D&D General Ben Riggs on how to make D&D a $1 billion brand

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
An open letter posted on Gizmodo.


The nut of his argument:

You need to reframe your thinking. Do not think of D&D as products. Don’t even think of it as a brand. Definitely don’t think of it as a video game.

D&D is the first and most famous tabletop role-playing game, and tabletop role-playing games are an original and radical medium. A TTRPG is something new to do with paper, pencils, and the human mind that was invented in 1974. Imagine acting was invented in 1974, and that we are a mere 50 years into seeing how acting will change culture. That is the potential of the TTRPG revolution.

One of the most amazing features of the TTRPG is that it is infinite. If one started a D&D campaign in 1974 with the first rules release, one might still be playing that same game today, which is to say telling that same story today. Most video games, by contrast, can be finished and once complete require a new purchase. Video games are finite. TTRPGs are not. They are a bottomless bottle of vodka, or a car that never breaks down and doesn’t even need gas.

So how do you make money off a new medium which, after an initial purchase, never requires another? It’s tricky, but it can be done. The most successful models are sports and religion. (I want to be clear here I am not denigrating religions, nor am I making some sort of truth claim for D&D.) And the key to unlocking a bigger, brighter, and more profitable future for D&D is not at Wizards, not at Hasbro, and ironically it isn’t with the players, no.

It’s the Dungeon Masters.

Across the world, hundreds of thousands if not millions of Dungeon Masters ask people to try D&D for the first time. They explain the rules. They setup D&D nights. They figure out who’s bringing the chips, and who’s bringing the dip. They literally sell your product for you, and they do it for free. Consider this simple math. If there were only 10 Dungeon Masters in the whole world, but every year, each DM convinced one other person to become a DM, within 20 years, you have over 20 million Dungeon Masters.
Most of the rest of it reads like a wishlist thread from ENWorld:
  • "Campaigns should have one to three authors. Add more with only great caution…"
  • "Campaigns should be pitched by authors & designers."
  • "You should pay your game designers like they are working on video games, and you should give writers royalties."
  • "There should be a consistent format for campaigns that carries over from book to book."
  • "Time for playtesting should be included in your production cycle. It should be measured in months."
  • "Your books need to be shorter! Incorporate 21st century RPG layout & design." (Hey, that's my wishlist item!)
  • "Return to the boxed set! Create handouts, maps, character portraits, in-game journals, & clues to go with the game. (Also make PDFs of those goodies available.)"
 

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"Campaigns should be pitched by authors & designers."
I kinda thought they were already? The pitch process is kinda informal and internal, and authors and designers within WotC are the ones who give them, but the process is already there.

"There should be a consistent format for campaigns that carries over from book to book."

Disagree, strongly. WotC doesn't produce many campaigns in the first place - one, maaaybe two per year? Sticking to a single format means that when you identify structural/formatting problems in your last product, you can't fix them. And it means that you can't branch out to produce more experimental stuff, or to produce a spectrum of campaigns to appeal to customers with different tastes.


  • "Your books need to be shorter! Incorporate 21st century RPG layout & design." (Hey, that's my wishlist item!)
  • "Return to the boxed set! Create handouts, maps, character portraits, in-game journals, & clues to go with the game. (Also make PDFs of those goodies available.)"
'21st century RPG layout and design' and 'return to the boxed set' seem a bit contradictory to me.
 
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Parmandur

Book-Friend
I kinda thought they were already? The pitch process is kinda informal and internal, and authors and designers within WotC are the ones who give them, but the process is already there.



Disagree, strongly. WotC doesn't produce many campaigns in the first place - one, maaaybe two per year? Sticking to a single format means that when you identify structural/formatting problems in your last product, you can't fix them. And it means that you can't branch out to produce more experimental stuff, or to produce a spectrum of campaigns to appeal to customers with different tastes.



'21st century RPG layout and design' and 'return to the boxed set' seem a bit contradictory to me.
Also, WotC does some if the most time intensive plsytesting in the industry, apparently in the range of months. So, some arguable points and stuff that WptC is already on the cutting edge of...?
 



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