Game supplements can be defined as books that further detail a RPG in some way but are not included in the core set. They come in many shapes and sizes and have three main functions, but they can give a GM a lot of different choices. In this post we will cover what types of supplements there are, what they do, and their pros and cons. I’m really hoping that after reading my post you, the reader, should be able to decide if you want a game supplement for your RPG or not.
Game supplements can be pricey and there can be a lot of them (just ask pathfinder):
Honestly, I have about 9 different supplements for “Age of Rebellion” and that can be a huge buy-in for any single person to take on. Most core books are anywhere from 30 dollars to 50 and in some cases, there is more than one book that you need to buy. For instance, the buy-in for a complete set of DnD 5e was 150 before tax and even now that’s the retail price, but you can get it cheaper online. Now DnD is a little expensive but even a 30 dollar buy-in can be expensive for some people, and then you add these extra things that you CAN buy but there are some good questions related to that content like “Is this supplement worth it? How much will these really start costing me? Will my player or I really be using the content?” and “Will this make GMing easier?”
Well that’s a lot to think about and it all depends on perspective but the best first step is knowing what kind of supplements are out there and kind of what they do.
- Rule supplements are the first kind of supplements and they offer a wide range of content: Basically what these expansions hold are stat blocks, alternate character progression, and most compendiums. Pathfinder itself has more bestiaries then I can count on two hands and that can add up. Rules outline the universe that you exist in and sometimes those rules are not extensive or maybe there’s just some cool stuff you can do like an outlined path on being a time lord or lich king. Rule supplements can make up for the holes that games designers may not have thought about, and this can be a lot of things and they usually come with extra things for setting as well but that is not their focus.
- Mission supplements can be very popular as well because of how easy it makes playing a campaign: Usually, GMs who are newer should be interested in this kind of supplement and the content is pretty plain and simple. Most mission supplements are a full mission that a GM can manage and let their PC’s play through. This supplement will not just have the plot but also more than likely contain NPCs, quest item stats, encounter levels and the math to make a proper challenge to PCs, and also the correct rewards and loot the PCs get including experience. These supplements mean that a GM just has to read the mission, make a few minor tweaks to include the PC’s unique situations and then get the dice rolling. There are all kinds of these books for all kinds of RPGs and some are produced by the company that makes the game while some are third party books. I recommend playing through or at least reading one of these in the beginning of your GMing experience just to get a good idea on how the different mechanics are shown off in your game.
- Setting supplements make up probably my favorite category of supplements because they add a setting which is always great: Now setting supplements are rarely just setting and honestly, none of these supplement types are 100 percent one thing or another but rather they all mainly take care of the topic that they are settled on. For instance in “Age of Rebellion” there is a mission supplement that covers all things Mandalorian and has a couple of extra planets in it and those are some of my favorite stats. These books are super useful for fixed settings because they have a little of everything and create a more dynamic world. If you are playing the “Firefly” RPG or the “Lord of the Rings” RPG, for instance, these books should be like candy to a GM. They will always detail your setting, expand upon it in a mechanical way, and teach the GM more about the setting that they are using and in some cases, they are the complete setting in and of themselves. There are a ton of Pathfinder books for instance that have whole settings with actual physical maps that separate from the book. They have what monsters live where, the hierarchy of over 50 different countries, day and night periods, physical calendars, and just about anything else you can think of for a world.
Now it’s time to see what’s good and bad about each of these supplements:
For rules supplements:
- None of these supplements are technically needed to play a game but that being said sometimes these supplements are really important to certain aspects of gameplay.
- These supplements can open up a lot of new paths for your PCs and the more options they have the more they will get into a character and really make it their own
- These books rarely add to the narrative of your game directly. You may have some quick rules for squad tactics but unless your players are getting into squads it doesn’t matter so read up the summary of these books and make sure the new rules will be relevant instead of bogging down play.
- While the game makers are obviously not infallible (otherwise why would rule supplements exist) these new rules are play-tested and well thought out so if you’re new to games, these rules are probably a better alternative to homebrew.
For campaign supplements:
- These can be very useful inspirations for new GMs or old GMs new to a new system.
- Campaign supplements are quick and easy you just grab it and go. These are good for me when it’s finals week or I have a couple of papers due and I really get to focus on that stuff
- These books have almost no reuse value at all in a single campaign so unless you are moving players and campaign around a lot you can only really use these the one time.
- There are always little stat jewels hidden in these campaigns that you always end up falling in love with
For setting supplements:
- Settings can be very useful in creating a richly detailed world that covers all the weird things that you might not think about such as calendar years and mathematical systems.
- Settings can help you get a game started quickly without being limited by campaigns that have mandatory events
- Settings are useful for if the players decide to pack everything up and just travel north… or whatever cardinal direction fancies them. You’ll be ready for that off the rails gaming that happens sometimes
- Settings take away the world building aspect of a game. As a GM if you have some spare time you might want to try to make your own world. It can make an interesting setting, keeping track of your own cannon can be really cool, and on top of that, it is just awesome when you do your own thing.
One of the most important things to remember is to read any review or descriptions that you can before buying a supplement and putting it in a game. Make sure you don’t go broke over any of the supplements either and definitely don’t let them get in the way. the most important thing when learning an RPG is to know where the content generally is so if you buy a lot of supplements all at once you might bog the game down with paperwork. Remember too that these supplements are made to make a game more fun so make sure that that’s happening
Let us know if you purchased any supplements that you’ve enjoyed or maybe didn’t enjoy so much and if you like the article share us on any of our social media links at the bottom of the page!
Happy gaming from the nerd collective!