D20 or Why I gave up the splat race


Soapbox rant to follow!  

Still interested? Well then!

In 1999 when it was announced that D&D 3rd edition was coming out, I was excited. I was currently running or playing in several games including Alternity, D6 Star Wars, D&d 2e, and a few of Palladium Books games, especially Rifts. I loved Rifts. Even after I moved away from the Palladium System, I spent years looking for or trying to create my own D20 conversion of the Rifts setting. None of it really worked, but I always loved the Rifts setting…

In 2000 when it was announced that there would be an open gaming license I was really excited! There could now be a slew of setting and games that all used one codified system. This would make gaming so much easier.

As the years rolled on, 3.0, 3.5 & D20 Modern were all released along with a mountain of third party support. What I found was that the system was far from perfect. It was not one codified system like I was hoping. Top that off with several publishers releasing their own settings with modifications to the core rules and you had a bunch of mechanically different games, all under the header of OGL/D20.

Wizards of the Coast, meanwhile, became the king of splat books, releasing 2-4 hard cover books and another 6-10 perfect bound books, either small accessory books or adventures every year.

Then there was Pathfinder.

At a time when the announcement of a D&D 4e was coming out, Paizo said they were revising the 3.5 rules and streamlining it a bit. This was great, at first. But then the attack of the splat book returned. In Spades. And Paizo quickly toppled WotC for king of the splat. They release 2-3 hard cover books and no less than 24 perfect bound books a year, be it their subscription adventure series or the slew of small player and GM source books. This is in addition to a few stable bound adventures each year. That is nearly $480.00 per year just to keep up with all the Pathfinder material.

Now before I go too much farther, let me state that I honestly enjoy playing Pathfinder. I ran D&d 3.5 and Pathfinder almost exclusively for about ten years. I still LIKE the system; I just don’t LOVE it anymore. The Thing that got me to looking for alternatives to Pathfinder was the cost. I wanted a game I could get my kids interested in and still afford to get them a copy of the game.

Enter Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition and DC Adventures.

Ok, isn’t M&M D20? Why yes it is. Doesn’t that mean it still has all the problems of D20? Nope! The first thing that grabbed me about M&M3e was the simplicity of combat and the removal of hit points. It actually reintroduced the colored damage chart from years gone by. And it worked! It is D20 only in the most basic sense. The publisher managed to strip out a lot of the bloat and keep it crunchy enough to satisfy but not crunchy enough to break your teeth. And, while there are splat books, the company does not bury you in them! They release a few PDFs a year and anywhere from 1-3 printed books.

M&M3e completely fixed my itch when it came to super heroes role playing. But I wanted something for other genres.

Now we come to Savage Worlds.

I was shown Savage Worlds back in 2014. I flipped through the book and was like, “eh, just not me”. It’s too weird. Characters looked too simple yet too difficult to read. These were my first impressions.

Then July of 2016 rolls around and I find that Rifts (remember, I loved that setting?) was being ported over to a new game system. OFFICIALLY! Wow! Who was doing it? I had to find out. Pinnacle Entertainment Group, the system was Savage Worlds, that weird system that only does pulp.

I was not happy, I even held off on getting the PDF’s about a week. Then I picked up the Tomorrow Legion Player’s Guide. I had a pdf copy of the Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorer’s Edition from a year or so back. I decided I would give it a try.

Once I got over the preconceived notions of the system and really started to learn it, I fell in love. And the book was only $9.99! (Well, $8.96 on Amazon). It was an inexpensive game! I did spend another $14.00 on a set of clay poker chips and a two pack of playing cards. But that still was less than half of what D&D 5e Player’s Guide or the Pathfinder Core Book cost. The rifts books did cost about $80.00. But that is still less than a set of D&D 5e rule books; even after I toss in the Savage worlds Deluxe Edition book, poker chips and playing cards.

I started to look up all the settings Pinnacle had and it quickly dawned on me. They are not terribly splat heavy. In fact there are just four splat books to speak of, Horror, Fantasy, Sci-fi & Supers Companions. And none of them are strictly needed! They don’t even try to make you believe they are needed! It is true that there are a lot of setting books. But add up all the books Pinnacle has released in the past five or so years and it totals up to one year’s worth of Paizo releases.

So, I moved on again. From the D20 system and the slew of splat books that kept tempting and tormenting me to Savage Worlds, a fast, fun and furious game that won’t completely break your bank. I was pleasantly surprised to see how active an online community the system has as well!

Is D20 or Paizo bad? No way! I know a few people who love the Pathfinder Rules and dived headlong into the new Starfinder setting. They are looking forward to the new wave of splat books that will certainly be coming to support this new flagship game of Paizo’s. And I will gladly play in any game they wish to run using those rules.

But my days of trying to keep up with monthly RPG book releases are over. I’m married; I have two kids and a mortgage. I don’t have the free time or the disposable income to keep up. I also enjoy playing games with my kids. Keeping things simple and fast is what I really need out of my games now.

Like Palladium Books, D20 and Pathfinder will always have a fond place in my memory. I just can’t keep up with the splat book race. Nor can I dedicate enough time to GM those systems. I think I’ll be playing Savage Worlds for several years to come. Happily so.

Do you agree with my view on the Paizo business model of product releases?

Do you think I’m just plain nuts?

What have I left out?

Let me know in the comments below!


4 thoughts on “D20 or Why I gave up the splat race

Add yours

  1. Wow. I felt like I was reading my own gaming biography, except that I skipped Pathfinder and went straight to Savage Worlds. When I saw the simplicity of it from the GM and player character design perspectives, I fell in love and never turned back. This all coincided with the birth of my first kid, moving to a new city, and taking on a new job. Perfect timing for me.


  2. You’re not alone. I think your experience is a common one. There’s a sunk cost in systems like Pathfinder and D&D, both in money and time. Those of us who found our way to Savage Worlds realized we could save both, which becomes more precious as we move through the parenting life stage. There’s nothing wrong with those other systems and in fact my weekly gaming group still plays Pathfinder, but Savage Worlds is number 1 in my heart.


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