log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 5E Is 5e's Success Actually Bad for Other Games?

Malmuria

Adventurer
It never lays out what is it designed to do and never tells you that if you want something else, you've picked a wrong game, unlike pretty much every other game in the market.
I wonder if there are ways in which the popularity of dnd 5e is bad for itself creatively. Because of the brand investment, both in "dungeons and dragons" as having a specific feel or particular elements, and 5e being a popular aesthetic, it probably limits what writers can do. There seems to be this constant anxiety about not changing too much and getting feedback on each new game or lore element. I guess this is good for business but they are definitely not making things with the same level or creativity found in osr/indie games or even in 3rd party products for 5e.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

I wonder if there are ways in which the popularity of dnd 5e is bad for itself creatively. Because of the brand investment, both in "dungeons and dragons" as having a specific feel or particular elements, and 5e being a popular aesthetic, it probably limits what writers can do. There seems to be this constant anxiety about not changing too much and getting feedback on each new game or lore element. I guess this is good for business but they are definitely not making things with the same level or creativity found in osr/indie games or even in 3rd party products for 5e.
Yeah, from what's been said here or there, there's kind of an attitude that a lot of the creative stuff from earlier editions was partially a product of grid filling design or a need to have a massive amount of stuff to sell books-- like a million different types of dragon or whatever. The 5e designers and the 5e community (no idea about exactly where its originated) have a very 'everything needs to justify its presence' approach both mechanically (because why not just reskin this existing thing, or make it a small mechanical part of something else in terms of classes) and lore-wise because its sort of 'dumb and niche.' Its a very self-conscious aesthetic movement bent on purification and the idea that earlier editions were bloated by a lot of unnecessary chaff like... psionics.
 

loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff
Publisher
@loverdrive that idea of DND as a narrow bespoke experience that lies to its audience about being broad is more of a you thing than a universal truth thing, the game certainly tells you that its for swords and magic fantasy, if there's anything within that particular category that you think it can't do, you will (and certainly have, whatever you chose to do with the information) have found that people have done it quite successfully. I know from reading your other posts that you just sort of dismiss that as them not understanding what a truly successful experience would be like, but short of some sort sort of credentialism / appeal to authority where playing a bunch of games is an intrinsically more valuable experience than learning how to make one game do lots of things, that would be hotly contested by people who have as much or more experience than you do, you aren't likely to make it very far
I guess I've screwed up at explaining what I mean.

I did horror and murder mysteries and many other things that I think it can't do too.

I just feel like there's a very important difference between "D&D did horror" and "I did horror".

For example, if I'm running Dread it does all the horror and I'm participating in a horror game that runs itself. If I'm running D&D and want to achieve horror — I have to do it myself.

If I wanted to achieve a game where characters beat the naughty word out of monsters, solve riddles, get caught in traps and rise from mortal men to godlike figures, D&D just does that — it just happens with zero effort on my part. If I wanted to achieve something else, though, I'd have to work.

I mean, the only thing one needs to run a game is a brain and a sexy ass to pull ideas out of — but having a mechanical support is better than not having it.
 

MGibster

Legend
There are no D&D traps in gaming stores. The shelves of gaming stores are filled with other RPGs that do other things. There are even (you will be happy) Apocalypse Worlds and Fate books on the shelves at my local store. Also Amazon, is a thing, for those who don't think this is still the early 90s.
I need to bring an old school AD&D 1st edition Thief with me to find/remove traps every time I go to the game store.
 


billd91

Hobbit on Quest
It can be really easy to feel stuck in the D&D culture and ecosystem. I spent a number of years in the hobby wanting something different than I was getting, not knowing how to get it, trying desperately to make D&D into a game it just is not.

If you have never been in that place. Never experienced that frustration or social pressure to conform to the dominant play culture. Never been called selfish for explaining what you are looking for in gaming. If you have never experienced that creative anxiety it is damn near impossible to understand how difficult that can be.

I was often led to believe that what I wanted was selfish, too much to expect, or that it was my fault that I struggled to get it from D&D.

I am not looking for converts. I would just like a measure of acknowledgement for the craft of other games, the technique involved, and the unique strengths they bring to the table. I try to do the same for 5e. Not always as well as I should, but I'm putting in real effort.
I can see where you're coming from to a certain degree. When everyone talks about or all the stores carry the 800 lb gorilla, it's hard to know there's an alternative or where to get it. Believe me, as an Apple user from the old Apple II days and then through the ups and downs of the Macintosh market, I know what it's like to not be able to find products that aren't created for the 800 lb gorilla (Microsoft operating systems). In the years before Apple stores and the internet, finding Mac software on shelves was hard - you generally went through mail order catalogs. And if you didn't get on their mailing list, good luck even knowing they were out there. So, yeah, I get that kind of challenge.

Fortunately, the environment really is different now. It's so much easier to learn about and find other games with some basic internet searches compared to previous decades even with D&D being as big as it is in the marketplace. So players interested in an alternative can find them easier - though finding like-minded players may still be as hard.
 

I guess I've screwed up at explaining what I mean.

I did horror and murder mysteries and many other things that I think it can't do too.

I just feel like there's a very important difference between "D&D did horror" and "I did horror".

For example, if I'm running Dread it does all the horror and I'm participating in a horror game that runs itself. If I'm running D&D and want to achieve horror — I have to do it myself.

If I wanted to achieve a game where characters beat the naughty word out of monsters, solve riddles, get caught in traps and rise from mortal men to godlike figures, D&D just does that — it just happens with zero effort on my part. If I wanted to achieve something else, though, I'd have to work.

I mean, the only thing one needs to run a game is a brain and a sexy ass to pull ideas out of — but having a mechanical support is better than not having it.
I don't think 5e does anything particularly well myself (I jumped ship for PF2e, and think it does what I'm talking about better due to a more comprehensive toolset), so I'm contextualizing this as a categorical argument about systems like it, rather than just it.

For me the key is that there's a cultural difference in what a TTRPG should be, is it the game, or is it the game engine?

DND's point of view is that its a game engine, a toolkit for creating your games-- it facilitates your horror game because it gives you stats to simulate the protagonists, it gives you monsters and the stats to simulate them, and its combat system for confronting the monster, and its skill system so that people can do things in that situation besides fight. But ultimately you're the person who is designing the horror scenario-- unless you run a published adventure, in which case they do that lifting.

So like, Death House right? thats absolutely a horror game, you go through a creepy house uncovering backstory, suits of armor suddenly animate and attack you, there's a creepy scene with the crib, and the ghosts, and the cult beneath the house. That's a game, and it was built with, and played through using the DND engine, and it works well, but if the adventure 'game' you want to run doesn't exist, the system itself is the toolkit for creating it, which isn't that hard.
 


How so? Why would organized play discourage getting together with your friends to play Kids on Bikes? IME they encourage going to the shop to play TTRPGs, which ends up meaning the local shop has groups playing various games on a weekly basis.

Well, for starters, because you may not be playing with friends in the first place; there's a lot of opportunity with organized play to end up playing with people you otherwise don't interact with. In addition, it provides a framework for GMs who are not particularly creative or strongly motivated to get games together without significant work on their part.
 

It can be really easy to feel stuck in the D&D culture and ecosystem. I spent a number of years in the hobby wanting something different than I was getting, not knowing how to get it, trying desperately to make D&D into a game it just is not.

If you have never been in that place. Never experienced that frustration or social pressure to conform to the dominant play culture. Never been called selfish for explaining what you are looking for in gaming. If you have never experienced that creative anxiety it is damn near impossible to understand how difficult that can be.

I was often led to believe that what I wanted was selfish, too much to expect, or that it was my fault that I struggled to get it from D&D.

I am not looking for converts. I would just like a measure of acknowledgement for the craft of other games, the technique involved, and the unique strengths they bring to the table. I try to do the same for 5e. Not always as well as I should, but I'm putting in real effort.

One of the fortunate things of when I got into the hobby was that though D&D was already the big dog, it was not so overwhelmingly so that it had formed much of this sort of structure. You might run into people who'd prefer it to things like Traveler or RuneQuest, but you weren't thought to be some kind of freak outlier because you felt the opposite.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I don't think that's a particularly meaningful distinction.
The distinction is that it adds a pro in the D&D column, not a con in the non-D&D column. It doesn't change how attractive non-D&D games are. It just makes D&D more attractive in specific instances.

Frankly, it's only a pro for a limited subset of people (D&D players who want to play AL). I like playing D&D, but have no interest in AL. I suppose that if I moved somewhere I didn't know anyone, it might be more attractive. It wouldn't change what other games I'm interested in though.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Well, for starters, because you may not be playing with friends in the first place; there's a lot of opportunity with organized play to end up playing with people you otherwise don't interact with. In addition, it provides a framework for GMs who are not particularly creative or strongly motivated to get games together without significant work on their part.
Okay, ignoring that organised play is a very small slice of people who play, you still haven't shown any actual arguement for your claim that organized play discourages trying other systems.

Again, I have seen games start at game shops by people who first came to that shop to play AL and see what it was all about, and then saw other games or heard about them from people in the shop or online, and started a weekly or monthly kids on bikes game, or VtM, or one of the many games that have been played by mostly DnD actual play groups over the years. I even saw, early in 5e, games start because Mike Mearls mentioned playing it at the office, on twitter, and someone looked it up from that.

From my POV, the notion that 5e's success crowds out other games rather than bringing more people into the space where those games live and thus getting more people into those other games, is just...completely preposterous, on every level.
 

Okay, ignoring that organised play is a very small slice of people who play, you still haven't shown any actual arguement for your claim that organized play discourages trying other systems.

One, I'd want some demonstration its that small a slice these days; from other sources I've gotten indications its a much bigger part of the market than its predecessors were.

Two, well, yes, if you're used to playing through an organized structure, and that's the source of almost everyone you play with, I don't think it takes much to understand why that's prone you toward sticking with the game you already have people to play with.

(This is over and above the intrinsic advantage in a lot of places to finding D&D players over, well, anything else; unless you have a gaming group that's experimental your own interest is going to be limited by finding someone else, or all you have is some books to read).

From my POV, the notion that 5e's success crowds out other games rather than bringing more people into the space where those games live and thus getting more people into those other games, is just...completely preposterous, on every level.

Understood. I think either is entirely possible, and I doubt there's any way to say which. But given I've seen the ability of D&D in the past to choke out other games in smaller regions, I have trouble believing it can't do so now when there's more process to do that. The only question to me is whether its the dominant effect or not, and I don't see any way to tell with any certainty at all.
 

The distinction is that it adds a pro in the D&D column, not a con in the non-D&D column. It doesn't change how attractive non-D&D games are. It just makes D&D more attractive in specific instances.

Again, I don't see that as a meaningful distinction.

Frankly, it's only a pro for a limited subset of people (D&D players who want to play AL). I like playing D&D, but have no interest in AL. I suppose that if I moved somewhere I didn't know anyone, it might be more attractive. It wouldn't change what other games I'm interested in though.

I can quite believe it might retard your interest in looking into them in the first place, though, given I've seen simple geography do that in the past without the extra factors here involved.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
One, I'd want some demonstration its that small a slice these days; from other sources I've gotten indications its a much bigger part of the market than its predecessors were.
I'll try to find some numbers for you, but I don't exactly keep a running bibliography on everything I learn. I simply recall one of the designers saying that AL makes up a fairly small percentage of players, in spite of being exponentially bigger than any past dnd organized play system in total numbers. They were using that to illustrate how much the playerbase has grown, IIRC.
Two, well, yes, if you're used to playing through an organized structure, and that's the source of almost everyone you play with, I don't think it takes much to understand why that's prone you toward sticking with the game you already have people to play with.
I disagree. I think you need to actually show some sort of causality, we certainly cannot assume it. My experience is certainly the opposite. People who play AL go on to try other games. I could see it going to other way pretty much only if the culture at a given store actively discouraged other games and/or the store never carried anything related to other games and only allowed dnd to be posted in LFG systems at the shop.

Otherwise...people try stuff that other people are talking about or playing. The more people are playing games at the local shop, the most likely people at the shop are to play other games there, and thus the more likely an AL player who becomes a regular customer is to see other games being played, and be curious about them. This isn't just my experience with TTRPGs, but with...nearly every aspect of life that involves voluntary group activities. The best way to get people into the SCA is to have regular practices open to the public at public parks that see a decent amount of family traffic. Hell, the local shire makes sure that shire practice happens where teenagers getting off the bus home from high school can see them, because you're never going to grow a hobby like SCA without getting kids interested in it.

People see other people having fun, and want to join.
(This is over and above the intrinsic advantage in a lot of places to finding D&D players over, well, anything else; unless you have a gaming group that's experimental your own interest is going to be limited by finding someone else, or all you have is some books to read).
Sure. The most popular game has the most players.
Understood. I think either is entirely possible, and I doubt there's any way to say which. But given I've seen the ability of D&D in the past to choke out other games in smaller regions, I have trouble believing it can't do so now when there's more process to do that. The only question to me is whether its the dominant effect or not, and I don't see any way to tell with any certainty at all.
I don't. And it is less likely than ever, because finding an online game is easier than ever, finding a podcast or stream where people play the game you're curious about is easy, etc.
Again, I don't see that as a meaningful distinction.
I'm having trouble with this. How could it not be a meaningful distinction? One pushes people away from other games, the other doesn't.
 

I wonder if there are ways in which the popularity of dnd 5e is bad for itself creatively. Because of the brand investment, both in "dungeons and dragons" as having a specific feel or particular elements, and 5e being a popular aesthetic, it probably limits what writers can do. There seems to be this constant anxiety about not changing too much and getting feedback on each new game or lore element. I guess this is good for business but they are definitely not making things with the same level or creativity found in osr/indie games or even in 3rd party products for 5e.
I think so. The 2e period seems, (or at least so the conventional wisdom holds) to have been a series of very poor business decisions with multiple competing lines etc.

It was probably also the most fertile and creative time in D&D's history.
 

Campbell

Legend
I wanted to clarify that when I say that it's obvious to me that Wizards made an active decision not to include the cohort of people who were fans of 4e (especially those of us who were not too keen on Essentials) in their big tent I'm not making any claims about what they should have done. I don't think it's any fan's place to feel entitled to anyone's creative labor. It was actually probably a smart business decision for them because to do otherwise would mean not bringing other elements of their coalition.

I'm also not saying that they took nothing from 4e. I'm saying they did not ask us anything. They assumed they knew what we valued. They made tone deaf statements that belied a lack of understanding. What drew me back to Dungeons and Dragons with 4e was that it had an evocative setting that grounded players in the center of its conflicts, had this visceral energy, and mechanics with strong themes and helped you feel your character's mentality. That it's mechanics had teeth. That as a GM I did not need to focus on pacing nearly as much.

When I say it (5e) lacked what was great about 4e I mean exactly that. That it lacks the spirit of the game. It's heart. It's tension. While definitely different games Pathfinder Second Edition and Exalted Third Edition are the only games that come close (to its spirit) in my estimation. It definitely has stuff from 4e, just not the right stuff to enable the sort of play I came to expect from 4e.

That's fine though because it's still a damn fine game. It does what does better than any other game on the market. When it comes to dungeon fantasy as a vehicle for GM storytelling or the sort of play we see in something like Critical Role it's amazing. It's approachable. Smooth at the table. I can't wait to play this weekend.

I get genuinely excited to play 5e, but I feel like when I talk about it with fans I'm in this place where I get judged for insufficient fandom.
 
Last edited:

pemerton

Legend
It’s far far worse in 4e. I remember often people complaining that players would be looking at their character sheets a lot.
My experience of RPGing is that players tend to think of action declaration as a chance to deploy resources; and the PC sheet is an aide-memoire as to those resources.

In AD&D play that tends to be the spell list, the coin list and the gear list. Gear, especially magical gear at higher levels, is often quite important. But spells are the most important.

In 4e D&D play gear is typically not that important. Magical gear is mostly significant for the bonuses and powers it grants, which are expressed on other parts of the sheet. But the power list is important - these are the main suite of things a PC can do. Ritual lists are also significant for characters who have them.

I've played a lot of AD&D and a lot of 4e D&D. As far as "stunting" in combat is concerned - dynamic movement and actions that produce memorable scenes and dramatic results - 4e leaves AD&D for dead.

When I see people complain about the lack of "stunting" in 4e I tend to find, in the same general neighbourhood, people saying that I'm wrong to think that Icy Terrain can freeze water, or Fireball set things alight. Which reinforces my view that most people seem to have played 4e differently from how I did. I think the way I played it is straight from the rulebooks - those are the source I used to learn it, and I've never played in any organised play or spoken to anyone at WotC about it. Presumably those other people think they also learned it from the rulebook too.

I don't see anything in the 5e Basic rules that makes me think "stunting" would be a bigger part of 5e than AD&D. But apparently other people do see that.
 

pemerton

Legend
there's a cultural difference in what a TTRPG should be, is it the game, or is it the game engine?

DND's point of view is that its a game engine, a toolkit for creating your games-- it facilitates your horror game because it gives you stats to simulate the protagonists, it gives you monsters and the stats to simulate them, and its combat system for confronting the monster, and its skill system so that people can do things in that situation besides fight. But ultimately you're the person who is designing the horror scenario-- unless you run a published adventure, in which case they do that lifting.

So like, Death House right? thats absolutely a horror game, you go through a creepy house uncovering backstory, suits of armor suddenly animate and attack you, there's a creepy scene with the crib, and the ghosts, and the cult beneath the house. That's a game, and it was built with, and played through using the DND engine, and it works well, but if the adventure 'game' you want to run doesn't exist, the system itself is the toolkit for creating it, which isn't that hard.
It seems to me that by this measure any FRPG is a horror game or "game engine".

Is there an FRPG that doesn't facilitate a horror game by permitting the players to play protagonists who go through a creepy house uncovering backstory, suits of armour that suddenly animate and attack, and ghosts and cults?
 

I wanted to clarify that when I say that it's obvious to me that Wizards made an active decision not to include the cohort of people who were fans of 4e (especially those of us who were not too keen on Essentials) in their big tent I'm not making any claims about what they should have done. I don't think it's any fan's place to feel entitled to anyone's creative labor. It was actually probably a smart business decision for them because to do otherwise would mean not bringing other elements of their coalition.

I'm also not saying that they took nothing from 4e. I'm saying they did not ask us anything. They assumed they knew what we valued. They made tone deaf statements that belied a lack of understanding. What drew me back to Dungeons and Dragons with 4e was that it had an evocative setting that grounded players in the center of its conflicts, had this visceral energy, and mechanics with strong themes and helped you feel your character's mentality. That it's mechanics had teeth. That as a GM I did not need to focus on pacing nearly as much.

When I say it (5e) lacked what was great about 4e I mean exactly that. That it lacks the spirit of the game. It's heart. It's tension. While definitely different games Pathfinder Second Edition and Exalted Third Edition are the only games that come close (to its spirit) in my estimation. It definitely has stuff from 4e, just not the right stuff to enable the sort of play I came to expect from 4e.

That's fine though because it's still a damn fine game. It does what does better than any other game on the market. When it comes to dungeon fantasy as a vehicle for GM storytelling or the sort of play we see in something like Critical Role it's amazing. It's approachable. Smooth at the table. I can't wait to play this weekend.

I get genuinely excited to play 5e, but I feel like when I talk about it with fans I'm in this place where I get judged for insufficient fandom.
It's hard to be sure that 5e didn't actually appeal to a lot of 4e players. There was obviously a particular culture of 4e players online who were alienated by 4e, but it's really hard to know how big that culture was, and what percentage of 4e players really belonged to it. Certainly at the height of 4e, there seemed a very different attitude to 4e on Rpgnet from what I remember from the WOTC Gleemax boards.

I suspect that the 4e players who made connections between 4e and what indy games were doing, and saw 4e as a game to be creatively reskinned and the like, was probably the most online visible component. A lot of the intended audience for 4e seemed to have been people who were playing late 3.5 and complained about balance issues and the like. While it's obvious that a lot of those players were alienated by 4e and went with Pathfinder, it seems likely that many of these players made the transition to 4e and probably still made up the majority of 4e players (at least initially).

Certainly there were a lot of such players on the WOTC board, and from what I remember the optimisation board was pretty much exclusively these players.

Which is not to say, people are wrong to feel that 5e threw their preferred style of play under the bus, but rather that the efforts WOTC did make to incorporate 4e elements into 5e might not have seemed quite so unsatisfactory to all 4e players.

There also often seems to be the assumption that people either loved 4e or they hated it and abandoned it completely - due to how toxic the online edition war was.. Every edition has had players who stuck with it because it was the current edition and it at least fixed some of the blatant issues with what came before, while probably not being entirely satisifed with it. This almost certainly included a lot of Adventurer's League players who played it primarily because it was what there was available at their local store, and new players who began with 4e and didn't know any different. It could be that for many of these players 5e seemed less like a betrayal of what they knew and more like an improvement. (Or perhaps better in some ways, worse in others).

When we get right down to it, 5e appeals to a lot of 1e players, even if it's alienating to some members of the hardcore 1e OSR crowd who think it's style of play is completely antithetical to what they enjoy. I'm not sure it's necessarily so different with 4e.
 
Last edited:

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top