This is a translation of a post originally published in 2016. More posts in English here.
Greetings, munificent readers. I am a stern defender of the notion that more content is always more content. A game or RPG product with more and better ideas will have more personality and give the DM more potential margin of maneuver. It seems obvious, or some may think that less is more, but the thing is complicated.
Because I mean content that is worthwhile, fresh valuable ideas that can be immediately brought to the game table and that are not vague, topical, reiteratives or obvious.
And I don't actually talk about super epic or mysterious stuff. Something like "these villagers challenge everyone who comes to a contest of crossing a river with a pole and they don't respect any group that doesn't show some skill" is already providing flavor and, especially, it is something the players can find enjoyable to interact with.
When I say "content" in this post I mean that (or super epic and mysterious things too, of course) and not long useless paragraphs, descriptions of dragons that are exactly like dragons from other fantasy world, long dissertations with no real game content or pretending that "a church is a place where people go to pray" and similar descriptions are something that people wants to pay money for.
This is the type of thing that makes that, for example, books that could perfectly be 100 or 150 pages long end up hitting 300 and becoming a snorefest (that and the fact that you can sell a book with more pages for a higher price, but that is only an added bonus).
Am I saying then than short manuals are good and long manuals are related to Satan and are here to ransack our villages and steal our cows? Nothing further from the truth--as I said at the begining, more content is always more content. But if your content is dissolved in an ocean of "meh" it won't shine as much as if it was all concentrated and the reader receaved more or less interesting ideas constantly.
Or, as the guys from Extra Credits put it, awesome per page. No matter how long or short is your product if you can keep the awesome per page high throughout it. And by awesome per page I mean the ammount of useful, interesting and, well, awesome things that you can find in any given page. That is pretty much what guides my efforts towards a maximalist RPG writting style: don't hold back, make it as big as possible, but also as awesome as possible. Creating RPG content is not a battle that can be won only be numbers, each piece of information should count.
As I read not so long ago on Goblin Punch about random tables, if you make a random table with 20 results and you realize that only four of them are actually really good, you shouldn't doubt about removing the other sixteen. Leave it and go to teh next. If you keep on working and practicing, it will come a day where all twenaty results will be gold or at least silver or other form of precious metal.
In the same way, if you realize that about half of your product is meh (and I hope this doesn't happen, but it comes even to the best), don't be afraid of cutting it in half, no matter how it hurts. Don't doing it because you say to yourself that it isn't really that bad, or that you would have lost your time or because you personally like it would be a disservice to yourself and your project
And yes, I know that the awersome, or great ideas are a subjective matter, but I think that any game designer worth their salt should have a good eye to almost always know what things are useful on the short or long term, interesting, add value to the product and make it easier for the average DM to start their games. But for this reason it is also really important to let others read your product, to ask for opinions and to test it, test it until your dice bleed. At that moment stop testing and contact your local religious figure.
Personally, I think that it is ironic that the most valuable content is likely to be the one that is not absolutely necessary to play, but enriches the game in other ways. After all, something really interweaved that has to always be taken into account reduces the options of the DM instead of giving him more. I talk about, for example, mechanics or setting elements that are absolutely necessary for the game to achieve the design goals you envisioned. If there are too many of these, only the most dedicated will be able to push the proverbial rock up to the summit of the learning curve. But on the other hand, pieces of setting or little optional or modular mecanics are additions that rise the awesome.
And I think that this is something that I have more or less managed to avoid in Criaturas del Vacío Celeste with the always helpful rumor tables, that offer variation and give options to the DM with a solid base to step on. And I am trying to do mostly the same with Sukero City and its modular mechanics and implicit and fragmented setting.
At the end of the day RPG products are just tools for the end designer: the DM. They give him (or her of course) something to work with, introduce new elements to his "mental ecosystem" and, if they want to emulate a certain genre, they give him something to take the first step withou having to do all the planning and investigation by themselves. Offering something that doesn't help at all or too little is very close to a scam.
And I think this is the actual problem people have with long books, that they see that their awesome per page is too low to make it worth looking into it until they can find the goodies. And also because their content is to interweaved, so it doesn't pay off, as the learning curve is too steep for something that you won't be able to apply outside that product.
I don't know about you, but I buy things I am never gonna use as-is to open them up and take pieces and parts, and I think it's a healthy approach and not a way of disrespecting the produc. Although I know that therea are people that appreciates a game much more for their resolution mechanics and for how the mechanics are used as a metaphore. In that regard I have to admit that games more storygamey, less mainstream (kiwi flavored as opposed to strawberry) and more focused on innovative mechanics, have a good eye for the awesome per page and their books usually are as long as they need... and sometimes less.
But I think that they are guilty of having very little content you can reuse, a lot of times due to their fondness for improsivation. I don't have anything against games that let you improvise all or a good chunk of the material, but I think I am going to apply the words of mr. Treze to this: "the more I prep, the best I improvise". No improvisation comes from nothing but, as I have already said, from the "mental ecosystem" of the people that take part in it, that is always enriched by new things. Saying that you can improvise something totally new without inspiration from any source and no previous frame of reference seems to me as feasible as a perpetual motion machine.
Quality content will always enrich that ecosystem and will give us tools that we can reach to arrange better games and have a better time. So, in my opinion, we DMs shouldn't demand shorter books, we should demadn that, no matter how long they are, they are worth every cent we pay for them and every second we invest in reading them.
Thanks for reading. Valmar Cerenor!