, I think the majority of your points are good ones, and I certainly don't mean to start an argument. But I would like to dive down just a bit on this one part:
I still don't quite buy this ... I wish there was some statistic we could consult that would settle the question, but I don't believe there is. In the end, we mostly have to agree to disagree, but there are a couple of points that seem salient.
In my very first game of D&D (this woud have been Basic rules, I believe), we homebrewed. Then I moved on to 1e, and we homebrewed. Then 2e, and then 3e, and then 3.5e, and then Pathfinder: homebrewing every time. Now we're on 5e, and we're still homebrewing. I don't think I ever even met
anyone who wasn't doing at least some
homebrewing in their games.
We'll definitely have to agree to disagree because in my own experience I have met very few
people who have used homebrew classes
, specifically, since that's what I was referring to. People will homebrew monsters, magic items, spells, etc. up the wazoo, but homebrewing an entire class entirely, in the wise words of Samuel L. Jackson, ain't the same ballpark, it ain't the same league, it ain't even the same sport.
Over the past three 1/2 years, I've run nine 5E campaigns for 31 distinct players of varying levels of experience. Of all of them, only one has expressed real interest in trying out a homebrew subclass, let alone a homebrew class, for something beyond a single session one-shot. So, yeah, my experience is quite different than yours.
Perhaps interestingly enough, I, as the DM, am the one who has spent all the time and effort trying to homebrew entire classes as well as subclasses as that holds a lot of interest to me, personally. The overwhelming majority of my players aren't really all that interested because they're looking at things from the lens of someone who's going to be playing the same character for the length of a campaign which, if all goes well, lasts for the better part of a year (most of the groups have played on 3-4 hour sessions on a weekly basis through all this time) and there are tons
of subclasses they have never
played in a game.
Now, as you point out, the majority of current 5e players aren't like me (or most of us on this site, I suspect): they haven't been playing forever, and thus homebrewing forever. But a significant number of these players—perhaps even a majority—are learning about D&D from streams and podcasts. What DMs are they watching/listening to that don't do any homebrewing? Not Mercer, Colville, or McElroy(s); not Iyengar or Woll or Walters; not Phoenix, nor Mulligan, nor Hulmes, nor Vorpahl, nor Tang. Maybe they're not learning from actual play, but more from advice streams? Dungeon Coach talks about homebrewing a lot, as does Nerdarchy, or Dael Kingsmill .... It just seems to me that, even if you're brand new, you would have been exposed to the concept of homebrewing, and you've explicitly been sold on D&D being a game where you can play whatever you like. So I'm not sure why the majority of these new players wouldn't be homebrewing.
There's definitely a vibrant homebrew scene online, for certain, but in the long run, you're looking at very much a definitive minority of the 50 million 5E players out there, the majority of whom only started in the past 3 or so years. I'd be willing to bet you that most of those new players don't spend all that much time watching those advice channels. Again, most players are casual players. They're not scouring the Interwebs for every last bit of content they can find. They're playing with a few friends in the library. Hell, a lot of them are going to be little kids who have myriad hobbies that take up the rest of their free time.
Most of the players out there are not going to know who Matt Colville is. They'll have never seen Deborah Ann Woll outside of Daredevil or True Blood. They're not going to know who Satine Phoenix is. The name Dael Kingsmill won't mean a thing to them. But, sure, they'll all know who Matt Mercer is, because, well, he's Matt Mercer.
I hope you're right. Whether a company actually produces what their customer wants isn't a given, though. Especially at the scale DDB is now ... it's possible (and I stress I'm not saying this is true, just that it's possible, based on my experience in the industry) that the folks at the bottom (devs, customer support, etc) are telling the higher-ups that this is what customers want, but the higher-ups aren't listening. Unless they're doing some focus group testing or that sort of thing, corporate executives can be sadly unaware of what their customers actually want.
That's as fair a guess as any. However, while there are lots of horror stories about companies failing when not listening to the demands of their customers, the dev team has traditionally been pretty transparent about what people have been asking for, and it tends to be pretty logical stuff. And, in any case, the devs I spoke with were pretty clear that while they think it would be pretty cool to have a homebrew class feature in the platform, not too many people were actually asking for that, at least not 3 years ago. Things could have changed, but given what I've seen people in the forums ask for, it doesn't seem that way. Homebrew classes isn't a very common ask.
On the other hand, I know Morrus is on this site every day, and he knows what his customers want, and he's producing homebrew material. And I know that Colville is doing surveys asking his customers what they want, and he's producing homebrew material. So somebody
must be asking for it.
Homebrew what, though? Again, I'm speaking very specifically about homebrew classes
here. Has Colville released a homebrew class other than the Illrigger, which is commonly known as an overpowered class and which Colville himself has stated is not likely to appeal to the majority of tables and playstyles. I know that EN has published a bunch of those homebrew classes (some of which are pretty cool) and had a successful Kickstarter to get that out to the world, but again I have to ask what percentage of the 50 million players are we talking about here? We're looking at a few tens of thousands of people, maybe? Ultimately, that's a drop in the bucket.
On top of that, how many of those people who are buying up the Masterclass Codex and paying for the Illrigger and nabbing the Pugilist off of DM's Guild also use D&D Beyond regularly? And then how many of those
people are actually paying users with subscriptions where they'd even be able to share anything in the first place?
This is another excellent point that you make. I do want to clarify, though, that my lack of resources had nothing to do with being able to handle homebrew: that's a question of designing for that up front, which I have always done in every one of my attempts.
Of course! You've also clearly been a developer for a very long time, as have I. We've had a ton of experience learning how not
to do things.
What do you think the level of experience was for the tiny team that put together the MVP for D&D Beyond? I'm not even sure if Adam Bradford himself had any sort of hand in designing that since, as far as I can tell from his LinkedIn profile, he isn't actually a software engineer (I think he had a short stint as a quality engineer at one point)? Curse wasn't even in the application development business — they primarily ran a bunch of video game websites and maintained a number of game fan communities. That's not to say that they couldn't possibly have a strong engineer who graduated from a "traditional" computer science or engineering background, but I'm not sure how likely
that would be given that they weren't a massive business that might feel it pertinent to pay someone with that sort of background the salary that they would need to.
My lack of resources mean that none of my results have been scalable
, which as you (and Umbran) noted, is crucial
to producing something that people can actually use. Otherwise, you're just producing toy software ... which is, sadly, all I've ever managed to produce.
So the DDB devs managed to produce something scalable which doesn't handle homebrew very well, which, from my perspective, feels like they got the hard part right and whiffed the easy bit. But I do concede that I don't have any special knowledge of their challenges, so obviously I'm just projecting my own mindset onto them.
I think beyond the scientific, technical aspects of it, most of the challenge they faced is going to be nothing new in the "startup" world... you've got a tiny team tasked with producing a massive MVP on a tight schedule and then pressured to just get more stuff done so people will fork over cash... over and over again until they woke up one day and realized, "Oh crap, we really need to refactor this at some point."
Most of us in this industry have been there at one point or another in our careers.
And maybe that's why I'm a little more understanding and defensive of them, despite being someone who very much is in the camp of people who want one of those features I've been defending them for not being able to do. LOL
Heheh. Yes, that's the main thesis of The Mythical Man-Month
, which should be required reading for all developers.
But Brooks also tells us how to address those problems, which is the real point of the book.
Sadly, most software developers/engineers have never read that book... because they're too busy trying to push out a massive MVP on a tight schedule so customers will open their wallets.