Comic-book Author Jim Zub On D&D's Surge In Recent Years
  • Comic-book Author Jim Zub On D&D's Surge In Recent Years


    Jim Zub, writer of comics including Marvel's Avenger's, IDW's Dungeons & Dragons, and more, shared his thoughts on why D&D has surged so much in the last few years.




    "This is a constant conversation I've been having with friends and industry people since D&D 5th Edition launched.

    Why has #DnD surged so much in the past few years and what ingredients came together to encourage this upswing in visibility and enthusiasm?

    In no particular order:

    - A young audience hungry for unique experiences and looking for personalized entertainment. Tabletop RPGs like #DnD are infinity customizable and don't have to be expensive.

    - The game can be dramatic and nuanced, or slapstick-silly. Strategic with minis and grids or highly narrative. You can play with kids or get a group of adults together and be raunchy and "inappropriate". All with the same basic framework and rules.

    - In a world that blasts us with a lot of one-way passive entertainment, you get to directly engage with other people and make something. Everyone gets to contribute. Everyone can take ownership of this entertainment. It's yours.

    - Want to explore a part of your personality you always wish you had? Want to be more decisive, courageous, faithful, sexy, commanding, etc.? Try it. Make a character and try it in a safe way.

    For a lot of young players, #DnD is literally a safe space for their dreams.

    - #DnD can be student budget cheap to play (paper, pencil, dice) or high-powered executive expensive (limited edition everything, minis and terrain, costumes, you name it). It scales incredibly well with whatever your group has access to.
    D&D is tailor-made for a young and creative generation that wants unique entertainment experiences.

    #DnD also has an older generation that's highly nostalgic for their own empowering days of yore. Many of them are old enough to have kids who are ready to start playing.

    The original fans were the easiest bring back in, and #DnD 5th Edition did a masterful job of convincing the existing fan base that they cared about the old stuff while they updated, organized and strengthened the rules.

    The elusive audience was that new one. The barrier was presentation and instruction.

    How to show new players how the game worked and get them enthusiastic to try it out? How to share the best version of the experience with people to get them engaged?

    Back in the day, you'd be lucky if you had one shot at showing someone #DnD. If the Dungeon Master was a jerk and they didn't make you feel welcome, most people would back away and never come back. The first impression was everything.

    The unexpected ingredient is the playcasts - Youtube and Twitch.

    Now you get to enjoy a really entertaining game and see how the game works at your own pace. You see people enjoy the hell out of it. They're engaged and you want to be a part of something joyous like that.

    YouTube and Twtch democratized the process. Anyone can watch and learn and start their own game. No more gate keeping. If you watch @CriticalRole and then play and the game sucks, you know what a good game can be, so you keep searching to find a better DM/group or make your own.

    At the same time, you have a generation of nostalgic gamers who are now in creative positions and they're putting more #DnD into our much nerdier pop culture-laden world: Stranger Things, Big Bang Theory, Community, Stephen Colbert and so many more.

    The confluence of those 4 major factors:
    - Nostalgic older players, many with kids.
    - New young players who want to customize their entertainment and make things.
    - Playcasts breaking gate keeping.
    - Celebrity gamers increasing visibility and breaking the cliches of who games.

    How many times in your day-to-day life do you get to feel empowered?

    What if you could spend quality time with friends, collaborating on something unique and special?

    #DnD is sports team camaraderie (dice/stats/winning) with the creativity of a drama club (story/character).

    When I was 8-years old, my 12-year old brother and I muddled our way through 1st edition D&D and we loved it. I played with my brother and our cousins and it ignited a creative fire in me that has never died down.

    I'm a writer thanks to #DnD.

    4-years apart is a lot at that age. I couldn't play sports or compete with them at video games, but in D&D I got my turn to say what I wanted to do and it was _everything_. I was one of the older boys. My rolls were as good as theirs (sometimes better).

    If I came up with a great idea they didn't think of, or if I could make them laugh, that was the world to me. Improvisation, entertainment, character, story, and a big crazy dash of luck.

    When my brother left for University, I started DMing/GMing D&D and all kinds of other RPGs. The rush of building worlds and entertaining my friends was the best feeling (and it still is).

    Now, thanks to technology, people can have that same rush in the same room or by meeting up online, The tech has enabled the social aspects of D&D to flourish and grow exponentially. Reestablish games with old friends or find new groups anywhere.

    Put all that together with a world not afraid of being nerdy, filled to the brim with people looking for escapism, joy, and empowerment and you have the perfect fuel to propel this modern #DnD revolution.

    The [WotC D&D] crew are all incredibly passionate about everything I covered above.

    #DnD as empowerment, as storytelling, as goofy fun, as an empathy engine...all of it.

    They get it.

    When the upswing happened, they recognized the shift and swiftly built on it.

    The right game at the right time in the hands of the right people."

    Comments 21 Comments
    1. imagineGod's Avatar
      imagineGod -
      Nailed it. Bang!
    1. LuisCarlos17f's Avatar
      LuisCarlos17f -
      As we say in our land: "Tiene más razón que un santo" (= "He is righter than a saint"). I take my hat off as sign of respect for these words.

      I add now we are ver used to the speculative fiction, by the movies (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones) and the videogames (Warcraft).
    1. Kramodlog's Avatar
      Kramodlog -
      Who is Jim Zub and why didn't he inclue the kitchen sink?
    1. MockingBird's Avatar
      MockingBird -
      Why hate on the post? He nailed it and I hope it continues to grow.
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kramodlog View Post
      Who is Jim Zub and why didn't he inclue the kitchen sink?
      He’s who I said he was in the original post.

      What’s up?
    1. BookBarbarian's Avatar
      BookBarbarian -
      Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
      The confluence of those 4 major factors:
      - Nostalgic older players, many with kids.
      - New young players who want to customize their entertainment and make things.
      - Playcasts breaking gate keeping.
      - Celebrity gamers increasing visibility and breaking the cliches of who games.
      I've definitely noticed the third point but never would had thought of the second. I'm not familiar with Jim Zub, I haven't really collected comic in the past 10 years, but I think he's hit on some very insightful things here.
    1. Satyrn's Avatar
      Satyrn -
      Quote Originally Posted by BookBarbarian View Post
      I've definitely noticed the third point but never would had thought of the second. I'm not familiar with Jib Zub, I haven't really collected comic in the past 10 years, but I think he's hit on some very insightful things here.
      Who is Jib Zub?
    1. BookBarbarian's Avatar
      BookBarbarian -
      Quote Originally Posted by Satyrn View Post
      Who is Jib Zub?
      Sounds like an ewok. :-)

      I'll edit my post for clarity.

      Edit: Aw dang I missed the perfect opportunity for a cut of his jib joke.
    1. OB1's Avatar
      OB1 -
      The confluence of those four factors along with a system that is casual enough for once in a while gamers with busy lives and many other interests yet deep enough to keep those who play all the time interested. It’s such a fine line that 5e walks very well.
      Awesome insight from Mr. Zub!
    1. Tony Vargas -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim Zub View Post
      Spoiler:
      , writer of comics including Marvel's Avenger's, IDW's Dungeons & Dragons, and more, shared his thoughts on why D&D has surged so much in the last few years.[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK][CENTER]



      [hq]"This is a constant conversation I've been having with friends and industry people since D&D 5th Edition launched.

      Why has #DnD surged so much in the past few years and what ingredients came together to encourage this upswing in visibility and enthusiasm?

      In no particular order:

      - A young audience hungry for unique experiences and looking for personalized entertainment. Tabletop RPGs like #DnD are infinity customizable and don't have to be expensive.

      - The game can be dramatic and nuanced, or slapstick-silly. Strategic with minis and grids or highly narrative. You can play with kids or get a group of adults together and be raunchy and "inappropriate". All with the same basic framework and rules.

      - In a world that blasts us with a lot of one-way passive entertainment, you get to directly engage with other people and make something. Everyone gets to contribute. Everyone can take ownership of this entertainment. It's yours.

      - Want to explore a part of your personality you always wish you had? Want to be more decisive, courageous, faithful, sexy, commanding, etc.? Try it. Make a character and try it in a safe way.

      For a lot of young players, #DnD is literally a safe space for their dreams.

      - #DnD can be student budget cheap to play (paper, pencil, dice) or high-powered executive expensive (limited edition everything, minis and terrain, costumes, you name it). It scales incredibly well with whatever your group has access to.
      D&D is tailor-made for a young and creative generation that wants unique entertainment experiences.


      #DnD also has an older generation that's highly nostalgic for their own empowering days of yore. Many of them are old enough to have kids who are ready to start playing.

      The original fans were the easiest bring back in, and #DnD 5th Edition did a masterful job of convincing the existing fan base that they cared about the old stuff while they updated, organized and strengthened the rules.
      Everything under the cut has always been there. What's been missing so far in the WotC/Hasbro tenure has been acceptance by that older generation of original fans. They rankled at 3e's excessive system mastery and 4e's balance & forgiving learning curve. They didn't feel like real D&D, they didn't hinge on the DM.

      5e's attitude of DM Empowerment has made a real difference.

      The elusive audience was that new one. The barrier was presentation and instruction.
      The barrier was also the existing community. When you look in from the outside at a potentially-resurgent phenom, and see acrimony and dissent, you probably don't look much further - why get in on all that nastiness? That's what the extant community presented for 3.x & (to a much greater extent) 4e.

      But, thread that needle between acceptability to the old guard and appeal to the mainstream, and you've got something. That's what Marvel's movies finally did. Hackmaster & the OSR had old-guard appeal, but not mainstream. 4e had mainstream accessibility, but the old-guard created a toxic environment around it. Neither swept the field the way 5e has...

      The unexpected ingredient is the playcasts

      Now you get to enjoy a really entertaining game and see how the game works at your own pace. You see people enjoy the hell out of it. They're engaged and you want to be a part of something joyous like that.
      Heck, you saw that back in 2010, too. It's just that, in the comments there's be rants about how it's not really D&D they're playing, and/or in the same search results, you'd see some grognard burning a Players Handbook.




      Edit: Oh, yeah, and there was that dramatic resurgence in board gaming that started a year or two ahead of 5e's release, and has expanded to Tabletop gaming, in general...
    1. robus's Avatar
      robus -
      A definite case of being the right product at the right time! I remember reading about 5e after not thinking about D&D since the early 80s. The initial press enthusiasm helped build an audience looking for escape from the digital world (the resurgence of boards games has also benefited from this push back of course). The streaming shows really helped to demystify the game play experience and provide excellent examples of fun experiences.

      I only wonder if this will be a long term thing or a fad that will recede to obscurity. I think it will recede a bit but the stigma is gone and there will be a solid player base for a long time to come.
    1. Hussar's Avatar
      Hussar -
      I'm sure it will fade eventually. But, right now? Ride the wave baby. They finally put the genie back in the bottle and got more wishes. And, it's been solid growth for three or four years now. Not so much a boom and bust cycle.
    1. Henry's Avatar
      Henry -
      Jim is also original writer for Skullkickers years ago, as well as the very first round of Pathfinder comic books back in 2012. The guy’s on his way to becoming a comics legend in his own right.
    1. Dr. Bull's Avatar
      Dr. Bull -
      Excellent cultural analysis. 'Nuff said! 5th edition and Jim Zub both "nailed it". Right place. Right time. Good system. Good audience. Good marketing... All in all, a perfect storm of culture and genius. 5e is now (and will remain) the gold standard rpg for a LONG time.

      (However, I wish that Halflings had larger feet in the player's handbook... Is it just me?)

      - Dr. Bull
    1. Demetrios1453's Avatar
      Demetrios1453 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Bull View Post
      Excellent cultural analysis. 'Nuff said! 5th edition and Jim Zub both "nailed it". Right place. Right time. Good system. Good audience. Good marketing... All in all, a perfect storm of culture and genius. 5e is now (and will remain) the gold standard rpg for a LONG time.

      (However, I wish that Halflings had larger feet in the player's handbook... Is it just me?)

      - Dr. Bull
      I think we'll take "nailed it other than illustrations of halflings". With such an excellent success rate, something statistically had to be a miss, and "poor hafling art" is a better miss than many of the alternatives!
    1. Fandabidozi's Avatar
      Fandabidozi -
      ‘Many of them are old enough to have kids who are ready to start playing.’
      Or grandkids o.O
    1. AriochQ's Avatar
      AriochQ -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Bull View Post

      (However, I wish that Halflings had larger feet in the player's handbook... Is it just me?)

      - Dr. Bull
      Halfling feet? Gnome noses need to be three times their current size!

      One thought while reading the first half of his list, most of those items haven't changed in 40 years! They are what attracted me to D&D. I think the entire list is spot on. It is a great time for the hobby.
    1. Li Shenron's Avatar
      Li Shenron -
      Well said!

      Not by chance I've always called D&D "the" game
    1. Ralif Redhammer's Avatar
      Ralif Redhammer -
      I loved Skullkickers. Reading it, he clearly understood what made D&D so much fun, and this list pretty much codifies that.

      Quote Originally Posted by Henry View Post
      Jim is also original writer for Skullkickers years ago, as well as the very first round of Pathfinder comic books back in 2012. The guy’s on his way to becoming a comics legend in his own right.
    1. Satyrn's Avatar
      Satyrn -
      Quote Originally Posted by BookBarbarian View Post
      Edit: Aw dang I missed the perfect opportunity for a cut of his jib joke.
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