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

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
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.

How can one say D&D 5e is as popular as it is in part due to its design without being accused of putting D&D as superior to other game?

IMO. I often get told the only reason d&d 5e is popular is because it was the first or had the biggest market share. Can I push back against that idea without being labeled?
 

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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
One might consider a car analogy.

The Toyota Corolla. It’s been a very popular car in terms of sales and current number of corollas on thee road today.

Compare to a BMW which outperforms the Corolla on most metrics but doesn’t sell nearly as many units.

Price, Reliability and perhaps Popularity are really the only things the corolla has going for it in that comparison.

Which car is better designed? That depends on the design goals IMO. I think both cars meet their design goals. They are both well designed. I also think their design goals are so different that talking about better designed loses much if it’s meaning here.

Instead the pertinent question seems to me to be, why did they choose the design goals that they did and what effect did achieving those design goals have upon their commercial success.

The same for RPGs.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
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.

Observation of the rest of the commercial sphere and products that had heavy first-entry benefit does not seem to make your first sentence compelling, and that's before you get into the networking benefit present in a large well-known RPG.

Because the unanswerable question is how many other RPGs wouldn't "work for a lot of people" if they'd been the first out of the gate. You can absolutely make an argument that certain elements of the D&D experience were an easy sell (I think its pretty defensible that the gold/magic/levelling process has a basic appeal to a lot of people), but whether that would have been a necessity is impossible to say because D&D was the first out the gate, and that can't be usefully removed from the equation.
 

Thomas Shey

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.

Which, note I've said. D&D wouldn't succeed if it wasn't at least functional. There's just a big gap with what is needed to produce the level of success its had given its history, and the level some people will claim for it.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Which, note I've said. D&D wouldn't succeed if it wasn't at least functional. There's just a big gap with what is needed to produce the level of success its had given its history, and the level some people will claim for it.
Do you really think it would have reached, maintained and improved upon this level of success if it was merely ‘at least functional’?
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
How can one say D&D 5e is as popular as it is in part due to its design without being accused of putting D&D as superior to other game?

By accepting that there are tradeoffs, and while that design may contribute to that popularity, there could be other things that are perhaps not compatible with it that could do the same.

That basically says that D&D is at least a functional game that does as well as it does compared to other functional games with different approaches partly by the approach but partly because it has the combination of first-entry benefit and the networking benefits that go with it.

IMO. I often get told the only reason d&d 5e is popular is because it was the first or had the biggest market share. Can I push back against that idea without being labeled?

You can, but at that point you have to make an argument that teases out those factors; you can't do the "it wouldn't be so popular if it wasn't so good." As I said, you can, for example, make a functional argument suggesting that levelling and some other elements of the D&D playcycle are a natural comfort zone for people, so it has an edge there over games that don't do those. I don't think those are an overwhelming argument, but they're at least making an argument about both what's there and what people respond to, that isn't dependent on using popularity as a proof.
 

Oofta

Legend
I would like to know who, exactly, is saying that D&D is superior to every other game? Quality, after a certain level of competency, is going to be all in the eye of the holder.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
By accepting that there are tradeoffs, and while that design may contribute to that popularity, there could be other things that are perhaps not compatible with it that could do the same.

That basically says that D&D is at least a functional game that does as well as it does compared to other functional games with different approaches partly by the approach but partly because it has the combination of first-entry benefit and the networking benefits that go with it.
I think if one really listens to other people it’s always been accepted that being first gave d&d a huge advantage. No one has ever denied that.

What does get pushed back against is the notion that the only reason d&d is popular is that it was first/previously popular.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I think if one really listens to other people it’s always been accepted that being first gave d&d a huge advantage. No one has ever denied that.

What does get pushed back against is the notion that the only reason d&d is popular is that it was first/previously popular.

While I agree there are some people who play that card, I think you're also reading into from the reaction some people have to the "If it wasn't good, it wouldn't be popular" which is a much farther bridge than "If it wasn't at least okay and had the other advantages it wouldn't be popular." As I said, the other advantages are not enough to make up for a game that for a large number of users is subpar. People who think so are privileging their own tastes and looking for an explanation for things they don't like that a lot of people do.

But the inverse is no more sensible.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
While I agree there are some people who play that card, I think you're also reading into from the reaction some people have to the "If it wasn't good, it wouldn't be popular" which is a much farther bridge than "If it wasn't at least okay and had the other advantages it wouldn't be popular." As I said, the other advantages are not enough to make up for a game that for a large number of users is subpar. People who think so are privileging their own tastes and looking for an explanation for things they don't like that a lot of people do.

But the inverse is no more sensible.
I think that reaction stems from differences of opinion around what good and okay mean.

Because I agree with the basic sentiment. That’s basically the same argument i make except with ‘okay’ replacing good.
 

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