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D&D General If D&D were created today, what would it look like?

JEB

Adventurer
Advent, Zork, et al. all post-date the release of D&D which means there's now no way of knowing how much influence D&D had on their design.

CYOA might have been around earlier in some form.
Ah, you must have missed this earlier in the thread then:

A lot of people are noting that without DnD we would not have gotten a lot of the early computer rpgs that were so foundational to that medium, but I think there's another source that might have led to a similar idea: Choose-your-own-adventure books. Choose Your Own Adventure - Wikipedia

The first book in the genre was written in 1970 (and came out in 1976), so it's likely to have happened without DnD (there's no mention of rpg's in the origin story). And this genre has the same big advantage as turn-based rpgs had in early video game development: it's very easy to code.

(Also, they would have taken off in Japan for much the same reason: it takes a lot less memory to store text as kanji than it does using the Latin alphabet, for the same amount of words.)

If a well-written one had appeared early in the systems, a lot of imitators would have followed, since even a very novice coder could expect to finish a product. And as people iterated on the idea, it probably wouldn't be long before people make the decision trees a little more complex - they might randomize certain outcomes, add inventory which changes available choices, and so on (cf the Lone Wolf series of gamebooks). They might even switch to minigames as deciders if you succeed or fail at a task.

And, of course, visuals. Pictures (at least) for every 'page', maybe animations as tech improves.

This could lead to something very similar to the crpgs we got in the 80's, (but a bit more story-game-focused) with further progress from there. The biggest differences would be: it's unlikely that turn-based combat would be the go-to for resolving conflicts with other characters, and the focus on progression (ie leveling up) would be a lot softer, making that concept a lot less pervasive than it is real video games. But someone would have realized people like it when their character gets stronger, so that would have come eventually.
I personally think that's pretty plausible.

In D&D absence:

  • Wargames would get more digitized into TBS and RTS games. Warcraft will likely not be a thing but the AU will have its own Warcraft from another dev. Possible a major LOTR or Historic RTS in the 90s. If RTSes survive to 2021, I see a major ASOIAF RTS with hero units based of major characters.
Absolutely agreed that nothing would stop wargames from making the leap to computer games (strategy and RTS), just like they did in our history. And it seems pretty plausible that there'd eventually be fantasy versions. (Assuming by "its own Warcraft" you don't literally mean Warcraft, but "a fantasy wargame".) If nothing else we surely see the LOTR wargames we got after the movies in the 2000s.

(I will reiterate my skepticism about ASOIAF/GOT, though. GRRM was into RPGs and had mainly been a SF/horror writer - including on the RPG-based Wild Cards universe - before he got into fantasy fiction. It's not impossible, but it also strikes me as in doubt.)

  • LARP would continue and be more mythical with no D&D influence. It too might hit computers and online and develop classes based on whatever is popular in the 80s and 90s.
I was ready to cast doubt on LARPs existing, but according to Wikipedia it doesn't really depend on D&D for its origins. (I bet it's called something else, though, since the term "role-playing game" wouldn't have likely been widely used by the late 1970s/early 1980s, when LARP was catching on.) On the other hand, it sounds like D&D's influence was important to popularizing them, so they're probably much more niche than in our timeline (which is saying something). Also, I'm not sure LARPs in our history ever influenced video games, so it also seems less likely in this timeline.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Well if this AUD&D is it's 0e or 1e, then with classes you are trying to guess which fantasy characters will be:
  1. Popular in 2021 and decade before
  2. Could form in a D&Dless world
  3. Don't fit in a generic Fighter/Rogue/Wizard skeleton without needing a boatload of houserules
  4. Could be adapted to a Medieval setting
So in 2021, you got
  • The Gandalf
  • The Conan and Fafhrd
  • The Aragorn
  • The Dread Pirate Roberts, Musketeer, and Jack Sparrow
  • The Harry Potter
  • The Jedi and Anime Samurai
  • The Goku/Kenshiro
  • The X-men and The Bender

Who am I missing for the "book 1"?
The Fezzik/Ludo/Scorpia/ ie The Big Guy

The Assassin

The Jaskier/ the morale guy

Off the top of my head.

Also I don’t think AUDnD would be nearly as Medieval as RLDnD.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
(I will reiterate my skepticism about ASOIAF/GOT, though. GRRM was into RPGs and had mainly been a SF/horror writer - including on the RPG-based Wild Cards universe - before he got into fantasy fiction. It's not impossible, but it also strikes me as in doubt.)

Seeing that ASOIAF is the War of the Roses Gone Crazy, GRRM might have still made it. It would look different though. The Dragons might be Gryphons.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
That's your bias showing.

If D&D were created today, as in February 2021, and it was made for general audiences.... D&D would have a lot of anime/manga influence. There would be systems to mimic the weapon and magic styles found in anime/manga and it likely would not mesh with more classical Western styles.

It would impossible to have fewer classes without watering down what those classes are.

I'm looking at major TV shows, video games and movies in last decade or so. Triple Aaa games prestige things like GoT.



I think rpgs still would have been invented via video games if nothing else.
 
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Then what class is the third guard on the left in the king's throne room, or the experienced town militiaman at the gate? These are nothing more than "generic fighting people", and there's boatloads of them in any typical setting. Some of them are going to get rather good at what they do (which is generically fight); and some of those will likely end up adventuring. Might as well give 'em their own class, eh?
Yeah what I'm saying is, and you're sort of agreeing with via examples is that those are people who aren't adventurers/heroes. Those people who don't have their own books. They're not as skilled at fighting as the sort of people PCs are. That's why those examples - they're side-characters and people who don't have lines and get summarily defeated by the main characters. There's nothing distinctive or special about them. If they did have a book about them, suddenly they'd be more distinctive and specially trained, like the dude in Legend (the book, not the movie), who ends up basically as a "Barbarian"-type character at the core. Less is more - they're not going to have a million classes in book one, though I expect they would have a lot more "fighting person" classes than D&D.

I mean, if we look at someone like Vimes in Guards, Guards, he's an investigator and negotiator and not a particularly special fighter. Though maybe that's an interesting point? Would see a Sherlock Holmes/Brother Cadfael/The Name of the Rose/etc. class? I think if there was a "skill monkey"-type class, that's what we'd be looking at. Like everone in AUD&D he's basically competent at fighting and has his own style (Sherlock had his Savate/stick-fighting, Cadfael was an ex-crusader, etc.), but maybe his "main deal" is investigation stuff - like maybe investigating things fill the same sort of role in AUD&D that traps and locks did in earlier D&D in our history?
 


Doubtful. There is a STRONG Elric and Melnibonéan influence on the Valyrians so there likely would still be dragons.
Agree.

Whilst GRRM has been heavily involved with RPGs, and might not be the writer he is without them, ASoIaF is something which could happen without them. The key influences are history, Tolkien and Moorcock, with the odd Lovecraftian flair. He wrote it specifically because he wanted to write something which was far beyond what could ever be on TV (hahahaha seriously he did though). I can't think of anything about it which is really inspired by or derived from RPGs rather than those sources. If anything, D&D's recent rise in prominence has been helped by broader cultural acceptance of fantasy from stuff like GoT. It's very hard to take a dump on a dude playing an elf when you're watching a show full of dragon princess romance and weeping over the death of brave giants who were fighting ice zombies.

His superhero stuff is a totally different case and I am pretty sure would be very different without RPGs, but has never been terribly successful in the mainstream (even the sub-mainstream of written fantasy/SF).
 

Aldarc

Legend
The move to RPGs does not exactly seem all that arduous of a task as some people make it out to be. It's sometimes a regular process of games. Even if we account for the fact that fantasy video games have been influenced by D&D, we can see how certain games have drifted towards RPGs from different genres.

Warcraft started as the RTS game Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. The sequel Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness followed up on the prior formula. Then in the expansion pack Warcraft 2: Beyond the Dark Portal, the game introduced more specialized hero units, which was greatly expanded on in Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos. WC3 brought in specialized hero units that were stronger than regular units, had unique abilities, and could even level up and acquire magic items found in the map. The game also shifted from larger armies and nations to smaller ones centered around the stories of hero characters. WoW was actually in co-development behind the scenes as WC3, but over time the Warcraft series shifted from the stories to the individual level, with World of Warcraft being the ground-eye individualistic level of an RTS game. It's much how D&D was a tactical skirmish game that came from war gaming roots. All it takes is one person to ask "what would it be like to play as a single unit in this game in this world?"
 

Advent, Zork, et al. all post-date the release of D&D which means there's now no way of knowing how much influence D&D had on their design.

CYOA might have been around earlier in some form.
The first CYOA book was written in 1970, and published in '76.

I theorize that would be the root of the genre that fills the jrpg niche (well, visual novels, but they'd be more popular without jrpgs to compete with.) I could even see that leading to more story-game elements in other genres, so even something like Secret of Mana (Zelda + storygame) or Fire Emblem (wargame + story game) could happen.

But turn-based squad level combat might very well never have been a thing in video games, so the odds of them being a direct root for 2021 DnD is slim.
 

Bawylie

A very OK person
It would look something like a Star Wars the Old Republic / Minecraft / No Man’s Sky / Animal Crossing amalgamation without discrete classes or levels. Targeted advancements perhaps. Robust multi-player / pvp, and raid style over world adventuring against AI controlled baddies. Definitely an MMO.

Rare resources would be like crypto currency. And they would do things that ordinary resources could not do. Some would be useful for building, some for crafting vehicles, some for crafting gear.

All cities, ships, and infrastructure would be strictly player-built. Tech advancements would unlock as the world upgraded. Meaning that additional rare materials and rarer materials would become available as players build up the world.
 

The move to RPGs does not exactly seem all that arduous of a task as some people make it out to be. It's sometimes a regular process of games. Even if we account for the fact that fantasy video games have been influenced by D&D, we can see how certain games have drifted towards RPGs from different genres.

Warcraft started as the RTS game Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. The sequel Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness followed up on the prior formula. Then in the expansion pack Warcraft 2: Beyond the Dark Portal, the game introduced more specialized hero units, which was greatly expanded on in Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos. WC3 brought in specialized hero units that were stronger than regular units, had unique abilities, and could even level up and acquire magic items found in the map. The game also shifted from larger armies and nations to smaller ones centered around the stories of hero characters. WoW was actually in co-development behind the scenes as WC3, but over time the Warcraft series shifted from the stories to the individual level, with World of Warcraft being the ground-eye individualistic level of an RTS game. It's much how D&D was a tactical skirmish game that came from war gaming roots. All it takes is one person to ask "what would it be like to play as a single unit in this game in this world?"
As illustrated earlier in this thread, and am too lazy to re-write, Aldarc, not, this is not true.

We already discussed how it's easy to move to "what if you control one unit", but that just makes it a peculiar wargame, like 40K's 2001 Inquisitor wargame, not an RPG. An RPG entails more than playing just one character in a wargame. And I think modern tech and design would actively inhibit doing more, because people are so used to operating inside boxes.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
The first CYOA book was written in 1970, and published in '76.

I theorize that would be the root of the genre that fills the jrpg niche (well, visual novels, but they'd be more popular without jrpgs to compete with.)
Visual Novels.

Dare Pelor if AUD&D is built of visual novels. Better not dump Charisma of Warlock-chan will Eldritch Blast you so hard.

Although having so many Cha classes would start to make sense.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Yeah what I'm saying is, and you're sort of agreeing with via examples is that those are people who aren't adventurers/heroes.
At that time, yes. What I'm also saying (maybe not very clearly) is that those are exactly the sort of people with the potential to become adventurers/heroes and should be able to do so without changing anything about what they do other than - as time passes - get better at it.
Those people who don't have their own books. They're not as skilled at fighting as the sort of people PCs are.
Here we might get into a debate re PC vs NPC builds: to me, a 1st-level NPC Fighter guard is mechanically exactly the same as a 1st-level PC Fighter. They're interchangeable, such that if the PC Fighter drops dead the player could take over the NPC guard without missing a beat. (or, when the player rolls up another Fighter, its backstory could suggest that up till now it was that third guard on the left)

This is to maintain internal setting consistency, which gets blown up if PCs and NPCs operate by different rules.
That's why those examples - they're side-characters and people who don't have lines and get summarily defeated by the main characters. There's nothing distinctive or special about them. If they did have a book about them, suddenly they'd be more distinctive and specially trained,
More distinctive, yes. But specially trained? Why would this be necessary?
like the dude in Legend (the book, not the movie), who ends up basically as a "Barbarian"-type character at the core. Less is more - they're not going to have a million classes in book one, though I expect they would have a lot more "fighting person" classes than D&D.
I agree there'd be more warrior types than D&D has. I just think one of those would be a very generic "Fighter"-type class without really any special abilities at all other than being handy with a weapon and reasonably tough.
I mean, if we look at someone like Vimes in Guards, Guards, he's an investigator and negotiator and not a particularly special fighter. Though maybe that's an interesting point? Would see a Sherlock Holmes/Brother Cadfael/The Name of the Rose/etc. class? I think if there was a "skill monkey"-type class, that's what we'd be looking at. Like everone in AUD&D he's basically competent at fighting and has his own style (Sherlock had his Savate/stick-fighting, Cadfael was an ex-crusader, etc.), but maybe his "main deal" is investigation stuff - like maybe investigating things fill the same sort of role in AUD&D that traps and locks did in earlier D&D in our history?
Don't know Guards, sorry.

But otherwise, you could be right: maybe almost everyone would be a warrior-plus. (though at some point game balance concerns would doubtless rein this in)
 

Aldarc

Legend
As illustrated earlier in this thread, and am too lazy to re-write, Aldarc, not, this is not true.

We already discussed how it's easy to move to "what if you control one unit", but that just makes it a peculiar wargame, like 40K's 2001 Inquisitor wargame, not an RPG. An RPG entails more than playing just one character in a wargame. And I think modern tech and design would actively inhibit doing more, because people are so used to operating inside boxes.
/sigh. If you want to practice Grade A pedantry, sure, additional steps are required, but my point was to illustrate that a move from armies to the perspective of the individual was something that we have seen elsewhere in gaming, so it's likely that it was only a matter of when not if there was the leap into what would become RPGs.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
... it's likely that it was only a matter of when not if there was the leap into what would become RPGs.
With this I agree; though I suppose there's the slight possibility that the 'when' falls in what's now our future, i.e. the leap will happen but hasn't yet.

But assuming the leap has already happened the question then becomes threefold: what those RPGs might look like (i.e. whether their game-mechanics systems would bear any resemblance to anything we have now); when they might have emerged (could be anytime from the 1970s to now); and from what roots that leap-to-RPGs might have sprung.

All kinds of interesting theories have been put forward in this thread in answer to one or more of these three questions.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I agree there'd be more warrior types than D&D has. I just think one of those would be a very generic "Fighter"-type class without really any special abilities at all other than being handy with a weapon and reasonably tough.

The Generic Fighter wouldn't be that generic. It would be fully embracing whatever archetypes not taken by the other warrior classes.

If Swashbuckler, Knight, Barbarian, Jedi, and Monk are classes, the Fighter will snag the role of the chainmail wearing professional sellsword who is good but not best at everything combat related.
 

Don't know Guards, sorry.
This is an error on your part you would be happy if you rectified.

Guards! Guards! is one of the early Discworld novels. It's entire schtick is that it is a fantasy story not about about the heroic adventurers, but about the poor, innocent third guards on the left that the adventurers beat up, just because they're trying to do their jobs.
 

Puddles

Explorer
This is an interesting thread (I will say, I haven’t read all 16 pages though!)

One thought I had comes from the following video:

(This is a great channel btw that I fully recommend). In this video it’s argued that one of the major differences between JRPGs and Western CRPGs is in the latter you play a set character or roster rather than create your own character, and that was due to the limitation of game console cartridges having limited memory.

Presuming JPRGs develop without D&D but Western CRPGs don’t, it might be the case that modern TTRPG have much less emphasis on creating your own character. It could be that when you buy Rime of the Frostmaiden you get a set of characters to play through the story with and this is something the book is tailored for, (I imagine part of the fun might be finding out the epic backstory of your own character as it’s revealed by the DM.)
 
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It's essentially impossible to speculate on the results of 40 years of alternative development that FAILS to lead to the creation of D&D, especially when you have to specifically discount the enormous influence that D&D did have over those 40 years in the real world. Enough weight to influence the development of computer games and then in turn BE influenced by those same computer games in its own future development. If you establish more givens of X is created, Y happens but Z does NOT happen... and THEN ask what does D&D then look like when it's created, the speculation will mean something. It's even easier to ask: What do OTHER RPG's that were invented after 1974 look like when invented without original D&D to influence them? But to posit that D&D doesn't get invented, then 40 years of other stuff happens, and THEN D&D is created so instead of being the influence itself, it is influenced by all the other speculative 40 years of development? There's just nothing solid to base arguments on. Define specifically what happened in the 4 decades before D&D is invented this afternoon and I can speculate what that might look like. But the OP isn't really asking what D&D looks like - it asks what the 4 decades looks like WITHOUT D&D (even if it hadn't intended to). And as with any decent alternative history, you deal quite quickly with the butterfly effect.
 

JEB

Adventurer
It's essentially impossible to speculate on the results of 40 years of alternative development that FAILS to lead to the creation of D&D, especially when you have to specifically discount the enormous influence that D&D did have over those 40 years in the real world. Enough weight to influence the development of computer games and then in turn BE influenced by those same computer games in its own future development. If you establish more givens of X is created, Y happens but Z does NOT happen... and THEN ask what does D&D then look like when it's created, the speculation will mean something. It's even easier to ask: What do OTHER RPG's that were invented after 1974 look like when invented without original D&D to influence them? But to posit that D&D doesn't get invented, then 40 years of other stuff happens, and THEN D&D is created so instead of being the influence itself, it is influenced by all the other speculative 40 years of development? There's just nothing solid to base arguments on. Define specifically what happened in the 4 decades before D&D is invented this afternoon and I can speculate what that might look like. But the OP isn't really asking what D&D looks like - it asks what the 4 decades looks like WITHOUT D&D (even if it hadn't intended to). And as with any decent alternative history, you deal quite quickly with the butterfly effect.
You're not wrong that "what happened instead" is important, but I think this thread has covered that pretty well so far, plenty of alternate history possibilities to work with... are there important things that haven't been addressed? Happy to hear your opinion on the matter.
 

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