5E "Labels" and D&D Gaming

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I mean, it's a game that appeals heavily to people who are happy to spend an evening arguing whether a Galaxy-class starship could defeat an Imperial Star Destroyer using semi-official canon and schematics.
Well, the answer to that is so obvious you'd have to be a tholian nerf herder to not agree that ... oh. Wait. That wasn't really a question. Never mind. :oops:
 

the Jester

Legend
Now, this concept is very interesting to me. In a vague, hypothetical sense this sounds cool, but I can’t picture how this would actually look at the table. Would you be willing to elaborate on this, particularly in terms of specific examples in actual play? What action steps should a DM who wants to try running a game this way take?
I can speak to this. This is the style of campaign that I run.

So for me, the way it works is this: I have a ton of players, too many to cram into one group. So different permutations of players form several different groups. Let's call them Teams Alpha, Beta, and Delta.

Alpha contains Joe, Aaron, Emmett, Big Aaron, Pam, Chris, Sue, and Jeff.
Beta contains Big Aaron, Jeff, Shawn, Joe, Laura, Aaron, Emmett, and Joey.
Delta contains Pam, Aaron, Emmett, Chris, Sue, and River.

In all cases, the groups feature occasional crossovers and transplants. For instance, Jeff's pc Haji has adventured in Alpha, then moved over to Beta for a while. When he did so, Jeff's existing Beta character moved into Team Alpha.

Now, the Beta group is looser than the others and includes at least three groups of pcs, all of whom include Big A and Jeff. Aaron and Emmett have a couple of pcs that are in one of those groups; Joe and Laura are in a different one, but those two parties are about to merge. So when Beta plays, the actual group we run depends on who is available.

In practice, this means that no group gets as much gaming in as I'd like (other than Beta, which has the easiest and most manageable schedule collectively and is most able to come up to my in-the-middle-of-nowhere house, whereas we otherwise mostly game at Pam's actually-in-town place). However, there's a lot to love about this style of play. First of all, you don't usually have to say, "Sorry, there's no room for you at the table" when someone new wants to join- it's more a matter of finding which group has room for another players. Second, you can have arcs in the campaign where the pcs are affecting each other (but watch out for screwy timeline issues!). And finally, you have things where groups can see how other groups have impacted the world.

For instance, the first pc to hit 20th level (and semi-retire) in my game is a cleric of Jeff's. This guy now has a temple out of town and he uses divine intervention to constantly improve it. He has a crowd of peasants outside his temple every day, because he uses his tremendous holy powers to help the poor, heal the sick, etc. Other adventurers drop in when they need something from him, usually have to wait a day or so until he has some spell slots, and often donate or sell diamonds to him to prepare for the day when they need him to raise them from the dead. (There's a significant diamond shortage in the area after he bought up all the ones he could find for a true rez some time back.) So he has improved the city's overall health and the dynamics of its population dramatically.

The main advice I have for a DM who wants to run this style of game is to develop a setting with lots going on. If you have multiple groups of pcs, they need lots of adventures to go through- and you shouldn't mess around with running multiple pcs through the same adventure, you end up with messy contradictions and duplicates of treasure, different outcomes, etc. Let each group do its own thing. DON'T try to set them against each other unless you have the full buy in of the whole group. Rivalries are fine- but don't force the groups to be enemies. Better still is if they can sometimes team up and trade members.

One tool I recently started using that is extremely helpful is a campaign calendar. Print it out, write which group is where when on it. Then you know that, for instance, Team Alpha can't interact with Beta for another game week, because Beta has already played that week out.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Umm, no.

1. Someone who was gaming at the age of 35 in 1995, had possibly been gaming for 10 years, quite easily. Now, they did cut off at 35 because their market research showed that gamers really stop buying after 35 (or, at least that was true at the time of the research). But, no, it wasn't "tweaked" to give the results they wanted. That would be blindingly stupid.
It was blindingly stupid, and that's just my point.

And whether or not those over 35 stop buying is utterly irrelevant when conducting research on how people play the game.

2. Even ignoring the actual market research, I can point you to reams and reams of anecdotal evidence of the time. Heck, poll after poll on En World, stretching back nearly two decades gives consistently the same result - most campaigns last 12-18 months. The overwhelming majority do.
May I point out something rather obvious that you've missed:

ENWorld's entire existence has been during the 3e-and-forward era. 3e was specifically designed to promote 12-18 month campaigns thus it's hardly surprising that most people ended up playing it that way whether they otherwise would have or not. 4e and 5e subsequently followed the same model.

3. At the time the market research was done, the average gamer was in their 20's. Again, by an overwhelming majority. Like about 4:1 to those in their 30's or older. And that ratio has stayed true throughout 3e and 4e. Dunno about now.
If you're getting that data from the research itself, I'll just facepalm now and get it over with.

Of course most gamers would show to be in their 20s because responses from anyone in their 40s or higher, along with those in their late 30s, were discarded! (there was a low-age cutoff as well but I forget what it was)

Those who picked up the game in college in the late 70s/early 80s - i.e. a very large part of what drove the 1e boom - didn't qualify to be heard; they'd have generally been 18-22 then and thus in their mid-30s or higher when the research was done. How many of those people were still playing by then is, of course, anyone's guess...but I suppose we'll never know other than to say some of us are still playing now.

Sorry, but that's just crap research designed to give a pre-ordained set of answers.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
If the DM has tailored the party for a low-magic stealth group and will be at a loose end if a different party is brought it, then the DM screwed up on Session 0. Full stop.
The DM screwed up, yes, but long before session 0.

Where the DM screwed up is in trying to tailor the adventures at all. The adventure should be the same no matter what the players try to run through it; and if the first batch of PCs doesn't suit then maybe the survivors will recruit some help that does suit. :)

The DM should never be at a loose end if she just runs what she's gonna run.

Sure, design the world and loose campaign concepts ahead of time, but I'd actually recommend doing a lot of the early core adventure crafting between Session 0 and Session 1, once you know how to build the game around the principle cast and what their motivations are.
I'm not building around any principal cast because I can be 95% sure that some of that initial "principal cast" won't even be around after the first adventure!

For my current campaign I started 'em off in Keep on the Borderlands and ran it pretty much stock. They filled a graveyard with PCs.

That said, once the players had rolled up their characters two of them came up with a really cool idea* for how the initial party could meet/form in the first place, which I straight-up ran with.

* - one brought in a Bard, the other a Cavalier; their idea for forming the party was that these two would travel up-country toward the mountains, and at every village they'd stop and the Bard would sing songs about the great heriosms they were about to do (and some non-existent BS ones they'd already done!), and invite brave people to join them. They picked up about one character per village and by the time they got to the mountains they had a rather big party. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I can speak to this. This is the style of campaign that I run.

So for me, the way it works is this: I have a ton of players, too many to cram into one group. So different permutations of players form several different groups. Let's call them Teams Alpha, Beta, and Delta.

Alpha contains Joe, Aaron, Emmett, Big Aaron, Pam, Chris, Sue, and Jeff.
Beta contains Big Aaron, Jeff, Shawn, Joe, Laura, Aaron, Emmett, and Joey.
Delta contains Pam, Aaron, Emmett, Chris, Sue, and River.

In all cases, the groups feature occasional crossovers and transplants. For instance, Jeff's pc Haji has adventured in Alpha, then moved over to Beta for a while. When he did so, Jeff's existing Beta character moved into Team Alpha.
Yep.

Ideally in this case I'd want to run Alpha on one night of the week, Beta on another and Delta on another (and in days of old was even able to pull this off once in a while!). Best I've done lately - and even that not for some years now - is to have two groups going, one on Fridays, one on Sundays. (now it's just Sundays)

You hit one key element: player overlap between groups. In your example Emmett is in all three, meaning his PCs can interweave between groups now and then and provide the reason for the others to know (or at least know of) each other.

In practice, this means that no group gets as much gaming in as I'd like (other than Beta, which has the easiest and most manageable schedule collectively and is most able to come up to my in-the-middle-of-nowhere house, whereas we otherwise mostly game at Pam's actually-in-town place). However, there's a lot to love about this style of play. First of all, you don't usually have to say, "Sorry, there's no room for you at the table" when someone new wants to join- it's more a matter of finding which group has room for another players. Second, you can have arcs in the campaign where the pcs are affecting each other (but watch out for screwy timeline issues!).
Here I can chime in with a few direct answers to @Charlaquin 's questions.

First, at the table during any given session 95% of the time thing look feel and play exactly the same as they otherwise would. You're playing the party you're playing in whatever adventure they're in, etc.

However, the other 5% is where the fun starts. There's four types of sessions that can be unusual:

- sessions (usually downtime) where multiple parties are in the same place at the same time and can thus meet, interact, etc. If it's all or almost all the same players just with multiple PCs this is easy; if it's groups with very little player overlap then you're probably doing a lot by email that week. :)

- sessions (usually downtime) where multiple parties could be in the same place at the same time but because one or more groups hasn't been played up to that point yet you're not sure. These are messy. I can't count the times I've said to a group "Well, you make it back to town but I-as-DM have no idea what other characters are here right now, other than A, B and C who retired here full-time."

- sessions where for game-time reasons you-as-DM have to force one group to stop and jump to another group so you can catch them up in time. This is I think what @the Jester means by "screwy timeline issues"; you have to stay right on top of game time for all involved, and if a group starts lagging behind you've got to speed them up while if a group gets too far ahead you've got to put them on hold. Ditto for indivudal retired or inactive PCs, but these are usually much easier to update.

- sessions where something affects the entire group at once e.g. an attack on a shared home base when multiple parties are in from the field. Here you might end up running a combined-group session or two to deal with the one situation before they split out again.

Most of the time these days how it goes is we run one party through an adventure or two, then put that group on hold and jump to another group doing something different during that same stretch of in-game time. One result of this is that in-game time does end up passing MUCH more slowly than real time; my current campaign has been going for 11 years real but the leading group just got to 5 years game time since the campaign began.

And finally, you have things where groups can see how other groups have impacted the world.
Very much yes, even including having one group go back to the site of another group's previous adventure but for a different reason.

The main advice I have for a DM who wants to run this style of game is to develop a setting with lots going on. If you have multiple groups of pcs, they need lots of adventures to go through- and you shouldn't mess around with running multiple pcs through the same adventure, you end up with messy contradictions and duplicates of treasure, different outcomes, etc. Let each group do its own thing. DON'T try to set them against each other unless you have the full buy in of the whole group. Rivalries are fine- but don't force the groups to be enemies. Better still is if they can sometimes team up and trade members.
Almost completely agreed.

Running multiple groups through the same adventure isn't a problem provided anything after the first is framed as a "return to" and it's acknowledged that the treasure taken out by the first group through won't have magically reappeared for the second.

Another big factor IME is whether the groups can find a way to generate a common shared home base (at a halfway-central location!) where they can share and-or pool resources, swap out members, trade items, and so forth; and can also serve as a retired characters home. In different campaigns I've seen this germinate from a castle given as a royal reward, a pub built by a PC (and then greatly augmented by others) specifically as a group meeting point, and a keep given by a Deck card.

This is where player overlap can become huge.

One tool I recently started using that is extremely helpful is a campaign calendar. Print it out, write which group is where when on it. Then you know that, for instance, Team Alpha can't interact with Beta for another game week, because Beta has already played that week out.
I have a file in my computer for this, though I rarely print it out. But tracking who is where in game time is vitally important.
 

Marandahir

Explorer
That's one way to do it, but if the GM has an existing campaign world with a lot of built in conflicts and things, the GM should provide a primer for the players and say, "This is where you'll be adventuring and the kinds of things you will likely find to do. Create characters that fit there."
Absolutely – that's personally my favourite way to go about it, alongside a Session 0 where we figure out what sort of games they're interested in so that I can draw out the conflicts and game-play they prefer. But even with a primer, the players need to buy into the pre-existing world and story theme. You don't have a game if the players revolt, and trust me: the players WILL revolt if they're looking forward to high seas action and adventure and suddenly the mists roll in at the sea and they're in an oceanic domain of dread horror adventure.

The DM screwed up, yes, but long before session 0.

Where the DM screwed up is in trying to tailor the adventures at all. The adventure should be the same no matter what the players try to run through it; and if the first batch of PCs doesn't suit then maybe the survivors will recruit some help that does suit. :)

The DM should never be at a loose end if she just runs what she's gonna run.

I'm not building around any principal cast because I can be 95% sure that some of that initial "principal cast" won't even be around after the first adventure!

For my current campaign I started 'em off in Keep on the Borderlands and ran it pretty much stock. They filled a graveyard with PCs.

That said, once the players had rolled up their characters two of them came up with a really cool idea* for how the initial party could meet/form in the first place, which I straight-up ran with.

* - one brought in a Bard, the other a Cavalier; their idea for forming the party was that these two would travel up-country toward the mountains, and at every village they'd stop and the Bard would sing songs about the great heriosms they were about to do (and some non-existent BS ones they'd already done!), and invite brave people to join them. They picked up about one character per village and by the time they got to the mountains they had a rather big party. :)
Thanks for the insightful response.

I think we may be talking a bit past each other. You sound like you're referring to a DM with a group of players that return time and time again with different party members to challenge the same dungeon. That's a classic and fun way to play (and I probably wouldn't run Tomb of Horrors, for example, in any other way – you kind of NEED the dead bodies to build a meat wall to get past some of the traps!)

I was speaking, rather, to a long-running, narrative-focused campaign, especially one the DM is selling to a party of players who may not be wedded to playing with that DM if they don't like the game. In order to secure ANY group of players, one needs to know WHAT those players are looking for. It may be as simple as "I want to play D&D, and I need a DM to play it, so I'm stuck with you." But there's a certain point when some players will NOT suffer a DM any longer if she keeps pulling the wool over their eyes.

Sounds like your group is down for whatever you throw at them though, so that's great!
 
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The DM screwed up, yes, but long before session 0.

Where the DM screwed up is in trying to tailor the adventures at all. The adventure should be the same no matter what the players try to run through it; and if the first batch of PCs doesn't suit then maybe the survivors will recruit some help that does suit. :)
Well yes. If you think a meatgrinder is the only way things should be run the DM screwed up by deciding to run something else.

But there are times and groups where I want to run Blades in the Dark for a heist game complete with derring do and flashbacks to explain what's really going on. There are other times I want to run a comedy game with piling up of consequences but no one actually dying (I use Firefly for this). There are other times I want to run Monsterhearts - a game about teenage monsters, sex, violence, and tons of angst. If I'm running that I want to make sure in advance that my players are all on board.

The DM should never be at a loose end if she just runs what she's gonna run.
This applies if and only if there is only one type of game the DM wants to run and they can be trusted to always run the same type of game. Meanwhile even within the scope of D&D I can think of at least four types of game I run from sandboxing and dungeoncrawling while letting the PCs live or die depending on their choices to epic adventure paths with the end goal of saving the world and that are largely driven by the bad guys.

If the DM only runs in one style and works to build up an audience they may never be at a loose end. But if I were to switch up what I do and not match what I did to the players I'd be producing a game that might well not work with some of them and it would give them bad experiences. Meanwhile if I play to their strengths we all have much more fun. And I get far more out of running for them and they get more from playing in my game.

This can occasionally lead to clashes; two of my favourite players to run for ever (one of whom has alas moved across the country) were in the same group but had completely different playstyles and things they were looking for in a game. One likes a tight fairly heavy and defined game, and the other is just this side of freeform (and they both run in their styles; both are experienced GMs). And playing with either of them in their style is amazing - but playing with both always made me feel I could do better. Which set a challenge for me.

For my current campaign I started 'em off in Keep on the Borderlands and ran it pretty much stock. They filled a graveyard with PCs.
That's a good way to filter your players. Some of my favourite players (including the freeform one above) would probably have dropped out after the second PC death. Not that he minds the occasional dramatic PC death - but a graveyard full is not what he wants.

So the DM screwed up in session 0. D&D is broader than just one thing. You don't need much of a session zero because you have a simple pitch. But yours is not the only way to do things. And frankly if I ran the way you did I'd have given up and moved to other hobbies after about three years. Which isn't to say you're doing it wrong - just that sticking to one way is not for me.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Well yes. If you think a meatgrinder is the only way things should be run the DM screwed up by deciding to run something else.
Doesn't even have to be a meatgrinder, but it does presuppose a degree of sandbox-like mentality where the DM has various adventures ready to go depending on what hooks the party bite; with those adventures being predetermined well before char-gen.

But there are times and groups where I want to run Blades in the Dark for a heist game complete with derring do and flashbacks to explain what's really going on. There are other times I want to run a comedy game with piling up of consequences but no one actually dying (I use Firefly for this). There are other times I want to run Monsterhearts - a game about teenage monsters, sex, violence, and tons of angst. If I'm running that I want to make sure in advance that my players are all on board.
Unlike you who seems cool with learning lots of systems, I'm the sort for whom learning an RPG system is work I feel I should only ever have to do once, after which I'll just tweak that system to give me what I want if required.

This applies if and only if there is only one type of game the DM wants to run and they can be trusted to always run the same type of game. Meanwhile even within the scope of D&D I can think of at least four types of game I run from sandboxing and dungeoncrawling while letting the PCs live or die depending on their choices to epic adventure paths with the end goal of saving the world and that are largely driven by the bad guys.
One can do all of these and more within the same campaign.

That's a good way to filter your players. Some of my favourite players (including the freeform one above) would probably have dropped out after the second PC death. Not that he minds the occasional dramatic PC death - but a graveyard full is not what he wants.
The player-filtering occurs much earlier in my case, at point of deciding who I'm going to invite in.

As it turned out, the four players who went through KotB had an absolute blast with it - and got really good at rolling up characters, too! :)

So the DM screwed up in session 0. D&D is broader than just one thing. You don't need much of a session zero because you have a simple pitch. But yours is not the only way to do things. And frankly if I ran the way you did I'd have given up and moved to other hobbies after about three years. Which isn't to say you're doing it wrong - just that sticking to one way is not for me.
Fair enough. :)
 
Unlike you who seems cool with learning lots of systems, I'm the sort for whom learning an RPG system is work I feel I should only ever have to do once, after which I'll just tweak that system to give me what I want if required.
It depends on the system. One of the reasons I don't play TSR-era D&D and massively prefer modern games to just about anything from before 2003 is that modern systems are so much less work to learn. When I complain about oD&D having lookup tables (or THAC0) for attack rolls, percentile chances for thief skills and system shock chances, roll under for saving throws, and the rest is because that sort of stuff is massively disproportionately hard to learn. You've already learned it so it doesn't trouble you. But if I'm going to be using multiple systems because a well designed system can do far more to help me do certain things than I could on my own there had better be a huge reason to do things that awkwardly. And ... there isn't.

The player-filtering occurs much earlier in my case, at point of deciding who I'm going to invite in.
In my case I move when I move jobs - which is about every three years or so. And I have to form a new group each time. So I look for a group that I think will be fun and fit together - but they aren't always remotely the same and are possibly a bit less filtered than I'd manage if I didn't have to refound the group.
 

Hussar

Legend
It was blindingly stupid, and that's just my point.

And whether or not those over 35 stop buying is utterly irrelevant when conducting research on how people play the game.
But, that's not what the research was. It was market research - which means that those buying are absolutely the most important part of the research. That might explain why you seem not to understand why they cut off at 35.

May I point out something rather obvious that you've missed:

ENWorld's entire existence has been during the 3e-and-forward era. 3e was specifically designed to promote 12-18 month campaigns thus it's hardly surprising that most people ended up playing it that way whether they otherwise would have or not. 4e and 5e subsequently followed the same model.

If you're getting that data from the research itself, I'll just facepalm now and get it over with.
Nope. Dragon Magazine, various websites, pretty much any actual evidence, no matter how sketchy.

Of course most gamers would show to be in their 20s because responses from anyone in their 40s or higher, along with those in their late 30s, were discarded! (there was a low-age cutoff as well but I forget what it was)

Those who picked up the game in college in the late 70s/early 80s - i.e. a very large part of what drove the 1e boom - didn't qualify to be heard; they'd have generally been 18-22 then and thus in their mid-30s or higher when the research was done. How many of those people were still playing by then is, of course, anyone's guess...but I suppose we'll never know other than to say some of us are still playing now.

Sorry, but that's just crap research designed to give a pre-ordained set of answers.
Nope. It just wasn't asking the questions that you think that it was. Why on earth would they want market research that didn't accurately reflect the market? This wasn't political polling. This was the research (the first of its kind mind you) to determine just who buys RPG's and what those buyers experiences are.

Now, all that being said, other than your campaign, which I realize that you play these very long campaigns, what evidence can you point to that this isn't a really, really far outlier?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
But, that's not what the research was. It was market research - which means that those buying are absolutely the most important part of the research. That might explain why you seem not to understand why they cut off at 35.
If the point of market research is to find out who's buying and what they'll buy, why exclude such a large proportion of the potential market?

But, if memory serves, the survey wasn't packaged as "what are you interested in buying?" but more "what/how are you playing right now?" with a bit of "what/how have you played in the past?" thrown in. And nothing was mentioned about any age cutoff in the survey itself (had there been, I wouldn't have wasted my time filling it out); I didn't find out about that until Dancey released his report, in which it is noted.

Nope. It just wasn't asking the questions that you think that it was. Why on earth would they want market research that didn't accurately reflect the market?
My question exactly: why did they want intentionally inaccurate data that only reflected a particular segment of the community/market?

This wasn't political polling. This was the research (the first of its kind mind you) to determine just who buys RPG's and what those buyers experiences are.
And that's what truly baffles me - it was the first of its kind (of any real significance, anyway) in the RPG realm, so why not start by surveying the entire market just to see what's out there?

Now, all that being said, other than your campaign, which I realize that you play these very long campaigns, what evidence can you point to that this isn't a really, really far outlier?
Must be something about our community, but any significant campaign attempt I can think of run by anyone I've known over the last 35-ish years has either a) fallen apart very early, within at most a few months but often after just a session or two, due to any of a host of factors usually involving available player time and commitment or b) lasted for years.

I somewhat suspect that might be due to back in the early 1e era there being but a very small number of DMs in town, with most subsequent DMs originating in their games (with the process repeating a few times) to start their own, and all of them had a long-term view of things.

Example (I'll file the names off to protect the guilty): the "tree" I'm in started with DM A, one of a very small group of DMs who may themselves have come from a common root, I don't know. His game lasted 6 years in the late 70s-early 80s and produced DMs B and C (of DM C I know no more). DM B's game, which has had three separate campaigns spanning nearly 40 years now, produced DMs D (me) and E that I know of, possibly along with some others of whom I've lost track. My games have gone 10, 12 and 11+ years. DM E's game lasted about 8-10 years through the late 80s-early 90s and produced DM F, whose three campaigns lasted about 12 years between them spanning the 1990s*.

Meanwhile and unrelated, another group in town (who may share a common root, I don't know) had DM G whose game, as far as I know, lasted some 5-10 years in the 1990s and produced for us first a few players and now - as of three months ago - DM H. Thus far these are all 1e-or-close games.

Toss into that mix DM I, who first joined us as a player after some DMing experience elsewhere and who since has had two campaigns: one using 3e that went 11 years through the 00s and a second ongoing PF one that's over 7 years in now.

And sure, one ten-year campaign takes the same time as five 2-year campaigns, and the five will likely involve more people in total. But that's no reason to say we're irrelevant; and around here I'd say we're probably somewhat more of an outlier now than we were at the time of the survey; in part due to game design and in part due to lower patience levels and attention spans.

* - of the people who I know were involved in games during the research period I'd guess about 3/4 would have been aged out of the survey.
 
If the point of market research is to find out who's buying and what they'll buy, why exclude such a large proportion of the potential market?
Because that's a proportion with little market presence.

Most over 35s are happy playing the game they already have. They already have a favourite system and a shelf full of books to go with it. They don't particularly want to spend the time and effort to learn a new system. And this does double for anything outside core. I can imagine you buying the core three books of each new version of D&D. But I simply can't imagine you, with your stated tastes buying any source material in e.g. the Realms or Eberron. Or the Critical Role setting. You've got your own setting.

In general, roleplaying being an exceptionally cheap hobby, over 35s have everything they need or even want including a stable location to play.

But, if memory serves, the survey wasn't packaged as "what are you interested in buying?" but more "what/how are you playing right now?" with a bit of "what/how have you played in the past?" thrown in.
Of course. One thing to remember about when it happened is that the least financially successful version of D&D was 2e, not 4e. It both got overtaken in sales by a rival (the World of Darkness) and was so unprofitable (unlike 4e which was raking in about six million dollars a year through DDI even after the launch of 5e) that it helped drive TSR to bankruptcy. WotC might have bought the biggest brand in tabletop roleplaying, but it had been an utter mess for years.

People who'd stuck with 1e through 2e were people (like yourself) who'd probably stay with 1e going forward. They were happy with their game. And the 2e fans who bought everything would probably keep doing so as long as there weren't massive changes.

But the other huge issue WotC had was that in the late 90s D&D was the old person's RPG. The popular RPG among teenagers and 20-somethings was Vampire: the Masquerade. WotC's two goals were to keep the 2e spenders (they spent money) and to win back the teenagers and 20-somethings (they spent money). They had data on what sold for 2e (player facing splatbooks) but needed more on what people were playing instead of D&D.

My question exactly: why did they want intentionally inaccurate data that only reflected a particular segment of the community/market?
They didn't. They wanted accurate data that represented the segment of the market likely to spend money.

And that's what truly baffles me - it was the first of its kind (of any real significance, anyway) in the RPG realm, so why not start by surveying the entire market just to see what's out there?
In part they did that. I don't know if the over 35s cutoff came before or after an initial scan of the results.

Must be something about our community, but any significant campaign attempt I can think of run by anyone I've known over the last 35-ish years has either a) fallen apart very early, within at most a few months but often after just a session or two, due to any of a host of factors usually involving available player time and commitment or b) lasted for years.
That's ... not my experience. But I live in London, and people move around in London. A year or two is normal and people move away for jobs. Also a group I was part of that lasted 25 years had campaigns for a couple of years.

I somewhat suspect that might be due to back in the early 1e era there being but a very small number of DMs in town, with most subsequent DMs originating in their games (with the process repeating a few times) to start their own, and all of them had a long-term view of things.
And because 1e sets things up for the very long haul that way. Apocalypse World sets itself up for 6-12 session campaign - with significant character arcs in that time and possibly rewriting the world (which was created fresh and collaboratively for the campaign). In Pathfinder it took us about a year to get up to a level in the mid teens.

And sure, one ten-year campaign takes the same time as five 2-year campaigns, and the five will likely involve more people in total. But that's no reason to say we're irrelevant;
Financially if you are still playing 1e you are. It's a game that has been basically out of print for 30 years (yes I know about the recent deluxe editions). WotC is a business.
 

Hussar

Legend
Honestly, @Lanefan, you've got it backwards. They didn't design 3e to run 1 year campaigns and then market 1 year campaigns. They learned, through the market research that was done before 3e was designed, what people were actually doing at the table. Let's not forget, prior to that WotC market research, no one had that slightest clue. There was no market research done. At all. As mind boggling as that is, it's still true. No one had the slightest clue what the "average" gamer did.

That's why they did that market research. To find out what the average gamer who was going to buy books (and that's the important caveat) did. Which revealed that D&D was largely a suburban phenomenon primarily geared towards young men in their teens and early to mid twenties. That's where the largest buying block was.
 

fearsomepirate

Explorer
Of course. One thing to remember about when it happened is that the least financially successful version of D&D was 2e, not 4e. It both got overtaken in sales by a rival (the World of Darkness) and was so unprofitable (unlike 4e which was raking in about six million dollars a year through DDI even after the launch of 5e) that it helped drive TSR to bankruptcy. WotC might have bought the biggest brand in tabletop roleplaying, but it had been an utter mess for years.
2e itself sold quite well, certainly better than 4e ever did. The problem was Williams ran TSR like a bust-out operation. TSR had a deal with Random House where they'd get a 27% cash advance on any books delivered. Williams looked at this like a sucker's deal and had TSR crap out utter garbage quality books as fast as they could to get cash. Then you had the Buck Rogers game, where Williams got paid royalties by TSR for books that didn't sell. At the end, TSR was delivering books to Random House to get the advance just to cover existing debts. When WotC took over TSR, they had AD&D profitable within a year by just not running the company like something from a mob movie.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I think there are a fair number of age 35+ 'Whales' who buy a ton of RPG material since they have a lot of disposable income and it's their lifestyle hobby. I certainly buy more WoTC stuff than most of the young gamers I know!
Today, 35+ are very active in the market. But remember that the market research under discussion was done back in 1999. That's before the boom of 3e, and again of 5e. The diversity of 3rd party materials (both game rules and physical aids like custom dice and GM screens and all) didn't exist. The market was a different place.

The 35+ of then are the 55+ of today.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
I think there are a fair number of age 35+ 'Whales' who buy a ton of RPG material since they have a lot of disposable income and it's their lifestyle hobby. I certainly buy more WoTC stuff than most of the young gamers I know!
Twenty years ago, many 35+ whales were 15+ teens in the middle of an economic boom, while many teens today have a hard time finding a part time job for pocket money and many in fact need that job for basic necessities. It is a different context.
 

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