D&D 5E D&D and who it's aimed at

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I find it interesting that while there are constant complaints that D&D is being 'Disneyfied', it's actually clear that WotC is aiming different products at different groups. Yes, some products are aimed at younger players (which is a good thing, for obvious reasons), the recent Netherdeep book was clearly aimed at older players with its more graphic artwork and horror themes, and Dragonlance and Spelljammer, while hopefully being a great intro to those settings for gamers who weren't playing 40 years ago, also aim at the older demographic.

So let's look at the last couple of years. Going back to the start of 2021, because I'm too lazy to go further we have:
  • Candlekeep Mysteries
  • Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft
  • Wild Beyond the Witchlight
  • Fizban's Treasury of Dragons
  • Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos
  • Call of the Netherdeep
  • Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel
  • Spelljammer: Adventures in Space
  • Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen / Warriors of Krynn
So what we have is 4 settings (3 of which are classic settings), 2 anthologies, and .... two? ... out of 9 books which could arguably be described as aimed at kids.

I guess I'm not seeing it. Unless every book has to be specifically aimed at middle-aged men who played D&D in the 1970s, I'm just not seeing this alleged Disneyfication of D&D. I'm seeing a range of products, some of which are aimed at younger audiences, others which are not.

And for our bonus round: lots of folks like to talk about how they got into D&D 40 years ago at the age of 12 or however old they were. When they were kids. Kids have always played D&D, and many of them stay playing D&D until they can complain that kids are playing D&D. Hey, last D&D book I bought was about 3 years ago. I'll be buying Dragonlance though, that's for sure!
 

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payn

Legend
Yikes, there was a thread on artwork that got a bit incendiary because of the term "disenyfied" and I hope the well wasnt pensioned from the get go...

I agree with your assessment that D&D seems to have many products appealing to a variety of consumers. I dont think there is a trend towards any particular demographic or uniform marketing scheme.
 

Retreater

Legend
I don't know if I'd say they're "for kids," but they're not for me.
  • Candlekeep Mysteries - weak adventures with next to nothing to do in them.
  • Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft - rebooted Ravenloft that misses the mark of the original campaign setting.
  • Wild Beyond the Witchlight - displacer beast kittens and talk your way out of fluffy challenges.
  • Fizban's Treasury of Dragons - boring book about the most boring creatures in the game.
  • Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos - Harry Potter by way of modern American college life
  • Call of the Netherdeep - I'm not into Critical Role
  • Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel - More cuddly kittens and adorableness
  • Spelljammer: Adventures in Space - Was a joke in the 1980s. Still going to be a joke.
  • Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen / Warriors of Krynn - Boring campaign setting about the most boring creatures in the game.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
I think you're right - I think Wizards finds themselves with a product that lots of people are interested in and they're trying to figure out how to serve the whole market.

I'm curious as to which two you think are aimed at kids though. I bet you could ask 10 people and get 11 different answers.

For example, I bet a lot of folks might say Wild Beyond Witchlight and, um, I don't think it's specifically aimed at kids. In fact, the kids I run games for wouldn't enjoy it much at all. The adults I play with, on the other hand, will love it when we get time to get to it because that mix of whimsy and fairy-tale horror is right up their alley. The kids wouldn't appreciate the horror and would be put off by the whimsy.

(OTOH I think Strixhaven is aimed at "kids" if by "kids" we mean millenials who might be in their 30s. IMO it's definitely going for that Harry Potter vibe that folks that age are into without actually being a branded Harry Potter product. But I suppose just because someone is half my age that doesn't make them a kid...)
 



Retreater

Legend
(OTOH I think Strixhaven is aimed at "kids" if by "kids" we mean millenials who might be in their 30s. IMO it's definitely going for that Harry Potter vibe that folks that age are into without actually being a branded Harry Potter product. But I suppose just because someone is half my age that doesn't make them a kid...)
The criticisms I've heard about Strixhaven isn't so much the "Harry Potter" feel of it, as the modern American university lifestyle feel of it. Which could've been fixed had the writers included more hippies playing fantasy hacky sack - that would've really taken me back to my GenX college experience.
 

payn

Legend
I think you're right - I think Wizards finds themselves with a product that lots of people are interested in and they're trying to figure out how to serve the whole market.

I'm curious as to which two you think are aimed at kids though. I bet you could ask 10 people and get 11 different answers.

For example, I bet a lot of folks might say Wild Beyond Witchlight and, um, I don't think it's specifically aimed at kids. In fact, the kids I run games for wouldn't enjoy it much at all. The adults I play with, on the other hand, will love it when we get time to get to it because that mix of whimsy and fairy-tale horror is right up their alley. The kids wouldn't appreciate the horror and would be put off by the whimsy.
Like the Fables comic book series?
(OTOH I think Strixhaven is aimed at "kids" if by "kids" we mean millenials who might be in their 30s. IMO it's definitely going for that Harry Potter vibe that folks that age are into without actually being a branded Harry Potter product. But I suppose just because someone is half my age that doesn't make them a kid...)
Kids means children, so no, not folks in their 30's.
 



crazy_cat

Adventurer
I haven't bought a D&D book since Tashas.
But I'll definitely get the Dragonlance book, and probably (OK, almost certainly) Spelljammer when it's on deal on Amazon.
I'm 50, started playing AD&D aged 9/10, and don't begrudge WOTC sometimes/most of teh time making things I'm not interested in - leaves more money and time for other games.
 

A little "Disneyfication" could be necessary to hook a new generation of players, but we need variety, a list of different options.

Other reason is D&D is being designed to be family-friendly, even Ravenloft. It is the game parents buy to play with their children.

And to sell different types of products, as toys. Hasbro would be willing to launch an action figure of a plasmoid hero, with a look of 80's cartoon show.

Even 5th Ed being the simplest system, it is too complex for under 12y.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
No I'm specifically talking about kids. 12 year olds. New gamers being introduced to the hobby!
Yeah I figured - my age joke was just an off-hand joke :)

But for things that are truly geared at 12 year olds - it's the Essentials Kit and the Starter Set. Which are more "all ages" than geared specifically towards 12 year olds.

(Maybe that's the actual complaint that people are having - that D&D is being marketed more "all ages". Though honestly outside of a few missteps in the 3e era and the really early days of D&D I think D&D has been marketed as "all ages" for a long time.)
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
And child slave labor.

Yup - there's quite a bit in Witchlight that is really dark, and while you can get through the whole thing without a combat, if you're doing it that way you're making some really morally questionable choices at times. It's like a true fairy tale in that way - you read the cleaned up versions through your childhood and then you read the original Little Red Riding Hood and are left wondering who thought that would be a story for children.
 

Mercurius

Legend
I would say that they've made a conscious and clear decision to cater to a younger crowd, but that doesn't mean they're throwing us old farts under the bus, at least not entirely.

WotC recognizes that they have a new core demographic, and it is younger than it was at the start of 5E, when the majority of players had been around for awhile, if only since 4E. The vast majority of the new wave of players that have entered the game since 2014 are younger Millenials and Zennials, and thus presumably under 30 years old. They've never played anything but 5E. Chances are that if you're over 30 and play D&D, you've been playing since at least 4E.

That said, I don't see why it is necessary to continually bash older folks, even if they're grumpy at feeling left behind. I mean, it is understandable - they've (we've) invested many years (decades) into this hobby, and are generally attached to this or that element from bygone eras. This is not to say that I don't get irritated when older folks are attached to the past - when I have dinner with my 80-year old father and he waxes on about stuff from the 50s and 60s, or, I occasionally grimace, but I also try to engage him and not invalidate his entire life experience (like my 13-year daughter likes to say to me, "OK, Boomer" - even though I'm Gen X...she doesn't care for the distinction; anyone over about 30 is a "Boomer" to her ;)).

My point is that older players, grognards and quasi-grognards, have earned the right to have an opinion, even if they (we) are sometimes grumpy about it. Maybe it is old man yelling at the clouds, but there are also jewels of wisdom, or at least interesting takes that differ from the thread of "newer is always better."

Speaking for myself, I'm OK with the shifting landscape, for the most part. I'm not drawn to products like Strixhaven, Witchlight, and Radiant Citadel--for similar reasons that I love Middle-earth and Conan, but not Harry Potter and the endless deluge of young adult focused fantasy on the shelves these days.

But I also realize and accept that D&D isn't just for me - nor does it have to be for me to stay interested, especially considering that A) they still do publish stuff I'm interested, B) I'm interested in D&D history as a whole, and C) There's a larger industry that does produce RPG material more to my tastes, from Kobold Press to Fria Ligan. That doesn't mean I don't have moments where I wish WotC would put out more products that appeal to me, but it isn't personal.

Also, it depends upon how you look at their product release output. In the early years of 5E, I might be interested in 1 or 2 products, but that was out of 3 - so it was one or two-thirds of all products. In recent years, I'm still only interested in 1 or 2 products, but it is out of five or six - so it seems like there are less products "for me" if I think in terms of percentages, but if I think in terms of quantity, it is about the same as it has always been.
 


Grognards are gonna nard.
Its a golden age of gaming. People who don't like the current DnD tone can easily either A: Just run the game with whatever tone they like or B: Buy one of dozens of other fantasy RPGs out there right now, actively publishing, that more fits their needs. Warhammer Fantasy. Pathfinder. Zweihander. The entire OSR movement. Plenty of smaller and Indy game publishers who are itching for your attention and money.
 

I don't know if I'd say they're "for kids," but they're not for me.
  • Candlekeep Mysteries - weak adventures with next to nothing to do in them.
  • Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft - rebooted Ravenloft that misses the mark of the original campaign setting.
  • Wild Beyond the Witchlight - displacer beast kittens and talk your way out of fluffy challenges.
  • Fizban's Treasury of Dragons - boring book about the most boring creatures in the game.
  • Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos - Harry Potter by way of modern American college life
  • Call of the Netherdeep - I'm not into Critical Role
  • Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel - More cuddly kittens and adorableness
  • Spelljammer: Adventures in Space - Was a joke in the 1980s. Still going to be a joke.
  • Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen / Warriors of Krynn - Boring campaign setting about the most boring creatures in the game.
Judging just by this post, maybe 5e is just not the game for you? There's nothing at all wrong with playing something else...
 


Yup - there's quite a bit in Witchlight that is really dark, and while you can get through the whole thing without a combat, if you're doing it that way you're making some really morally questionable choices at times. It's like a true fairy tale in that way - you read the cleaned up versions through your childhood and then you read the original Little Red Riding Hood and are left wondering who thought that would be a story for children.
I'm seeing a lot of people dismiss things as "too light and fluffy" just from first glance alone, and, having dismissed them, never follow up to find out they really aren't. Basically "Tell me that you've never actually read Witchlight without telling me you've never read Witchlight", I expect the same thing with Radiant Citadel...
 
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