D&D General Does D&D Have an Identity Crisis?

Obviously all tables are different, and so they will have wildly different tones, moods, styles, and whatever. They know this, they embrace this in their books, people read them cursory and call them bland when if you pause and understand their goal, you can see they are trying to lay out a middle road you can diverge from to gross, tame, funny, serious, whatever you like thematically. Do they actually pull off that goal all the time, probably not, but it seems to me clearly their goal.

That said, you’re comparing the movie and game which had to be specific in tone/theme. They went with what works/sells in each genre. Happy PG-13 for the movie, mature for the game. Makes total sense if the goal is to sell product first and foremost and your brand is thematic flexibility…isn’t the entire point of D&D that it can be whatever you want?

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And the table top RPG material is different still as it's not usually a lighthearted comedy though ther's at least some sexually related shenanigans in Ravenloft.
This has been the case as long as there's been D&D though, hasn't it? Just thinking back to AD&D purely on the sexual mores stuff - the original Dragonlance trilogy had Goldmoon and Riverwind scrupulously sleeping apart until they were married while promiscuity was one of the reasons you were supposed to use to tell that Kitiara was evil, meanwhile in Dark Sun Sadira was engaging in a spot of polyandry with Agis and Rikus, while over in the Forgotten Realms there's brothels - ahem, 'festhalls' everywhere and Elminster is a randy old goat, but Drizzt doesn't seem to have a sex drive at all and primly stays celibate for a reeeeeal long time until getting together with his One True Love, and all sorts of horrible things happen in Ravenloft, the one where Tiyet gets blackmailed into sex by some high palace official and ends up falling in love with him is the one that springs to mind.

There is no D&D tone, there is no D&D identity. Hell, even any two groups playing the same module in the same setting will play it differently. Because of the very distributed nature of the hobby, I reckon this is always going to be the way it works.
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Even if by “D&D” we just mean a particular piece of intellectual property licensed by Wizards, and if for some reason we care about that, it’s unclear this is a problem. Mattel’s big licensed product this year is doing great critically and at the box office because they gave the director such a long leash, not because they kept it tonally consistent with the rest of the brand, and I’m going to take a wild guess this has been good for plastic Barbie sales as well.


He / Him
I think once Expedition to the Barrier Peaks was published, D&D's identity was firmly established as "fantasy + whatever else you want to throw in."


To my mind, the fact that D&D stories can shift from being for kids to adults is a strength, not a weakness. I mean, someone gave my baby a D&D ABC book. He's already learned how to say "owlbear." I think D&D should follow the interests and intentions of whoever is designing the next adventure, movie, book, video game, etc rather than being restricted to a single theme, feeling, or maturity rating. It's more fun and exciting that way.


Not sure my 12-year-old self would still be playing D&D if my mother walked in on me playing BG3 and seeing some beastiality or monsteriality. For him to explain to non-playing adults that there is a wide range of people and flavor in each game and group would be too big a hill.

I guess there is an audience for it, similar to other games like Grand Theft and such. Says something about the company that would put their name on it though.

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