I have been following a forum thread about the amount of Fluff versus Crunch in current Dungeon’s and Dragon’s game books. I will give a brief definition of these terms for those that might be unfamiliar, and thought that fluff had to do with an entry level position in the adult film industry. Fluff is typically referred to as story/history/lore content while Crunch typically refers to game mechanics/rules/stat blocks content.
These forum arguments can get quite heated and belligerent (as most discussions on the internet can) and tend to follow a typical pattern starting with someone starting a thread about how they didn’t like either the relative lack of Fluff in comparison to Crunch or the poor quality of fluff in comparison to the “good-ole days”. Then the counter opinion comes in that Crunch is what’s important and if you’re creative you don’t need Fluff it just gets in the way when you make all you own stuff anyway…back and forth until it denigrates into essentially a full out flame war, with a you suck and your an idiot and your mother dresses you funny type dialogue. When I sift through these threads there is a theme that often emerges in that if you aren’t creating or home brewing your game world, contents, and adventures then there is some shame in that. I don’t think it’s necessarily intentional or always the case, as sometimes I think it is a reflection of individual pride at creating something pretty cool, and you creative types should be proud because it is pretty awesome to bring something to life that way. However, you’ll get comments like “I never use published adventures or settings”…really? Not ever?…Not even once?. You can see this even in forum threads were the original poster is asking for help with a published module they are running, and you inevitably get a response like “…..I guess I can’t really help you because I never use published adventures, I only make my own”. Why would you even add that to a post? It’s like they want to make it really clear to everyone in internet land that they are creative and don’t need published material but in a subtle way puts down the person who is using the published module. I think some of the best things from 1st edition D&D were the modules like The Temple of Elemental Evil, The Tomb of Horrors, Against the Giants, and Vault of the Drow.
This kind of thinking puts a lot of pressure on the non-creative types like myself. When I was a teenager and my group was running a lot of Runequest campaigns I can still remember the feeling of fear and dread in the pit of my stomach and cold sweat down my back when our regular DM would turn to me and say it was my time to run a game. We had no fluff books back then for the game system, just the one core rule book. So I did what any self-respecting uncreative type would do and pilfered heavily from published works. At the time I was really into David Eddings’ Belgariad and Mallorean series, so as you can imagine pretty much every adventure inevitably had a prophecy in it. You want to talk about railroading; I don’t think I could have been more railroady unless I had the NPC’s dress in engineer uniforms. One of the great things I have found with getting back into gaming and DM’ng is my comfort level with running games and creating adventures. It seems like I am able to be more creative, although, sometimes I think that I have just read more stuff so when I just pilfer from many sources and combine them it seems more original ;). I like Fluff in my game books, as I find it a nice read, and good for ideas for a time pressed creatively strained DM like myself, and if I don’t think it fits with what I want to do then I don’t use it or change it to suit my needs.