“Dudes! I just found this awesome class. I think maybe it’s 3rd party….”

If you’re a GM, chances are that sentence makes you nervous. If you’re an especially experienced GM, you may be in the throws of a traumatic flashback. That’s because you can remember the smoking ruins of some long-ago campaign when you decided to take an anything goes approach to gaming supplements. Suddenly your Tolkien-inspired fantasy world was inundated with platypus folk and lactomancers, and there was much facepalming throughout the land.

Flavor issues aside, the most common opinion I’ve encountered on the subject is, “I don’t want some poorly playtested, unbalanced crap in my game.” And to a certain extent I think that’s a fair cop. Big companies like Paizo or Wizards of the Coast are rigorous in a way that mom and pop operations can’t be. However, I can remember a time when a player in one of my Pathfinder games wanted to grab the pre-errata Divine Intervention for her oracle. I was of the opinion that it was OP, and the errata ultimately vindicated my position. Same deal with the load of 5e errata floating around out there. The big dogs make mistakes too. Disallowing 3rd party content might reduce the amount of “not at my tables” you’ll have to hand out, but it won’t eliminate them.

I’ve written my share of third party content, so that might color my opinion here. But I think that GMs always have a responsibility to look at the ideas players bring to the game, then determine if they fit within the overall tone of the campaign. That’s why I default to “anything goes if I give it the thumbs up” when it’s my turn to sit behind the screen. Besides which, the occasional dragon rider or goblin exemplar can add some fun variety to the table.

What do the rest of you guys think? Do you allow third party material in your games? Why or why not? Let’s hear it in the comments!


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