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is the ttrpg market swamped now? could you write a winner?

JThursby

Explorer
Matt Colville is banned from my youtube for doing a movie review pooping on Dune 2021 which still triggers me.
I wouldn't go so far as to say he angers me, but yeah, I just can't get a read on Matt Colville at all. Sometimes he has good ideas, sometimes he says literally the opposite of what I would consider good design or taste (ie endorsing Greyhawk Initiative). If you want a better D&D youtuber for design I like Treantmonk quite a bit.
 

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bennet

Explorer
I'm still not entirely sure how that's being defined.

Would it be something inspired by D&D's mechanical structure or D&D adjacent (like Pathfinder)?

Would a non-d20 game qualify?
Pathfinder/DnD variant in an alternate universe, like, rewrite dungeons and dragons as a 6th edition, pulling from everything you can find to create a perfect system where perfect is recapturing the fun of 1e/2e but with a modern set of rules. Pretty much what they did with 5e, but fix all the issues with that edition.
 

bennet

Explorer
The initial reasoning from the OP sounds like it's running from the assumption that game rules and systems are the selling points, when I think in reality it's IP and story potential that catches people's eyes and gets them to investigate further. D&D is no exception in this case, it commands the strongest brand recognition by a country mile which I would wager accounts for a large part of it's success. Development of a great set of systems is very valuable and gets players to stick around, but I can't think of any examples of games that successfully sold themselves on the premise of using a certain rule set as their primary feature. The sole exceptions are ones that are direct responses to complaints about wherever D&D is at the time, i.e. Pathfinder 1e or Advanced 5e. Lore, setting, tone, genre, IP usage, all of those seem more important to me in terms of getting attention and initial buyers. I think the reason many of those hundreds of games fail is that they successfully do as I described to an extent, but are ultimately shallow (in some cases barely more than a set of guidelines) or don't have rules that facilitate the experience that was promised; I can recall more than a few 5e compatible or d20 OGL games that didn't mesh rules with the story well at all.
The name is recognized, but it doesn't really require any particular setting to succeed (e.g. crit role didnt need that). Hmm maybe the key is just to have actors with amazing synergy playing the new game. I agree that having the tolkein IP would be a massive bonus. Release a modern MERP might work. Maybe you have to write some novels first, establish a D&D world that becomes popular, then add a TTRPG to that.
 

hedgeknight

Explorer
This thread takes me back to the days of Wolfgang Baur's Open Design, the pre-cursor to the "kickstarter" type projects. In OD, patrons bought in at various levels and actually had a hand in the design of the adventure. Via the forum, we could talk with each other and with the lead designer(s) and artists. I helped edit and proofread a few of those projects and it was a lot of fun (a lot of work too!). I miss those early days of adventure creation. I can only imagine how the "old guys" felt designing and play-testing the original adventures we love so much.
 


bennet

Explorer
This thread takes me back to the days of Wolfgang Baur's Open Design, the pre-cursor to the "kickstarter" type projects. In OD, patrons bought in at various levels and actually had a hand in the design of the adventure. Via the forum, we could talk with each other and with the lead designer(s) and artists. I helped edit and proofread a few of those projects and it was a lot of fun (a lot of work too!). I miss those early days of adventure creation. I can only imagine how the "old guys" felt designing and play-testing the original adventures we love so much.
I don't know if it is what you are talking about, but a Open Source D&D clone, that had no license to any one person or company, that had lots of writers, artists, designers collaborate into creating a new game (G&G), would be awesome.
D&D linux if you will.
 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
In terms of fantasy tabletop gaming and adjacent areas, we will continue to see the occasional breakout game or product. I think the “problem”, such as there is one, is that 5e and Critical Role were two of those products.

PF was another. But that took a lot things coming together.
As for trying to do your own better D&D…there is a reason that’s called a fantasy heartbreaker.
 


Reynard

Legend
I am going to answer the questions in the title of the thread, because I think they are more interesting than the questions in the first post.

Is the TTRPG market swamped now?

It is certainly "busy". At the same time there are also a lot more potential customers there have ever been, and many of those are reaching the stage of what else is out there besides D&D (since many of them have been playing D&D for 5-ish years). I think that means that the TTRPG industry is on the cusp of opening up -- a new 1990s, if you will, full of new ideas and old ideas made new again, but also fragmented and niche in a lot of ways. The big difference between the 90s and now is currently there are a bunch of well polished core systems (PbtA, Fate, FitD, etc) that folks trust to provide a solid experience so I think we will see fewer wacky core dice engines like Shadowrun, Vampire or Deadlands.

Could You Write a Winner?

I am an on again, off again freelance RPG writer. I sometimes toy with the idea of putting something out of my own, but I think a "winner" in this industry is much like any other artistic industry -- it is as much about luck and timing as anything else. There are thousands of great self published novels, for example, but we (the general public) got Twilight and 50 Shades. So.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
There are thousands of great self published novels, for example, but we (the general public) got Twilight and 50 Shades. So.

Define "great".

Twilight and 50 Shades, as much as I find them to be drek, gave reading satisfaction to millions. They perforce must be great in some sense. Which is fine, because there is no general sense.
 

Reynard

Legend
Define "great".

Twilight and 50 Shades, as much as I find them to be drek, gave reading satisfaction to millions. They perforce must be great in some sense. Which is fine, because there is no general sense.
My point was those were the ones among many other "equally deserving" novels that emerged and became cultural phenomena -- because there is no "deserved" just accident. On the upside, we got The Martian, too, so there's that.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
My point was those were the ones among many other "equally deserving" novels that emerged and became cultural phenomena -- because there is no "deserved" just accident.

No, it isn't just accident. There's a wide gulf between "it is complete luck and chance" and "it is entirely due to superior quality of the work". For example, Twilight (and by extension, 50 Shades) didn't succeed completely by chance. The authors were filling pretty predictable reader desires.
 

MGibster

Legend
Wow. That's one of the most condescending positions around.
It's a position I've heard for many decades now. I've heard a lot of people say that D&D is only popular because it's got a strong brand, but hear me out everyone; Maybe it's a strong brand because TSR and WotC have consistently put out good games for almost five decades now? I try not to be snooty about what I like and especially try to avoid telling other people they wouldn't recognize something good if it bit them on the bum at high noon in the town square. When I really think about it, a lot of what I like is just silly. I've got not room to cast aspersions.
 

Innovation is thin on the ground these days. So many game designers do little besides pump out endless splatbooks for 5e, adding new spells, monsters, and pc options, no matter how dubious.

Too few actually produce original material, either system or setting. There are a few, but you have to look hard.

I don't expect to buy any RPG material except a few tokens in 2022, because there's so much free stuff out there, and there's nothing currently on the RPG horizon that I am willing to pay for.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Innovation is thin on the ground these days. So many game designers do little besides pump out endless splatbooks for 5e, adding new spells, monsters, and pc options, no matter how dubious.

Too few actually produce original material, either system or setting. There are a few, but you have to look hard.
Dungeons & Dragons is the industry standard for tabletop roleplaying games: it isn't just the best-selling game, it's bigger than that. It's the game that has set the expectation of what a tabletop roleplaying game is even supposed to look like. When you ask someone if they want to play a tabletop RPG, the first thing that pops into their head is going to be "Dungeons & Dragons." It's a powerful, valuable brand name in the industry.

The issue isn't that game developers don't know how to make original, cutting-edge games and game systems, or that they lack the creative genius to write original material. The issue is that if they don't make a game that looks and plays the way people expect it to, it isn't going to sell. And for better or worse, that expectation is almost always Dungeons & Dragons.

EDIT: or as @Umbran put it more succinctly,
For example, Twilight (and by extension, 50 Shades) didn't succeed completely by chance. The authors were filling pretty predictable reader desires.
 
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The issue isn't that game developers don't know how to make original, cutting-edge games and game systems, or that they lack the creative genius to write original material. The issue is that if they don't make a game that looks and plays the way people expect it to, it isn't going to sell. And for better or worse, that expectation is almost always Dungeons & Dragons.

The issue is that if they don't produce some half-warmed-over pulp that resembles or interfaces with 5e, it won't sell a lot. But as countless threads here have established, selling RPGs is not a path to wealth.

There are still a few innovative systems and settings that look nothing like 5e; the sad thing is that that sort of innovation and depth is very rare.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
The issue isn't that game developers don't know how to make original, cutting-edge games and game systems, or that they lack the creative genius to write original material. The issue is that if they don't make a game that looks and plays the way people expect it to, it isn't going to sell. And for better or worse, that expectation is almost always Dungeons & Dragons.
In fact there are thousands of new games every year, many of which are very innovative. We just haven't heard of most of them for the reasons you cite. A quick look at itch.io or Kickstarter will confirm that!
 

Jared Earle

Explorer
With a budget of £20,000 and making a target of £35,000? Yes, it's possible to make a winner. You need an established reputation or a lot of luck, but it's possible.

Of course, you need to produce something good for it to work, and you need access to talent to make it look worth buying.
 


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