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

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I think that this is entirely wrong, something that I have written about numerous times, and something that we will have to agree to disagree on.

This experience does not work as well for all RPGs. It simply doesn't. On the most basic point, the vast majority of RPGs have not been around for almost 50 years- very few (Traveler, GURPs for example) have that kind of longevity, and none of those have the vast history and vast player base. So no, you can't simply cross out D&D and substitute in "an RPG."

That would be like saying, "Every time someone says Tolkien, I can simply cross his name out and put in the name of any other rando fantasy author." I mean - yeah, you could do that, but then you're probably going to miss the point of what someone is saying.

So it's not just about the size. It's about the combination of the size and the history. And this is something that is paramount in the actual design of the game. This is something incredibly basic, but also profound. You can't design D&D to be Fiasco, or BiTD. And it's also not some niche game- this is like saying, "I don't get why McDonald's doesn't just make Pho. I like Pho. I eat Pho. Why doesn't McDonald's make it?" At a certain point, you have to understand what something is, before you can begin to appreciate both what it can do and what it can't. If you keep saying, "Oh, that's just a brand," then you're stuck with an insult without insight.
"Brand" isn't an insult, it's a discussion about the attraction power because of the name, outside any other aspect. And with examples of d20 games that have the same rule foundation as D&D but lack that naming - and therefore the broad adoption, we can easily see that is a difference and not one at all inherent in the game but in the brand the game was released under. Please, I am not using brand as any sore of perjorative - it is not "just" a brand.

(Also to be clear, none of this is putting down D&D either as the current game 5e or as a brand. I love playing 5e, am looking forward to the 50th Anniversary edition.)

Apologies if I was unclear about "an RPG" - I meant it in the general, not as any one specific replacement RPG. Since "RPG" includes all of D&D, it is impossible for that wider umbrella not to contain everything you said. But the point that I am making is that what you are ascribing to D&D is true, but has widened to also include more than just D&D.
 
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This isn't the point I was making. Instead, it really is just about the negative space of D&D. What remains unsaid can be as important as what remains said. This has nothing to do with so-called skilled play, which isn't really a common style of play at all in 5e. Instead, it's about the understanding that D&D is much more than the rules , and that a focus purely on the rules is to miss the point of D&D.

If someone, today, was to try and understand OD&D (or 1e) purely by looking only at the core rules, they would likely come away with close to no understanding of the overall play of either system at the time. This has always been a truism of D&D - what remains unsaid in the rules is just as important as what is said.

In that way, D&D more closely resembles a common law system than it does a prescribed civil law system. It is built up over time, through a constant conversation with the past and the present. It exists in a dialogue with both older versions of itself, with the community as a whole, as well as with the TTRPG field (given it has always been the market mover).

For that reason, the constant refrain of, "Oh, it's just the brand," misses the point completely.
Which is why WOTC needs to get away from using books as the vehicle for D&D! And instead adopt a master/apprentice system!
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
"Brand" isn't an insult, it's a discussion about the attraction power because of the name, outside any other aspect. And with examples of d20 games that have the same rule foundation as D&D but lack that naming - and therefore the broad adoption, we can easily see that is a difference and not one at all inherent in the game but in the brand the game was released under. Please, I am not using brand as any sore of perjorative - it is not "just" a brand.

(Also to be clear, none of this is putting down D&D either as the current game 5e or as a brand. I love playing 5e, am looking forward to the 50th Anniversary edition.)

Apologies if I was unclear about "an RPG" - I meant it in the general, not as any one specific replacement RPG. Since "RPG" includes all of D&D, it is impossible for that wider umbrella not to contain everything you said. But the point that I am making is that what you are ascribing to D&D is true, but has widened to also include more than just D&D.

I'm not trying to be argumentative, but I am trying to make sure I get to the salient distinction here- which comes up a lot when people talk about the "brand" of D&D, or how other games are interchangeable.

Look, brands are powerful things. There is a reason large companies spend a lot of money differentiating various types of flavored carbonated sugar water. And brand loyalty, especially irrational and tribal brand loyalty? Well, you see that in everything from Red Sox/Yankees to Bama/Auburn to iPhone/Android to BMW/Audi.

This isn't about that, however, at all. The refrain of "D&D is popular because the brand is popular," is reassuring because it sounds true, but it is one of those trite truisms that obfuscates more than it reveals. Essentially, people are saying, "D&D is popular because D&D is popular." Great! But ... what does that have to say about anything? What does that have to say about the design of D&D? What does that have to say about what it means to make a popular game? Why it is popular? What makes 5e (for example) so successful? The facile truism avoids any real analysis. You will often see it employed by those who can't understand why (insert their favored RPG) isn't more popular, and D&D is. "Oh, it's because D&D is popular, therefor it's popular, because people be stupid." To use a very old reference ....

dukakis-losing.gif


And that's why I make essays like this. Because understanding why D&D is deigned the way it is ... understanding the decisions that go into it, understanding what makes it popular ... that's interesting!

To make a game that appeals to a few people- to make a game that is the bestest and greatest game ever for a small group of people for a short period of time ... that's not easy, but it's not hard either. But once you have to start making compromises to your own vision ... once you realize that this is a game that has to be in a conversation with both the future and the past, a game that has to appeal to both the hardcore crunch and the hardcore lore people, a game that has to be mini-ready AND playable as ToTM, a game that has to have relatively complete rules but also be easily hackable ... that makes for fascinating design!

To me, that's the interesting conversation that a lot of people don't want to have. I hear you when you write, And then you have edition wars and D&D players who fight even more than they do about other systems. Yeah, they do. And it sucks. Because fandom has a toxic side. But that's the whole thing- D&D is the only system that has people arguing about editions, about rules, that has people (like me) posting histories of the use of the scimitar for the druid class; it is a game and an ecosystem. Which is why I keep getting back to the point that it's not just about the system. There are plenty of games out there that provide better and bespoke systems for certain uses, but to concentrate on the rules alone, to ignore the history, the community, the norms, the massive amount of homebrew and 3PP, the lore, the ... the EVERYTHING associated with D&D? When you do that, you miss what D&D is.

IMO. And it is my opinion because I've written a fair amount about the topic. ;)
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
. But that's the whole thing- D&D is the only system that has people arguing about editions, about rules, that has people (like me) posting histories of the use of the scimitar for the druid class; it is a game and an ecosystem.

This is so far from true you can't even see it from there. There are absolutely equivalent arguments among (to name just two I'm familiar with) Shadowrun and Champions fandom. The fact their fandoms are not the massive size of D&D doesn't change that, they're still big enough to support that sort of discussion.
 

Voadam

Legend
But that's the whole thing- D&D is the only system that has people arguing about editions, about rules, that has people (like me) posting histories of the use of the scimitar for the druid class; it is a game and an ecosystem.
Other than the scimitar threads I don't think that is true though.

People argue about editions and rules changes of Vampire the Masquerade and Shadowrun.

I have heard plenty of times that you can't do combat in VtM, that it's death spiral mechanics and options to build for things other than combat is like OSR D&D in being too deadly to dive into combats without high PC casualties. This is contrary to my experience in a long term VtM campaign from the 90s to the 00s where I played a brujah who got into rolled out combat all the time. In the 2010s I played in a different long term VtM20 game with a character with zero combat skills and had a blast going from borderline anarch to prince. People play World of Darkness games in all sorts of different play styles, even in the same game group. There is discussion about the crappy mechanics and the changes in the mechanics. There are people really into the roleplay who don't really know the mechanics. There are people into the politics and lore who are not into the roleplay. There are people who focus on the personal horror and ones playing vampire themed superpowered heroes or villains. There are people playing the same WoD games differently.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
@Snarf Zagyg I've multiple times brought up games like d20s that have the same design as D&D literally, but do not have the characteristics you ascribe to it. What we can take from this is that it is not simply a matter of what is between the covers that makes D&D so big. You reject "brand", will you accept "celbrity". If not give me a term for people playing it that outside any part of the rules themselves. Right now you keep repeating the smae aprts in different ways as if I don't understand them, but what I'm asking for is to you to refute my points with facts.
 

Oofta

Legend
When it comes to the ongoing popularity (and in particular the explosion of popularity of 5E) I would say that branding and name recognition are a big part of it. However, there's no way we'd have tens of millions of new players if the game sucked. It must be at least adequate.

Anyways, one thing that I think helps the game is that you have structured bits and freeform bits for different aspect of the game. Combat is fairly structured, run by a lot of rules and restrictions. You can color outside the lines a bit here and there, but for the most part your freedom to act is constrained by the rules of the game. Outside of combat? The DM has a lot of leeway, but most games I've ever played the vast majority of time it's been freeform play supported by the occasional roll of the dice or a spell here and there.

This aspect of structured and unstructured play give groups a lot of leeway to play the game they want. Like structured gameplay and want to spend all your time in combat? Go for it! Want to spend it all pretending to be a tabaxi that speaks in a Spanish accent that wears fancy boots? Awesome. Personally I like to mix it up and bounce between the two. It's kind of like a Snickers bar with gooey and crunchy all mixed together.

I think that's why I push back against people that want more structure for things outside of combat. I think that switching back and forth exercises different aspects of people's gaming brain. In combat you're thinking tactically and how to defeat the enemy with the tools you have at your disposal while working with the team. Outside of combat? For the most part it's cooperative narrative story telling, you're bringing a fictional character in a magic world to life.

So that's part of why I stick with D&D. It scratches multiple itches.
 

I'm not trying to be argumentative, but I am trying to make sure I get to the salient distinction here- which comes up a lot when people talk about the "brand" of D&D, or how other games are interchangeable.

Look, brands are powerful things. There is a reason large companies spend a lot of money differentiating various types of flavored carbonated sugar water. And brand loyalty, especially irrational and tribal brand loyalty? Well, you see that in everything from Red Sox/Yankees to Bama/Auburn to iPhone/Android to BMW/Audi.

This isn't about that, however, at all. The refrain of "D&D is popular because the brand is popular," is reassuring because it sounds true, but it is one of those trite truisms that obfuscates more than it reveals. Essentially, people are saying, "D&D is popular because D&D is popular." Great! But ... what does that have to say about anything? What does that have to say about the design of D&D? What does that have to say about what it means to make a popular game? Why it is popular? What makes 5e (for example) so successful? The facile truism avoids any real analysis. You will often see it employed by those who can't understand why (insert their favored RPG) isn't more popular, and D&D is. "Oh, it's because D&D is popular, therefor it's popular, because people be stupid." To use a very old reference ....

dukakis-losing.gif


And that's why I make essays like this. Because understanding why D&D is deigned the way it is ... understanding the decisions that go into it, understanding what makes it popular ... that's interesting!

To make a game that appeals to a few people- to make a game that is the bestest and greatest game ever for a small group of people for a short period of time ... that's not easy, but it's not hard either. But once you have to start making compromises to your own vision ... once you realize that this is a game that has to be in a conversation with both the future and the past, a game that has to appeal to both the hardcore crunch and the hardcore lore people, a game that has to be mini-ready AND playable as ToTM, a game that has to have relatively complete rules but also be easily hackable ... that makes for fascinating design!

To me, that's the interesting conversation that a lot of people don't want to have. I hear you when you write, And then you have edition wars and D&D players who fight even more than they do about other systems. Yeah, they do. And it sucks. Because fandom has a toxic side. But that's the whole thing- D&D is the only system that has people arguing about editions, about rules, that has people (like me) posting histories of the use of the scimitar for the druid class; it is a game and an ecosystem. Which is why I keep getting back to the point that it's not just about the system. There are plenty of games out there that provide better and bespoke systems for certain uses, but to concentrate on the rules alone, to ignore the history, the community, the norms, the massive amount of homebrew and 3PP, the lore, the ... the EVERYTHING associated with D&D? When you do that, you miss what D&D is.

IMO. And it is my opinion because I've written a fair amount about the topic. ;)
That's kind of the issue though isn't it? The brand problem doesn't just obfuscate the idea of DND being popular due to its design, it actively undermines the idea that DND is popular due to its design. It can be very easy to be like "wow, 5e must be such an amazing game because its so popular" but if that popularity comes from something else entirely, it might not actually be an amazing game. So suddenly the momentum of that brand, reduces incentives to create more engaging material because the brand can coast or build itself up in other ways. The more you focus on all of those other things, the less you're discussing the game itself.

But arguably, that all can form around anything, and usually does, in reality its just a fandom-- 3.5 was more complex than 5e and has plenty of homebrew/3pp, it had video games, all of that stuff. But at that point, there's a reason people not in the weeds tend to refer to playing Pathfinder as 'playing DND' or refer to playing Vampire as 'playing DND' or whatever, its because that cultural history is shared throughout the TTRPG space. Final Fantasy is a part of that, but its certainly not DND per se, Konosuba is part of that but its not DND per se, World of Warcraft is part of that but its not DND per se, its the Zelda almost every damn kid in suburban America allowed to play video games for the past 40 years grew up with... and the numbers who have, have only increased.

DND read that way, is a genre of flavor rather than a game or even a genre of game-- its halflings and wizards and fighters, and the idea of a natural 20 making an absurd situation work in a greentext, and Sturm standing on the wall in a desperate last stand, and Artix of Adventure Quest, and its your Blood Elf Warlock from WoW, its the Chronicles of Mystara beat em up, and the upcoming marvel inspired Honor Among Thieves Movie, and well a LOT of other stuff both in and out of WOTC's branding. You can talk about that, but at that point you can also talk about DND as 13th Age, or DND as Pathfinder 2e, or DND as Dungeon World. They exist within that same space, and are intertextual with each other and DND in the same way all editions of DND are inter-textual with each other.

Any of those could have been what the designers who are legally allowed to call their game DND built, in some cases literally if the politics of WOTC had worked out differently over time. But they all have different playstyles to some degree or another, so part of this conversation then, is whether the idea of DND as this game matters to the popularity of DND, and if it matters postively or negatively to the game's ability to satisfy and stimulate its players.
 
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Hussar

Legend
There is nothing inherent in D&D above other RPGs to fit the role you are projecting except the recognition of the name and brand.
I'm not sure you can split it out like that though. The community existed because D&D was the big dog, and largely the only dog (yeah, yeah, there were other games back then, but, largely D&D was the one that most gamers start with) in the pack as far as the majority of gamers know.

And, because a lot of the unspoken and explicit elements have spread beyond D&D - to video games as a very large part - plonking down a fifteen year old kid who has never played an RPG before now means that even though they've never played an RPG before, so much of what makes up an RPG will be immediately recognizable.

Other RPG's, unless they also mimic D&D, will not have that immediate recognition. An RPG with no levels, for example, is less recognizable than one with levels. Something like Blades in the Dark's clock system will not be as immediately understandable as D&D, simply because so many D&Disms have proliferated beyond D&D itself, including so much of the unstated stuff.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
@Snarf Zagyg I've multiple times brought up games like d20s that have the same design as D&D literally, but do not have the characteristics you ascribe to it. What we can take from this is that it is not simply a matter of what is between the covers that makes D&D so big. You reject "brand", will you accept "celbrity". If not give me a term for people playing it that outside any part of the rules themselves. Right now you keep repeating the smae aprts in different ways as if I don't understand them, but what I'm asking for is to you to refute my points with facts.
How I'm interpreting Snarf's post is that "D&D as a culture" is about us as a fanbase having a constant conversation with all the tropes and history that surround, and that the game itself is really only a part of the larger conversation.

If we lived in an alternate reality where 5e had failed, and Pathfinder had caught the energy from streaming instead and become the de facto most popular TTRPG, we might label that conversation as "Pathfinder" instead of D&D, but it would still be part of the same 50 year conversation of what D&D really means.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Other RPG's, unless they also mimic D&D, will not have that immediate recognition. An RPG with no levels, for example, is less recognizable than one with levels. Something like Blades in the Dark's clock system will not be as immediately understandable as D&D, simply because so many D&Disms have proliferated beyond D&D itself, including so much of the unstated stuff.
Agreed. Every other RPG exists in the negative space that D&D leaves behind.
 

Hussar

Legend
if it matters postively or negatively to the game's ability to satisfy and stimulate its players.
Just teasing this one out though.

Branding doesn't explain growth. There are tons of popular brands, but most don't "coast" on their brand. At least not for long. iPhones aren't popular solely because of name. While you can argue that there are better cell phones out there (for a given value of "better") the fact is that an Iphone is a pretty darn good phone. It does what most people want it to do.

D&D hasn't seen year on year record growth because of branding.
 

Just teasing this one out though.

Branding doesn't explain growth. There are tons of popular brands, but most don't "coast" on their brand. At least not for long. iPhones aren't popular solely because of name. While you can argue that there are better cell phones out there (for a given value of "better") the fact is that an Iphone is a pretty darn good phone. It does what most people want it to do.

D&D hasn't seen year on year record growth because of branding.
Heh, you're a lot less cynical than me, I think that growth doesn't intrinsically equate to a superior product, we very much live in an era where products can leverage other strategies to push growth. I do think that Hasbro/WOTC has pursued active strategies, so coasting may not quite be the right word, but I don't think they're living and dying by the quality of the 5e system either.

One thing that helps them is that they're pursuing a blue ocean strategy where their player base are specifically new to the hobby, and the barrier to try competing products is actually much higher than it would be in other industries. It is much easier to try a Pepsi than it is to try out Pathfinder or whatever (to a degree, the Pathfinder sub has noticed massive influxes of newbies every time WOTC releases a 5e book or makes a One DND announcement.)

They're also setting up DND as a lifestyle brand with lots of different contact points someone can stay engaged with, so that you identify as a DND person even if your RPG group isn't much of a thing, in the same way most Marvel fans today probably don't read comic books-- and if your passion is channeled in other directions, maybe accepting the rules is just the cost of doing business with the other parts, we already get people reporting that they play dnd as the cost of getting an easy table. They're also setting the next edition of the game up as a walled garden-- if you buy into their proprietary virtual tabletop you own a lot of cool features for playing DND, but would have to leave that investment behind to try something else.

That's a lot of very proactive strategies that allow them to leverage the brand, but that aren't oriented toward the rules of the game.

Apple incidentally, does sell tech thats inferior for the price (they still perform adequately as modern computers, obviously), they depend heavily on the perception that their products are a prestige brand where owning one as a status symbol might be more important to you than the extra power, they also work to provide an interconnected infrastructure between their devices that's harder to use if you don't remain in their garden, and people who use apple devices daily have to relearn the basics of how to use other devices because of the differing GUI (though this has been changing since mobile interfaces have started picking up on their design, as opposed to ye olde traditional windows set up, starting with windows 8.)

Amusingly, Apple recently announced a new business strategy where they're trying to reduce their businesses dependence on selling phones.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
How I'm interpreting Snarf's post is that "D&D as a culture" is about us as a fanbase having a constant conversation with all the tropes and history that surround, and that the game itself is really only a part of the larger conversation.

If we lived in an alternate reality where 5e had failed, and Pathfinder had caught the energy from streaming instead and become the de facto most popular TTRPG, we might label that conversation as "Pathfinder" instead of D&D, but it would still be part of the same 50 year conversation of what D&D really means.
And my friends would include "What does World of Darkness really mean' and all of the other RPGs that we played. It's not liited to D&D. D&D is the first and biggest, but the conversation about RPGs isnt limited to it.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
Heh, you're a lot less cynical than me, I think that growth doesn't intrinsically equate to a superior product, we very much live in an era where products can leverage other strategies to push growth. I do think that Hasbro/WOTC has pursued active strategies, so coasting may not quite be the right word, but I don't think they're living and dying by the quality of the 5e system either.

One thing that helps them is that they're pursuing a blue ocean strategy where their player base are specifically new to the hobby, and the barrier to try competing products is actually much higher than it would be in other industries. It is much easier to try a Pepsi than it is to try out Pathfinder or whatever (to a degree, the Pathfinder sub has noticed massive influxes of newbies every time WOTC releases a 5e book or makes a One DND announcement.)

They're also setting up DND as a lifestyle brand with lots of different contact points someone can stay engaged with, so that you identify as a DND person even if your RPG group isn't much of a thing, in the same way most Marvel fans today probably don't read comic books-- and if your passion is channeled in other directions, maybe accepting the rules is just the cost of doing business with the other parts, we already get people reporting that they play dnd as the cost of getting an easy table. They're also setting the next edition of the game up as a walled garden-- if you buy into their proprietary virtual tabletop you own a lot of cool features for playing DND, but would have to leave that investment behind to try something else.

That's a lot of very proactive strategies that allow them to leverage the brand, but that aren't oriented toward the rules of the game.

Apple incidentally, does sell tech thats inferior for the price (they still perform adequately as modern computers, obviously), they depend heavily on the perception that their products are a prestige brand where owning one as a status symbol might be more important to you than the extra power, they also work to provide an interconnected infrastructure between their devices that's harder to use if you don't remain in their garden, and people who use apple devices daily have to relearn the basics of how to use other devices because of the differing GUI (though this has been changing since mobile interfaces have started picking up on their design, as opposed to ye olde traditional windows set up, starting with windows 8.)

Amusingly, Apple recently announced a new business strategy where they're trying to reduce their businesses dependence on selling phones.
I would agree that branding does not imply a superior product but it does require a certain adequacy. It has to do what it says on the tin.
 


Oofta

Legend
That's essentially what I said upthread; branding won't pave over a really subpar product, but it can absolutely make a very middle-of-the-road (or even somewhat mediocre) one a resounding success.
A mediocre product may be successful but nearly a decade of double digit growth every year seems to indicate a little more than bare minimum competency. We've seen numbers that go beyond initial growth, 5E is a mature product by RPG standards and yet it continues to increase sales rapidly.

Lot of reasons for that of course, but the fact that no other RPG even comes close even now indicates it works for a lot of people.
 
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Hussar

Legend
Sure, popularity doesn't equal high quality. Fair enough. But, continued popularity does generally mean that it's getting the job done. Not that improvements can't be made. Heck, we've got a two year process that's just started that's likely going to make a number of changes to the system.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Fifth Edition is indeed uniquely popular for a variety of reasons. D&D has a compelling premise that feels natural to just about anyone who has played a video game like ever because its basic format matches the expectations of someone who has played Dragon Age or Mass Effect pretty much perfectly. The drop in format of Adventurer's League makes it extremely easy to try the game out and meet other people who play it. It's also the most accessible it's ever been and the design has been executed more soundly than most prior versions. Add on top the effect of streaming and Let's Play.

That does not mean it is necessarily of higher quality than other games with less mainstream appeal and/or commercial success like Pathfinder Second Edition, D&D 4e, 2d20 games, Apocalypse World, Exalted, Tales of Xadia, et al. It also does not mean it is more meaningfully flexible and can provide the sort of play experience other games do.

I really do not get why people in this community feel the need to put up D&D as superior to other games, to place it on a unique pedestal. Basically there's this tendency to treat other games and people who do not exclusively play other games as Eddie(s). As not fundamentally just as worthy of inclusion in our greater community.

 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
And my friends would include "What does World of Darkness really mean' and all of the other RPGs that we played. It's not liited to D&D. D&D is the first and biggest, but the conversation about RPGs isnt limited to it.

Of course conversations about RPGs aren't limited to D&D. I feel like I'm taking crazy pills?

Look at some of the threads- or just your own comments. To you, D&D is successful because it's a brand. Or (as you wrote before) because it's "fun." Cool! That is totally fine.

You want to have conversations about World of Darkness? Awesome! Have them! Or, for that matter, Torchbearer. Blades in the Dark. Fiasco. Neon City Overdrive. 2400. Twilight 2000. Heck, you could have conversations about any game you want to.

Here's the thing, though. If you try to have a conversation about why D&D (and 5e) "works" or "is successful" or even "why people like it," you get immediate pushback. For some reason, the idea that D&D is a designed system that embodies deliberate decisions is somehow considered ... uncouth? Not avant garde enough? To have a discussion about why a game might be appealing to lots of people is ... well, we can't talk about it, because it's just a "brand." And because we can't talk about it, we end up passing over in silence a great deal of what makes it interesting.

A long time ago, I had a good work-friend who had an old industrial '30s poster about some menial factory task that broke down a really simple job into 40 discrete steps (think sharpening a pencil). I always thought it was some kind of arch-ironic joke about the drudgery of modern life. Anyway, I asked him about it one day, and he told me that it wasn't. He was a UI guy, and he kept the poster to remind him that even the simplest thing, even the things that are most self-explanatory, have to be broken down into the component tasks if you want people to understand it. Sort of a version of your elderly relative asking you, "I don't see an escape key," and you have to say, "E-S-C." Or, if you're highfalutin', "S/Z" (you know, Snarf Zagyg).

All of which is to say that there is a lot of fascinating issues that go into the design of D&D- it has freedoms and constraints that other TTRPGs do not have. For that matter, other games have the (relative) luxury of being able to design in the "not D&D" space (as @TwoSix aptly stated).

Unfortunately, when a person tries to have this conversation, one of two things (or, often, both things) happen:

1. It's the brand! The conversation gets derailed by those who wish to only talk about what brands mean.
2. The other thing. I do not wish to summon it, but let's say people who wish to discuss other systems, and the matters of them.

Both of those conversations are fine things. But look at this thread- it's D&D specific, it's discussing heteroglossia within that context, and it's an attempt (whether good or bad) to analyze D&D on its own terms. And yet, it doesn't stay that way. Instead, it's replete with the same conversations that D&D is only successful because it's a brand- which completely short-circuits any attempts to understand why D&D employs its design, and what it means to have a "D&D system" as we do.
 

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