D&D 5E Heteroglossia and D&D: Why D&D Speaks in a Multiplicity of Playing Styles

Gradine

Final Form (she/they)
And that's where D&D (esp. 5e) can shine. Yes, the drawback of it, the failure point, can be a bad DM. But a good DM is able to run session so that players who enjoy different kinds of fun can get their needs at least partially met during the game. Just run through the categories-
a. Sensory Pleasure- I like to roll dice and move miniatures and paint miniatures and look at the maps.
b. Fantasy- "Olaf's honor demands that I kill the brigand!"
c. Narrative- Well, that's what the APs are for, right? ;)
d. Challenge- "+2, +1, or +1, +1, +1? THIS DECISION WILL HAUNT ME FOR THE REST OF THIS CAMPAIGN!"
e. Fellowship- Yo, who ordered the pizza? No evil PCs, right?
f. Discovery- I like to draw the maps, and take the notes, and write down the treasure. Wait, there's a rumor of a lost town?
g. Expression- Just wait until you read my 58 page character backstory!
h. Abnegation- I'm here to drink beer, eat pretzels, and play a champion. Now get out of my way and let me roll that d20.

D&D is not a great game system for everything, or every person. But it's a really good system for a lot of people when you have groups with mixed interests. IMO, etc.
This is what they mean when they say that D&D is "all things to all people", and it's the thing that I think most of the "you know there are other games, right?" crowd don't get. There are, in fact, lots of other games that are laser-focused at triggering one or a handful of these aesthetics. FATE in general and the Dresden Files in particular is Expression on overdrive, but the shared worldbuilding means there's little to no Discovery to be had. PbtA hacks are almost exclusively designed around catering to very specific kinds of Fantasy, or telling very specific kinds of Narratives, but don't really allow for any kind of Abnegation or much in the way of Sensory Pleasure (few dice, explicitly narrative combat), in most cases (at least not until Blades in the Dark and its family line) Challenge. Try introducing your Fellowship-minded players to Paranoia and see how that goes.

Through some kind of magical alchemy and intentional design, D&D manages to hit each and every aesthetic, and can often trigger multiple aesthetics at once in a way that few other games I've seen be successful at. There are built-in mechanics for every step of the way:
a. Sensory Pleasure- Dice, so many dice. Also minis and battlemaps and virtual tabletops
b. Fantasy- Backgrounds - you're not just a collection of stats, you're a character with a history in a living world
c. Narrative- Sure, there are APs, but even the sandboxiest of sandboxes is going to develop a narrative over time.
d. Challenge- This is what I'd characterize as D&D's core aesthetic. Stats, feats, monsters, traps, these are all challenges to overcome.
e. Fellowship- With the exception of heavily PVP games, D&D is ultimately about shared, collaborative problem solving. This one is endemic to most TTRPGs though. Maybe not Paranoia.
f. Discovery- Sandboxes are Discovery on overdrive, but the "Exploration" pillar is pretty neatly mapped to this aesethetic.
g. Expression- And here is the "Social Interaction" pillar, though really the variety of character choices all map to Expression, from your background, to choosing your skill and tool proficiencies. Remember that dork whose 3.x characters always "wasted" skill points in "pointless" skills like Profession? That's the expression aesthetic at play. Also, that dork was me.
I'll add, too, that DMing? That's full-time expression baby.
h. Abnegation- Arguably, D&D might be one of the best TTRPGs at fulfilling this aesthetic. It's not just the Champion Fighter, but it's a lot that. There are very simple playstyles, and there's very simple to run adventures. In my experience, the folks whose key aesthetic is Fellowship are also going to lean in hard here. And, to its credit, D&D is designed to allow a player or two to chill out and hit goblins with swords while the cognitive loads and expressive play are handled by the "party face", for instance.

Name another RPG that's designed not only to appeal to all eight of these aesthetics, but is also capable of engaging players with very different aesthetic pursuits at the same time. There aren't going to be many.
 

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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Eh. I'd say its a really good system for people who have mixed interests and have internalized D&D's approaches as an okay way to get to them. The latter is extremely common because of the networking effect, but I don't have much sign that there's anything intrinsic about D&D's mechanical structure that even supports varied desires better than other choices; its just what a lot of people get exposed to early and imprint on if they don't, at the time, have strong wants it doesn't fulfill.

But that's not what I'm getting at. Your concentration on what the rules support misses what is popular about D&D. This is where I draw the line at the people that are hard supporter of, um ... let's say rules matter. Because D&D isn't just about what the rules support ....
 

Ovi

Adventurer
This is what they mean when they say that D&D is "all things to all people", and it's the thing that I think most of the "you know there are other games, right?" crowd don't get. There are, in fact, lots of other games that are laser-focused at triggering one or a handful of these aesthetics. FATE in general and the Dresden Files in particular is Expression on overdrive, but the shared worldbuilding means there's little to no Discovery to be had. PbtA hacks are almost exclusively designed around catering to very specific kinds of Fantasy, or telling very specific kinds of Narratives, but don't really allow for any kind of Abnegation or much in the way of Sensory Pleasure (few dice, explicitly narrative combat), in most cases (at least not until Blades in the Dark and its family line) Challenge. Try introducing your Fellowship-minded players to Paranoia and see how that goes.

Through some kind of magical alchemy and intentional design, D&D manages to hit each and every aesthetic, and can often trigger multiple aesthetics at once in a way that few other games I've seen be successful at. There are built-in mechanics for every step of the way:
a. Sensory Pleasure- Dice, so many dice. Also minis and battlemaps and virtual tabletops
b. Fantasy- Backgrounds - you're not just a collection of stats, you're a character with a history in a living world
c. Narrative- Sure, there are APs, but even the sandboxiest of sandboxes is going to develop a narrative over time.
d. Challenge- This is what I'd characterize as D&D's core aesthetic. Stats, feats, monsters, traps, these are all challenges to overcome.
e. Fellowship- With the exception of heavily PVP games, D&D is ultimately about shared, collaborative problem solving. This one is endemic to most TTRPGs though. Maybe not Paranoia.
f. Discovery- Sandboxes are Discovery on overdrive, but the "Exploration" pillar is pretty neatly mapped to this aesethetic.
g. Expression- And here is the "Social Interaction" pillar, though really the variety of character choices all map to Expression, from your background, to choosing your skill and tool proficiencies. Remember that dork whose 3.x characters always "wasted" skill points in "pointless" skills like Profession? That's the expression aesthetic at play. Also, that dork was me.
I'll add, too, that DMing? That's full-time expression baby.
h. Abnegation- Arguably, D&D might be one of the best TTRPGs at fulfilling this aesthetic. It's not just the Champion Fighter, but it's a lot that. There are very simple playstyles, and there's very simple to run adventures. In my experience, the folks whose key aesthetic is Fellowship are also going to lean in hard here. And, to its credit, D&D is designed to allow a player or two to chill out and hit goblins with swords while the cognitive loads and expressive play are handled by the "party face", for instance.

Name another RPG that's designed not only to appeal to all eight of these aesthetics, but is also capable of engaging players with very different aesthetic pursuits at the same time. There aren't going to be many.
Well, sure, if you're defining those things in ways that D&D does them, then D&D will hit them all because you've created a tautology.

If you actually consider these terms outside of the tautology, all RPGs hit these categories, but individual ones will stress different ones.

And, um, what the heck is with abnegation? That's self-denial of things you like. Looking into it, this seems to come from Extra Credits (or most of the references I can find refer back to the EC video) and I think they just took that. The list that is posted above seems to derive from a paper called Mechanics, Dynamics, Aesthetics by Robin Hunicke, Marc LeBlanc, and Robert Zubek. They have the following categories in aesthetics:
  1. Sensation ("game as sense pleasure") stimulates the player's senses in a memorable way, be it through visual effects, music, voice acting, scenery, art style, etc.
  2. Fantasy ("game as make-believe") lets the player experience being something or someone they can never become in Real Life — usually in an empowering and inspiring way.
  3. Narrative ("game as drama") tells stories of human drama that the players witness, rather than live through, commonly employing Interactive Storytelling Tropes.
  4. Challenge ("game as obstacle course") derives joy from overcoming arbitrary obstacles. Extreme difficulty may be a factor (that is, a dynamic) reinforcing this aesthetic but it's not a requirement.
  5. Fellowship ("game as social framework") brings multiple players to work as a group and achieve a common goal. This is the main appeal of team-based and Co-Op Multiplayer games.
  6. Discovery ("game as uncharted territory") incites the player with yet-undiscovered possibilities, ranging from exploring the game world to mixing basic game elements into unexpected combinations.
  7. Expression ("game as self-discovery") allows the player to leave a mark on the game world, from Character Customization to shaping the landscape, possibly learning something new about themselves in the process.
  8. Submission ("game as pastime")note lets the player zone out and have a feeling of achievement without investing too much effort and emotions into it, playing as if on auto-pilot. Another way to look at it is that such games let their players safely transfer control (submit) to them for a while, facilitating a pleasant and relaxing play experience.
  9. Competition ("game as struggle for dominance")note sets multiple players to compete for the number one spot in a particular discipline, either directly or indirectly (e.g. via ladder rank).
It looks like Abnegation is subbing in for Submission and Competition is left entirely off. Again, not sure why a word that means to deny oneself something one wants is standing it for zoning out to mindless entertainment (as EC defines it).

However, that aside, if we look at the aesthetics from the source material for the list, we see they aren't defined by D&D, and actually apply pretty well to many RPGs.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
Name another RPG that's designed not only to appeal to all eight of these aesthetics, but is also capable of engaging players with very different aesthetic pursuits at the same time. There aren't going to be many.
I actually think there are quite a few. A lot of traditional RPGs will do a lot of work with all or nearly all of these aesthetics - but differ mostly by specific mechanics (2d6 to hit a target number rather than d20) or, most significantly, genre (sci-fi, superhero, horror).

And with respect to Paranoia - the Fellowship aesthetic may be a bit modified, but it's still fun to gang up on the commie, mutant traitor in your midst. Thank you for pointing him out to me, Computer. I would never betray you.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
its just what a lot of people get exposed to early and imprint on if they don't, at the time, have strong wants it doesn't fulfill.

I think a key thing here is "strong wants".

Snarf already noted - if you have specific desires, strong wants, as you put it, then you will likely be able find something that provides those better than D&D does.

But, if you have varied wants, or don't know specifically what you want, or are kind of a generalist as a gamer, well, D&D is likely a great fit.

And, in considering this, we can look at the results of the WotC 1999 market research and the cluster analysis they did on the results. Sean K Reynold's archive of this seems lost to the aether, unfortunately, and I haven't found an entire reposting of it anywhere yet.

To summarize - They found gamers fit into five different categories. Four of which they named Thinker, Power Gamer, Character Actor, and Storyteller. The fifth group was an admixture of the other four. Most importantly, most people fit into this admixture, rather than have one major strong type.

This latter is important when considering D&D, as opposed to other games with strong typing - to many players, the lack of strong typing may be a feature, not a bug. It isn't a thing the game lacks. It may well be that by nature, most gamers are generalists, not looking for one specific thing.
 

Gradine

Final Form (she/they)
Well, sure, if you're defining those things in ways that D&D does them, then D&D will hit them all because you've created a tautology.
I notably wasn't doing that (that being defining those aesthetics in ways D&D does them), but was describing how D&D in particular appeals to each of them.
If you actually consider these terms outside of the tautology, all RPGs hit these categories, but individual ones will stress different ones.
This was my actual point, though I maybe didn't word it the best way. Specifically, many individual RPG systems will stress different aesthetics, but will also leave several aesthetics behind. In one of the examples I use, the shared worldbuilding mechanics of Dresden Files completely negates the aesthetic of Discovery in exchange for a stronger emphasis on Expression.
And, um, what the heck is with abnegation? That's self-denial of things you like. Looking into it, this seems to come from Extra Credits (or most of the references I can find refer back to the EC video) and I think they just took that.
Abnegation is the term Extra Credits replaced Submission with, which Angry DM utilized in his own list applying these aesthetics to RPGs. I'm not particular to either term
 
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Gradine

Final Form (she/they)
And with respect to Paranoia - the Fellowship aesthetic may be a bit modified, but it's still fun to gang up on the commie, mutant traitor in your midst. Thank you for pointing him out to me, Computer. I would never betray you.
I know a commie mutant traitor when I see one, Bill. And certainly not because I am one myself, why would you even think that.

Notably, my friend who joins our D&D because she enjoys the camaraderie is not going get as much fun out of such a system.
 

Ovi

Adventurer
I notably wasn't doing that (that being defining those aesthetics in ways D&D does them), but was describing how D&D in particular appeals to each of them.
Okay, then you're using extremely low bars.
This was my actual point, though I maybe didn't word it the best way. Specifically, many individual RPG systems will stress different aesthetics, but will also leave several aesthetics behind. In one of the examples I use, the shared worldbuilding mechanics of Dresden Files completely negates the aesthetic of Discovery in exchange for a stronger emphasis on Expression.
I completely disagree that they're left behind. This requires defining Discovery as only how D&D works the exploration pillar -- again going for the tautological to exclude others. If you look at the list from the source of the concepts, Discovery is much broader than this and achieved very easily by Dresden Files -- not at all negated. It's only by narrowly defining the terms to apply to D&Disms that you can exclude other games. That's still tautological.
Abnegation is the term Extra Credits replaced Submission with, which Angry DM utilized in his own list applying these aesthetics to RPGs. I'm not particular to either term
It's nonsense, because the word literally means the opposite of what it's being used to describe. And Angry actually uses both the term and the definition from the MDA paper, which is "submission." He says he likes the EC coined term abnegation because it sounds cooler. I'm not sure he knows what that term means because it doesn't mean submission and doesn't align to the description of that aesthetic. Angry also refers to the MDA paper as the source for that article, although he mangles "sensation" into sensory pleasure a good bit, and I'm not sure that's really useful to exclude descriptions and voices and imagery from "sensation" to stick only to physical props when talking about RPGs. If I play D&D via Roll20, there's nothing physical present, so does D&D on Roll20 fail "sensory pleasure?" No, of course it doesn't.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I was listening to a Slyflourish video while painting minis, as I am prone to do in the early evening when there is no baseball on, and he made some comment (I think ventriloquizing an attitude, not necessarily his own) regarding hacking or modifying 5e, where some people feel like “that’s WotC’s job. I’m paying them. They are not paying me to refine the rules.”

But my immediate response was “But that’s a central part of the game, not a flaw!”

I’ve been able to run the same style of D&D using 5 different editions - sometimes with a lot of rules changes or additions (2E and 3E) and sometimes with very few (5E, BECMI) for flavor reasons - but never because i felt like i needed it to provide me with specific mechanical support to do anything, but rather because it let’s me do anything, including change how things are done (or not done).
 

Ovi

Adventurer
I was listening to a Slyflourish video while painting minis, as I am prone to do in the early evening when there is no baseball on, and he made some comment (I think ventriloquizing an attitude, not necessarily his own) regarding hacking or modifying 5e, where some people feel like “that’s WotC’s job. I’m paying them. They are not paying me to refine the rules.”

But my immediate response was “But that’s a central part of the game, not a flaw!”

I’ve been able to run the same style of D&D using 5 different editions - sometimes with a lot of rules changes or additions (2E and 3E) and sometimes with very few (5E, BECMI) for flavor reasons - but never because i felt like i needed it to provide me with specific mechanical support to do anything, but rather because it let’s me do anything, including change how things are done (or not done).
Honestly, I think these discussion would be better served by the separation of "D&D the genre and tropes" and "D&D the game." This claim, and the claim in the OP about kids playing D&D without dice or rules are both speaking to D&D as genre and a set of tropes while expressly denying that D&D is, in fact, a game with actually codified rules and systems. The idea that a massive hack of D&D is still D&D rather than a different game is one I struggle with -- you've completely changed the game, why are you attributing your design work to others? Is it just a claim to membership in the club?
 

Gradine

Final Form (she/they)
Okay, then you're using extremely low bars.
I don't know how to respond to this. The aesthetics are what they are, and that is how, in my view, D&D meets each of them. That's literally all I was doing. I don't know what the "bar" would even be for in this instance.
I completely disagree that they're left behind. This requires defining Discovery as only how D&D works the exploration pillar -- again going for the tautological to exclude others. If you look at the list from the source of the concepts, Discovery is much broader than this and achieved very easily by Dresden Files -- not at all negated. It's only by narrowly defining the terms to apply to D&Disms that you can exclude other games. That's still tautological.
That may or may not be true. I'm more familiar with Dresden Files' character and world generation than over the course of play. But I think of Discovery as thus: the sense of Discovery is looking over a hill and deciding to go over it to see what is there. It's the sense that there were locations, creatures, beings, lore, that already existed, and that would have or could have been missed had I not chosen to look over that hill. That's an aspect of Discovery (I would argue a significant aspect) that cannot be attained in a setting that is collaboratively created. That's not a D&Dism. That's true of any RPG system where the worldbuilding is left to the hands and mind of the GM.
Angry also refers to the MDA paper as the source for that article, although he mangles "sensation" into sensory pleasure a good bit, and I'm not sure that's really useful to exclude descriptions and voices and imagery from "sensation" to stick only to physical props when talking about RPGs. If I play D&D via Roll20, there's nothing physical present, so does D&D on Roll20 fail "sensory pleasure?" No, of course it doesn't.
I agree! In fact I mention virtual tabletops when I describe sensory pleasure! Varying editions of D&D have done more or less to lean into the aspects of their game that could be pleasing through sensation. And there are systems which explicitly leave things like combat placing wibbly wobbly, or rely significantly less on die rolls than D&D does. In PbtA games the GM generally doesn't roll dice at all. That was enough to turn Angry away from running Dungeon World.

Note that none of this means that other TTRPGs can't be utilized to that effect: maps, handouts and other props can feature in basically any TTRPG under the sun, and these can all be reproduced in a VTT. But these are additions that need to be added by the GM; the system isn't bringing anything to the table on its own the way that D&D does.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Honestly, I think these discussion would be better served by the separation of "D&D the genre and tropes" and "D&D the game." This claim, and the claim in the OP about kids playing D&D without dice or rules are both speaking to D&D as genre and a set of tropes while expressly denying that D&D is, in fact, a game with actually codified rules and systems. The idea that a massive hack of D&D is still D&D rather than a different game is one I struggle with -- you've completely changed the game, why are you attributing your design work to others? Is it just a claim to membership in the club?
Because it is/was all D&D and recognizably so regardless of the changes made? 🤷‍♂️

I mean, I know it is definitely possible to change the game enough to be unrecognizable as D&D and in that case you might want to call it something else. But even then, you might describe it as “kinda like D&D, but. . .”

Lastly, I know this probably irks some people but I am totally that guy that might have this exchange. . .

Me: Bye! Heading out to play some D&D
Friend: Oh? Which one?
Me: World of Darkness.

😂
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Honestly, I think these discussion would be better served by the separation of "D&D the genre and tropes" and "D&D the game." This claim, and the claim in the OP about kids playing D&D without dice or rules are both speaking to D&D as genre and a set of tropes while expressly denying that D&D is, in fact, a game with actually codified rules and systems.

No, it isn't denying it. And I think you are making a big presumption to assert as truth that the kids without dice are speaking only to the genre and tropes, and not the systems.

I remember as a kid I could play the vast majority of a game of D&D without referring to the rulebook - I'd memorized the rules I needed. All the kids then really have to do is give a passable approximation of the action of dice to largely play by the rules.
 

Ovi

Adventurer
I don't know how to respond to this. The aesthetics are what they are, and that is how, in my view, D&D meets each of them. That's literally all I was doing. I don't know what the "bar" would even be for in this instance.

That may or may not be true. I'm more familiar with Dresden Files' character and world generation than over the course of play. But I think of Discovery as thus: the sense of Discovery is looking over a hill and deciding to go over it to see what is there. It's the sense that there were locations, creatures, beings, lore, that already existed, and that would have or could have been missed had I not chosen to look over that hill. That's an aspect of Discovery (I would argue a significant aspect) that cannot be attained in a setting that is collaboratively created. That's not a D&Dism. That's true of any RPG system where the worldbuilding is left to the hands and mind of the GM.
And Dresden Files still has this. I mean, was there never a moment in play that something new was introduced, that you discovered something you didn't know prior? The Dresden Files cooperative setting creation is no more a throttle on Discovery than playing in the Forgotten Realms Sword Coast.
I agree! In fact I mention virtual tabletops when I describe sensory pleasure! Varying editions of D&D have done more or less to lean into the aspects of their game that could be pleasing through sensation. And there are systems which explicitly leave things like combat placing wibbly wobbly, or rely significantly less on die rolls than D&D does. In PbtA games the GM generally doesn't roll dice at all. That was enough to turn Angry away from running Dungeon World.
This is, again, defining things such that D&D always survives within the category but so that you can exclude other things. It's defining not for utility but for exclusion.
Note that none of this means that other TTRPGs can't be utilized to that effect: maps, handouts and other props can feature in basically any TTRPG under the sun, and these can all be reproduced in a VTT. But these are additions that need to be added by the GM; the system isn't bringing anything to the table on its own the way that D&D does.
Wait. Maps are not sensory elements in other games because someone has to bring them while D&D has them inherently? Dice, too, I suppose, or rather than D&D has so many different dice that might be used? This is more defining to exclude.
 

Ovi

Adventurer
No, it isn't denying it. And I think you are making a big presumption to assert as truth that the kids without dice are speaking only to the genre and tropes, and not the systems.

I remember as a kid I could play the vast majority of a game of D&D without referring to the rulebook - I'd memorized the rules I needed. All the kids then really have to do is give a passable approximation of the action of dice to largely play by the rules.
The claim was broader than that -- attempting to narrow it with a specific exception of "I wasn't using a physical rulebook, but rather the rulebook as I had memorized it" doesn't seem to be addressing the actual point I was making but rather sidestepping it with a bit of rhetoric.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Through some kind of magical alchemy and intentional design, D&D manages to hit each and every aesthetic, and can often trigger multiple aesthetics at once in a way that few other games I've seen be successful at. There are built-in mechanics for every step of the way:
a. Sensory Pleasure- Dice, so many dice. Also minis and battlemaps and virtual tabletops
b. Fantasy- Backgrounds - you're not just a collection of stats, you're a character with a history in a living world
c. Narrative- Sure, there are APs, but even the sandboxiest of sandboxes is going to develop a narrative over time.
d. Challenge- This is what I'd characterize as D&D's core aesthetic. Stats, feats, monsters, traps, these are all challenges to overcome.
e. Fellowship- With the exception of heavily PVP games, D&D is ultimately about shared, collaborative problem solving. This one is endemic to most TTRPGs though. Maybe not Paranoia.
f. Discovery- Sandboxes are Discovery on overdrive, but the "Exploration" pillar is pretty neatly mapped to this aesethetic.
g. Expression- And here is the "Social Interaction" pillar, though really the variety of character choices all map to Expression, from your background, to choosing your skill and tool proficiencies. Remember that dork whose 3.x characters always "wasted" skill points in "pointless" skills like Profession? That's the expression aesthetic at play. Also, that dork was me.
I'll add, too, that DMing? That's full-time expression baby.
h. Abnegation- Arguably, D&D might be one of the best TTRPGs at fulfilling this aesthetic. It's not just the Champion Fighter, but it's a lot that. There are very simple playstyles, and there's very simple to run adventures. In my experience, the folks whose key aesthetic is Fellowship are also going to lean in hard here. And, to its credit, D&D is designed to allow a player or two to chill out and hit goblins with swords while the cognitive loads and expressive play are handled by the "party face", for instance.

Name another RPG that's designed not only to appeal to all eight of these aesthetics, but is also capable of engaging players with very different aesthetic pursuits at the same time. There aren't going to be many.

I'd say there are many, but I'm suspect a No True Scotsman coming on here. Certainly any number of generic games seem to fit all these from where I sit. Even you last one applies to some of the simpler ones well enough.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
But that's not what I'm getting at. Your concentration on what the rules support misses what is popular about D&D. This is where I draw the line at the people that are hard supporter of, um ... let's say rules matter. Because D&D isn't just about what the rules support ....

Neither are most of the games I'm talking about, so that doesn't seem much of a counter.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
The claim was broader than that

It is entirely valid to push back on part of a claim, you know. I am not required to address points only as you want me to. If you don't want to engage with such, that's okay - you aren't required to.

-- attempting to narrow it with a specific exception of "I wasn't using a physical rulebook, but rather the rulebook as I had memorized it" doesn't seem to be addressing the actual point I was making

So, it is weird to go back to the OP when we are only on the second page of the thread, but let us do that...

"A group of highschoolers get together at lunch and plays D&D without dice or their rulebooks- that's D&D."

To which you asserted "...the claim in the OP about kids playing D&D without dice or rules are both speaking to D&D as genre and a set of tropes while expressly denying that D&D is, in fact, a game with actually codified rules and systems."

I am simply pushing back on those kids play as being about tropes and genre, and rejecting that there's any denying going on at all. I think you've got to do a lot of work to make those stick.

If you aren't interested in doing that work, that's fine. But you shouldn't expect folks to accept the assertion as given.

but rather sidestepping it with a bit of rhetoric.

Not rhetoric - just personal experience.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I think a key thing here is "strong wants".

Snarf already noted - if you have specific desires, strong wants, as you put it, then you will likely be able find something that provides those better than D&D does.

But, if you have varied wants, or don't know specifically what you want, or are kind of a generalist as a gamer, well, D&D is likely a great fit.

But again, if you don't have strong wants, I'm not sold any number of games couldn't fill them--but D&D is the most likely one you'll hit first, and at that point since you don't have strong wants, what's going to motivate you to seek our and learn another?

And, in considering this, we can look at the results of the WotC 1999 market research and the cluster analysis they did on the results. Sean K Reynold's archive of this seems lost to the aether, unfortunately, and I haven't found an entire reposting of it anywhere yet.

To summarize - They found gamers fit into five different categories. Four of which they named Thinker, Power Gamer, Character Actor, and Storyteller. The fifth group was an admixture of the other four. Most importantly, most people fit into this admixture, rather than have one major strong type.

This latter is important when considering D&D, as opposed to other games with strong typing - to many players, the lack of strong typing may be a feature, not a bug. It isn't a thing the game lacks. It may well be that by nature, most gamers are generalists, not looking for one specific thing.

Again, there are plenty of other games without strong typing. They're just far less likely to be what someone will hit first.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
But again, if you don't have strong wants, I'm not sold any number of games couldn't fill them--but D&D is the most likely one you'll hit first,

So, I'm aware of the effect of being the big fish, and network externalities.

But, there's an implicit point I question - I am not sold on the idea that D&D owes its success only to being big. Being big is a nice place to start a new endeavor, but is not, in and of itself, self-sustaining. You speak as if, if the game sucked, those wouldn't have eroded faster than your vorpal blade goes snicker snack, much less last for nearly a half century and now grow.

Entertainments are victim to the vagaries of fashion. Being big doesn't make you immune to becoming last-year's thing.
 

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