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


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Coroc

Hero
Also see: Deep Purple: Stormbringer.
i dunno if you happen to know the band Birth Control, it really got me when i found out that Hugo Ego Balder best known for his trashy half strip show on RTL television back in the 90s was at some time a member of this band.
Check out this band btw, if you like deep purple you will like them.
 

i dunno if you happen to know the band Birth Control, it really got me when i found out that Hugo Ego Balder best known for his trashy half strip show on RTL television back in the 90s was at some time a member of this band.
Check out this band btw, if you like deep purple you will like them.
Actually, I never liked Rock myself. Maybe a bit of Glam (i.e. Queen).

I wasn't a huge fan of the cynicism of 2000AD either, which gave birth to Grimdark. Probably why I latched onto the more upbeat stuff coming in from the US.
 

Sepulchrave II

Adventurer
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Best gatefold ever.
 

JEB

Adventurer
Pondered the "new" (OP) version of the premise, where RPGs themselves don't exist until now. I think there's a way to imagine it, actually, that allows for the seeds mentioned above to still be an influence, but account for the fact that they improbably wouldn't have borne fruit until 2021. You have to think about what the halfway point would be between those seed ideas and the RPG.

The catch, of course, is we're now looking to shape history to the outcome, rather than simply making a change (no D&D in 1974) and seeing where it would take us. But it can work.

So if CYOA or Advent or adventure games are the seed, you need to imagine how they'd become more sophisticated with time. I assume it'd become a matter of the games offering more and more choices, giving the players more flexibility to influence the outcome of events, but never quite making that leap to defining the setting or characters in objective game terms. In that path, I can see very complex storytelling games emerging, particularly in the computer arena, and becoming popular multiplayer options once the internet arrives. The players' inputs would be very flexible, with increasingly complex, simulationist software being expected to do the work of interpreting them into results. Then, once tabletop gaming starts getting bigger in the 21st century, there's a translation of that idea into a streamlined boardgame form, which would be our first proto-RPG.

I would expect RPGs in this path to be very freeform, only loosely defining your character, and probably focused more on player-invented backstory and what possessions or gifts a player has been granted during the course of the story.

The game system, meanwhile, would mainly be there to provide randomness and tell the players the results of their actions, without really shaping the way the players themselves behave. There might be meticulous lists of possible outcomes to player actions. The GM would probably be much more of a referee or facilitator than a storyteller themselves. Conflicts would be resolved very simply, perhaps taking inspiration from rock-paper-scissors as seen in some LARPs.

Campaigns might not be as much a thing, either, more the idea that you're all there to tell one story from beginning to end. Though "sequels" and such could certainly follow.

If miniatures wargaming is the seed, on the other hand, I would expect something on the opposite end of the spectrum, very very simulationist, since multiplayer computer wargames, with specific "general" or "warlord" characters, would be the likely midpoint. Honestly, it might not be that different from the D&D we got, if somewhat slicker in production, and with, again, less GM authority and more dependence on the rules to determine outcomes.
 
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wow is that true? I honestly did not know Moorcock being a pro musician also. I have to read this up at once, this stunned me.
I dunno how "pro" pro was in the ol' prog-rock scene, but yeah that's all true and it's even in his Wikipedia article, I went to check to ensure I wasn't passing on bad info.

I mean myself I didn't know until I was like 16 and trying to tell a girl who liked fantasy novels how great Moorcock's stuff was, and she's like "Ugh that guy, he was on stage with Hawkwind when I watched them, he's lame!". I dunno what's more surprising in retrospect, that she thought Moorcock was lame, or that 16-year-old girls were still going to events where Hawkwind were playing in 1994.

Anyway here's the bit on Wikipedia - there's quite a lot!

 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
So What are we talking 3 timelines?

Universe 1. Real World. D&D created in 1974.

Universe 2. D&D published in Feb 2021. No Tabletop Pen and Paper RPGs are created until today.

Universe 3. D&D published in Feb 2021. RPGs are created in the past between 1974 and 2020. D&D is the first medieval fantasy RPG.
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
So What are we talking 3 timelines?

Universe 1. Real World. D&D created in 1974.

Universe 2. D&D published in Feb 2021. No Tabletop Pen and Paper RPGs are created until today.

Universe 3. D&D published in Feb 2021. RPGs are created in the past between 1974 and 2020. D&D is the first medieval fantasy RPG.
I've been looking at more of a

Universe 4. TTRPGs are created at some point in the past before 2020; one or more of them may cover medieval fantasy, but what we know as D&D is only just trying to emerge now.

Most of my discussion has revolved around the italicized bit, wondering how and from where TTRPGs first arise.
 

If lord of the rings would be written today, would Frodo be a female tiefling and Gandalf a person of color?
I get that that you're just making a cheap shot, but that's actually a kind of interesting thought-experiment.

Let's say Tolkien never exists. Okay so fantasy and SF are going to be totally different, games will be totally different, TV, movies, etc. will be very different and the genre "fantasy" as separate from SF/sci-fi may never really be "a thing" (I won't belabour the point, but when LotR came out, the idea of "fantasy" as a genre was so foreign to many readers that a lot of people read in as distantly post-apocalyptic SF - c.f. the BBC documentary series "Worlds of Fantasy").

So what defines LotR? I think two things:

1) The "invention" or at least massive up-gunning and popularization of intentional, carefully-planned and very thought-through world-building, where effort may be spent for years before a book is written. That's the key impact on fantasy, particularly modern fantasy.

2) The intention of creating a relevant and specifically English mythological setting, drawing from various legends and myths.

If that happens now, I think first off, the world-building thing will have less impact, because we'll have had decades of SF which did it in a much more low-key way, and it's just going to seem kind of weird and excessive. It'll attract fans, but I don't think it'll drop like a bomb. There also probably won't be an accidental counterculture-Tolkien meeting of minds where like, hobbits (hippies) are all like chilling and smoking pipeweed (weed) with wizards (wizards) and Tom Bombadil is a utopian anarchist (which he actually totally is in the books), which really served to boost their popularity.

Plus there's the Dune question. Was Dune influenced by Tolkien? If so, it probably looks very different, but if not, it probably still exists and is basically the same (it was massively inspired by a travelogue, I know that). If it isn't, Dune probably fills basically the same place LotR does, and probably spawns huge waves of imitators like Tolkien did, just with sort of fantastical sci-fi instead of tree-loving fantasy.

And I think if the author is the same age in 2021 that Tolkien was when he released LotR, relatively as liberal as Tolkien was by the standards of his day (pretty liberal, despite a conservative aesthetic/concept), then yeah, the characters are going to look pretty different. Yeah probably half of them will be female. Probably Welsh/Celtic and/or Arthurian mythology will be picked over Scandinavian mythology (because people feel far more connected to that stuff now in Britain than Beowulf or the like, and I think it's a reasonable argument that the reverse was true in 1935 or whatever), which will give it a very different vibe. Elves may well be more Sidhe-esque and there are likely no dwarves. If there are - they definitely won't clumsily use Jewish stereotypes as their basis (please Google this before arguing). Hell, if it's England 2021, the author may well incorporate some other mythology for ideas, like Afro-Caribbean and South Asian (particularly the Mahabharata), because England in 2021 is not England in the 1930s. Also the bad guys are way less likely to have working-class accents/speech patterns. I could see the same anti-industrial, anti-materialist, pro-utopian-anarchy (seriously LotR is very keen on that - the hobbits are basically close to utopian anarchy and Tom Bombadil is all about it), pro-environmental and so on sentiments though.

Thinking more, I would put money down that Arthurian myth would be the key basis of a modern LotR in terms of aesthetics. I know Tolkien thought of it as "mostly French" (somewhat correctly), but I don't think that would fly in the modern era, and definitely the idea that Scandinavian mythology was "more English" would absolutely not. Plus the whole "Anglo-Saxon" thing is kind of dead now, both thanks to outbursts of Celt-o-mania but also genuine stuff like not being supported by genetic analysis (looked like it might be in the very early '00s but then it wasn't - whether indigenous Brits are really "celts" - whatever those are - is another question - but we ain't "Anglo-Saxons", we're something early than that, genetically).

Tieflings are, however, not likely to appear. There's nothing much like that in any of the relevant mythologies.

I've been looking at more of a

Universe 4. TTRPGs are created at some point in the past before 2020; one or more of them may cover medieval fantasy, but what we know as D&D is only just trying to emerge now.

Most of my discussion has revolved around the italicized bit, wondering how and from where TTRPGs first arise.
The OP specified Universe 2 in his post though. He's very clear.
 
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JEB

Adventurer
So What are we talking 3 timelines?

Universe 1. Real World. D&D created in 1974.

Universe 2. D&D published in Feb 2021. No Tabletop Pen and Paper RPGs are created until today.

Universe 3. D&D published in Feb 2021. RPGs are created in the past between 1974 and 2020. D&D is the first medieval fantasy RPG.
I'd been assuming Universe 3, but OP requested Universe 2, so I've pivoted.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
And I think if the author is the same age in 2021 that Tolkien was when he released LotR, relatively as liberal as Tolkien was by the standards of his day (pretty liberal, despite a conservative aesthetic/concept), then yeah, the characters are going to look pretty different. Yeah probably half of them will be female. Probably Welsh/Celtic and/or Arthurian mythology will be picked over Scandinavian mythology (because people feel far more connected to that stuff now in Britain than Beowulf or the like, and I think it's a reasonable argument that the reverse was true in 1935 or whatever), which will give it a very different vibe. Elves may well be more Sidhe-esque and there are likely no dwarves. If there are - they definitely won't clumsily use Jewish stereotypes as their basis (please Google this before arguing). Hell, if it's England 2021, the author may well incorporate some other mythology for ideas, like Afro-Caribbean and South Asian (particularly the Mahabharata), because England in 2021 is not England in the 1930s. Also the bad guys are way less likely to have working-class accents/speech patterns. I could see the same anti-industrial, anti-materialist, pro-utopian-anarchy (seriously LotR is very keen on that - the hobbits are basically close to utopian anarchy and Tom Bombadil is all about it), pro-environmental and so on sentiments though.

Hmmm..

So if LOTR were created today the elves would be more Sidhe than Norse. And due to the changed demographics and acceptance of the UK, there'd be more Afro-Carribbean and South Asian influences.

You're basically saying Legolas would be replaced by Warcraft's favorite troll shadow hunter, Vol'jin. Nice.
 

Pondered the "new" (OP) version of the premise, where RPGs themselves don't exist until now. I think there's a way to imagine it, actually, that allows for the seeds mentioned above to still be an influence, but account for the fact that they improbably wouldn't have borne fruit until 2021. You have to think about what the halfway point would be between those seed ideas and the RPG.

The catch, of course, is we're now looking to shape history to the outcome, rather than simply making a change (no D&D in 1974) and seeing where it would take us. But it can work.

So if CYOA or Advent or adventure games are the seed, you need to imagine how they'd become more sophisticated with time. I assume it'd become a matter of the games offering more and more choices, giving the players more flexibility to influence the outcome of events, but never quite making that leap to defining the setting or characters in objective game terms. In that path, I can see very complex storytelling games emerging, particularly in the computer arena, and becoming popular multiplayer options once the internet arrives. The players' inputs would be very flexible, with increasingly complex, simulationist software being expected to do the work of interpreting them into results. Then, once tabletop gaming starts getting bigger in the 21st century, there's a translation of that idea into a streamlined boardgame form, which would be our first proto-RPG.

I would expect RPGs in this path to be very freeform, only loosely defining your character, and probably focused more on player-invented backstory and what possessions or gifts a player has been granted during the course of the story.

The game system, meanwhile, would mainly be there to provide randomness and tell the players the results of their actions, without really shaping the way the players themselves behave. There might be meticulous lists of possible outcomes to player actions. The GM would probably be much more of a referee or facilitator than a storyteller themselves. Conflicts would be resolved very simply, perhaps taking inspiration from rock-paper-scissors as seen in some LARPs.

Campaigns might not be as much a thing, either, more the idea that you're all there to tell one story from beginning to end. Though "sequels" and such could certainly follow.

If miniatures wargaming is the seed, on the other hand, I would expect something on the opposite end of the spectrum, very very simulationist, since multiplayer computer wargames, with specific "general" or "warlord" characters, would be the likely midpoint. Honestly, it might not be that different from the D&D we got, if somewhat slicker in production, and with, again, less GM authority and more dependence on the rules to determine outcomes.
Not for nothing: kinda like Gloomhaven, but with more guidance for making your own scenarios/characters (rather than relying on the reveal)?
 

You're right that there's quite a few possible jumping-off points. Here's a short list (which people are welcome to add to, it's not complete by any means):

CYOA books and attempts to make such things live-playable
Fantasy novels e.g. LotR
Text-based computer games (Advent)
===> ASCII-based computer games (Rogue)
===> Graphics-based computer games (roguelikes)
[===> Multi-player roguelikes]*
Wargames (tabletop historical re-creations)
===> Wargames (tabletop but non-historical)
===> Wargames (minis-based a la Warhammer)
===> Wargames (live-action re-creations)
===> Other historical re-creations and the SCA
Braunstein
===> Fantasy-based LARP* and - again - the SCA

The two I've marked with '*' are I think the most likely seeds.

It's just two short-ish jumps from fantasy-based LARP to TTRPGing: the concept of a continuing story involving the same characters, and someone codifying it into a tabletop form so these characters can continue to be played when it's 20 below outside on a stiff nor'easter.

It's an even shorter jump from multi-player roguelikes to TTRPGs. In reality multi-player roguelikes never took off that I know of, but had D&D never come about I think this concept might have received a lot more attention from programmers. Once there, it's a very short jump from a co-operative version of that to a TTRPG: all it needs is someone to codify what the program does into written-out game rules to take the computer out of the equation.
It just occurred to me that trying to LARP over Zoom during a pandemic could actually lead to turn-based play pretty quickly since it keeps people form talking over each other. Then a randomizer for hits and other actions and we have a ttrpg.

Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
If we are talking Universe 2 and video games still become a thing, then D&D is definitely coming from video games.

The only question is the genre. RTS, TBS, Action, Adventurer, or Simulation.

If it goes LARP->War games->TBS->RTS, then hirelings and Charisma are getting big boosts.
 

JEB

Adventurer
Not for nothing: kinda like Gloomhaven, but with more guidance for making your own scenarios/characters (rather than relying on the reveal)?
I'm not super familiar with Gloomhaven, but after looking it over... yeah, it sounds an awful lot like the CYOA-descended scenario I laid out. Just put even more mechanics on the game "engine" side, and give the players much more freedom in actions and character design, but otherwise 2021 D&D could be pretty close to cooperative games like that.

(Now I wonder how much cooperative games in our history have taken inspiration from video games.)
 

Faolyn

Hero
It just occurred to me that trying to LARP over Zoom during a pandemic could actually lead to turn-based play pretty quickly since it keeps people form talking over each other. Then a randomizer for hits and other actions and we have a ttrpg.

Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.
Two of my friends are "going" to a Zoom-and-Discord-based LARP convention--Intercon, I believe--next week. I'll try to remember to ask how it turned out.
 

JEB

Adventurer
Dragon Quest!
Fun fact (or maybe you already knew this - I thought you were referencing the video game franchise). When I mentioned this to a friend, he dug up that there was in fact a RPG called "DragonQuest" at one point... until TSR acquired it (as part of SPI) then eventually retired it.

Also of interest: it was one of the first RPGs to use skill-based character creation, rather than class-based character creation.

So from a purely literary standpoint, calling the first RPG in this alternate timeline "Dragon Quest" would be appropriate...
 
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