I Hate the Smell of Fluff in the Morning

Originally published in August of 2014, the conversation that was held then is still relevant today. There are some game products, specifically in the realm of RPGs that inundate readers with setting fluff to the point of supersaturation. Don’t get me wrong, having some setting material to place game mechanics in context, is absolutely perfect, but when there is so much of that material that you lose context, that’s where there’s a problem.

A quick canvasing of the books I have recently bought shows me that some publishers and authors are still falling into this trap for one reason or another. However, I’m seeing more and more products with no less fluff, but layouts and arrangement of the material is far better than four years ago. Of those books that I have bought and read, less mechanical information is getting lost. A modern company, Grim and Perilous studio, publisher of Zweihander has a massive tome for a game book; coming in at a whopping 688 pages. That being said, the author, has done a great job at balancing the setting, fluff, and mechanical information to give the right amount of context. He also makes use of call out boxes which provide great examples of the mechanics in use.

The bottom line is, there are modern examples of good and bad out and to each, their own. I haven’t seen the new Pathfinder 2.0 playtest material to see if Paizo is still fixated on fluff or not.

~ Modoc

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Last night I had an interesting conversation with some of the folks I game with regularly on Wednesday evenings (through Google Hangouts). During our conversation the topic came up about RPG products (some, not all) being inundated with fluff content to the point where the essence of the material gets lost in the all descriptive and fluffy text. One of the players mentioned Pathfinder is notorious for its use of excessive fluff and I couldn’t disagree with their assessment since I owned many of the early books as one time and had seen it first hand. There are several reasons why an author or publisher might fall into the trap of having too much fluff. There is nothing wrong with good constructive flavor text, but like everything, it can become excessive.

  1. They are not confident in their ability to provide a succinct description of whatever they are trying to describe and therefore go over the top with descriptors.
  2. They love to see themselves in print; the bigger the book the better.
  3. Publishers are requiring them to fill a set amount of pages and to do so some are resorting to increasing the fluff over real substantial content.

Two of us were familiar with some of the recent products published by Monte Cook, Ptolus and Numenera, specifically. Cook’s use of side and bottom bars takes flavor text, plot hooks and cross-referencing to a whole new level. His ability to succinctly focus in on what’s important in the body of the work allows for snippets of flavor text, related adventures and short NPC descriptions in the margins. This is a practice that more authors should consider.

~ Modoc

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