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D&D 5E Sell Out: Hasbro and the Soul of D&D

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payn

Hero
This is actually what I worry about most. 5e is in theory far more hackable than the last couple of editions, and yet every day the social media pages full of new and casual D&D players are flooded with questions like, "Is it okay to add/remove X to/from D&D?"; lowkey disdain for homebrew content; a general zeitgeist that seems reluctant towards (if not outright opposed to) doing-it-yourself; and an undercurrent of gamer orthodoxy that the D&D rules shouldn't be adapted to other genres when a different RPG will serve.

Right here on EN World, there was a thousand-post thread not too long ago where one side of the argument seemed to be arguing that it's not okay to disallow officially published races or classes in your home campaign because reasons.

One shouldn't have to be a "real die-hard" D&D player to know that it's okay to tweak, tinker, hack, and homebrew.

In the original D&D rules, the hobbyist voice of Gary Gygax insisted over and over again that the rules were mere guidelines, a starting point for creating your own campaign. A few short years later, in AD&D, we have the voice of corporate Gary, who argues: "Many products might purport to be satisfactory for use with ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, but only those noted as OFFICIAL or Authorized AD&D items should be accepted. Do not settle for substitutes or second-rate material in your campaign; ask for approved AD&D products only!" and that if you house-rule your campaign, you aren't playing AD&D anymore, you're playing a "variant fantasy game." Which, of course, everybody either ignored outright or laughed at first and then promptly ignored.

I hate to imagine that 50 years later, Corporate Gary has won out over Hobbyist Gary in the end. But that's what it looks like. And through no real effort on WotC's part, either, even though it's obviously in their interest.
This gets to heart of the matter right here. No need for any Reality Bites or Reel Big fish lyric bollocks. If its possible for D&D to sell out it happened decades ago. You could also argue the process has been cyclical throughout ownership of the brand, I just dont reccomend using Star Wars to do it.

The whole gatekeeping stuff is an entirely different thread.
 

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Emerikol

Adventurer
Very long post reduced for brevity....

I must confess that I don't hate corporations or people. I have found though that corporations in general treat me at least as good as people in general do which is to say not great but not terrible depending on who or what. Everyone is out to make a buck. Corporations exist to make a buck and those that deviate off that mandate very far are sure to fail long term. People are less powerful than corporations of course but there are more people and I tend to deal with people more even when dealing with corporations.

So when it comes to products, I really am very commercial about it. I buy the product which has the acceptable quality price combination to suit my wants or needs. I do not think about it beyond that. I do not worry where that corporation is located or even if it is a "good citizen" of the world. I don't care what it pays it's employees. I trade money which I worked to earn for some product. Once that transaction is done it is over. By giving said entity my money I am not funding their activities or their evils. I am trading something I value less for something I value more. It's done beyond that point.

And if Gary Gygax had spent a bit more time thinking about business and less time thinking about other things, he'd have continued to own TSR. And that probably would have been better for me. Probably but not certainly.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
It's weird. People use their own experience as the normal but don't realize they picked up on them after they'd already sold out and become popular. The D&D boom of the early 1980s was D&D selling out and becoming popular...otherwise there wouldn't have been a boom. That boom was followed by glut and a burst bubble, which lead to bankruptcy and being sold to WotC. D&D was sold out then, too. It became a large corporate property when Hasbro bought WotC. So again, D&D was sold out. WotC getting a bigger position in the corporate pecking order will be meaningless in regards to whatever "soul" is left in the franchise. A fair amount of people think Gary killed that "soul" when he screwed over Dave Arneson.

To quote another song, as the OP seems to enjoy doing...

Well, considering the anti-profanity policy, I can't. Look up the lyrics to Tool's Hooker with a Penis.

Gary was poor and took Arneson's game, packaged it, and sold it.

I sold out long before you'd ever even heard my name.

To paraphrase the next line...

I sold my soul to make a game, fanboy, then you bought one.
 

jeremypowell

Adventurer
As long as we're doing musical references about selling out, here's mine—and it does sum up my feelings on the matter:

"I don't believe you. You're a liar! (Play ****ing loud!)"
 


overgeeked

B/X Known World
This gets to heart of the matter right here. No need for any Reality Bites or Reel Big fish lyric bollocks. If its possible for D&D to sell out it happened decades ago. You could also argue the process has been cyclical throughout ownership of the brand, I just dont reccomend using Star Wars to do it.

The whole gatekeeping stuff is an entirely different thread.
I had the weirdest interaction with someone who was thumping their chest about DMing for five whole years and they seemed genuinely horrified that people were changing the rules, using homebrew stuff, and making house rules. It was an incredibly odd moment of dissonance.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
Ok, I’m gonna stop you right there. First of all, the reason they didn’t just pay the damn rent in RENT wasn’t because of artistic integrity, it was because they couldn’t afford to. The question isn’t “why don’t they just pay the rent?” it’s “why are these people, who are apparently happy to kill a dog for a few hundred bucks, unwilling to help Benny stop Morene’s protest in exchange for lifetime rent for free?” Their priorities seem extremely messed up. But moreover, it isn’t that the concept of remaining true to your artistic vision is alien to artists today, nor that we don’t perceive integrity and commerce as opposed. It’s that wealth inequality has grown so extreme and the social safety nets have been so thoroughly sabotaged that we no longer have the option to choose artistic integrity over getting paid. We submit to the gig economy or we starve on the street. And that’s why the characters’ decisions in RENT seem so bizarre to us, because the reality that they’re choosing homelessness over compromise hits us closer to home, and is extremely alarming.

Boomers charted the course to financial stability and handed Gen X the map, but they complained that they didn’t want to follow it. Milennials tried to pick it back up, but it caught fire right in our hands. Now Gen Z is desperately trying to recover something from the ashes of the map Gen X so casually tossed away. That’s why the concept of “selling out” is so bizarre to us - to proudly reject as beneath you something that the rest of us would probably kill for, because the alternative is starving.
Conditions and situations are different. We can't lay the blame on any group when it was technology and changes in society -along with increased international trade- that did the thing. But yes, there is a local saying that translates to "Rather die on your own foot than live kneeling" and a response "One cannot stand without nourishment". (In short, having principles is a privilege)

I'm not against things getting more popular and more commercial. If anything, I'd love for D&D to become more mainstream, more people to play with!
The people who actually care and get upset when something has "sold out" are doing so because they've tied their ego to the item or person or thing. They believe with all their heart and soul and mind that the person / item / thing is theirs (even though it's actually not.)

But then when the true owner / creator of said thing does something with it that goes away from the person who cares... that person's ego can't handle that they're being "abandoned" and they feel betrayed.
If I had only one piece of advice/wisdom to give to every child on Earth, it would be "Don't stake your identity on something you don't control." It is natural to love things, and feel some degree of ownership of things you love -in a limited way it's a two way street-, but never mingle your own ego with it. I've seen this happen again and again. Be it Marvel comics, DC Comics, Apple fans, Potterheads, Star Wars fans, Treekies... every time it ends in tears.
Technically, the Beatles sold out when they connected with Brian Epstein and cleaned up their image.
Nah, they sold out when they ditched the Kaiserkeller for the Top Ten Club in Hamburg.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Conditions and situations are different. We can't lay the blame on any group when it was technology and changes in society -along with increased international trade- that did the thing. But yes, there is a local saying that translates to "Rather die on your own foot than live kneeling" and a response "One cannot stand without nourishment". I'm not against things getting more popular and more commercial. If anything, I'd love for D&D to become more mainstream, more people to play with!
I’m not sure where in my post people are getting the idea that I’m trying to lay blame on anyone in particular. It’s a crappy situation all around and nowhere did I say it was anyone’s fault. (Ok, in a later post I said it was Boomers’ fault, though that was a bit of an oversimplification.)
 


Dausuul

Legend
I hate to imagine that 50 years later, Corporate Gary has won out over Hobbyist Gary in the end. But that's what it looks like. And through no real effort on WotC's part, either, even though it's obviously in their interest.

Much of the DIY culture in early D&D arose because--to put it bluntly--the rules were an insane mess. You had to hack them up and retool them if you wanted a good game. On top of that, TSR itself released all kinds of variations and customized rulesets, starting with the Basic/Advanced split, so even if you were determined to play by the book, you still had to decide which book to play by! The DIY culture was simply making a virtue of necessity.

Over the last three editions, however, Wizards has steadily improved D&D's ability to work out of the box. 3E standardized the ruleset; 4E got a handle on balance; 5E streamlined chargen. You no longer need a binder full of house rules to make the game work. And so now a whole lot of people are playing by-the-book 5E, and it is no longer taken for granted that every table is going to have its own customized game.

This isn't because Wizards has gotten more corporate. It's because they've done a better job! They made the game better and this is the result.

Now, it is an unfortunate truth about humans that many people like to condemn anyone who does things differently. Thus we hear a lot of cries that DIYers are perpetrating badwrongfun on their playgroups. Which sucks. But remember that just because you see it on social media, doesn't mean it's a majority view, or even a substantial minority. Social media amplifies the loud and obnoxious few over the quiet and reasonable many.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I had the weirdest interaction with someone who was thumping their chest about DMing for five whole years and they seemed genuinely horrified that people were changing the rules, using homebrew stuff, and making house rules. It was an incredibly odd moment of dissonance.

A lot o' people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch o' unconnected incidents 'n things. They don't realize that there's this, like, lattice o' coincidence that lays on top o' everything. Give you an example; show you what I mean: suppose you're thinkin' about a thief-acrobat. Suddenly someone'll say, like, thief, or acrobat, or thief-acrobat out of the blue, no explanation. No point in lookin' for one, either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness.
 

Now, it is an unfortunate truth about humans that many people like to condemn anyone who does things differently. Thus we hear a lot of cries that DIYers are perpetrating badwrongfun on their playgroups. Which sucks. But remember that just because you see it on social media, doesn't mean it's a majority view, or even a substantial minority. Social media amplifies the loud and obnoxious few over the quiet and reasonable many.
Whoa whoa whoa. You're saying different can be better? This sounds like crazy talk.
 

HJFudge

Explorer
Now, it is an unfortunate truth about humans that many people like to condemn anyone who does things differently. Thus we hear a lot of cries that DIYers are perpetrating badwrongfun on their playgroups. Which sucks. But remember that just because you see it on social media, doesn't mean it's a majority view, or even a substantial minority. Social media amplifies the loud and obnoxious few over the quiet and reasonable many.

This is certainly true that social media tends to amplify the loudest, most persistent voices. However the converse I guess would be 'just because you see it on social media, doesn't mean it ISN'T a majority view'.

In other words, its not just my social media experiences that have led me to agree with the idea that there is a very insistent group of players who are overly focused on 'officialness'. Heck, I got told just the other day on here that having any sort of time travel in my campaign meant I wasn't playing D&D. You see things like this in any group of 'fans', where they try and assert dominance and ownership of the thing they are fans of, because they've tied so much of their identity up into the idea that "Im a <x> fan" whether that x be D&D, star wars, a music group/genre, a book series, whatever. And while perhaps a bit off topic, it is why I sometimes get real uncomfortable with fanfics.

As to the OP's point of selling out, as others have said: That happened a long time ago. And while most use the term as a pejorative, I would not in this case. It's a company, it's trying to make money, it is what companies do. At this point we've several rule sets to pick from when it comes to D&D (I prefer 4E or 13th Age) and they are all pretty customizable. So even the continued commercial success of D&D doesn't really matter to me, personally. It gains me so little since I almost never use official settings.
 

Dausuul

Legend
This is certainly true that social media tends to amplify the loudest, most persistent voices. However the converse I guess would be 'just because you see it on social media, doesn't mean it ISN'T a majority view'.

In other words, its not just my social media experiences that have led me to agree with the idea that there is a very insistent group of players who are overly focused on 'officialness'. Heck, I got told just the other day on here...
ENWorld is just as much social media as Twitter and Facebook, and subject to the same dynamics. How many threads have you seen that have maybe 10 pages of discussion, followed by 90 pages of the same five people rehashing the same argument over and over?

The mods keep this place from turning into the cesspool you see on many of the bigger sites, but the loudest voices still tend to dominate (he said, loudly).
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Gen-X isn't holier-than-thou about anything. It's a defining feature.

Ah see I disagree. "We didn't do it" isn't the same as "We blame everyone else for doing it." To Gen-X, it's just a thing that's happened. Maybe someone is to blame, maybe nobody is to blame, we just know we didn't do it.

Gen X is more about telling everyone to F off and up yours to "the man".

Until you but a house/have kids etc.
 

Hussar

Legend
Right here on EN World, there was a thousand-post thread not too long ago where one side of the argument seemed to be arguing that it's not okay to disallow officially published races or classes in your home campaign because reasons.
Well, yes, this is true, if you actually ignore the actual arguments being made in favor of the arguments that you fashion in your own head and probably the primary reason WHY that thread was a thousand posts long. It's less about orthodoxy and more about folks failing basic reading skills.
 

Hussar

Legend
Gen X is more about telling everyone to F off and up yours to "the man".

Until you but a house/have kids etc.
Saw a comment the other day that resonated. When The Simpsons first came on, it was a condemnation of post-Reaganomics America in the same vein as something like Rosanne. Now, these shows are aspirational. You can afford a house, three kids and a stay at home wife with a high school education? Good luck with that. What was once seen as lower class, near poverty living, is seen as an impossible to achieve dream in today's economy.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Saw a comment the other day that resonated. When The Simpsons first came on, it was a condemnation of post-Reaganomics America in the same vein as something like Rosanne. Now, these shows are aspirational. You can afford a house, three kids and a stay at home wife with a high school education? Good luck with that. What was once seen as lower class, near poverty living, is seen as an impossible to achieve dream in today's economy.

Yeah we're watching Simpsons atm off and on. Did season 6-8.


My country doing better than most in a lot if things but that's a similar problem. Housing crisis California style with prices surging up to 20% overall 40% in some places. Per year.

OSR D&D fantasy. You can buy a house/castle.
 

Scribe

Hero
Now, these shows are aspirational. You can afford a house, three kids and a stay at home wife with a high school education? Good luck with that. What was once seen as lower class, near poverty living, is seen as an impossible to achieve dream in today's economy.
So funny, this thread had me thinking of a conversation with a friend years ago. Discussing home ownership (he was just moving out to live with his GF) I had to break down how unattainable it was going to be for him as he had never looked at the numbers.

No way I could buy into a home today, even 12 years ago, vastly different environment.
 

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