D&D General D&D: One Brand, Multiple Games

Reynard

Legend
Here's a thought I had: what if D&D was a brand (so it had some strong identifying features) but was explicitly designed to include multiple, concurrently published games. Not literally, but maybe an OSR version, a 4E version, and a 5E version focused on particular play elements and intended experiences. By this virtue it would include card and board games, along with TTRPGs.

I know it's not realistic. I'm not arguing that's what WotC should do. Rather, I am wondering if not every "line" had to be profitable (because one or two main lines were, or whatever) what could D&D as a brand, designed to appeal to different] references and needs, look like.

Note that this thread is intended to be about what "might" be, not what "could" be. So if you are intent upon explaining how the whole idea is unrealistic and flawed, save it. That's not the point.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
D&D has been this before, with the advanced/basic split. It was very nearly this again with the 4e/Pathfinder split; though PF technically didn’t have the D&D branding it was still pretty much marketed as “D&D lives on.” I’m sure it could become this again and do just fine, though I very much doubt it will.
 


overgeeked

B/X Known World
Here's a thought I had: what if D&D was a brand (so it had some strong identifying features) but was explicitly designed to include multiple, concurrently published games. Not literally, but maybe an OSR version, a 4E version, and a 5E version focused on particular play elements and intended experiences. By this virtue it would include card and board games, along with TTRPGs.

I know it's not realistic. I'm not arguing that's what WotC should do. Rather, I am wondering if not every "line" had to be profitable (because one or two main lines were, or whatever) what could D&D as a brand, designed to appeal to different] references and needs, look like.

Note that this thread is intended to be about what "might" be, not what "could" be. So if you are intent upon explaining how the whole idea is unrealistic and flawed, save it. That's not the point.
In an ideal world, WotC would mirror the AD&D/Basic split of the '80s. 5X would be the "advanced" analog while whatever new D&D game they put out would be rules light. Again, in an ideal world, the sales would mirror the '80s and skew in favor of the rules-light game. WotC would pick up on that and do what TSR should have done: continue the rules-light version of D&D and drop the rules heavy version of D&D, but keep it available as PDFs and POD through drivethrurpg and DMs Guild.

It would be great to see WotC actually use 4E. Maybe use it as the basis for skirmish games. Clean up the line a bit and put out an evergreen version of 4E or even replace 5X's active support with support for evergreen 4E. It's vastly superior in terms of balance and combat. Use it as an optional add-on to the new Basic D&D.

From there, produce system-neutral setting books, play material, modules, etc.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
It could be done with subsystems and each line referring to different subsystems. Like you would have to choose between spells and non-weapon proficiencies, spells and maneuvers, or attack powers, defend powers, and utility powers.

D&D could have 5-7 lines each with their own sets of subsystems.
 

Splitting the fan base is never a really good idea. The best method would be to design the game with a simple chassis, but then produce a series of advanced options that override the original simple rules. DMs could customize the level of complexity based on what aspects they find the most important.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Here's a thought I had: what if D&D was a brand (so it had some strong identifying features) but was explicitly designed to include multiple, concurrently published games. Not literally, but maybe an OSR version, a 4E version, and a 5E version focused on particular play elements and intended experiences. By this virtue it would include card and board games, along with TTRPGs.

I know it's not realistic. I'm not arguing that's what WotC should do. Rather, I am wondering if not every "line" had to be profitable (because one or two main lines were, or whatever) what could D&D as a brand, designed to appeal to different] references and needs, look like.

Note that this thread is intended to be about what "might" be, not what "could" be. So if you are intent upon explaining how the whole idea is unrealistic and flawed, save it. That's not the point.
D&D is a brand. And while not ttrpg games specifically, it is used to push many categories of products — video games, movies, board games, plushies, toys, clothing, the whole works.
 

Reynard

Legend
As a specific example, I mean instead of the adventure Dragon Heist, the put out the game D&D: Dragon Heist, which would be in this example a single rulebook Blades in the Dark alike. Like that.

Again, I'm not saying it is a thing that would happen. I'm just musing on the idea of multiple D&D branded RPGs.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I like the idea, but only if they adopt Coca-Cola's naming strategy.
D&D (5e).
D&D II (Eternal 4e).
D&D Classic. (OSR)
Diet D&D (rules lite).
D&D Zero (diceless D&D),
D&D BlaK (pocket version of super fast D&D)
Cherry D&D (D&D 3e)
D&D Black Cherry Vanilla (Level Up D&D)
D&D Clear (Ya Basic D&D, only available in Japan)
D&D Orange Vanilla (Story Now D&D)
D&D Starlight (D&D ... in SPACE!)
etc.

Now that you've read it, you want it. You KNOW you want it.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
As a specific example, I mean instead of the adventure Dragon Heist, the put out the game D&D: Dragon Heist, which would be in this example a single rulebook Blades in the Dark alike. Like that.
So like an Essentials Kit on steroids? I think something like that might work in the mainstream market where they're doing a more restricted version of that idea with their Starter Sets. Expanding on that to a bigger box might be a natural next step. I think a mainstream box campaign Starter Set that goes from levels 1-10 would be interesting to see.

In the hobby market I think it would just make people mad.
 

D&D has been this before, with the advanced/basic split. It was very nearly this again with the 4e/Pathfinder split; though PF technically didn’t have the D&D branding it was still pretty much marketed as “D&D lives on.” I’m sure it could become this again and do just fine, though I very much doubt it will.
Frankly, I feel like the 4e/Pathfinder thing demonstrates that this would work, rather than that it wouldn't. There's a long-standing appetite for the kinds of things 3e offered, just...done better. Because even 3e's fans (mostly) agree that it was a deeply, deeply flawed game.

Meanwhile, the repeated things we've seen even here, on a forum that is, shall we say, leaning antagonistic to 4e and its design, indicate that there's a lot of love for the stuff 4e did, and that even if it wasn't universally popular, the feelings were strong--people who liked it loved it, generally speaking.

That is a ripe environment for serious, well-studied, genuine horizontal market segmentation. Which is not, at all, what the Basic/Advanced split was about; that was a quirk of history that survived well past its pull date. They were both games trying to be more or less the exact same thing, just with small differences in expression and growth rate, with the fig-leaf excuse that Basic was there to "teach" players how to play so they could "graduate" to AD&D, even though that whole concept was ridiculous from day 1.

An actual, principled approach, trying to make two games that are each BELOVED by half the fans (or whatever the ratios are; I don't care about the specific numbers here), as opposed to one single game that is overall mostly liked by most of the fans (as some have phrased it, "5e is everyone's second favorite"), could actually be highly effective. Especially since the current edition as it stands would continue to serve as a middle-ground for anyone who doesn't care for either of the more specialized games.

If I were in charge of making a project like this, I would actually use a threefold model:

1. "Legacy" D&D: The current 5th edition, with the 2024 errata and updates. No further splat books will be published for it, though new content may appear via sections of the adventure paths (which will be concurrently published for all three editions; conversions of all existing 5e adventure paths would be a long-term project.)
2. "Immersive" D&D: 5e retooled specifically to dispense with as much of the "it's a game, it has rules, don't think too hard about it" elements, while playing up the casual-definition "simulation" (the feeling that the rules communicate a "real," consistent world and map, as cleanly as possible, to the real thoughts, feelings, sensations, and choices of the characters and creatures in it). Balance is a distant secondary concern, and the rules work very hard to empower each group to "build their own fun," with the caveat that that explicitly requires a lot of patience and trial-and-error from the DM and players.
3. "Adventure" D&D: 5e retooled specifically to be as similar to 4e as it can without totally alienating folks who like the way 5e does things. Balance is a primary concern, and the rules work very hard to equip DMs and players with reliable, consistently functional tools and extensible frameworks--there will still be work, but it will be purely in the conceptual space, as the rules themselves will "have your back" as it were, with the caveat that that means changing the rules can have significant knock-on consequences, though those consequences should ideally always be highly predictable.

Legacy becomes the evergreen root, possibly with more of its content added to the OGL over time. "Immersive" D&D focuses on delivering the thing that people who think "balance" is a four-letter word want. "Adventure" D&D focuses on delivering what's desired by folks who want a game that works as advertised, out of the box, no assembly required. The three are sufficiently similar that it's pretty easy to translate characters between them, and adventures need only small tweaks (recalculating monster statistics by simple formulae, for example, or adding/removing certain keywords, etc.) to work in all three systems.

In effect, delivering the "modularity" they """"promised"""" back during the D&D Next playtest. (Note the quotes. They didn't technically "promise" it. But they bent over backwards to make people think certain things were going to happen and then waited until well after the playtest to let us know "oh yeah by the way literally none of those things are going to happen.") The three systems could thus be seen as "5e with no/few modules turned on," "5e with the Simulationist Module turned on," and "5e with the Gamist Module turned on." You couldn't play a character from one flavor at a table running a different flavor, but the conversion process would be relatively quick and simple, such that it would be feasible to travel between tables with a single character and still have things make sense.

That is, obviously, some serious demands to make of the game designers. But I think it would work. Even better, supplements could be made for the two lines back and forth, so that the audience is never feeling like there's book overload, but there's a closer-to-constant revenue stream as each sub-group gets its specialized content.
 

Remathilis

Legend
The biggest problem you have is when content is incompatible with each other. It's easy in hindsight to put things into clean boxes, but for a lot of new or casual players, you are creating a bunch of confusion. When I started out, my first purchases were the All New D&D game starter box and the 2e DMG. To say it was confusing was an understatement. Moreso when one player in my group had the Rules Cyclopedia and another had played nothing but AD&D 2e and had the PHB. It took a long time to iron out what version of D&D we were even playing, and it got even more complicated when various settings superseded the PHB and that really cool horror module I bought was a Ravenloft one calling for fear and horror saves which weren't in the rules we owned.

3e, and moreso 4e and 5e, did it right by making one single D&D ruleset at a time and keeping branching rules to a minimum. I get the desire for support to older versions and niche supplements, but I think it's healthier to have a more unified vision of D&D, at least from WotC.
 


Reynard

Legend
So like an Essentials Kit on steroids? I think something like that might work in the mainstream market where they're doing a more restricted version of that idea with their Starter Sets. Expanding on that to a bigger box might be a natural next step. I think a mainstream box campaign Starter Set that goes from levels 1-10 would be interesting to see.

In the hobby market I think it would just make people mad.
I am specifically not talking about introductory games or even a single system across games. I am talking about the idea that there are different kinds of RPGs that do different things and provide different kinds of fun, and you could (conceivably; again, I am not arguing it would or should happen) do them all under the brand identity of D&D.
 


payn

Legend
I feel like this kind of already happened with D20 and the open game license. Obviously, WOTC didn't do all lines itself, but many folks stepped in to make myriad of versions of the D&D system. For some this was great, but others like myself felt it was standardized which gave the same feel to every game.

Its starting to happen again with 5E. Took a little time, but now you have Pathfinder 5E, and cyberpunk 5E, and Cthulhu 5E, and Dr. Who 5E, and, and, and...
 

Reynard

Legend
I feel like this kind of already happened with D20 and the open game license. Obviously, WOTC didn't do all lines itself, but many folks stepped in to make myriad of versions of the D&D system. For some this was great, but others like myself felt it was standardized which gave the same feel to every game.

Its starting to happen again with 5E. Took a little time, but now you have Pathfinder 5E, and cyberpunk 5E, and Cthulhu 5E, and Dr. Who 5E, and, and, and...
That is precisely the opposite of what I am talking about.
 


Reynard

Legend
You were talking about the proliferation of the system -- d20 and later 5E as a distinct system -- where I am talking about different D&D rpgs with different game systems to grab different markets and/or achieve different goals of play.
 

payn

Legend
You were talking about the proliferation of the system -- d20 and later 5E as a distinct system -- where I am talking about different D&D rpgs with different game systems to grab different markets and/or achieve different goals of play.
Oh like distinctively non D20 games with entirely different mechanical systems? Cause the D20/5E proliferation is intended to give the impression of different goals of play, but doesn't usually work out that way. So, it certainly isn't a way to achieve what you are looking for.

Thinking more on the question, I think for it to be possible, WOTC would have to articulate these different experiences and why folks would want them. Us hardcore forumites have a good grasp on this after spending decades discussing it, but the average gamer barely recognizes these differences. So, probably a critical role type media product for each line, distinctly different artwork, etc...
 

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