promoting RPG’s and gaming in general, it’s done a helluva lot more to promote the hobby than the OSR and every knee-jerk negative blogger put together. This particular book is clearly a continuation of that line of material, and aimed largely at that market.

    Sooo, Chris, you might want to do a little research before you go slagging off and playing the grumpy neckbeard. You’re entitled to not like the idea of a min/maxing guide (which I think this will probably be, and which is why I won’t be buying it), but until you match up to the amount that the people involved in this project have done to promote and popularize our hobby, you may want to think a bit before you type.
    .-= wickedmurph´s last blog ..4e Sandboxing =-.

  7. At first, your post had me convinced that this was simply another rant about how 4th Ed is terrible, etc etc. I believe that after reading it a second time, and the comments that I grasp more of what you are saying.

    First a rebuttal:
    “Or how about a book that focuses on improving characterisation or how to enhance the experience of everyone in your table by using better descriptions and narrative to your play? How about ways of improving your problem solving skills or even better table manners and tactics for making your group work better together?”

    Every 4th ed product I’ve read, and many of the online articles etc, have specific sidebars that address enriching roleplaying, characterization and teamwork. The DMG was almost nothing but a guide on how to play with various players, using narrative and descriptions. These books exist already, and are among the core books of the hobby.

    ” What about a vocabulary guide so players can say something more intelligent than ‘cool’ and ‘awesome'”
    If the goal of playing your game is looking more intelligent, and not being able to say “awesome”, perhaps Scrabble is a better fit. ๐Ÿ™‚

    As far as that goes, I agree that pushing people to be “power gamers” is a bad design decision, however, the main goal of 4th edition is getting new people into the game, and if we can bridge the gap from “no gaming experience” to “full immersion” using a board game like system that draws inspiration from what is popular now… why is that a bad thing?

    I can understand your feelings, and certainly, playing with a group of 13 year olds doesn’t sound like the most epic in-character adventuring and storytelling imaginable, but at the same time, if everyone’s character is “awesome”, and you have fun killing orcs and taking their treasure, what’s the problem?

    Who knows, once they’ve slain a thousand dragon-gods, maybe they’ll be in the mood for playing a level 0 hobbit and some Chainmail. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. While I’m a fan of PA, I won’t be picking up this book unless it turns out to be awesome. It sounds like it’s part IP fun, part power-gaming guide, neither of which will justify the expense to me.

    But I bet there will be a lot of people that will buy it, especially for the power-gaming info. Our hobby has always had power-gamers, and so does the video game hobby. They don’t want to role-play, they want to pwn. While the curmudgeon in me may also grumble about whipper-snappers and munchkin-punks, if it keeps people investing in the hobby and keeps WotC in the black so D&D stays alive, more power to them.

    Besides, this book wouldn’t do my players much good, considering how house-ruled my game is.
    .-= Oz´s last blog ..Eat The Cheerleader, Save The Game? =-.

  9. Stephen Colbert, Vin Diesel, Elijah Wood are also known celebrity RPGrs

    Wizard knows there target $$ demographic, prepubescent power trippers with plenty of disposable income.

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