D&D 5E How Far Could D&D Change--And STILL Be D&D?

What you would imagine this "you":


So, what changes could whoever is designing a version of D&D (assuming either WotC or someone who has approval to use the D&D brand) make and have the receiving public/target audience still consider it D&D.

For example, your first point was "races". If the next iteration of D&D didn't include races, you (as part of the target audience) could no longer consider it D&D, right?
Pretty much.

That’s not based on market research or anything, but I believe it.
 

log in or register to remove this ad


Jer

Legend
Supporter
So I think this is an interesting question the way it's phrased. Because there are a LOT of things that I could consider to be "a" D&D that I don't think the broader public would accept as "the" D&D. And there are things that were part of "the" D&D in previous editions that I think the broader playing base of D&D would rebel against if Wizards tried to put them back into the next iteration of D&D. So I kind of view this in two parts - what's the minimal set of things that must be in a game that wants to be "a" D&D for it to be considered as one, and what would a D&D in 2022 need to have on top of that to be considered an acceptable follow on to the current edition.

Thinking on it, the minimal set of things that have to be in "the" D&D is fairly large. You have the elements that have burrowed into the brain of pop culture to the point that they are part of D&D's "brand identity" and so either the game would feel "off" without them or there's no way Wizards is going to lose the brand consciousness by getting rid of them. So you've got to have the standard six attributes and there has to be at least a nod to a distribution of 3-18 across their scores. You have to have something you call alignment and it probably needs to be on the 9-point alignment grid because memes are free advertising (it doesn't have to do anything - it just needs to be there for the memes). You need to have something called a saving throw (though the mechanics can be any kind of reaction roll - the name is what's important) because everyone knows that if you fail your save you did something dumb/clumsy/whatever and that it comes from D&D. You need to have hp and AC because those are also things that people know are in D&D and show up in memes and jokes in the pop culture (I'd also argue they're good game mechanics, but nothing on this list is here because it's a good mechanic - it's about brand identity).

Then there are the things that are the core identity of the game - classes and levels. Anything you call "the" D&D has got to have those. You can drop them for "a" D&D but "the" D&D has to have both. Likewise, in anything you want to call "the" D&D you need to have different fantasy races (though they don't necessarily need to be called "race" and likely won't at some point in the future) both because you have to have the possibility of doing Tolkien fanfic at the table or else it's not really D&D and because the Mos Eisley Cantina feel for D&D is firmly embedded into the idea of what D&D is now and the game has to be able to support it. Not to mention the joy that cosplayers get from dressing up as a tiefling or an elf.

To get to mechanics - for a modern version of "the" D&D it needs to be a d20 based system where rolling high is always good and rolling low is always bad. A natural 20 is the best you can do and a natural 1 is always the worst. Combat is going to be a d20 roll vs. AC and you'll do random (not fixed) damage to an opponent probably based on the weapon you're using. There needs to be a skill system with a constrained list of skills that improve by level somehow and that also use the same d20 roll vs. a target number mechanic. Things that I consider to be "a" D&D don't need these things (for example, The Black Hack doesn't but it's clearly "a" D&D to me) but the actual official version following the arc of edition changes over time? With a player base that is expecting certain things? Yeah, it needs them.

And then finally the thing that absolutely needs to be in the right range to be acceptable as a modern D&D - the feel of the rules. The rules must be written specific enough that if you want you can run the game as a lightweight tactical miniatures game and yet vague enough that if you want you can run the game completely without miniatures and do it all in the heads of the players at the table. There's a wide range between those poles but it has to be between them and not on one side or the other. (This is the one that I always feel for the 5e design team on. Threading that particular needle can't be easy).
 

Celebrim

Legend
Pretty far. To make it not D&D you'd have to kill a sacred cow that defined for me D&D in a way that I couldn't just cast 'raise dead' on the mechanic.

So to make it not D&D you'd need to:

a) Kill the hit point: This is the most defining aspect of D&D for me. Hit points go a long way to creating the D&D experience. You can have a little or a lot of them but the point is that you have them and they increase with level and there existence makes combat somewhat predictable. As a DM you have a good idea how many of them you could take away before there would start to be problems and so you can easily estimate what a challenge is. Moreover, you can abrade them and put the PC's in jeopardy without harming their fun because there is no death spiral. You don't effectively take a PC out of the game just by injury.

b) Kill the zero to hero class mechanics: In D&D you have a class that forces on you a broad not easily customizable range of abilities. You certainly can do some customization but you can't get rid of 'useless' abilities to become a Johnny One Trick as in point buy system. Knowing only level, the DM has a pretty good idea of the capabilities of the PC's. (Ergo, you can kill D&D for me as 3.5 did by eventually making classes so imbalanced that level tells you nothing.)

c) Kill Casual Realism: To me this is probably the second biggest defining aspect of D&D, is that it is committed to making an internally coherent game where the mechanics are explained by the physics of the world and are in fact the physics of the world. This is the reason D&D is always a bit fiddly because there is always some amount of "Shouldn't it matter that..." that goes into ruling how something works in the game, and which informs any well written D&D mechanic. A very simple example is that if you want to push or move something in D&D, well it matters how big that thing is even if it would be less fiddly if it didn't. One of the things I like about D&D as a GM is that I find it really easy to narrate because there are straight forward ways to equate the mechanics to the game world. Even abstract things like hit points that are some of the least simulationist compromises in the rules do have a simulationist approach to the narration that you can take. This casual realism means that in theory the players can interact solely with the game world and largely not with the rules because all the rules have something to do with the game environment. Thus you have fiddly encumbrance, for example, and not a less fiddly and simpler slot system that says 'you have these X things you can carry' so that player characters can pick up and carry things based on casual realism - that is, how heavy is the thing, how bulky is the thing, do you have a place to put it - rather than an arbitrary lack of slots. Any attempt to get to far away from this casual realism no matter what the good intention and valid justifications might be eventually for me makes it not D&D. For example, for me Pathfinder verged on being not D&D for what might sound like a strange reason - you could cast unlimited cantrips per day. But unlimited cantrips turned out to be something for me that destroyed casual realism. Likewise, the hit point for me doesn't kill casual realism, but you can kill it by playing around too much with how characters heal.

d) Kill Vancian Magic: Unlimited magic missiles per day isn't really a problem. On some level, I don't really have a problem with 5e going ahead and allowing wizards a magical attack at will. It is balanced and doesn't in and of itself create a problem. But it does start attacking casual realism. If you can do simple magic as often as you like, why just offensive magic? Why not other sorts of magic all the time? And then things quickly turn out to get out of hand, because you have the Decanter of Endless Water problem all over the place. I don't think you necessarily have to have X spell slots per level to be D&D, but I do think you need limited resources to buy well defined little packets of narrative force that describe how you are altering the game fiction in ways that go beyond what is the ordinary ability to alter the game fiction (with a crowbar or an axe for example). And this is a problem I've had with a lot of modern D&D - 3e, 4e, and 5e are all still D&D but all guilty in their own ways of this problem, it's just how difficult I've found to house rule the problem away. For 3e for example it wasn't much harder than saying that there are no divine magic wands, repricing a few magic items, and keeping my 1e flavor about how easy it is to buy magic items.
 
Last edited:

Oofta

Legend
yup and it is super engranded in a lot of us to edition war

right... so lets try to be constructive (and I appertiate you are)

I think that is pretty much the answer... 6 ability scores something called a save, something called AC some variant of Hp and it mostly using d20s is about it... anything with that and the D&D fluff around it is D&D

man I miss martial characters just 'getting things they could use'

that I think is a better example... I doubt many people had an issue with cleave.

artful dodger rogues moving targets around the field and warlords removing conditions or letting someone spend HD are normally the more major issues... but damage on a miss was big too... but it all started with this low level issue

At-WillMartial, Weapon
Standard Action
Melee Or Ranged Weapon
Requirement: wielding crossbow, light blade, or sling
Target: one creature
Attack: Dexterity vs. AC
Hit: "1[W] + Dexterity modifier + Charisma modifier damage.
"Increase damage to 2[W] + Dexterity modifier + Charisma modifier at 21st level

edit: the biggest thing I heard was that even with such a simple concept "How can you add charisma to damage, isn't that just a spell" that drove some away...

there was also a rogue daily that if slide a target 5ft, but if you were an artful dodger subclass instead moved you 5xcha mod ft and people freaked out about how a rogue could force an enemy to move 15-20ft

The thing is over 30ish years I have seen this in every edition... and I have seen creative uses of powers in 4e (it even had rules in the DMG on HOW to rule that sort of thing.


overall look at the middle earth 5e book, the classes are different, there are different rules, and ideas (shadow, journey, and audience) but it is just D&D

if you go back to 3e and the D20 system you will find WW2 D&D superhero D&D and Cowboy D&D all with very different rules but all D&D non the less (Stargate D&D was the best)
Just to be clear: whether 4E "felt" like D&D was completely subjective. It's not a comment of the quality of the game, I was just trying to explain the perspective that we could have the same labels, same attributes, on and on but for some people it didn't feel like D&D.

But yes, part of the issue was the disconnect of what stats mean to people and the effect it could have. Wizards use their intellect to manipulate magic, but being charismatic allows you to stab people more effectively? My avenger (I think he had an 8 strength) used a sledge hammer in combat based on wisdom. How? Of course 5E isn't immune to this. My dwarven monk uses dexterity to swing a warhammer in combat now thanks to optional rules. That could be a bridge too far for some people, especially if broadly applied. 🤷‍♂️

There's a lot of things that aren't particularly realistic, it's a game that radically oversimplifies things in order to be functional and (hopefully) fun. But for some people the disconnect was just too much for the core target genre it's trying to emulate. It's all completely subjective, but some people want the resulting action, logic and imagery to feel like high fantasy. More fantastic that LOTR but not as extreme as anime.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Pretty far. To make it not D&D you'd have to kill a sacred cow that defined for me D&D in a way that I couldn't just cast 'raise dead' on the mechanic.

So to make it not D&D you'd need to:

a) Kill the hit point: This is the most defining aspect of D&D for me. Hit points go a long way to creating the D&D experience. You can have a little or a lot of them but the point is that you have them and they increase with level and there existence makes combat somewhat predictable. As a DM you have a good idea how many of them you could take away before there would start to be problems and so you can easily estimate what a challenge is. Moreover, you can abrade them and put the PC's in jeopardy without harming their fun because there is no death spiral. You don't effectively take a PC out of the game just by injury.

b) Kill the zero to hero class mechanics: In D&D you have a class that forces on you a broad not easily customizable range of abilities. You certainly can do some customization but you can't get rid of 'useless' abilities to become a Johnny One Trick as in point buy system. Knowing only level, the DM has a pretty good idea of the capabilities of the PC's. (Ergo, you can kill D&D for me as 3.5 did by eventually making classes so imbalanced that level tells you nothing.)

c) Kill Casual Realism: To me this is probably the second biggest defining aspect of D&D, is that it is committed to making and internally coherent game where the mechanics are explained by the physics of the world and are in fact the physics of the world. This is the reason D&D is always a bit fiddly because there is always some amount of "Shouldn't it matter that..." that goes into ruling how something works in the game, and which informs any well written D&D mechanic. A very simple example is that if you want to push or move something in D&D, well it matters how big that thing is even if it would be less fiddly if it didn't. One of the things I like about D&D as a GM is that I find it really easy to narrate because there are straight forward ways to equate the mechanics to the game world. Even abstract things like hit points that are some of the least simulationist compromises in the rules do have a simulationist approach to the narration that you can take. This casual realism means that in theory the players can interact solely with the game world and largely not with the rules because all the rules have something to do with the game environment. Thus you have fiddly encumbrance, for example, and not a less fiddly and simpler slot system that says 'you have these X things you can carry' so that player characters can pick up and carry things based on casual realism - that is, how heavy is the thing, how bulky is the thing, do you have a place to put it - rather than an arbitrary lack of slots. Any attempt to get to far away from this casual realism no matter what the good intention and valid justifications might be eventually for me makes it not D&D. For example, for me Pathfinder verged on being not D&D for what might sound like a strange reason - you could cast unlimited cantrips per day. But unlimited cantrips turned out to be something for me that destroyed casual realism. Likewise, the hit point for me doesn't kill casual realism, but you can kill it by playing around too much with how characters heal.

d) Kill Vancian Magic: Unlimited magic missiles per day isn't really a problem. On some level, I don't really have a problem with 5e going ahead and allowing wizards a magical attack at will. It is balanced and doesn't in and of itself create a problem. But it does start attacking casual realism. If you can do simple magic as often as you like, why just offensive magic? Why not other sorts of magic all the time? And then things quickly turn out to get out of hand, because you have the Decanter of Endless water problem all over the place. I don't think you necessarily have to have X spell slots per level to be D&D, but I do think you need limited resources to buy well defined little packets of narrative force that describe how you are altering the game fiction in ways that go beyond what is the ordinary ability to alter the game fiction (with a crowbar or an axe for example). And this is a problem I've had with a lot of modern D&D - 3e, 4e, and 5e are all still D&D but all guilty in their own ways of this problem, it's just how difficult I've found to house rule the problem away. For 3e for example it wasn't much harder than saying that there are no divine magic wands, repricing a few magic items, and keeping my 1e flavor about how easy it is to buy magic items.
Thank you! Casual realism. That's what I've been trying to explain for the last several years on this site.
 

Oofta

Legend
Pretty far. To make it not D&D you'd have to kill a sacred cow that defined for me D&D in a way that I couldn't just cast 'raise dead' on the mechanic.

So to make it not D&D you'd need to:

a) Kill the hit point: This is the most defining aspect of D&D for me. Hit points go a long way to creating the D&D experience. You can have a little or a lot of them but the point is that you have them and they increase with level and there existence makes combat somewhat predictable. As a DM you have a good idea how many of them you could take away before there would start to be problems and so you can easily estimate what a challenge is. Moreover, you can abrade them and put the PC's in jeopardy without harming their fun because there is no death spiral. You don't effectively take a PC out of the game just by injury.

b) Kill the zero to hero class mechanics: In D&D you have a class that forces on you a broad not easily customizable range of abilities. You certainly can do some customization but you can't get rid of 'useless' abilities to become a Johnny One Trick as in point buy system. Knowing only level, the DM has a pretty good idea of the capabilities of the PC's. (Ergo, you can kill D&D for me as 3.5 did by eventually making classes so imbalanced that level tells you nothing.)

c) Kill Casual Realism: To me this is probably the second biggest defining aspect of D&D, is that it is committed to making and internally coherent game where the mechanics are explained by the physics of the world and are in fact the physics of the world. This is the reason D&D is always a bit fiddly because there is always some amount of "Shouldn't it matter that..." that goes into ruling how something works in the game, and which informs any well written D&D mechanic. A very simple example is that if you want to push or move something in D&D, well it matters how big that thing is even if it would be less fiddly if it didn't. One of the things I like about D&D as a GM is that I find it really easy to narrate because there are straight forward ways to equate the mechanics to the game world. Even abstract things like hit points that are some of the least simulationist compromises in the rules do have a simulationist approach to the narration that you can take. This casual realism means that in theory the players can interact solely with the game world and largely not with the rules because all the rules have something to do with the game environment. Thus you have fiddly encumbrance, for example, and not a less fiddly and simpler slot system that says 'you have these X things you can carry' so that player characters can pick up and carry things based on casual realism - that is, how heavy is the thing, how bulky is the thing, do you have a place to put it - rather than an arbitrary lack of slots. Any attempt to get to far away from this casual realism no matter what the good intention and valid justifications might be eventually for me makes it not D&D. For example, for me Pathfinder verged on being not D&D for what might sound like a strange reason - you could cast unlimited cantrips per day. But unlimited cantrips turned out to be something for me that destroyed casual realism. Likewise, the hit point for me doesn't kill casual realism, but you can kill it by playing around too much with how characters heal.

d) Kill Vancian Magic: Unlimited magic missiles per day isn't really a problem. On some level, I don't really have a problem with 5e going ahead and allowing wizards a magical attack at will. It is balanced and doesn't in and of itself create a problem. But it does start attacking casual realism. If you can do simple magic as often as you like, why just offensive magic? Why not other sorts of magic all the time? And then things quickly turn out to get out of hand, because you have the Decanter of Endless water problem all over the place. I don't think you necessarily have to have X spell slots per level to be D&D, but I do think you need limited resources to buy well defined little packets of narrative force that describe how you are altering the game fiction in ways that go beyond what is the ordinary ability to alter the game fiction (with a crowbar or an axe for example). And this is a problem I've had with a lot of modern D&D - 3e, 4e, and 5e are all still D&D but all guilty in their own ways of this problem, it's just how difficult I've found to house rule the problem away. For 3e for example it wasn't much harder than saying that there are no divine magic wands, repricing a few magic items, and keeping my 1e flavor about how easy it is to buy magic items.

One small note - in my campaign world there is "mundane magic" that enhances everyday life, at least for some. The smith may be able to make a sword that will never, ever, rust. But it requires time and ritual, the smith may not even realize they're using magic because to them it's completely normal. They couldn't cast prestidigitation with the snap of their fingers if their life depended on it. It's not a level of Eberron, but it's there.

However I think that it should be setting specific, the spells listed in the book are those that are useful to PCs and specifically their focus on instantaneous combat magic. Whether something like this should be called out as an option in the official books is an open question. A lot of fantasy has a select few who can do magic (or have superpowers) while everyone else is completely mundane.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Thank you! Casual realism. That's what I've been trying to explain for the last several years on this site.

It's a very important concept because if you don't get it then you can go around making a lot of statements that aren't true. For example, you could claim that D&D "purists" like me don't like charisma added to damage, or forced movement, or warlords removing conditions. And none of that is in fact true. I like on some level all those things but I require an explanation for why it works, and that explanation has to be casually realistic and therefore the explanation will have some limitations. Like sure, you can make an attack that forces an enemy to move, but the the bigger the opponent is the less far you are likely to move them (if it all) because casual realism says that no matter how you are pushing something, if it is big and heavy it won't go as far. This means that you can take pretty much any mechanic and make problematic or non-problematic versions of it.

For example, you could have a mechanic that allowed you to add your charisma bonus to damage and I wouldn't be bothered if it gave nods to casual realism. Suppose I had a mechanic like "Master Elvish Blade Dancer: You've trained in the mystic art of elvish blade dancing, allowing you to kill with beauty and grace. When making melee attacks with a light or graceful bladed weapon you can add your charisma bonus to to the attack damage". Leaving aside questions of balance, notice what that doesn't say. It doesn't say your strength doesn't matter. A strong elvish blade dancer is more dangerous with weapons than one that isn't strong, and a weak elvish blade dancer while still more dangerous than other weak characters is still hampered by their lack of strength. It might not be a good idea for balance reasons to add the above mechanic but it doesn't harm for me casual realism the way a mechanic that let you straight up replace strength with charisma, because... how does that work? You probably could come up with a mechanic but it would be strained or it would probably heavily lean toward 'well everyone and everything is magic all the time'.

Likewise, I have no problem with being able to remove conditions just by yelling out instructions, but they have to be the sort of conditions where yelling out instructions or encouragement could conceivably remove the condition - problems of morale, problems of mind altering magic, problems of clarity, or whatever. But if you can't easily explain why yelling out the instructions or encouragement removed the problem because the problem was of physical nature, then you are harming casual realism. Maybe the instructions could help of a physical nature, allowing the target some advantage on their actions when trying to deal with them, but certain things can't be shouted away without again appealing to magic.
 
Last edited:

Celebrim

Legend
One small note - in my campaign world there is "mundane magic" that enhances everyday life, at least for some. The smith may be able to make a sword that will never, ever, rust. But it requires time and ritual, the smith may not even realize they're using magic because to them it's completely normal. They couldn't cast prestidigitation with the snap of their fingers if their life depended on it. It's not a level of Eberron, but it's there.

However I think that it should be setting specific, the spells listed in the book are those that are useful to PCs and specifically their focus on instantaneous combat magic. Whether something like this should be called out as an option in the official books is an open question. A lot of fantasy has a select few who can do magic (or have superpowers) while everyone else is completely mundane.

So, in my game world there are what I like to think of as NPC abilities which while in theory the PC's could take them if they wanted, they are typically more mundane in application than an adventurer really benefits from. They are build options that are most useful if you are going to live a mundane life, hold down a job, raise a family, and so forth. Or alternatively, they are most useful if you are in an army of people with similar training as you, but not so useful if you are effectively a commando raiding party.

So yes, it's perfectly reasonable to suggest that with enough skill in smithing and the right character building options that a mundane smith can make magical weapons and armor. It's certainly implied that some NPCs have this ability as far back as 1e D&D, there are just no options available for the PC's to learn those abilities. (This gets us into the topic of NPC classes.)

I personally like to have those spells and abilities called out, even if it was in an equipment/crafting supplement (which I've always thought should be a D&D core book).
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
If I use a d20 to make my elven wizard use a flame tongue sword to hit a goblin with X AC for YdZ+A damage, it's close enough to D&D for me.
 



But basically 'not D&D' is really just when the person doesn't like it anymore. Like when someone becomes 'not a True Scotsman'.
the fact that people think that any D&D doesn't count... even if somehow WotC published a d6 only west end games style and called it 'basic D*D' it would STILL be d&D even if it was very different
 


Celebrim

Legend
the fact that people think that any D&D doesn't count... even if somehow WotC published a d6 only west end games style and called it 'basic D*D' it would STILL be d&D even if it was very different

Yes.

So if the brand owner calls something D&D, then because they are the owner they are in some sense correct. Whatever the owner calls D&D is D&D in some sense.

But, it is also true that there is a brand identity that creates expectations amongst the consumers of that brand about the brand. For example, Coke Cola cannot just produce a product with any flavor it wants and say, "This is Coke Cola" because there is an existing strong expectation about what Coke Cola will taste like, and if the distinctive red logo cans suddenly start containing ginger ale, the consumers will be in a very real sense right to say "This isn't Coke Cola". And even if the new Coke Cola product differs only a very slight bit from the old one, the consumers not wrong to say "The new Coke Cola is not Coke Cola."

And that's not subjective. It may be subjective whether you like the new product, or how much departure from the old product you are able to stand, but it's not subjective whether or not the product is the product.

Of course, this analogy has limits. A game system is not the same as a beverage. A game system like Call of Cthulhu, now on it's 7th edition generally is agreed upon by all players to be Call of Cthulhu regardless of which edition you are playing. And if you blend in something that stretches the mechanics of Call of Cthulhu too much, you tend to see it rebranded as "Pulp Cthulhu" or the fact that it uses some other base system aside from BRP called out. There is some space that people seem to agree on that it is Call of Cthulhu.

And I think that is true of D&D as well. And the minute I see people claiming that space doesn't exist, I tend to think we are dealing with a covert passive aggressive ad hominem attack.
 

I see: races, ability scores, classes, HP, AC, equipment, and sometimes spells in a PHB as being D&D.
I see: monster abilities, monster special talents, and description in a MM being D&D.
I see: magic items, gods, and a mixture of campaign settings in a DMG as being D&D.
 


CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Thinking about this more and more, and returning to prior ideas I've had (generated from other games), did get me wondering:

How much could you change D&D (5E as the current version) and still feel like it is D&D?

UPDATE: Given some of the responses... My question is focused on 5E, and changes to it, that would make the next iteration NOT feel like D&D?
(So, references about prior versions isn't really the intended thrust.)
You know, I thought I smelled smoke coming from the "General Tabletop Discussion - Dungeons & Dragons" forum. :)

I've come to bask in the warmth of indignant nerds, and add my own fuel to the furnace!

What does D&D feel like, to me? It's poking at a chest with a ten-foot pole because you're terrified of mimics. It's finding a magic ring in a hoard of treasure. It's hearing that gasp of wonder from the players as you describe the secret door they just discovered. It's the players all high-fiving each other when the demogorgon fails its last save throw and is banished back to Hell. It's finding a clue etched into the pommel of a magic sword, and watching the blade ignite in blue flame when you guess the riddle correctly and learn the command word. It's "The Isle of Dread," it's "The Keep on the Borderlands," it's "Test of the Warlords."

Spaceships, ninjas, ESP, shotguns, and robots don't really "feel like D&D" to me. I already have G.U.R.P.S. on my bookshelf, right next to Stars Without Number and Call of Cthulhu. I have no interest in a "comedy D&D," or a "sci-fi D&D," or a "horror D&D." These will always be separate games in my mind.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Spaceships, ninjas, ESP, shotguns, and robots don't really "feel like D&D" to me. I already have G.U.R.P.S. on my bookshelf, right next to Stars Without Number and Call of Cthulhu. I have no interest in a "comedy D&D," or a "sci-fi D&D," or a "horror D&D." These will always be separate games in my mind.

It's interesting that I focused on mechanics, but you focused on flavor, and I think you are absolutely right that there are things that D&D absolutely has to have if it is D&D and that there are also things tangential enough to being D&D that their inclusion in the base game would seem sketchy to me.

But I think that even more so than mechanics, the exact space that that flavor was and where you drew the line could get fuzzy.

One thing I did notice is that there are virtually no iconic D&D monsters introduced since 1e. No monster introduced post 1e has really caught on that much. The closest we can get to that are things like Tieflings and Dragonborn where the monster became a much beloved PC race.

And yeah, "Tieflings" and "Dragonborn" don't feel like D&D to me, but I don't think I would go so far as to say that they aren't D&D. And most of the rest of the things you list, I can imagine things that don't feel like D&D but I can also imagine settings with those things that I would classify as D&D. Like Golems are basically robots, and Spelljammer though it isn't my thing is D&D. ESP exists in 1e AD&D, which is surely D&D if anything is, and so do ninjas. And while I don't include firearms in my campaign mostly because I don't find that they make the game better, I would be pretty happy to call a game that had firearms in it D&D.

But although I quibble about your particular choices, I do agree that if you changed enough flavor and removed enough of the things that we associate with the flavor of D&D that this would be a D20 game of some sort, but not D&D.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
It's interesting that I focused on mechanics, but you focused on flavor, and I think you are absolutely right that there are things that D&D absolutely has to have if it is D&D and that there are also things tangential enough to being D&D that their inclusion in the base game would seem sketchy to me.
[...]
But although I quibble about your particular choices, I do agree that if you changed enough flavor and removed enough of the things that we associate with the flavor of D&D that this would be a D20 game of some sort, but not D&D.
I think back to when I first started playing with the "red box" Basic: race and class were mashed together, there was no such thing as a "background" or a "feat," armor class was upside-down, and there were only 4 pieces of armor to choose from (leather, chain, plate, and shield).

But nobody can deny that Basic D&D in 1986 was just as much "Dungeons & Dragons" as the 5th Edition D&D is in 2022. So I don't think that mechanics define the game. To paraphrase one of my favorite geeks,
Wil Wheaton when asked if 4E was -real d&d- said:
If you're playing The Keep on the Borderlands, it's D&D.
 
Last edited:

Dungeon Delver's Guide

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top