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


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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
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
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
Legally speaking, absolutely. But I prefer not to think exclusively in those terms. If I did, Level Up wouldn't be D&D, and to me it absolutely is.
 

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 (He/They)
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 (He/They)
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.
 
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