How well do you predict non-OGL/CC games will do?


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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
Instead, I want to offer a more general poll. IF (and while possible, it's still speculation) WoTC's direction is to go digital behind paywalls with a much more limited license for the new version of D&D, which results in other companies putting out their own systems, how well do you think they will do?

The problem with the question is that we don't know how well they do now. We don't have a clear measure of "success".

How willing are you to learn and play a new system outside of D&D.

My first experience in RPGs was with Tunnels & Trolls. So, for me, picking up 1e was already learning and playing a new system. When Marvel Super Heroes came out, we played that. When Shadowrun came out, we played that. We tried Twilight 2000 and several other games that didn't really stick. In college, I played both d6 Star Wars and D&D. In grad school I played White Wolf and ran and played D&D. After grad school I have run multi-year campaigns of Classic Deadlands, Ashen Stars, and D&D. Over the pandemic I have played Fate Accelerated and D&D. And I'm about to see if I can get a group of folks together to play Old Gods of Appalachia.

I have never been a one-system player. I pick up new systems at the drop of a hat.

How willing are casual players or new players to do that?

That remains to be seen. How willing are casual computer gamers to play on a different platform?

Will big companies like Paizo, MCDM, and Kobold Press succeed with their own system?

WotC has, what, 1500 employees?

A web search tells me Paizo has 125 employees? I expect MCDM, Kobold Press, Evil Hat, Monte Cook, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, and others are more like a couple dozen or less each? None of these are "big" companies.
 
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Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I'm going to start with: this is not my bailiwick. I am not an expert on this, and know it.

So, here's my armchair thoughts.

People like to be right about big things. Psychologically. If they buy an expensive car, they will tell everyone how good the car is -- much more than if they bought a budget automobile.

The people who have kickstarted will try to get their groups to play these new games. Some will overcome inertia of other systems and succeed.

Many of these systems have something new to the market - they aren't coming from "publisher first" organizations, but from "social media first" organizations. At least Critical Role and MCDM. And that cult of personality, plus ongoing seeing it actually play, will have a different spin. This is where I'm firmly into "guess"-land.

Just like core books sell better than expansions, the kickstarter fervor for the new core systems will probably be the biggest bang we hear from the majority of them.

In the meantime, the idea of trying other system might facilitate more people trying RPGs that aren't the big players right now, which I think can only be for the good. Regardless if people stay with a different style of RPG, having experienced it and widened their horizons will benefit them in any RPG they play or run.

I do expect several of them to have staying power, but that doesn't mean breaking up D&D. The OGL debacle that spawned most of them is out-of-sight, out-of-mind - while there are Hasbro Haters out there and clickbait that will rile up against WotC, D&D has a critical mass that's hard to overcome. I don't think the mild move to the 50th Anniversary updates of D&D (or whatever you want to call it) will cause the conditions for a split like PF first stepped into. And without that, all it means is a bunch of competitors that will steal some players, but not at a rate that vastly outstrips new people coming into the hobby with D&D.

And that will leave D&D as the 800 lb gorilla, with a fractional ecosystem of well-known D&D-replacements feeding alongside.

Again, this isn't my wheelhouse, I say all this with as the best I think about it, but with a moderate to low confidence.
 

MGibster

Legend
I remember those days in the 80s and 90s where trying out new systems was pretty common. We'd switch between D&D, Palladium, Traveller, Twilight 2000, Top Secret, and other games. It seems to me (and I admit my experience is probably limited), everything is D&D.
I was going to post something about this in one of the other threads. In the 80s and 90s, I could head down to my local gaming store and find a lot of shelf space devoted to role playing games. In addition to a myraid of AD&D books, I see a ton of Palladium, GURPS, Traveller, Marvel Super Heroes, DC Heroes, Star Wars, Shadowrun, and a plethora of smaller games like Teenagers from Outerspace, Warpworld, or the critically acclaimed Cyborg Commando. When I go to the a typical game store in my neck of the Arkansas woods, the shelf space for RPGs is very limited with something like 70% or more of retail space devoted to D&D or derivative games.

If there's one thing I've come to appreciate over the years, is that the gaming community was so fragmented at the time that I can't take for granted that my experience was the norm. But the group I gamed with also switched games frequently. While AD&D was the game we played the most often, we played a lot of Palladium, Star Wars, GURPS, Marvel Super Heroes, and Cyberpunk. And I don't have much of a problem switching game systems with my current group of old people.

When, not if, but when, D&D declines in popularity with fewer new players joining the game, I do believe we'll see a decline in new players for other games as well. If WotC succeeds in building their walled garden where it becomes the norm to pay some sort of subscription fee for access to the game, I think that might have a negative effect as fewer players will venture out to purchase other games.

D&D with the OGL has succeeded in dominating the market with D&D or D&D-esque games and companies like Palladium and WW will never again reach the level of popularity
What's interesting is that in many ways there are more games available today than there were for many of us in the 80s-90s. While I've never seen Thirsty Sword Lesbians or Trail of Cthulhu at a game store, I do have easy access to them both online. I suspect you're right about companies like Palladium and White Wolf never reaching similar popularty. At least not any time soon.
 

aramis erak

Legend
Based on the other discussion prompted by Ben Riggs. I never posted in the thread here, but I did respond to him and James Lowder directly on the FB post they other day. The discussion was around how the OGL impacted non-d20 publishes. Ben said that the OGL helped 3PP but that wasn't really the issue James said. He said (and I agree) that the OGL hurt non-d20 publishers/games because it was designed to take out the competition.

Ben mentioned Free League and the One Ring being successful, which ironically supported what James and I were saying. I.e., Free League moved to the OGL and for a good reason.
The only OGL free league has used themselves is for TOR2's LOTR parallel.
And that largely wasn't their choice, so much as part of the deal with the designer (who holds the actual license).
There is an SRD for the YZE, but the compatibility marking is only for the Free League Workshop program.
Publishers started making D&D compatible products if they wanted any sales.
I've only bought 4 projects claiming D&D 5e compatibility, 2 of them sucked harder than the NASA space suit testing facility's air evacuation pumps. The other two (Monarchies of Mau/Pugmire, and SG-1) are significantly different.

Both have been profitable for their design teams, and have had significant merit for being different in key ways.
Instead, I want to offer a more general poll. IF (and while possible, it's still speculation) WoTC's direction is to go digital behind paywalls with a much more limited license for the new version of D&D, which results in other companies putting out their own systems, how well do you think they will do?

How willing are you to learn and play a new system outside of D&D.
In 2023 I've run Savage Worlds (in the Deadlands setting), Twilight 2000 4e, a hacked version of MegaTraveller, WFRP 1e, Alien, Blade Runner, and Cyclopedia edition D&D (Alston's edition, the sequel to BECMI; Denning's Big Black Basic was it's starter set).
Blade Runner came out this year. T2K 4e came out just as the pandemic lockdown was relaxing. I'd not run Savage Worlds before, but have had a copy since 2012 or so. I'd not run the Deadlands setting before (as DL as a standalone had a nightmare char gen according to my wife...).

I've run at least 1 new-to-me system every year since 1985. Many years 5+ new systems. This does count edition changes when they are identifiably by the contents of a hand-written sheet (due to att changes, or skill lists, or different weapon data, etc), or due to significant mechanical changes.

How willing are casual players or new players to do that?
Many casual players won't go behind the paywall, or will cheat and share accounts.
Pirate scans will hit the web as fast as people can break the DRM on the website.

Will big companies like Paizo, MCDM, and Kobold Press succeed with their own system?
For certain versions of "succeed", yes. I expect MCDM is going to make more than they would have by being a medium fish in the D&D pond... What I skimmed of the publicly available isn't in my interest zone, but it's good enough that I expect between his visibility and the extant fan base, it's going to, like Pathfinder, probably last.
Will it be as big as 3PP were in the late 80s with White Wolf, or are those days of non-D&D games being popular gone?
Knowing the actual numbers for GDW... Mongoose has sold more Traveller corebooks than Marc Miller has for any given edition save 1... the 190K and counting cores for Classic. I can't be sure, because Matt "I am Mongoose" Sprange is far less open about hard numbers than Marc is. Marc's getting a nice cut, but PDF of classic is still moving in interestingly large amounts. Large enough that Marc is working on a remastered edition of CT.

Do smaller companies have a chance of more than a dozen people or so people play their games (that's a bit hyperbole, but you get the point)?
Traveller has a thousand-a-month log-ins in its official forums, and hundred a month active posters. Most of the accounts identify as GM's. So, yeah, Marc's 4 person shop is doing sales. Matt's also doing a lot of sales of traveller, and Mongoose isn't exactly big.
Modiphius is actively selling new materials aplenty for its 2d20 lines... Star Trek and Dune, especially, but also Fallout.
Free League has two huge licenses - Alien and Blade Runner - plus a raft of in-house, and is serving as publisher for a number of 3pp's, including the runaway hit of Mork Borg. On top of that, they've splashed with Dragonbane and it's got a bunch of 3pp participants in the "Free League Workshop" programs...

The OGL debacle by WotC poured outside spotlites on the second tier, the third tier, and the toxic monopolistic behavior of WotC. HasBro ain't gonna close WotC, but they are going to try to get more monopolistic.

I also expect chatbots will get better... but they're not going to replace the group-at-table. They're going to get a lot of "can't find a group" types laments, much like a lot of my friends relied upon Infocom text adventures to bide us through lean gaming times.
 

The Sigil

Mr. 3000 (Words per post)
I think there are many dynamics at play here…

1. Like it or not, D&D is synonymous with Fantasy TTRPG. Other fantasy TTRPGs have always been dwarfed by D&D and while each tends to build up its own following, even PF2E (which I personally like) does not have what I would call “robust” third party support. It has some, but even in the 90’s when other RPGs were thick on the ground, for fantasy, D&D had the most support and until physical publishing goes the way of the dodo, I don’t expect that to change. Pathfinder seems to be to me a unique circumstance wherein a group that had worked as semi official D&D publishers (Dragon, Dungeon) got handed a legacy D&D version to build from (3.5e) that was popular at the time, something they could continue to support (thanks OGL) and that was succeeded by a version of D&D that was a sufficient break with tradition that the usual edition splintering handed them a built in following. That is not to demean Paulo - they still had to run with this and do great work - but I doubt we will see that confluence of events again soon.

For example, Kobold Press may have a legacy D&D version to build from and that the can continue to support (5e plus OGL), but I don’t foresee 6e (or whatever they are calling it now, everyone knows what I’m talking about and 6e is short to type) being so different from 5e as we saw with the chasm between 3e and 4e and thus I don’t think they will be handed the same type of a built in following as Pathfinder. Similarly, MCDM‘s system isn’t built on the 5e frame which means can’t be handed the same built in fan base familiar with 5e. I could go on but you get the point - there are pieces there for a number of games, but none of them get ALL the pieces Paulo got with PF.

2. As others have mentioned, White Wolf was the darling of the late 90’s, but it wasn’t Fantasy. Its theme was different enough that it could become The Modern Gothic Horror TTRPG. Similarly, Traveller and Star Wars were the “Space for Serious Folks” and “Space Opera” TTRPGs. Rifts was the “Post Apocalyptic Kitchen Sink” TTRPG. Cyberpunk was the “Gritty Dystopian Future” TTRPG... and so on. All of them were to some degree popularized by the cultural zeitgeist of the time outside TTRPGs - they had a built in young adult audience.

I’m probably too old to have my finger on the cultural zeitgeist now, and it is hard for me to come up with an RPG concept that might capture it… five years ago, a Superheroes RPG might have been the thing that could capture folks but there seems now to be superhero fatigue in the popular consciousness. Fifteen years ago ot might have been “magic meets modern” (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, etc.) and ten years ago it was probably “dystopian murder game shows” (Hunger Games, Divergent) or possibly sparkly vampires (Twilight) but those boats have all sailed and if I knew what the next big thing was going to be, I wouldn’t be posting it here - I would probably be trying to sell the idea to a mega corporation for branding.But until something comes along that combines both a tap into popular zeitgeist with unique feeling rules, my guess is we are in for a bit of a drought.

3. Balkanization is, I think, bad for the hobby. Twenty years ago, DriveThruRPG felt incredibly relevant and chock full of high quality stuff. Everybody that was releasing PDFs used the,. Now, a lot of companies sell through their own sites (and paywalls - proabably to cut out DTRPG’s cut), but there is also the problem that DTRPG has been flooded with both lower-quality and lower-page count materials alongside high quality materials and fully formed complete games get as much page space as someone’s three page half developed idea.

Similarly, it’s not always easy to find TTRPGs on Kickstarter and quite frankly, it seems they are all plagued with production delays and it is a PITA to keep up on all the useless updates people send until you can finally get the product you paid for. Worse, if you miss a kickstarter window, it is not always easy to pick up a product that might have had its Kickstarter a year or two ago. I have gotten some great stuff from Kickstarters and am still waiting on some more stuff I think will be great. But I will never back another Kickstarter again… I will just wait until the finished product is availbel for me to download now because the whole process has been drawn out and unpleasant for me (YMMV).

FLGS’s now carry just the big boys. They don’t carry much indie stuff - not enough profit. Walden books. Long gone. And besides, most publishing is PDF these days rather than physical.

In other words, it is becoming harder and harder to “stumble upon” stuff. If you already know what you want and who is making it, it is often easier to get than ever. But only having access to what you and your friends already know makes discovering harder. That will make word of mouth even more important In the future.

4. This kind of goes with the above, but physical (print) is dying, just like physical toys are dying. But I also don’t think VTTs in their current incarnation, trying to recreate a physical experience, are going to work (which is why I am pretty sanguine on the WotC VTT). I also think trying to incorporate video game tech into VTTs is a fool’s errand as video games will always do graphics better.

With all of this in mind, here is what I think.

Inertia will keep D&D at the top of the heap for a long time.
A Balkanized TTRPG space will allow many small publishers to make enough product to keep themselves happy.
in the mid term, PDFs will continue to be the publishing paradigm.
At some point in the next ten years, one or two original games will come out with “fresh mechanics” and themed to the popular zeitgeist that will let them eclipse everything else in their niche.
Someone will invent the “killer app” for RPG play that moves them off the tabletop and into a mobile device. This will more closely resemble old “play by mail” games than “augmented reality” by which I mean there will be short daily bursts of actions/updates with pauses in between so you don’t have to coordinate synchronous online time - supporting asynchronous play in a clever manner will be the killer app.
People will still play OSRIC and the younger generation will find TTRPGs quaint and prefer the new tech in the same way they find Atari 2600s quaint and don’t begrudge grognards fdor using them but they would rather play their PS5s today.

Looking forward to seeing how wrong I am in a couple years’ time.
 

delericho

Legend
Will big companies like Paizo, MCDM, and Kobold Press succeed with their own system? Will it be as big as 3PP were in the late 80s with White Wolf, or are those days of non-D&D games being popular gone?

I think Paizo will continue to do okay, but will probably enter a period of slow but unavoidable decline. I think other "known" companies are already a bit late to the game, but will likewise be okay-ish albeit with the same slow, unavoidable decline.

I think everyone else is now dead in the water.
 


I think Paizo will continue to do okay, but will probably enter a period of slow but unavoidable decline. I think other "known" companies are already a bit late to the game, but will likewise be okay-ish albeit with the same slow, unavoidable decline.

I think everyone else is now dead in the water.
There seem to be quite a few companies that are expanding into new markets or releasing more products. Even some older ones (Chaosium is a prime example) that are releasing more material than they were a few years ago.

One thing I will note, please don't assume all countries are the same and D&D is the main game in town. In most of the world that simply isn't true, and it's perfectly possible for a company to become active in English-speaking markets - Free League would be a clear example and also a company that's doing rather well for itself away from D&D. Free League do have their Workshop program for most of their games (not One Ring, I assume due to it being a licenced property). Whether people consider being allowed to produce material for a game equivalent to having an OGL/CC is a matter of your perspective, I suppose.
 

delericho

Legend
There seem to be quite a few companies that are expanding into new markets or releasing more products. Even some older ones (Chaosium is a prime example) that are releasing more material than they were a few years ago.
True. I was replying in the context of the near-D&D games specifically (Pathfinder, TotV, etc) - for others, different rules apply.
 

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