This all started with a paper pill about an alternate form of Introductory Red Box. Then Keith showed me some link love on this Monday's links of the week. Then I happened upon Dice Monkey's post about making more Introductory Boxes today which references an interview located here.

What follows may not be the ultimate answer to an issue raised so many times, that it would take a week to link to ten percent of the conversations about it.  It's more of an idea presented in an interrogative mood.

Keith commented on my post with this:

So, in D&D 3.x terms you might implement different character archetypes (‘knight’, ‘archer’, ‘healer’, ‘holy warrior’, ‘fire wizard’). I’m thinking about four pages each, for as many levels as can fit (including feat selections and descriptions, and possibly even spells — so it might be only 3-5 levels). Enough to get them started, then point them at the core book for more. Include selection criteria and build suggestions (the knight probably wants a fair bit of Strength, for example, so “description of archetype” and “what it takes to be good at this” should probably be near the top)

Let me expand this a little with the contents of a 'perfect' newbie DM kit assembled at The Yaqqothl Grimoire:

So let's breakdown all of this preface. Here's a generalization of both comments:

  • A core rulebook - (for example the players information in the S&W Whitebox and Matthew Finch's Quick Primer for Old School Gaming)
  • A GM rulebook - (for example the GM information in the S&W Whitebox)
  • Player Kits - (Four page documents with information about class as well as 'how to play' information. Provide some material to make the character customizable.)
  • An Introductory Adventure - (for example, Tower of the Stargazer)
  • An Introductory Campaign - (For example, Rob Conley's Blackmarsh)
  • All the tools needed to play - (Graph Paper, Hex Paper, Pencils and Dice.)

Why use S&W Whitebox as an example? In part because the Pathfinder beginner box has a 64 page rulebook. Mostly, though, it's because I think the Intro Box should contain the entire game.

Blasphemy? Not really. Outside of an RPG, who else buys a game that is incomplete from the beginning? M:TW? No, you don't need the expansion packs to play. Axis and Allies? UNO? Trivial Pursuit? Settlers of Catan? It seems to be typical in the RPG world that the only way to get a complete set of the rules is the buy every book made for the previous edition. Otherwise, you are sold something that is already incomplete and experienced gamers know it.

Don't get me wrong, a good RPG should be expandable. Most of it should come from people actually playing the game. What better way to engage customers than to help them with their customizations?

Sorry, off-topic. Different rant, different day.

Back to the idea of an intro box, the addition of something like Blackmarsh is a useful tool to new GMs. Providing Blackmarsh not only provides part of a world to play in, it also provides an example of how to make your own worlds. The mini-setting is the perfect counterpoint to an example introductory adventure. The adventure is focused on the microlevel, how to structure enough material for one or more sessions of fun with friends. The mini-setting provides the tools to help tell a continuing story, or at least a place to expand beyond the introductory adventure.

I know, I know. RPG publishers are out to make money. The Pathfinder Beginner's Box is doing really, really well and it doesn't follow my formula. However, the Beginner Box site offers some of these things for free. Despite not being able to go past level 5, there's lots of support for this game so far. In fact, more than one person has talked about making a PF "Expert" set that covers options for characters above level 5. I believe that they could make something like PF Lite and really make a good amount of money.

Before closing out this post, I've been trying to think about how other RPG publishers outside of Paizo and WOTC could make a box like I'm describing. Could there ever be a Warhammer 40K intro box?

Enough of me, though. What do you think?