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A New "anti-D&D" Era

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I think that's the biggest difference between the 80's/90's and the last 20 years - in those days people put out the game they wanted to make even if it differed radically from D&D. Since the OGL a lot of people have had the idea they can make money from their hobby if they "attach" to D&D and plug into the network effect etc. - some did, and some did not. However, I do think it pulled a lot of effort towards D&D instead of some other system and setting.

This is exactly correct.

I honestly have trouble following the argument in the OP for a simple reason- we saw an absolute explosion of RPGs in the late 70s and 80s, most of them having completely different systems than D&D did. Even the other games that TSR made used wildly different systems than D&D did.

I'd argue that the default assumption during that time was that if you wanted a new RPG, you had to create brand new rules for that RPG as a differentiating factor. So you not only had all of these different RPGs, you also had all of these different rules.

As opposed to what you have today, where almost every game is:
A. OGL (3e derived).
B. OGL (5e derived).
C. PbTA derived games.
D. FiTD derived games (which is PbTA derived).

Once you get away from that, there just isn't a lot of actual innovation.

As for the OP, we'll see. People have bet against D&D for almost five decades now. I honestly don't know what the secret sauce, but at this point, I'll put D&D along with Death and Taxes- best not to bet against it.
 

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Cruentus

Adventurer
Anyway, I want to see creators and publishers doing the Big Idea stuff of systems and worlds divorced primarily from 5E but also not just another Year Zero, PbtA or FitD game. The reason I brought up Coville and MCDM wasn't because he's the only one doing it, but that he is a pretty prominent voice and that has the potential to inspire others to do it. I honestly don't quite understand the point of Black Flag in a world where not only is the 5E SRD in the CC but 1D&D isn't particularly far removed from 5E. But who knows, maybe Black Flag will be more of a 5E Arcana Unearthed than a 5E Pathfinder.
But this, and as @Snarf Zagyg points out, we are going to most likely see a continuation with variation of 5e. 5e is the largest RPG in the world, makes the most money, now has a movie coming out, etc., any company that wants to make money will be "5e adjacent". People flocked to Pathfinder because of 4e. People left Pathfinder because of 5e, and sure, there're seeing a bump in sales, but I'll bet its not sustainable. People know DnD, know 5e, and that'll be the way for the forseeable future.

Would it be great of people made new and interesting games with wide pick up? Absolutely. Will it happen? Unlikely. As a former Games Workshop player/consumer, if I had a nickel for every time any number of new companies/games "were going to eat GW's lunch", and discussion about "GW going to go bankrupt", I'd be comfortably retired. But GW, and WOTC, make money hand over fist. Its comfortable, its reliable, and as new players come on board, they're not going for the niche (nichier?) offering, they're going for the main game with all the books, maps, miniatures, pre painted miniatures, movie, tchotchkes, etc. where they can find a game simply.
 

Anyway, I want to see creators and publishers doing the Big Idea stuff of systems and worlds divorced primarily from 5E but also not just another Year Zero, PbtA or FitD game. The reason I brought up Coville and MCDM wasn't because he's the only one doing it, but that he is a pretty prominent voice and that has the potential to inspire others to do it. I honestly don't quite understand the point of Black Flag in a world where not only is the 5E SRD in the CC but 1D&D isn't particularly far removed from 5E. But who knows, maybe Black Flag will be more of a 5E Arcana Unearthed than a 5E Pathfinder.

In a hobby where the dominant game is based on mechanics from a half-century ago, YZE, PbtA and FitD are are still very new, as far as RPG design approaches go. Batting those aside as been-there, done-that seems awful dismissive. And you should know by now that individual games that use those design approaches feel and play very differently from each other. Hell, a lot of people who love Ironsworn don't even realize that they're playing a PbtA game.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
As opposed to what you have today, where almost every game is:
A. OGL (3e derived).
B. OGL (5e derived).
C. PbTA derived games.
D. FiTD derived games (which is PbTA derived).

Once you get away from that, there just isn't a lot of actual innovation.
I feel like this is a bit unfair because, sure, if you're weighing it in "Systems per pound" those four systems dominate the DriveThru RPG shelves. But - Modiphius has their 2d20 system, Renegade is putting out licensed work with their Essence20 system, Free League has their Year Zero system - two of these are companies putting out their own games alongside licensed work with those systems. And of course other older systems like Storyteller are still cranking along (Onyx Path seems to crank out a new game every year with their Storyteller-derived Storypath system). And many others.

3e/5e/PbtA all have more games coming out because those systems were opened up for the world to use as they saw fit, so in sheer mass you have more games coming out for them. 3e and 5e both had the strong incentive that by publishing with them you tap into the D&D player network, and PbtA has the dual benefits that it's both simpler to design for than a lot of systems and a large player network of PbtA games that cropped up very quickly when Apocalypse World first appeared. (I could go into why I think PbtA caught that zeitgeist - I think it was half in the design of the system itself, half of it hitting right as Wizards was screwing up D&D's hold on the industry - but I'll keep that out).

I think there's opportunity for other games now but the companies making them have to make those opportunities. If you can't get your game out in front of people to buy, you're never going to get an audience.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
This is exactly correct.

I honestly have trouble following the argument in the OP for a simple reason- we saw an absolute explosion of RPGs in the late 70s and 80s, most of them having completely different systems than D&D did. Even the other games that TSR made used wildly different systems than D&D did.

I'd argue that the default assumption during that time was that if you wanted a new RPG, you had to create brand new rules for that RPG as a differentiating factor. So you not only had all of these different RPGs, you also had all of these different rules.

As opposed to what you have today, where almost every game is:
A. OGL (3e derived).
B. OGL (5e derived).
C. PbTA derived games.
D. FiTD derived games (which is PbTA derived).

Once you get away from that, there just isn't a lot of actual innovation.

As for the OP, we'll see. People have bet against D&D for almost five decades now. I honestly don't know what the secret sauce, but at this point, I'll put D&D along with Death and Taxes- best not to bet against it.
I don't think you understood my argument, which probably means I wasn't clear.

The system explosion in the late 70s happened because roleplaying games were new and people were exploring that space. The one that happened in the 90s was due in large part to D&D fatigue. Of course there is no clear line and you can always find counter examples.

And I am not betting against D&D. I am hoping for a level of innovation we haven't seen in 15 years or so when the collapse of the d20 glut gave rise to a whole bunch of new games. I am hoping that the reinforcement of 5E as the vastly dominant game in the market will push people to do other things.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I do feel like 5E is burning out D&D. A lot of people love how "easy and simple" 5E is.....at first. But it does not have the staying power of a long term game. The big hole is that it simply does not have the rules. I, myself, add a ton of house rules to 5E to make it more like 2E. But that is a lot of work for most people.

I do see gamers, playing 5E for a couple years, start to feel 5E is going nowhere. They just have the same action and same fights over and over again. Everyone in their group uses the same couple "cool" races, classes, and such....and nothing else.
I'd argue that is exactly where D&D needs to be. Its the entry point, the launch pad, the casual pool. They keep catering to that market and the sky is the limit. Others can fill in the needs of a more veteran and complex minded gamer.
And this is on top of the low imagination: I see a lot of DMs struggle with this. They describe a caste as "just a square of stone". A city is just "some streets and shops". And worst of all when they have to describe an Abyssal city......it's just "some streets and towers, oh with demons".
I dont see how the 5E rule system effects this? Perhaps the adventure material, but im not familiar enough with it to comment.
I really think 6E will bump D&D down and out too....
Down and out of what?
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I know that "anti-D&D" sounds like I am spoiling for a fight but I am really not. it was the most efficient term I could think of for that era's zeitgeist I am hoping returns. I mean, there's already plenty of antipathy for D&D in parts of the community -- go to r/rpg and ask about a warlock build... I don't actually care for that stuff, especially in its "magical tea party play versus trash trad play" form where folks aren't arguing about games, but whole playstyles.

Anyway, I want to see creators and publishers doing the Big Idea stuff of systems and worlds divorced primarily from 5E but also not just another Year Zero, PbtA or FitD game. The reason I brought up Coville and MCDM wasn't because he's the only one doing it, but that he is a pretty prominent voice and that has the potential to inspire others to do it. I honestly don't quite understand the point of Black Flag in a world where not only is the 5E SRD in the CC but 1D&D isn't particularly far removed from 5E. But who knows, maybe Black Flag will be more of a 5E Arcana Unearthed than a 5E Pathfinder.
Yeah, sometimes I really miss gaming in the 90s. We played a lot of Cyberpunk, Legend of the Five Rings, 7th Sea, Deadlands. And the setting train for 2e D&D was full steam ahead.
 

Unlike a lot of current innovation, much of which rely on just a couple systems like PbtA and previously Fate along with things like Free League's and Modiphius' house systems, most of those 90s games came out with new, unique, often baffling game systems attached to equally new, unique and baffling worlds.
Innovation-via-bafflement is my favorite kind!

I feel like we could be at the start of a new 90s in regards to an era where D&D is less popular and there is a new surge of innovation.
Not sure. There was anger at wotc over the ogl thing, but it looks like people are back to breathlessly debating the proposed UA changes and what has been nerfed and buffed and so forth. It seems reasonable to think that eventually people will grow tired of 5e--I'm tired--but I'm not seeing it yet.

MCDM looks to be leading the charge, and I think some of the companies that were considering making D&D clones might adjust their plans and do something new given that 5E under Creative Commons is now safe to publish for again. Those that want to publish for 5E will, but those that want to make their own games will have to do more than make a slightly different 5E to succeed.
The purpose of the OGL was always to drive publishers into the dnd space. Probably whatever 5e clone people use (or a mix of them), core fans will pick up the wotc-published adventures and supplements as well, with everything being roughly compatible with annoying slight differences. As usual, the DM will make up the difference through their hours of prep.

We'll see what MCDM does. I don't see that they've done anything particularly innovative in terms what they've already put out (meaning their 5e-compatible stuff), but I think they can design for a niche audience well enough.

I for one would love it if a new era of pushing back against 5E and D&D's dominance commenced, coupled with a renaissance in new system design.

The biggest trend I see is just more licensed IPs, with the idea that people want to play Avatar or The Walking Dead rather than any particular system.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
The biggest trend I see is just more licensed IPs, with the idea that people want to play Avatar or The Walking Dead rather than any particular system.
Licensed RPGs have pretty much always been a thing. I don't think it is particularly surprising to see them in recent years, though the success of Avatar is pretty crazy.

I think the big difference is crowdsourcing. When MCDM finishes their primary design, they won't have to guess whether it's worth the money they'll need to invest to finish it. They'll know. That's huge in a world with shrinking outlets for smaller companies.
 

I'd argue that is exactly where D&D needs to be. Its the entry point, the launch pad, the casual pool. They keep catering to that market and the sky is the limit. Others can fill in the needs of a more veteran and complex minded gamer.
Except this does not work for a long term game. Sure it's great that everyone can play the super easy RPG, but then what? There is no reason to leave the other stuff to others.

Also, it's a bit sad that there is the idea that RPGs are "so hard" that normal folks can't play it, so you need a special easy tarter game.

I honestly have trouble following the argument in the OP for a simple reason- we saw an absolute explosion of RPGs in the late 70s and 80s, most of them having completely different systems than D&D did. Even the other games that TSR made used wildly different systems than D&D did.
I think it's the popularity. Sure, by the late 70's everyone with a few blank sheets of paper thought they could make the best RPG ever and make money. So many people just glance at the D&D rules and say they can make something better. So sure you see the "explosion" of RPGs. But they don't stick. D&D stayed on top.

Enter the 90's and D&D drops down hard, and other games are there to pick up the slack. In a lot of cases these games were the 2md or 3rd editions of 70s or 80s games that people were discovering for the first time.
 

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