D&D 5E Alphastream - Why No RPG Company Truly Competes with Wizards of the Coast

BookTenTiger

He / Him
I have never seen data on it, would be very interested how many current players picked up the game via CR, and were never exposed to a proper session at a table before jumping into the game. I have run into a few at my gaming cafe, and their view of D&D is radically different than that of players pre-CR.
I don't know if this is your intention, but it reads as very judgmental and gatekeeperish. Is getting into D&D because of Critical Role any different than getting into D&D because of Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, or the old D&D cartoon?
 

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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
With a few exception period already mentionned D&D has always been number one. The reason for me is simple. D&D is generic enough so that any style can be reproduced with the rules. This is not so with many of the other systems out there.

Although a fan of the work of Lovecraft, I am still surprised at the success of CoC as a RPG. Sci-fi and horror are particularly niche in genre (as ttrpg goes) and from experience, niche genre excitement fades over time. YMMV on that though... But it is also why I do not do every campaigns in Greyhawk, FR, Dragonlance or Ebberon. We change the setting from time to time to shake things up. This both renew the interest and shake up the table with new (or old ones we are fond of) ideas.

I really think that the generic aspect of D&D is its greatest strength. After all, Cthulhu is Cthulhu and LotR is LotR just as Star Wars is Star Wars. At some point, their system is so integrated in the setting that to change setting means changing game system altogether. Not so with D&D. So many settings in D&D gives a unique chance to mix and match so much.
It’s not unique at all — there are tons of generic rule sets. Hundreds of them. No, that’s not the secret of its success.
 

That's all conjecture. It not only diminishes all the successes of WotC with D&D, but puts the sole responsability of the health of the hobby on a (great) RPG show.
I have seen enough anecdotal evidence to KNOW that much of WOTC's success in the past 3 years is driven by the popularity of CR and by the fact that Covid has made online gaming with others a larger thing than before. And CR's success was driven in part to Covid, as housebound people watched the equivalent of a TV show.

As to the actual hard numbers, only WOTC has even close to a handle on that. CR has now earned income in excess of 20 million (you can look that up) in the past 3 years. They are actors running a business. They have a business relationship with WOTC, that is mutually beneficial.
 

I don't know if this is your intention, but it reads as very judgmental and gatekeeperish. Is getting into D&D because of Critical Role any different than getting into D&D because of Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, or the old D&D cartoon?
In answering your question, which if off topic to the thread, it is vastly different. No one who used the examples you supplied as a gateway into D&D expected a session to operate as it does in that book or TV shows. I hear now on a monthly basis "That is not how they do it on CR". CR is a massive driver of D&D sales.

Further, the D&D cartoon was driven by the success of D&D, not the other way around.
 

Scribe

Hero
I don't know if this is your intention, but it reads as very judgmental and gatekeeperish. Is getting into D&D because of Critical Role any different than getting into D&D because of Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, or the old D&D cartoon?
Yes, it is.

Because CR is not just playing the game, but presenting how they play the game.

It's vastly different.
 

Oofta

Legend
Yeah. I've had to explain to people (with admittedly slowly decreasing patience) that the time when PF1e was in real competition with D&D was a historical accident, and nothing whatsoever Paizo did was going to duplicate that again, no matter what they did with the PF2e design. It just wasn't going to happen.
Depends on what you mean by "historical accident". Pathfinder started doing better than D&D Q2 of 2011, 5E wasn't announced until spring of 2012.

But yeah, PF was kind of just D&D 3.75 for a lot of people while D&D 4E was a different game altogether for a lot of people.
 

darjr

I crit!
CR is fantastic. And they do sell books. But D&D was filling PAX ballrooms SRO for live play long before CR existed. They even did it with 4th edition. Huge rooms packed to the gills at PAX, a video game convention.

So no I dint think CR switching to PF would really hurt as much as folks like to think. It’d hugely help whoever they picked though! See COC and Mothership.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
I have never seen data on it, would be very interested how many current players picked up the game via CR, and were never exposed to a proper session at a table before jumping into the game. I have run into a few at my gaming cafe, and their view of D&D is radically different than that of players pre-CR.
This always strikes me as a bit weird since there's a lot of similarity between CR and how we used to play back in the 1980s. Sure, there's a LOT more characterization of the PCs because they're professionals at it. But the zany elements, the recurring enemies, the willingness to try just about anything including going with it when screwing up - that all takes me back to my roots. But then my experiences underwent a significant change when we added a DM who loved to do characterizations and adventures based on villains and their machinations rather than site-based, tactical-heavy, dungeon exploration.
 


Oofta

Legend
If CR decided to go back to say Pathfinder, or even jumped to something like Call of Cthulhu, its disciples would leave D&D in droves. WOTC knows how much CR is driving sales, and will do everything their power to keep Mercer and his crew happy.

I have never seen data on it, would be very interested how many current players picked up the game via CR, and were never exposed to a proper session at a table before jumping into the game. I have run into a few at my gaming cafe, and their view of D&D is radically different than that of players pre-CR.

First, I disagree that a significant number of people would switch. Second, even if every single viewer of CR stopped playing D&D it would represent less than a 5% drop in sales. Critical Role is watched by about 1.5 million people, around 50 million play D&D.
 

Oofta

Legend
If CR decided to go back to say Pathfinder, or even jumped to something like Call of Cthulhu, its disciples would leave D&D in droves. WOTC knows how much CR is driving sales, and will do everything their power to keep Mercer and his crew happy.

I have never seen data on it, would be very interested how many current players picked up the game via CR, and were never exposed to a proper session at a table before jumping into the game. I have run into a few at my gaming cafe, and their view of D&D is radically different than that of players pre-CR.
Much like @billd91, I don't see much difference. My games look a lot like CR and always have. We have slightly less exposition, but then again we aren't gaming every week for 3+ hours.
 

The Call of Chulthu is to offer a gameplay totally opposed to D&D and dungeons crawlers, more focused into investigation and survival horror, when D&D PCs are practically one-man-army, even the glass-canon spellcasters.

If I was Hasbro I would worry about Paizo, Paradox Entertaiment or Chaosium being acquired by some cinema or videogame studio, because then those franchises could become true rivals.

There is not only one factor but a combo. CR helped a lot, but also Stranger Things, for example, or those arcades by Capcom, or the videogames Baldur's Gate and Newerwinter Nights.

And other advantage is D&D is the game parents want to play with their children and these are willing to play with the older members of the family. Even Ravenloft or Dark Sun can be not-too-mature for teen players. It is a serious advantage when players can start before when other titles are for +18 (and not only for the threads, but too complicated rules).

* D&D is not only a system and a franchise, but a "metaverse", and only World of Darkness by White Wolf has grown enough to be a potential rival.

And games based in famous franchises could sell more, but these have got a "time limit", and after the licencing deal it was to start from zero again.

* The weak point of D&D is not ready yet to be totally multi-genre and right power balance with the firearms and high-tech. A d20 Modern 2.0. is totally possible, and a new Star Wars d20 but these can't be compatible with D&D because barbarians, monks, paladins and focused melee-fight classes are replaced by gunslingers and one-man-army.

* The 80's cartoon helped to promote the franchise out of the English-speaker countries. I started with the Endless Quest game-books, a loved memory from my childhood. I started to know really the RPGs near of the end of 92 year, thanks by a one-shot magazine.
 

It’s not unique at all — there are tons of generic rule sets. Hundreds of them. No, that’s not the secret of its success.
I will politely disagree. All other generic rule sets are either clones of D&D or simply so ingrained with a specific setting that they are stuck with their fan base. Palladium is quite generic, but the system is quite heavy to learn. And each settings, though diverse, are bound to the rule sets which are far from generic.

CoC is bound to the Lovecraftian universe. Same with Shadow run, Paranoia and lots of other.

But re reading my argument, I should've said, generic and with easy to learn rule that can be adapted to many genre.
 

Bolares

Hero
I have seen enough anecdotal evidence to KNOW that much of WOTC's success in the past 3 years is driven by the popularity of CR and by the fact that Covid has made online gaming with others a larger thing than before. And CR's success was driven in part to Covid, as housebound people watched the equivalent of a TV show.

As to the actual hard numbers, only WOTC has even close to a handle on that. CR has now earned income in excess of 20 million (you can look that up) in the past 3 years. They are actors running a business. They have a business relationship with WOTC, that is mutually beneficial.
Now you are being more reasonable. Sure, much of 5e's success is because of CR, and CR is VERY sucessful. But It's more like a symbiotic relationship than CR carrying 5e in it's back as the post I was responding to made it seem.
 


Bolares

Hero
Every time someone says that CR is the reason 5e is a hit it shows how little people grasp the size of 5e. Critical Role is lightning in a bottle. They have almost 2 million fans. There will probably never be another show with that level of success in the TTRPG genre. Still, that's not even 10% of the people currently playing 5e. 5e is not only more popular than ever other game, not only more popular that every other edition. It's more popular than every other edition COMBINED. D&D was always big, sure, but 5e is big for D&D, is way bigger than Hasbro ever dreamt it to be, it doesn't lead the RPG industry, it is the RPG industry.
 

Bolares

Hero
I have noticed that CR drives new people who have never played into the hobby. Often they are unconnected to others who play and seek out groups. It’s telling when I see folks bristle against this or them.

I embrace them and encourage them.
This is true and very important. CR brings new demographics to the game to, wich is vital. More women come from CR, more queer people come from CR, and we need not only to embrace and encourage them, but make them feel part of the community, as they trully are.
 

darjr

I crit!
Every time someone says that CR is the reason 5e is a hit it shows how little people grasp the size of 5e. Critical Role is lightning in a bottle. They have almost 2 million fans. There will probably never be another show with that level of success in the TTRPG genre. Still, that's not even 10% of the people currently playing 5e. 5e is not only more popular than ever other game, not only more popular that every other edition. It's more popular than every other edition COMBINED. D&D was always big, sure, but 5e is big for D&D, is way bigger than Hasbro ever dreamt it to be, it doesn't lead the RPG industry, it is the RPG industry.
Yes this.

I will add though that CR is only getting started. Wait till after the Amazon series.

But I also believe it’s true about D&D 5e.

And the Amazon CR show will drive D&D and the hobby.
 


Depends on what you mean by "historical accident". Pathfinder started doing better than D&D Q2 of 2011, 5E wasn't announced until spring of 2012.

But yeah, PF was kind of just D&D 3.75 for a lot of people while D&D 4E was a different game altogether for a lot of people.

Its a historical accident in that they were able to take advantage of D&D fans who had liked 3e, but not 4e, and that was a significant sized group. That's unlikely to occur again, and certainly wasn't when PF2e came out.
 

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