D&D 5E Rob Schwalb and what it was like at WotC during the 5e dev and launch.

Ondath

Hero
One of the things I liked early on about 5e was its willingness to be a little weird and quirky... to have a Wild Magic table that turned you into a plant, but also have the first three levels be genuinely dangerous... to have legacy spells be just a little more powerful, but also to have these Backgrounds that just give you free shelter or transport. I like that quirkiness! I wonder now if that's a product of the different factions wanting the game to be different things.
I really like those "ribbon" abilities, and I think the OSR influence in 5E's development process definitely affected that. I still think the "iconic" spells didn't need to be overpowered, but I definitely dislike OneD&D's turn towards standardisation.

As for which factions had a hand in this, we'll never know. But I'm guessing whichever faction had this effect lost their influence around the time for Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. Mike Mearls was promoted away from the D&D team at around the same time, so maybe he had a hand in this, but who knows?
 

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SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
The gist of it seems to be “we were expecting D&D to quietly die and 5e to be the last edition, but to everyone’s surprise it was really popular.” And then he credits the surprise success to… Stranger Things, for some reason? And some vague mumblings about how live streaming games became a real thing with 5e, whereas with 4e the medium had still been finding its legs.
That's a pretty decent summary. I don't know if people still think about it today, but Stranger Things was a huge thing the first couple of years, and generated tremendous interest in D&D. I think of it as one of the things that really saved the brand. And then we had streaming (and Critical Role) take off as well.

I don't think any of this was too surprising, but Rob is blunt and I was interested to hear that D&D last was the idea that the lights on the game were going to be turned off.
 

darjr

I crit!
That's a pretty decent summary. I don't know if people still think about it today, but Stranger Things was a huge thing the first couple of years, and generated tremendous interest in D&D. I think of it as one of the things that really saved the brand. And then we had streaming (and Critical Role) take off as well.

I don't think any of this was too surprising, but Rob is blunt and I was interested to hear that D&D last was the idea that the lights on the game were going to be turned off.
Just note it was a surprise success in day one the PHB went on sale.
Before any of all this other stuff.

So much so the D&D team was surprised.

A years worth of PHBs sold out at Amazon in days.

They had to push back the printing of the DMG to print more PHBs.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
That's a pretty decent summary. I don't know if people still think about it today, but Stranger Things was a huge thing the first couple of years, and generated tremendous interest in D&D. I think of it as one of the things that really saved the brand. And then we had streaming (and Critical Role) take off as well.

I don't think any of this was too surprising, but Rob is blunt and I was interested to hear that D&D last was the idea that the lights on the game were going to be turned off.
Err… Streaming took off well before Stranger Things. I have no doubt Stranger Things helped D&D reach an even wider audience, but 5e was already a smashing success by then.
 

SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
Err… Streaming took off well before Stranger Things. I have no doubt Stranger Things helped D&D reach an even wider audience, but 5e was already a smashing success by then.
Uh, I heard people talking in my office about D&D because of Stranger Things who had no previous experience with the game. Heck, it made my wife (who is not a gamer) try D&D out when I couldn't get her to. It may not be your thing, but it was a phenomenon at the time. It brought new people into the game in droves. There was no advertising or popular culture behind the game at that point. Yes, 5E brought gamers back, but those first two years of the game had the core books and virtually nothing else.

D&D is popular in pop culture now, but it wasn't back at that point. Major celebrities weren't talking about it. I have no idea how the new people who started playing the game would have even heard about it. As someone who was the right age of those kids in Stranger Things, I was right along with it. That was from before my daughter was born so I had time to be part of pop culture. It was literally everywhere. I have no idea where the early breakout success of the game would even have come from if not from that.

I will just have to disagree that 5E was a smashing success in those days. Yeah, it was popular in terms on not being 4E, but outside of gaming circles? That would come later.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Uh, I heard people talking in my office about D&D because of Stranger Things who had no previous experience with the game. Heck, it made my wife (who is not a gamer) try D&D out when I couldn't get her to. It may not be your thing, but it was a phenomenon at the time. It brought new people into the game in droves. There was no advertising or popular culture behind the game at that point. Yes, 5E brought gamers back, but those first two years of the game had the core books and virtually nothing else.
Indeed, which is why I said I have no doubt Stranger Things helped D&D reach an even wider audience. But, again, 5e had already been a huge success by then. Both things are true.
D&D is popular in pop culture now, but it wasn't back at that point. Major celebrities weren't talking about it.
Guess it depends what you mean by “major celebrities.” Vin Diesel had been an open D&D fan for many years by that point. Stephen Colbert was another. The D&D episode of Community was enormously popular. There had already been several major news articles about how D&D was going mainstream. Certainly it was a major force multiplier for D&D’s ongoing rise in pop cultural awareness, but it was a continuation of the ongoing trend, not the catalyst for it.
 

darjr

I crit!
Stranger Things is a chicken and egg kind of thing. It’s there in part because D&D was becoming more popular and among the folks the directors hung out with.

But no doubt Stranger Things helped blow up D&D. A lot.

But it was a huge success out on day one. So much so WotC considered that something was wrong.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Uh, I heard people talking in my office about D&D because of Stranger Things who had no previous experience with the game. Heck, it made my wife (who is not a gamer) try D&D out when I couldn't get her to. It may not be your thing, but it was a phenomenon at the time. It brought new people into the game in droves. There was no advertising or popular culture behind the game at that point. Yes, 5E brought gamers back, but those first two years of the game had the core books and virtually nothing else.

D&D is popular in pop culture now, but it wasn't back at that point. Major celebrities weren't talking about it. I have no idea how the new people who started playing the game would have even heard about it. As someone who was the right age of those kids in Stranger Things, I was right along with it. That was from before my daughter was born so I had time to be part of pop culture. It was literally everywhere. I have no idea where the early breakout success of the game would even have come from if not from that.

I will just have to disagree that 5E was a smashing success in those days. Yeah, it was popular in terms on not being 4E, but outside of gaming circles? That would come later.
Vin Diesel, Steven Colbert and several others were talking & sharing their experiences before 5E came out. Critical Role started back in 3E/4E. Sarah Connor Chronicles at one point had the terminator playing D&D. Before 5E came out, it was already on an uptick. It just seemed that with 5E's release it really started to come on strong as the latest version apparently was more approachable to returning gamers.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Stranger Things is a chicken and egg kind of thing. It’s there in part because D&D was becoming more popular and among the folks the directors hung out with.

But no doubt Stranger Things helped blow up D&D. A lot.

But it was a huge success out on day one. So much so WotC considered that something was wrong.
Exactly. Stranger Things was both enabled by and an enabler of D&D’s rising popularity at the time.
 

Reynard

Legend
Vin Diesel, Steven Colbert and several others were talking & sharing their experiences before 5E came out. Critical Role started back in 3E/4E. Sarah Connor Chronicles at one point had the terminator playing D&D. Before 5E came out, it was already on an uptick. It just seemed that with 5E's release it really started to come on strong as the latest version apparently was more approachable to returning gamers.
Primarily because GenXers had graduated to being in charge of stuff by that point. They were making the TV shows and the comics and the movies and the video games at that point, so their touchstones got a lot of play. One of the biggest touchstones of GenX was D&D, because it had its first big "moment" in the 1980s. Even for those that weren't gamers. It was inevitable that GenX "nerd culture" ended up exalting D&D.
 

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