D&D 5E D&D and who it's aimed at

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
I know I wouldn't be very excited about them. Worldbuilding matters to me, and those products don't care about it.
Are you sure? Can you guarantee that if these adventures and settings that are being published in modern 5e were actually published in the TSR-era of D&D, the version of you that played the game 30-40 years ago wouldn't have liked them? Are you certain that if one of the classic TSR adventures or settings that you liked 30-40 years ago were actually just published now for the first time, you right now would be as big of a fan of them as you have been for decades?

And . . . plenty of modern D&D products care about "worldbuilding". Explorer's Guide to Wildemount and Eberron: Rising from the Last War do amazing worldbuilding and get across the ideas, creatures, and locations expertly. Sure, Strixhaven didn't really care much about worldbuilding (which is a shame, because the small bits that we got with the Archaics and Oriq were really interesting), but that's primarily because the book is more of an adventure than a setting guide. I think that was a bad design decision, though. Ravenloft had worldbuilding. It added new bits of awesome lore that previous versions of Ravenloft never had (the Priest of Osybus's lore is awesome), including many of the domains of dread. I mean . . . the fact that they changed things is proof that they "worldbuilt," because the act of changing something in the setting requires that you replace it with some other bit of lore. Netherdeep worldbuilt, expanding upon the lore previously established for Exandria in its different setting books and the show. Fizban's worldbuilt, adding the story of the First World and giving an explanation for why Dragons are important in this game. Descent into Avernus worldbuilt, exploring the first layer of the Nine Hells more in-depth than ever seen before in the history of the game. They worldbuilt for Witchlight, adding more to the Feywild than we had before (Domains of Delight to reflect the Shadowfell's Domains of Dread). They're also making two completely new settings that have never appeared in D&D or M:tG before . . . so they clearly care enough about worldbuilding to have at least started the process of making two completely new worlds (the first ever in 5e).

So, worldbuilding absolutely happens in modern D&D. The fact that it happens (and happens really well in most products) proves that they care about it. Whether or not you like the worlds/settings they build doesn't change the fact that they clearly do care about it.
 

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Mister_Fish

Explorer
The more I think about it, the more I realize my issue is mostly the character art.

I'm on board with monsters like this:
View attachment 156250

Neat environments like this:
View attachment 156251

But then the adventure party looks like:
View attachment 156253

And I'm immediately turned off. There is just nothing in there that screams deadly dungeon delver. They look like they'd last about a minute in the Tomb of Horrors...
Sword guy looks like any other sword guy. He’s young, but lots of PCs are. The woman is bookish, just in a different way than other wizards. Round glasses instead of, idk, square ones? The owl is definitely cute. Good for him, little scamp.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
The more I think about it, the more I realize my issue is mostly the character art.

I'm on board with monsters like this:
View attachment 156250

Neat environments like this:
View attachment 156251

But then the adventure party looks like:
View attachment 156253

And I'm immediately turned off. There is just nothing in there that screams deadly dungeon delver. They look like they'd last about a minute in the Tomb of Horrors...
I mean for one... good. I don't want a deadly dungeon delver anyway.

For another, a swordman, a wizard and a man-sized version o silent predator that can see a mouse on a football field by candlelight and disemebowel it before it realizes it made a mistake but with thumbs and probably a profit motive. it's the Tomb's crusty butt that's actually in danger.
 


I mean for one... good. I don't want a deadly dungeon delver anyway.

For another, a swordman, a wizard and a man-sized version o silent predator that can see a mouse on a football field by candlelight and disemebowel it before it realizes it made a mistake but with thumbs and probably a profit motive. it's the Tomb's crusty butt that's actually in danger.
It works the other way too. My players have fought there way past dragons, beholders, liches and mind flayers. You know what made them say "nope"? A little old unarmed bald guy in robes sitting meditating in the middle of the road.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
Oh, how come? Get bored of that type or just never was interested? What kind of characters do you like playing?
There's just a lot of dungeon delving-style art and adventures in D&D. There's a ton to choose from, even in 5e. Sometimes too much of a good thing is too much, especially when it gets in the way of having something different.
 

Hussar

Legend
The more I think about it, the more I realize my issue is mostly the character art.

I'm on board with monsters like this:
View attachment 156250

Neat environments like this:
View attachment 156251

But then the adventure party looks like:
View attachment 156253

And I'm immediately turned off. There is just nothing in there that screams deadly dungeon delver. They look like they'd last about a minute in the Tomb of Horrors...
See, the really funny thing is, my current group is all sages living in Candlekeep. But, my players have basically taken traditional fantasy and launched it out the window. I didn't make any restrictions on races, so, I got:

Tiefling
Owlfolk
Warforged
A dream of an Aboleth
Dragonborn who narrates his Eldritch Blasts as rainbows. :D

To say my group is a bit eclectic is an understatement. So, for us, the art is simply following right along with what my players are playing. Note, I think the youngest of us is over 40, so, it's not like we're young here. But, I certainly noticed that the whole "Tolkein" palate of fantasy has very much gotten left behind by a lot of players. It's just not all that popular anymore from what I see.
 

There's just a lot of dungeon delving-style art and adventures in D&D. There's a ton to choose from, even in 5e. Sometimes too much of a good thing is too much, especially when it gets in the way of having something different.
I very quickly (as in circa 1983) got bored with that style of play. I love novelty, and adventures that pushed the boundaries of what D&D could do. There seemed to be plenty of those in 1st edition days, but D&D got very dull and conservative 2nd to early 5e, when I switched to science fiction and superhero RPGs.
 

See, the really funny thing is, my current group is all sages living in Candlekeep. But, my players have basically taken traditional fantasy and launched it out the window. I didn't make any restrictions on races, so, I got:

Tiefling
Owlfolk
Warforged
A dream of an Aboleth
Dragonborn who narrates his Eldritch Blasts as rainbows. :D

To say my group is a bit eclectic is an understatement. So, for us, the art is simply following right along with what my players are playing. Note, I think the youngest of us is over 40, so, it's not like we're young here. But, I certainly noticed that the whole "Tolkein" palate of fantasy has very much gotten left behind by a lot of players. It's just not all that popular anymore from what I see.
In my experience owlfolk and warforged are the new common races.

And none of my players are under 30.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
Oh, how come? Get bored of that type or just never was interested? What kind of characters do you like playing?
Never interested. I prefer more plot driven, solve this problem, deal with these people sort of things. I'm usually the the Face or the Skillmonkey.

And I'm definitely not interested in the deadly part as I find it disruptive to the story and unnecessarily stressful for my weekly chill game time.
 

In my experience owlfolk and warforged are the new common races.

And none of my players are under 30.
Yeah see, my love for traditional fantasy has never faded over the years (I'm such a Tolkien enthusiast I follow scholarly work on the subject, for example), but at least half of my players are similar to yours in their preferences. It can be quite frustrating.
 

Yeah see, my love for traditional fantasy has never faded over the years (I'm such a Tolkien enthusiast I follow scholarly work on the subject, for example), but at least half of my players are similar to yours in their preferences. It can be quite frustrating.
I think as DM you derive your enjoyment from the players, so you have to go with what they like, not what you like. I don't much care for anime, but I know several of my players do, so I make a point of researching and referencing it. Tolkien's chum Lewis had owlfolk in his books anyway.
 

I think as DM you derive your enjoyment from the players, so you have to go with what they like, not what you like. I don't much care for anime, but I know several of my players do, so I make a point of researching and referencing it. Tolkien's chum Lewis had owlfolk in his books anyway.
Man, I dunno where you are in the UK but if ever end up in one of your campaigns, I suspect you will be a very, very good DM from this kind of thing.

But yeah spot-on.

Yeah see, my love for traditional fantasy has never faded over the years (I'm such a Tolkien enthusiast I follow scholarly work on the subject, for example), but at least half of my players are similar to yours in their preferences. It can be quite frustrating.
I get it, I mean, honestly, if it was just up to me, we'd basically be running either "Angsty wizards face moral dilemmas" or "Hot barbarians kill slavers and other bad people"-type stuff in fantasy (I know those are very opposing genres - basically Sparrowhawk and Conan, but I love both).

Oh hell I just realized the first one being a preference is how Ars Magica happened! So I guess other people are into it.

But my players mostly want "A ragtag crew of reprobates takes a dodgy job but ends up having to save the day!". Which is fine, I like that too, even if it's not my #1 preference.

I ain't never going to run no intrigue-ass Game of Thrones-type nonsense though. Nope. Some other DM can do that. I have my limits.
 




I think as DM you derive your enjoyment from the players, so you have to go with what they like, not what you like. I don't much care for anime, but I know several of my players do, so I make a point of researching and referencing it. Tolkien's chum Lewis had owlfolk in his books anyway.
I think the player's enjoyment should not come at the expense of the DMs, so agree to disagree there.

Also, Tolkien and Lewis, while great friends, did not see eye to eye on a number of issues related to their writing, so that doesn't really do anything for me either.
 


I think the player's enjoyment should not come at the expense of the DMs, so agree to disagree there.
It wasn't that painful watching a few minutes of anime and reading the plot on Wikipedia. I mean, it's always good to be exposed to new stuff, even if it's only to make sure you don't like it, rather than just think you won't like it. I listened to a Taylor Swift song the other day, and it actually wasn't that bad!
Also, Tolkien and Lewis, while great friends, did not see eye to eye on a number of issues related to their writing, so that doesn't really do anything for me either.
It shows you can like different things and still be friends and spend lots of time discussing said things down the pub.
 

The more I think about it, the more I realize my issue is mostly the character art.

I'm on board with monsters like this:
View attachment 156250

Neat environments like this:
View attachment 156251

But then the adventure party looks like:
View attachment 156253

And I'm immediately turned off. There is just nothing in there that screams deadly dungeon delver. They look like they'd last about a minute in the Tomb of Horrors...
This is a great example, IMO, because the question then becomes 'why?' I do not dispute that this art (particularly the bottom one) looks different than most of 1E, 2E, or much of basic-classic's art*, but it's unclear how these characters are coded as less-prepared for the harshness of dungeon-crawling than the TSR-era adventurers (who were consistently drawn screwing up, about to die, etc.).
*mostly in that it is clearly originally meant as full-color painted or digitally-painted art, rather than line art or paintings mad by people who spent much of their time doing monotone line art. That, I think is the major difference from old and new -- bitd most of the game artists were predominantly aspiring illustrators, while modern ones are aspiring painters.

Looking at this bottom picture, I see:
A castor - likely a wizard or sorcerer, with symbols of being a knowledge-worker. Okay, glasses are anachronistic to the faux-medieval milieu D&D vaguely approaches, but it's effectively just doing the same 'communicates smart guy in party' schtick that robes with moons and stars and a pointy hat did bitd.
A lightly-to-moderately armored character -- possibly rogue, ranger, or dex-based fighter. Okay, the armor isn't historically accurate (but then again, AD&D had ring mail and studded leather and not-obviously-cuir-boilli-leather armor and such...), but assuming the things with metal edges are metal all the way through just with leather or cloth covering, it isn't worse than many IRL partial armors*
*assuming that there is an unseen helmet that is simply doffed for the portrait. That's a an obvious issue that exists with fantasy depictions from every era and every medium (so much so that even pointing it out is hackneyed at this point, but I'm doing so to acknowledge I am aware of it).
Third character is a moderate-to-heavily armored character -- fighter, paladin, cleric, who knows? Other than the helmet issue again, there's nothing specifically weak or powerful being communicated. They are a race one wouldn't have played in AD&D (although I played a Hsiao in BECMI that would be kinda along the same vein), but again not specifically better off or worse than PC races of the era (with a nifty answer to pit traps).

So what is it that makes this art speak to you differently?
 

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