D&D 5E Are we at, or close, to peak D&D? Again?


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Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
I'm thinking A. Not nearly as much as the OP suggests, but I do think D&D is gradually and steadily increasing in popularity, and may continue to do so for some time. It will become just one more popular game out of a slew of games people play for fun, like Charades, Monopoly and Beer Pong.
 

darjr

I crit!
Before COVID I was shocked how many new people kept showing up at the store looking to get into a game. I started Wednesday night at a new local store to help them get off the ground and after a year I had to “retire” so they could give the space to a new WILLING DM. It eventually spilled over to every single night of the week. That store even delayed doing Friday Night Magic till they could figure out what to do with all the tables of Friday night D&D, for years. And these folks spent a ton of money in the store, many also became Omni gamers, board and card and miniature.
I ran a Tour of Annihilation at each local store for ten days straight and I still get requests to do it again. TEN stores, in Omaha! And I even managed to miss two!

I think today’s “gradual” growth of players would have thrilled WoTC in the 3e Era, or TSR.

Even now I get a steady stream of brand new players looking for games. Players who’ve never touched a d20 ever before. This new normal is so weird for me I often find myself wondering, what the heck happened? Was it something in the water?
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I'm thinking A. Not nearly as much as the OP suggests, but I do think D&D is gradually and steadily increasing in popularity, and may continue to do so for some time. It will become just one more popular game out of a slew of games people play for fun, like Charades, Monopoly and Beer Pong.
Yeah, I expect at a certain point the growth curve will level out, but it seems that the game has hit a critical mass of cultural normalcy.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Before COVID I was shocked how many new people kept showing up at the store looking to get into a game. I started Wednesday night at a new local store to help them get off the ground and after a year I had to “retire” so they could give the space to a new WILLING DM. It eventually spilled over to every single night of the week. That store even delayed doing Friday Night Magic till they could figure out what to do with all the tables of Friday night D&D, for years. And these folks spent a ton of money in the store, many also became Omni gamers, board and card and miniature.
I ran a Tour of Annihilation at each local store for ten days straight and I still get requests to do it again. TEN stores, in Omaha! And I even managed to miss two!

I think today’s “gradual” growth of players would have thrilled WoTC in the 3e Era, or TSR.

Even now I get a steady stream of brand new players looking for games. Players who’ve never touched a d20 ever before. This new normal is so weird for me I often find myself wondering, what the heck happened? Was it something in the water?
Dude, that's awesome. I've never really been plugged into organized play, but I love that it is healthy.
 


Frankly,it probably is.
Yeah, but is it better than what they'd come up with in a year or three if they kept practicing and learning and stuff (esp. with the resources we have access to today), at least for their own specific group? I doubt it. But certainly both WotC and Paizo would be very happy if people just bought and played the official APs for their system and didn't bother trying to make their own.
 

If they make good on the promise of three classic settings this year, and follow Ravenloft with Planescape, Darksun or Spelljammer it'll be pretty close to my idea of peak. If by peak you mean 'this will be hard to top'
 

Ogre Mage

Adventurer
While D&D could get even more popular than its current boom, a slump will eventually come. As a mid-40s gamer I've seen both boom and slump periods for D&D before. I expect I will see at least one more slump and one more D&D renaissance in my lifetime.
 

payn

Legend
Yeah, but is it better than what they'd come up with in a year or three if they kept practicing and learning and stuff (esp. with the resources we have access to today), at least for their own specific group? I doubt it. But certainly both WotC and Paizo would be very happy if people just bought and played the official APs for their system and didn't bother trying to make their own.
I've encountered a few GMs with their decades old homebrew and..... it sucks. Some folks are great at it, some folks are not. Some folks think they are great at it.
 

Mercurius

Legend
As others (on the first page, the only one I read) have said, a lot depends on the next couple years and the quality--and reception--of the film(s) and show. It could go very well or very poorly.

My biggest concern is that they try too hard to emulate the Marvel films. Fun and campy can more easily be pulled off if the protagonists are wearing brightly colorful suits and in the modern day; not so much in a pre-industrial fantasy world. I think they would do well to look at the fantasy media that has done well: namely, the LotR trilogy and Game of Thrones. Both succeeded partially because of big budgets and quality actors, but the key element was perhaps that they were faithful to the material and realized that fantasy is best done when it feels organic to the world it is set in. Both were dripping in the atmosphere of the worlds they were set in. Whatever criticisms Tolkienistas have with Peter Jackson's first trilogy, few would say that it wasn't at least heartfelt and well-made fan fiction that was about as good as a mass-consumed version of Tolkien's vision could be. Even the humor of GoT was very organic to the world itself - it made sense and didn't involve any eye-winking at the audience (of course, having GRRM involved didn't hurt).

So the key would be to tell stories with characters that feel organic to the Forgotten Realms (or wherever it is set) - not modern day people doing a quasi-MCU impression in fantasy trappings. The problem is that there is no singular vision or definitive text (or world) of D&D. Unless they're recreating one of the book series--and from what I gather, they're not--they have to come up with someone new, that embodies the "essence of D&D."

So the jury is out and, to be frank, I'm not optimistic. With a glimmer of hope, though.

All that said, everything moves in cycles. The question is not whether D&D will decline in popularity--it will--but rather two-fold: One, has it reached its peak yet? We don't know and won't know until it starts declining, and we haven't seen signs of that yet. At all. It probably can't get much more popular without a multi-media franchise; two, how far will it fall when it inevitably falls? That is, what will the post-peak plateau look like? Will it look more like Roger Federer over the last ten years (not as good as his very best, but still pretty darn good) or latter day John McEnroe (falling from best in the world to outside of the top 10)? Or if you prefer football, Tom Brady in his 40s or Peyton Manning in his last year? (Hey, he somewhat still won the Super Bowl!).

I would guess that the first question will be answered in the next 2-3 years, after we see how the film and tv series do, and how they impact the game's popularity. The second question will take another couple years after that, once the dust settles. I will say that there's a good chance that whatever post-peak plateau it falls to will likely be much higher than pre-5E popularity...unless they find some way to screw things up.
 

ccooke

Adventurer
I think the main question, really, is how sticky the current success of d&d is.

At some point, it is going to wane. That might be next month, next year or next decade, but nobody is disputing that will happen. The real question is, what proportion of the current playerbase will stick with the game after it has waned?

While a huge number of players stuck around after the end of the 80s craze, they were a tiny proportion of the actual playerbase at its peak. I have a gut feeling that this time, the playerbase is larger and the proposition is stickier - that is, there are more feedback loops that draw people back in, and keep them involved. In the 80s, you had local clubs, conventions, mass media. But the thing is, we have all of that now, but we also have a massive variety of game-adjacent stuff that we didn't have before. Someone who has stopped playing, but continues to follow Critical Role is vastly more likely to pick up their dice again when they have the opportunity than someone who doesn't have things they're directly engaged with.

Basically, I think A and C are extreme positions, and the outcome is going to be somewhere in between, but more like A. I think the community will continue to be large enough after the peak for the hobby to remain somewhat relevant for at least another decade or two, all things being equal.

As to option B... obviously WotC are going to try that. If they do it well, it will bring more people in to the hobby (obviously not as many as interact with the brand as a whole). If they do it badly... well, we have the OGL, and the 5e SRD is actually a lot better than the 3e one for making sure the game remains playable. I'm mostly expecting the brand expansion to be slightly successful, but not create anything long-term.
 

payn

Legend
Culturally, Americans at least, I believe view gaming of any kind differently now then 30,40,50 years ago. I know a number of folks a lil older and close to my age that just stop playing games after high school, college, going into the service, etc. We got a new generation that came up and one after that who were exposed to games early and often. Gaming isnt seen as childish or for those with time on their hands anymore. Its a legitimate hobby and time sink. Thats certainly going to work in D&Ds favor.
 

Hussar

Legend
Yeah, but is it better than what they'd come up with in a year or three if they kept practicing and learning and stuff (esp. with the resources we have access to today), at least for their own specific group? I doubt it. But certainly both WotC and Paizo would be very happy if people just bought and played the official APs for their system and didn't bother trying to make their own.

True. But you’ve just assumed a group that is willing to spend a year or more in bad gaming before calling it quits.

There is nothing wrong with learning the craft from modules.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
True. But you’ve just assumed a group that is willing to spend a year or more in bad gaming before calling it quits.

There is nothing wrong with learning the craft from modules.
I agree, there's nothing wrong with learning from published adventures; I am not convinced that reading/running modules is the best way to learn to construct adventures, nor am I convinced that's anywhere near the top of the priority list for the companies publishing adventures. It's possible that the best way to learn to construct adventures is to construct adventures. (If you want to be a writer, you write; this is not a useful approach to brain surgery.)
 

True. But you’ve just assumed a group that is willing to spend a year or more in bad gaming before calling it quits.

There is nothing wrong with learning the craft from modules.
You're assuming that lesser = bad.

That's extreme and kind of weirdly insulting to DMs who are learning. That's not how it is, it's not how it's ever been. If you get a 9/10 experience with a WotC module, you probably get a 7.5/10 with your own stuff, even starting out (not least because it's likely customized for your group and doesn't have the weird plot-holes everpresent in pregen material).

As for learning from modules, sure and I think it's helpful to have some to learn from, but that's not the same thing as solely running those modules and believing your work is so inferior it couldn't compare, which is the issue - an issue you're making worse, btw, by asserting that the difference between an official WotC module and home-written from a new DM is the difference between "good" and "bad".

As an aside, an awful lot of modules when I grew were total trash that was way worse than what I could write when I was frickin' 11-12. Yeah I'm looking at you Terrible Trouble in Tragidore, but I'm also looking at a lot of less well-known trash including like 30% of the stuff in Dungeon. And I don't even think I'm particularly good (as a young DM my main good point was a total absence of bad DM behaviour in an era when it was very common, rather than being a good adventure writer).

I've encountered a few GMs with their decades old homebrew and..... it sucks. Some folks are great at it, some folks are not. Some folks think they are great at it.
I'm talking more about adventure-writing than homebrew settings. And frankly if a dude has been able to get people to keep playing his adventures for "decades" they probably don't suck for his group. In say, 1995, I would have bought that, when opportunities both for learning what other groups were like and finding new people were extremely limited. In 2021? If you've had people playing your stuff for 20 years, say, I doubt it actually sucks.

There are exceptions, I'm sure, but I feel like they're rare.

As for "some folks think they're great at it", frankly that applies to game designers too. I have no idea how Keep on the Shadowfell got published beyond "OOOOOH SHIIII.... 4E is coming out and we need an official adventure stat!" (likewise its follow-ups). 5E has been better in this regard at least.
 

turnip_farmer

Adventurer
I agree, there's nothing wrong with learning from published adventures; I am not convinced that reading/running modules is the best way to learn to construct adventures, nor am I convinced that's anywhere near the top of the priority list for the companies publishing adventures. It's possible that the best way to learn to construct adventures is to construct adventures. (If you want to be a writer, you write; this is not a useful approach to brain surgery.)
I would agree, but published adventures can be very helpful for getting the feel of how a rule system works in play before you actually dive into your own adventure design.

I am not opposed to published adventures; and I do still buy some. Just not from Wizards. I'd prefer spending a few dollars for a pdf with a short adventure I can adapt and slot in, than a big $50, Level 1-20 hardcover.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I would agree, but published adventures can be very helpful for getting the feel of how a rule system works in play before you actually dive into your own adventure design.

I am not opposed to published adventures; and I do still buy some. Just not from Wizards. I'd prefer spending a few dollars for a pdf with a short adventure I can adapt and slot in, than a big $50, Level 1-20 hardcover.
Pssssst, secretly all the WotC big Adventure books are big compilations of shorter adventures that can be adapted and slotted in anywhere else.
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
My biggest concern is that they try too hard to emulate the Marvel films. Fun and campy can more easily be pulled off if the protagonists are wearing brightly colorful suits and in the modern day; not so much in a pre-industrial fantasy world.
I'm not too worried about this. If anything, I'm worried they'll go too far in the other direction. The overall trend in "classical fantasy" these days is toward the grimdark: not just GoT, but also stuff like The Witcher. And they're also going to want to distance themselves from the legendary campiness of the last D&D movie. I just hope that in the process, they manage not to obscure the fact that D&D is fun.
 

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