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D&D General Generic: is it Good or Bad?

I say "Generic," you say...

  • That's a good thing.

  • That's a bad thing.

Results are only viewable after voting.


Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
Lets define our word first of all. I'm assuming don't mean the biology term that relates to genus, so we're left with:

adjective: generic
  1. 1.
    characteristic of or relating to a class or group of things; not specific.
    "chèvre is a generic term for all goat's milk cheese"
I voted bad, but only because as a rule we're talking about D&D and fantasy here, in a forum discussing drug accessibility generic is good!

A generic fantasy setting is gong to be some kind of Tolkien knockoff that doesn't do or add anything new to the genre.

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It depends. "Generic" can be helpful as a starting point for people who are undecided about game settings or may be turned off by niche settings; however, an oversaturation of "generic" in the market can often come across as unimaginative, pastiche, or humdrum.


Mod Squad
Staff member
I agree that it should matter, but words are just as often taken at face value.
I'm just curious what that value might be.

With respect, you don't find the true value by forcing it to your preferred choices. You might find, for example that the "true" value isn't specifically positive or negative.


I have a Schrodinger's opinion on this: It is both good and bad and neither

It can be good or bad depending on what it is and what the individual wants from it. I like both Greyhawk (which is arguably generic/traditional/vanilla fantasy) and Eberron (which is a bit more out there), each for different reasons.

In the context of gaming accessories, generic is usually more plug and play than non-generic so it's easier to appropriate into one's campaign. However, the divergent material can challenge you to be more creative. I think there's definitely a need for both.


Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
But, you already noted that generic is accessible. Having your work be accessible is not good?

It is, but if all it can do is ape Tolkien then it isn't really very good. And I think it depends. A generic published adventure that I can apply my own details to are great. A generic setting not so much because I bought the dang thing so I didn't have to do the heavy lifting on details.


The word "generic" has been getting thrown around a lot in these forums, but the context seems to be a mix of positive and negative...and sometimes, confusingly, both at the same time.

So how about you? When someone describes a feature of D&D as "generic"--a new product, an adventure, a class or campaign setting--is your reaction most often a positive one? Like maybe you read that word and think "oh nice, this thing is going to be versatile and easy to add into my current game." Or is your reaction most often a negative one? Like perhaps you read it and think "ugh, another uninspiring and bland idea that will probably water down my zesty, flavorful game."

No exceptions, no fence-sitting, no "sorta kinda maybe in some cases possibly ..." We all know that preference is relative and there are always exceptions to any given system, no need to campaign for a variety of poll options. Feel free to add nuance in the comments below. But as for the poll...

"Generic." Is it good or bad for you?
"generic" is fine, "The Forgotten realms is kind of generic in many ways so here is a heavily FR themed $thing" is setting specific not generic.


Funny... but when I see someone use the phrase "generic" when it comes to the RPG stuff here on the boards, my first instinct is "bad"... but towards the person who used the word in the first place, not what they were describing. ;)

My thought usually tends to be "What? Couldn't actually think of something truly descriptive to say so you just went with 'generic'? That was the best you could come up with? I don't know if I want to bother listening to your advice." LOL.

Yes, generic is good, if only as a base to compare products that aren't.

A product does not need to be extraordinary to be top notch quality. Then it becomes strong because of its product value, not the size of its niche, or how it re-invents the world (literally, in the case of a campaign setting).


Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Give me context.

A new generic setting? Double plus ungood.

A new generic set of monsters that can fit into any campaign? Hey, that's got some use.

One of the things I love about Eberron is how it upended the generic view of the races. In general, I prefer non-generic. But non-generic can also be too specific to be useful to me. So it's all about context.
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Victoria Rules
My reaction to seeing "generic" is usually positive, mainly because when it comes to RPGs I equate "generic" with "adaptable", and I adapt pretty much everything I use. The less generic (or more specific) a product is, the more work I usually have to do in order to to beat it into being what I want.

So, for example, if someone comes out with a self-described generic setting I'll be far more likely to give it a look than I will any sort of specialized setting, as I'm far more likely to be able to make some use of it. Generic adventure modules, even more so!


Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
Name a setting or two of the type you mean, so that I can understand more clearly, please.

In a lot of ways early Discworld novels were pretty generic fantasy. It was funny, so being generic helped with the humour in a lot of ways because it satirized fantasy novels in general. I think fiction suffers from this more so than RPGs, because the fiction needs to differentiate itself strongly from other stories in the same genre otherwise why bother with one book over another? I'm pretty sure there's a generic female teen heroine novel plot generater out there somewhere.

For RPG products Alternity's original campaign setting material (that is to say the default stuff) is relatively generic sci-fi material. Its intentional of course, which is fine for a sci-fi RPG that hasn't tied itself to a specific setting. Later setting material is less generic which is helpful, because I'm buying because I want that particular version of sci-fi. Green Ronin's Freedomverse is a generic superhero setting, but I like it because feels like Marvel or DC Comics without being attached to either of them, however other than set dressing there isn't much that makes the Freedomverse different than DC or Marvel in kind of thematic or functional way.

As for generic setting material I'd generally attribute it to a lack of ideas on the part of the author (I'm guilty of this) or wanting to cover as many tropes as possible to cast as wide a net as possible (most publishers like WotC).

Lately (and, at my age, that means, 'sometime in the preceding decade'), I've heard 'agnostic' used like 'generic.' This supplement is "system agnostic" or "edition agnostic" or "setting agnostic."

While, of course, agnostic in English refers to a middling-undecided position on the issue of belief in a deity, it's roots, a- + gnosis, interestingly, simply mean "no knowledge."


Possibly a Idiot.
I consider generic to be like a tuna fish sandwich:

I'm going to eat it if it's there, but I ain't going out of my way to get one.

I mostly using the word differently than others, including the OP. To me generic means that it functions well in pretty much any campaign. Things like the Artificer, however, seem to be fairly setting specific, and may not adapt over to other settings as easily. While I like having specific things... it pretty much only works for MY settings (same for everyone else). This means that generic things are more useful for more groups, and thus better overall (outside of a specific book dedicated to such things, like a setting book).


As a person that hates name brands, generic sounds pretty good. Now off to play d&d the worlds most well know tabletop rpg owned by Hasbro. 😉


Goblin Queen
It depends, but I went with “good” because I’m generally more likely to adapt “generic” material to my own settings than I am specific content.