5.5E I think we are on the cusp of a sea change.


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Depends if you mean a traditional setting with 2021 sensibilities or a setting built from the ground up for 2021 gamers.
Well I was thinking a fantasy setting that runs on the current system and has a mind for the modern idea of fantasy.
I continue to run a campaign. The D&D police haven't broken down my door yet. Does that count? ;)
I mean me too, been running since 96ish but regularly since 2001. I have plenty of my own ideas and campaign settings, but I mean a WotC setting.
 

I don't know a ton about Exandria...seems pretty generic in a lot of ways?
It is. Honestly I don't feel like it's all that different from Eberron in some ways, a different, more high fantasy, less pulp-y vibe, but they're both pretty modern. Honestly if we're just looking at social elements, I think you could pretty much reprint Eberron and say it was "new for 2021" and few, if any people would question it. There's probably more subtle inclusiveness in Exandria, but it's not a huge gap and 99% of what people are mad about about 5E changes is basically already the case in Eberron in 2004.

I think if you went beyond the social elements and looked at what might be attractive to the "new 40 million" or however we want to call them, then just generally you're probably looking at well, yeah kitchen-sink-y settings which are probably a bit more "over the top", really high fantasy, high magic (a la MtG, WoW, etc.) and a bit less grounded. But with that many people, there's bound to be some significant diversity in what groups want, it's unavoidable.

I do think the kind of semi-realist settings that might once have been seen as cool aren't going to be as popular, but who am I kidding, that trend started in like the 1990s, with Spelljammer and Planescape (and in a weird way, Dark Sun). Spelljammer is as high magic and over-the-top as you could possibly want. I think settings like my beloved Taladas or my bro's beloved Birthright are right out, and I don't mourn for that really. Likewise Greyhawk or Dragonlance, because they're just not really that vibe.

Of course I should be in bed so I'm probably rambling nonsensically.

Just listing traits as a bullet point for 2021:

Setting is inclusive/diverse (little in the way of sexism/racism/homophobia etc. - D&D has always avoided the latter for the most part).
Setting is "High Magic" - i.e. like strongly magical things can and do regularly happen.
Setting is "High Fantasy" - or "Epic Fantasy", as opposed to "Dark Fantasy" or "Low Fantasy".
Setting allows kitchen-sink-ish usage of elements like class/race, isn't about narrowing options

I guess underlying this would be that a lot of people's vision of fantasy now is shaped more by video games (Western and Eastern), animation (not all of it anime, note, Disney and Avatar and so on are also in the mix) and so on rather than fantasy novels, let alone pulp fantasy/short stories which were a major influence on 1E. I don't think GoT or the LotR movies have had much impact on the fantasy people are running in D&D.

Not hugely different from 2004, say, and only a little different from 1994, say, but pretty different from say 1984.
 

Reynard

Legend
I mean me too, been running since 96ish but regularly since 2001. I have plenty of my own ideas and campaign settings, but I mean a WotC setting.
I couldn't guess at specifics but I would definitely say "overly ambitious." Attempts to be inclusive and show breadth would lead to a huge world of a bunch of cultural archetypes either "done correctly" or intentionally built against type. There would be too many playable races and by extension races with prominent positions in the setting, and few if any would get their due because of it. I would also bet that it would spend a lot of time trying to.conv8nce the reader that every kind of adventure you can think of would fit perfectly in every part of the setting, ultimately making every part of the setting bland and similar.
 

Oofta

Legend
Well I was thinking a fantasy setting that runs on the current system and has a mind for the modern idea of fantasy.

I mean me too, been running since 96ish but regularly since 2001. I have plenty of my own ideas and campaign settings, but I mean a WotC setting.
I know. But it's an issue with all big company mass media isn't it? How many Spider-Man movies have we had?

The safe thing is to mine familiar IPs and do relatively small things like Strixhaven. I don't expect to see a big release of a new campaign world anytime soon.
 

I couldn't guess at specifics but I would definitely say "overly ambitious." Attempts to be inclusive and show breadth would lead to a huge world of a bunch of cultural archetypes either "done correctly" or intentionally built against type. There would be too many playable races and by extension races with prominent positions in the setting, and few if any would get their due because of it. I would also bet that it would spend a lot of time trying to.conv8nce the reader that every kind of adventure you can think of would fit perfectly in every part of the setting, ultimately making every part of the setting bland and similar.
i.e. the forgotten realms
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Well I was thinking a fantasy setting that runs on the current system and has a mind for the modern idea of fantasy.

Then you are looking like something out of a slightly comedic seinen fantasy anime.

High magic and high martial with gritty political intrigue and you'd need a wiki to keep tract of the different factions, religions, and alliances.

Basically Exandria and Thedas having a baby and letting Westeros and Konosuba babysit all the time.
 


Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Just to name a few; Fizban's Treasury of Dragons, Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, and Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden.
And before that, Dungeon of the Mad Mage and Tales from the Yawning Portal.

But truly I find the entire premise of this "everything is going to change for a new audience" to be silly. That "new audience" is playing more online using Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds than at any point in the history of the game, and online play tends to favor much more tactical combat than story gaming. People are using light radius and precise movement more - it's not trending to story gaming just because streamers tend that way. Streamers are not the majority of the game - people who watch them might be, but when those people actually play the game they seem to be playing using a platform which favors more tactical combat right now.

The pandemic has driven people to play remotely - and this entire generation is now used to playing remotely more rather than in-person. It's in-person play which favors a more story-gaming approach (and streamer tend to play in-person), and that looks to be on the downswing right now.
 


guachi

Adventurer
I don't know a ton about Exandria...seems pretty generic in a lot of ways?

I don't know a lot, either, aside from it being the Critical Role setting and that my college friend who is now 49 loves it and she has started DMing an online campaign I am a player in. My extremely limited understanding is that it's pretty generic with good background details of the various countries and locations.

Generic isn't a bad thing. My favorite world is Mystara and its basics are thoroughly generic with the hallmark (when done right) being a bit gonzo and nations with great detail. It's built on the foundations of BECMI and doesn't stray too far from it. In fact, it uses the rules to explain why the world is the way it is. E.g., the elf gazetteer explains why there are no half elves. The Glantri book uses the fact that dwarves and halflings can't be magic-users and have high magic resistance to good effect, imo.

In other words, being generic isn't a problem if there is enough on the culture and background of the locations to make it interesting. And my understanding is Exandria succeeds in that.
 

I don't know a lot, either, aside from it being the Critical Role setting and that my college friend who is now 49 loves it and she has started DMing an online campaign I am a player in. My extremely limited understanding is that it's pretty generic with good background details of the various countries and locations.

Generic isn't a bad thing. My favorite world is Mystara and its basics are thoroughly generic with the hallmark (when done right) being a bit gonzo and nations with great detail. It's built on the foundations of BECMI and doesn't stray too far from it. In fact, it uses the rules to explain why the world is the way it is. E.g., the elf gazetteer explains why there are no half elves. The Glantri book uses the fact that dwarves and halflings can't be magic-users and have high magic resistance to good effect, imo.

In other words, being generic isn't a problem if there is enough on the culture and background of the locations to make it interesting. And my understanding is Exandria succeeds in that.
Generic is perfectly fine. I just don't see it as a particularly "2021" setting. Then again, I don't think what the "kids nowadays" want from high fantasy is something markedly different from standard high fantasy convention. Hence, no "sea change"
 


S'mon

Legend
But how would that attract bunches of people? I don't think there's a particular correlation between being annoyed with 5E's changes and liking "dark fantasy" (also I would question whether Midgard is "dark fantasy". If it is, Earthdawn definitely, and a whole lot of stuff is - arguably Golarion is even, it's about as dark as Midgard). It seems like the people who are "stomping their foot" mad are all mad about stuff like non-all-evil orcs and so on, so you'd have to go a bit further than that.

Outside of D&D I think the most popular fantasy settings tend to be stuff like The Witcher and Game of Thrones, mostly not super dark but certainly much darker than D&D's current direction. I'd tend to put Golarion in there too, yup, at least 1e Golarion. Runelord Sorshen spontaneously deciding to be non-evil and non-lustful in Return of the Runelords felt very odd* to me, and I've not followed the setting in 2e.

*Although I did stick with it in my own Runelords campaign, I just don't obligate the players to side with her.
 

Outside of D&D I think the most popular fantasy settings tend to be stuff like The Witcher and Game of Thrones, mostly not super dark but certainly much darker than D&D's current direction. I'd tend to put Golarion in there too, yup, at least 1e Golarion. Runelord Sorshen spontaneously deciding to be non-evil and non-lustful in Return of the Runelords felt very odd* to me, and I've not followed the setting in 2e.

*Although I did stick with it in my own Runelords campaign, I just don't obligate the players to side with her.
I do find it odd that official D&D is not a good emulator for that kind of fantasy, at least in tone. I guess there's more money in light and cheerful. Anyway, plenty of 3rd party products handle that stuff well.
 

Generic is perfectly fine. I just don't see it as a particularly "2021" setting. Then again, I don't think what the "kids nowadays" want from high fantasy is something markedly different from standard high fantasy convention. Hence, no "sea change"
If you use phrases like "kids nowadays" then you are probably out of touch with what kids nowadays want.

As mentioned a couple of posts up there is an Eastern influence - particularly Japanese and Korean - that simply wasn't there in the 1970s. The main feature is the Eastern style sees nothing strange in mixing magic and swords with a modern or futuristic setting. So the idea that medieval Europe as the default fantasy setting is being squeezed. If you read something like Barrier Peaks, you see sci fi tropes being described based on the assumption that the player characters have a medieval mindset.
 

Outside of D&D I think the most popular fantasy settings tend to be stuff like The Witcher and Game of Thrones, mostly not super dark but certainly much darker than D&D's current direction.
Definitely but I don't see any indications that any group of 5E players (whether 20-somethings or 40-somethings or whatever) particularly wants their D&D settings to be like that.

Otherwise darker settings would sell like hot cakes, wouldn't they? And in fact they don't. For your theory to work, there would have to be this unmet demand for that stuff. But the demand is absolutely met. Even beyond D&D, there are tons of "dark fantasy" RPGs, Shadow of the Demon Lord being an obvious one. Are they hideously successful? Not really. They do fine. It certainly looks like demand is met there.

So I would say that evidence suggests that the people who watch GoT and The Witcher, do not want to play out GoT or The Witcher in a TTRPG. YMMV.

EDIT - As an aside, whilst it didn't blow up the world, the Shadow and Bone show for Netflix is based on a series which roughly Witcher-dark, and which shows perhaps a take which is closer to how TTRPG doing "dark fantasy" in those kinds of settings might look. It was successful but I don't think a mind-blowing hit.

Further, I think a lot of it on TV is just about spin. Like, look at the Wheel of Time show. Firstly it's pretty great, I was shocked, the books are dull, but the show starts "Eh" and becomes "HELL YEAH!", but the show FEELS like 10x darker than the books. It isn't. It's the roughly the same events, but for some reason seeing them, hearing them, all that - wow that's a lot scarier than reading them (this is not always the case - I think it shows a limitation Jordan had as a writer but feel free to disagree). So what I would call "normal fantasy" in terms of darkness - WoT - comes across as pretty damn scary. I mean I think you could spin the FR or Eberron to be pretty "dark" if you wanted to. It's just on how you describe things and what you choose to happen.
 
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Definitely but I don't see any indications that any group of 5E players (whether 20-somethings or 40-somethings or whatever) particularly wants their D&D settings to be like that.

Otherwise darker settings would sell like hot cakes, wouldn't they? And in fact they don't. For your theory to work, there would have to be this unmet demand for that stuff. But the demand is absolutely met. Even beyond D&D, there are tons of "dark fantasy" RPGs, Shadow of the Demon Lord being an obvious one. Are they hideously successful? Not really. They do fine. It certainly looks like demand is met there.

So I would say that evidence suggests that the people who watch GoT and The Witcher, do not want to play out GoT or The Witcher in a TTRPG. YMMV.

EDIT - As an aside, whilst it didn't blow up the world, the Shadow and Bone show for Netflix is based on a series which roughly Witcher-dark, and which shows perhaps a take which is closer to how TTRPG doing "dark fantasy" in those kinds of settings might look. It was successful but I don't think a mind-blowing hit.

Further, I think a lot of it on TV is just about spin. Like, look at the Wheel of Time show. Firstly it's pretty great, I was shocked, the books are dull, but the show starts "Eh" and becomes "HELL YEAH!", but the show FEELS like 10x darker than the books. It isn't. It's the roughly the same events, but for some reason seeing them, hearing them, all that - wow that's a lot scarier than reading them (this is not always the case - I think it shows a limitation Jordan had as a writer but feel free to disagree). So what I would call "normal fantasy" in terms of darkness - WoT - comes across as pretty damn scary. I mean I think you could spin the FR or Eberron to be pretty "dark" if you wanted to. It's just on how you describe things and what you choose to happen.
I think fantasy TV is like DC superhero movies. The film makers think that for them to appeal to older audiences they have to be super-dark, when really, what the audience wants in Marvel.
 

I think fantasy TV is like DC superhero movies. The film makers think that for them to appeal to older audiences they have to be super-dark, when really, what the audience wants in Marvel.
MCU stuff definitely consistently feels more like superhero RPGs I've actually played with actual players lol, what with all the quips and backslapping and rivalry and general "party of adventurers" vibe they often have.

That said the most purely "fun" superhero movie I've seen in recent years was DC - Aquaman. It rocks by the way. But it absolutely felt like an MCU movie (I suspect Marvel is seething that their main Aquaman-type's central personality trait is "He's a tremendous jerk" so Namor is probably not getting his own movie lol).
 

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