D&D 5E Is 5E Special

Parmandur

Book-Friend, he/him
Do new players stay new forever?
Do young people prefer the styles and tropes of their own time or those of their parents or grandparents?
In my experience as a parent, both. Often, they are the same thing. The big things when I was a kid were Pokémon and Nonja Turtles, and the big things with kids now are Pokémon and Ninja Turtles, and stuff ripping off Pokémon and Ninja Turtles.
 

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EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
In my experience as a parent, both. Often, they are the same thing. The big things when I was a kid were Pokémon and Nonja Turtles, and the big things with kids now are Pokémon and Ninja Turtles, and stuff ripping off Pokémon and Ninja Turtles.
Are you thus saying that nothing whatsoever has changed about Pokemon and Ninja Turtles over the years?

Because I assure you, plenty has changed. And, surprise surprise, a lot of that has been improving the balance of the Pokemon games and dealing with legacy problematic elements, to the point that many fans of classic Pokemon are no longer happy with its current direction or content. ("Dexit" was a HUGE rigamarole that went completely unnoticed by most people whose first game was Sword/Shield.) Further, plenty of major cultural touchstones for people in their 40s are completely irrelevant today: Fat Albert, Shazam!, Grape Ape, some even I have never heard of like Lidsville or Battle of the Planets. On the literature front, many of the classics from the 70s and 80s are not as widely-read today (the Green-Sky Trilogy, A Wizard of Earthsea, etc.), even if ideas from them have trickled into the overall zeitgeist (e.g. Dragonriders of Pern).

D&D's demographics have shifted, a lot. I assume you grant this, given you have emphasized the growing number of participants. If 89% of the fanbase is people who literally physically couldn't have played anything earlier than late-2e, the creators are going to pivot to attending to that overwhelming majority. It's not hard to see this in action: stuff like drow, which remained pretty blatantly anti-feminist for decades, suddenly got some major attention. Adventures are tending toward somewhat brighter colors and more obviously heroic heroes, even as they consider things like politics and associated difficulties.

And that isn't the only aspect; much of the design and structure, and in particular the motives for these things, just isn't relevant to that 89% majority that is under the age of 40. For example, many folks now playing D&D literally haven't got the first concept of what an edition war is. They've no idea they're supposed to hate 4e or love 2e or whatever. They have no context for legacy design elements, particularly if those legacy design elements never found their way out into the wider zeitgeist of computer RPGs. So, while Wizards will probably never gain the ability to cast healing spells (because that design quirk has entered the collective unconscious of game design), people aren't likely to be so fixated on the power of something like fire ball when, from their perspective, that's just one staple spell among many, not a major game-changer. Questions as to why it's so hard for Wizards to use armor or why Fighters don't get their own neat powers are quite plausible, because they've been exposed to games like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV and Guild Wars 2 (among many, many others) where that simply isn't true, where "fighter" characters (for some reason, always called "Warriors" rather than "Fighters," not sure why) have all sorts of impressive effects they can draw upon. Likewise, the fact that all spellcasters have to be complicated is probably going to get some pushback from all the folks who grew up reading Harry Potter and seeing how he practices such effortless, ultra-straightforward magic.

This is the heart of what Minigiant is saying.

The game is now mostly in the hands of people who literally cannot physically be old enough to have played much "old school" D&D. Their ideas and interests not only can, but will diverge from older ideas in various ways, and WotC isn't stupid, they're going to market to whatever they believe that 8.8x larger audience wants. It's absolutely the case that SOME of the classic stuff will remain--some of it because it was just good to begin with, some of it because it's become standardized fantasy gaming boilerplate, some of it because it's already familiar to them through other non-D&D games, and some because it's just the way things were and new players just happened not to question it.

But if you think even for a second that the game was already "98% perfect" for that larger audience, you're fooling yourself. The recent tempest in a teapot over the "cutesy" art and "Disneyfied" content for D&D are, quite literally, some of those old-school players getting antsy because their priorities are no longer the top priorities. Doesn't mean their priorities are irrelevant. But it does mean that WotC understands that there's a gap here.

5e was designed to appease the old-school crowd. It succeeded. It also, partially by coincidence, succeeded at growing an enormous completely not at all old-school audience, one that literally physically cannot be old-school because they aren't old enough. Some of those folks absolutely will jump at the chance to play old-school stuff because "is at least 40 years old" and "likes old-school things" are orthogonal things. But a lot of them won't jump at that, and thus, 5e is evolving in directions that appeal to folks whose interests aren't particularly rooted in old-school sentiments.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend, he/him
Are you thus saying that nothing whatsoever has changed about Pokemon and Ninja Turtles over the years?

Because I assure you, plenty has changed. And, surprise surprise, a lot of that has been improving the balance of the Pokemon games and dealing with legacy problematic elements, to the point that many fans of classic Pokemon are no longer happy with its current direction or content. ("Dexit" was a HUGE rigamarole that went completely unnoticed by most people whose first game was Sword/Shield.) Further, plenty of major cultural touchstones for people in their 40s are completely irrelevant today: Fat Albert, Shazam!, Grape Ape, some even I have never heard of like Lidsville or Battle of the Planets. On the literature front, many of the classics from the 70s and 80s are not as widely-read today (the Green-Sky Trilogy, A Wizard of Earthsea, etc.), even if ideas from them have trickled into the overall zeitgeist (e.g. Dragonriders of Pern).

D&D's demographics have shifted, a lot. I assume you grant this, given you have emphasized the growing number of participants. If 89% of the fanbase is people who literally physically couldn't have played anything earlier than late-2e, the creators are going to pivot to attending to that overwhelming majority. It's not hard to see this in action: stuff like drow, which remained pretty blatantly anti-feminist for decades, suddenly got some major attention. Adventures are tending toward somewhat brighter colors and more obviously heroic heroes, even as they consider things like politics and associated difficulties.

And that isn't the only aspect; much of the design and structure, and in particular the motives for these things, just isn't relevant to that 89% majority that is under the age of 40. For example, many folks now playing D&D literally haven't got the first concept of what an edition war is. They've no idea they're supposed to hate 4e or love 2e or whatever. They have no context for legacy design elements, particularly if those legacy design elements never found their way out into the wider zeitgeist of computer RPGs. So, while Wizards will probably never gain the ability to cast healing spells (because that design quirk has entered the collective unconscious of game design), people aren't likely to be so fixated on the power of something like fire ball when, from their perspective, that's just one staple spell among many, not a major game-changer. Questions as to why it's so hard for Wizards to use armor or why Fighters don't get their own neat powers are quite plausible, because they've been exposed to games like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV and Guild Wars 2 (among many, many others) where that simply isn't true, where "fighter" characters (for some reason, always called "Warriors" rather than "Fighters," not sure why) have all sorts of impressive effects they can draw upon. Likewise, the fact that all spellcasters have to be complicated is probably going to get some pushback from all the folks who grew up reading Harry Potter and seeing how he practices such effortless, ultra-straightforward magic.

This is the heart of what Minigiant is saying.

The game is now mostly in the hands of people who literally cannot physically be old enough to have played much "old school" D&D. Their ideas and interests not only can, but will diverge from older ideas in various ways, and WotC isn't stupid, they're going to market to whatever they believe that 8.8x larger audience wants. It's absolutely the case that SOME of the classic stuff will remain--some of it because it was just good to begin with, some of it because it's become standardized fantasy gaming boilerplate, some of it because it's already familiar to them through other non-D&D games, and some because it's just the way things were and new players just happened not to question it.

But if you think even for a second that the game was already "98% perfect" for that larger audience, you're fooling yourself. The recent tempest in a teapot over the "cutesy" art and "Disneyfied" content for D&D are, quite literally, some of those old-school players getting antsy because their priorities are no longer the top priorities. Doesn't mean their priorities are irrelevant. But it does mean that WotC understands that there's a gap here.

5e was designed to appease the old-school crowd. It succeeded. It also, partially by coincidence, succeeded at growing an enormous completely not at all old-school audience, one that literally physically cannot be old-school because they aren't old enough. Some of those folks absolutely will jump at the chance to play old-school stuff because "is at least 40 years old" and "likes old-school things" are orthogonal things. But a lot of them won't jump at that, and thus, 5e is evolving in directions that appeal to folks whose interests aren't particularly rooted in old-school sentiments.
There is a lot.of continuity, indeed, but certainly.also change. The "Dexit" tempest in a teapot is a good example of what I'm talking about, in that it didn't matter because Sword & Shield have overwhelmingly positive sales and reception, while remaining quite old school Pokémon overall. Sure, it evolved, but it's not any sort of revolution.

High Fantasy literature has grown and evolved over the past 40 years...but it's not become something inutteravly different and D&D played a large role in forming that evolution. 5E has continued to evolve and refine presentation, by focusing on what customers want. Which is goijg to be in continuity with what worked before, even as it changes. 14 years ago, they failed to take into account what people wanted adequately and tried to make Fetch happen. Modern D&D moves with what is popular, as it should.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
You said that older players had left the game, which they have not. WotC is additionally assiduous about keeping up with modern fantasy trends (See also, the more popular than ever Magic the Gathering). By focusing on creating an accessible and light system, and following thematic trends (Strixhaven, Witchlight, et.) they get to have their cake and eat it, too, by appealing to the young and old simultaneously.
My point is tht the environment kept the 89% of the 5e audience from calling 5e "LOL Grandpa's Game." because the monk is based on a TV show from the 70s, couldn't get the beastmaster working, have racist races, and had a core for "babies" like most of the ultratoxic community of the late 00s/early10s gaming scene..

Because if 5e came out in 2008, it would be called a game for old people and "Zaipo" would have made "Trackseeker" to suck out a chunk of their potential audience with it's anime inspired warriors, good orc kingdoms, and rules for only having 1 encounter a day because the party spent FIVE HOURS talking to shopkeepers.


"Malik, stop asking the potionseller questions about his kids dangnabbit."
 


Parmandur

Book-Friend, he/him
My point is tht the environment kept the 89% of the 5e audience from calling 5e "LOL Grandpa's Game." because the monk is based on a TV show from the 70s, couldn't get the beastmaster working, have racist races, and had a core for "babies" like most of the ultratoxic community of the late 00s/early10s gaming scene..

Because if 5e came out in 2008, it would be called a game for old people and "Zaipo" would have made "Trackseeker" to suck out a chunk of their potential audience with it's anime inspired warriors, good orc kingdoms, and rules for only having 1 encounter a day because the party spent FIVE HOURS talking to shopkeepers.


"Malik, stop asking the potionseller questions about his kids dangnabbit."
I think if 5E had come out in 2008, it would have done very well, and no competition would have been able to keep up.
 

Oofta

Legend
Lol what?

The older players didn’t drop the game, the game got so many new players over time that the older players were eventually outnumbered. The game didn’t lose any significant number of older players.

5e succeeded early on because it worked really well for experienced players. It continues to succeed and grow dramatically, because it also works very well for the new players that have come to outnumber all other demographics. 🤷‍♂️
I have no idea where you're getting any of this. Do you have an actual reference to back it up? Even if you're correct, I disagree that the game was totally geared towards old school gaming. If it had been, it would be far more lethal, have save or die everywhere, no short rest, etc. Or maybe it would have just been a cleaned up 3.5.

Nowadays 5E has been growing double digits every year, so of course new players outnumber old.

As far as cultural shifts and growth of the game I find it hard to believe that 4e towards the end of its life cycle would not have also benefitted from the same cultural shifts and changes. It didn't.

Don't get me wrong, I think if 4E had not been labeled D&D a fixed up 2nd version (or been given proper development time)could have maintained a sizeable niche. I just don't think it ever could have been as popular as 5e, it simply caters too much to a specific target audience. Nothing wrong with that, I just don't see it as having as broad an appeal. Of course now we'll never know.

I just find it odd that people can't simply accept that the game is actually pretty good. The authors put out a decent product. There doesn't have to be this "it's practically a minor miracle 5e is successful".
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
The DMG should have been a whole lot more newbie friendly and had a lot more guidance and examples of how to play.
Counterpoint: that is what starter sets are for. The DMG should have covered a lot more ground and included the tools needed to run the game through the entire process, not just the "sweet spot."
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I just find it odd that people can't simply accept that the game is actually pretty good. The authors put out a decent product. There doesn't have to be this "it's practically a minor miracle 5e is successful".
Nobody's saying that, so I'm not sure where you got that idea.

Instead, what people are saying is, "You cannot reason from '5e is doing well' to 'therefore, 5e is very nearly perfect.'" Which someone here explicitly has done, and considered "98% perfect" a form of walking back, a compromise position.

Do you see the difference? I, and others, are saying that there's stuff in 5e that either didn't do anything positive or negative for it, or that (in some cases) may even have held it back. That's not a particularly damning analysis, and it certainly isn't "it's practically a minor miracle 5e is successful." Yet we're going up against people who, very explicitly, think 5e is literally actually perfect, or "98% perfect." I hope you can see which of these two positions is extreme and which is fairly moderate, albeit more critical than the average D&D fan at the moment.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Counterpoint: that is what starter sets are for. The DMG should have covered a lot more ground and included the tools needed to run the game through the entire process, not just the "sweet spot."
Riposte: The starter sets are only about the onboarding process. They are meant to be quick, light, and efficient--so they should be leaving things out and delivering a focused presentation, which should not need to be contradicted, but will need to be expanded.

The DMG should absolutely have extremely good advice and support for newbie DMs. It should be a beloved source of guidance. By comparison, the 4e DMG1 and (especially) DMG2 were worlds better on that front.

There is a LOT the 5e DMG could have done better. It is by far the weakest book of the core three, and yet quite clearly the book which is most vital for actually keeping the game healthy and strong, especially in an edition that intentionally, pervasively, and consistently depends on the DM.
 

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