D&D (2024) So what happened to the new and classic campaign settings? (and what's next?)


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Remathilis

Legend
No, not like Greyhawk, which is very 70s-esque (with the Realms being more 80s-esque...and yes, I know it was conceived of as far as the 60s and developed in the 70s).

I mean a setting created now, with 21st century D&D (players) in mind. I personally may not like elements of it, but it makes more sense than re-hashing and/or mutating the old. IMO.

As for my quote, nice catch there. But if anything, I can use it to support my point...Greyhawk and the Realms were developed in a very different era, both drawing more from 70s sword & sorcery and early (post-Tolkien) epic fantasy. Golarion is, in many ways, a nostalgic recreation of such a setting, but with a more 00s vibe. What I'm talking about is a setting built for the 2020s and beyond - one drawing more from contemporary sources.

Actually, part of the current cultural zeitgeist is postmodern-esque "drawing from everywhere"...so it could still include a region that is more classic D&D. I'd even start it out there, ala Nentir Vale. But then expand beyond with different cultural realms that are rather different.
Like the Nentir Vale. A setting that had Pelor and Bane, the Keep on the Borderlands and Tomb of Horrors, Vistani and warforged, Strahd, Accerack, and Soth, and all the other best of from the various D&D worlds placed in one setting. Then we can sell off the rest of the settings for scrap and have our real D&D Golarion.
 

I looked up the data, definitely a lot but not overwhelmingly GenZ.
View attachment 364410
A problem D&D has always had is that players and customers are not the same thing.

A problem that statistics have always had is that by careful presentation, you can make a statistic appear to suggest the opposite of what it actually suggests.

If Gen Z is this huge cohort of customers that don't want to play their dad's D&D, why do "classic" products outperform those that are specially aimed at gen z? According to Dustyboot's list, Radiant Citadel should have been the best selling D&D product of all time. Spoiler alert: it wasn't.

Something is fishy about the prevailing narrative of D&D's success with the ephemeral "modern audience." I don't know what it is yet, but I know a red flag when I see one, and this narrative has so many, it looks like the whole communist parade.
 


GrimCo

Adventurer
I'm not sure what you are asking. Your question seemed to minimize GenZ in the customer base and I was simply pointing out that they were the single biggest cohort. Maybe I misunderstood you.
Except they are not, if we go by that pie chart. Millenials, aka people 28-43, are by far biggest single cohort, and one with with largest amount of disposable income, especially older half of millennials who are in their prime earning years. Kids under 14 are also not gen Z, they are gen Alpha.

Gen Z are either still in school or in early stages of career.

I've seen over and over that they (wotc) should make new default setting for "modern" audience. But only one person tried to explain what that means, and he basically described modern audience as left/progressive leaning urban college kid from coastal part of USA.

IMHO, prime spending demographics are millenials and young gen Xers. They are ones that have income to spend on hobbies, but also, they are ones who will buy it for their kids. So anything aimed for kids should appeal to their parents.
 

4E had hints about other places beyond the Nentir Vale all the time, but maps of the rest of the world didn't show up until the Conquest of Nerath boardgames, which subsequent magazine articles expanded upon in a segment called Nerathi Legends. IIRC a gazetteer was planned but was never released, though the Threats to the Nentir Vale release had new details and organizations in the Nentir Vale region.

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I still want a FR version of this game.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
What tropes and trappings would need to be included in a generic fantasy gen Z setting?
Contra some of the stuff from @Whizbang Dustyboots , which I don't think is wrong, but I think is too exclusive...

Gen Z and Gen Alpha are...pretty tired of grimdark and "gritty realism," but they're aware enough that we can't just go back to the prior unquestioned-moral-absolutist-heroism of yesteryear. One way of doing that is "cozy" fantasy, stuff that rebuilds sincerity and meaning by going for low-stakes warm fuzzies. Essentially, it becomes a believable "sincerely good" fantasy again because it rejects the need to "save the day" and instead becomes "save the farm" or "make a coffee shop" or the like.

But there's another way, a way highlighted by things like the DCAU, ATLA, the new She-Ra, Steven Universe, and a few other things. I call it "chiaroscuro" fantasy. I'm sure someone else has made a different and better name, but that's the name I like, 'cause I like the visual metaphor.

In chiaroscuro, the world has dark things in it. It has larger-than-life villains who do genuinely terrible things. It doesn't shy away from admitting that sometimes even public symbols are at least half hollow spectacle, that scapegoating is a problem, that the world faces real, serious, systemic problems that a single Brave Hero fighting the good fight cannot fix, no matter how hard they work for it. That's the "oscuro", the shadows we can't banish (because any attempt to do so is always tainted--blinding us to the shadows that remain, not actually eliminating them.)

But the "chiaro" is just as important. It's true, sincere, unabashed friendship. It's having the strength and courage to be goofy and fun-loving. It's people doing what they are sure is right (even if they're mistaken or misled or manipulated), and not being afraid to admit they were wrong, not throwing in the towel when stuff goes wrong but sticking with it and striving to do better. It's recognizing that "people" are not just inherently and permanently "stupid" and "scared" and "dangerous," but rather that they CAN be that...or they CAN be better if they're given a reason to. It's showing that justice and mercy, kindness and admonishment, courage and compassion CAN make a difference. That just because heroes can't solve everything doesn't mean they solve nothing--and that what they do solve, may help pave the way for others to solve the things heroes can't.

Consider She-Ra. That's pretty clearly a universe where evil is real. It's not painted as some fictitious thing, that everyone really is fundamentally good and just misguided--some of the bad guys, and in particular the upper echelons of leadership, really can be just unapolagetically dag-nasty evil. But She-Ra starts off working for the villains, only to defect early on--and several other characters do the same. They find a conscience, often in part inspired by the example she set for them. It may take time; people may be incredibly self-destructive and even threaten the whole world with their lashing out as they work through trauma. Evil people enable and exploit those folks to get what they want.

The best of the best are those who unflinchingly face that darkness and try to overcome it while saving as much as they can. Some will take the pragmatic-good approach of genuinely putting a villain in the ground for good if that's what it takes, while others will earnestly and fervently search for a way to resolve the conflict with a minimum of violence, sometimes using imprisonment (e.g. SU) or debilitation (e.g. ATLA) rather than death. It's understood that this is a messy and complicated thing, and anyone claiming to offer clean, simple answers is generally an outright villain, or a villain in disguise.

So, for me, a D&D-workable "Gen Z/Alpha fantasy setting" would look something like this:

  • Multipolar regional politics, no single hegemonic power unless it's an evil empire to be opposed
  • High diversity in race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, gender identity, orientation, physical/mental disability, etc.
  • Emphasis on seeking reconciliation, even if that sometimes proves fruitless/impossible
  • Embrace of both shiny-bright hero archetypes (e.g. Paladins) and dark-and-edgy hero archetypes (e.g. Warlock)
  • Connecting to the personal lives of individual people (mostly an adventure writing style thing--give names to every villager, make real families and ground the action with that context)
  • While combat is acceptable, lethal violence is not unless there really, truly isn't any other way
  • Real evil exists, but is usually supernatural, top-level leadership, or outright incurable, megalomaniacal insanity/personality
  • It's always possible for people to change and strive to be better, but the harder they resist that, the harder the road back will be
  • "Evil" magic used for good ends is acceptable, so long as it doesn't violate consent or age of majority
  • Faith is either de-emphasized completely, made ambiguous, or furnished with a diverse array of distinct belief styles (e.g. animism, deism, atheism, non-theistic religion a la Buddhism, etc.)
  • Direct intervention from organized religious institutions (not the powers themselves, but their clergy) will either be quite rare, obviously villainous, or (very rarely) a trans-theological ecumenical alliance
  • Supernatural wonder will be emphasized more through little delights of intense but uncontrollable magic, rather than through alien and mysterious but ultimately controllable magic
  • If shorn of the obvious sexual assault problems and violence issues, myth is a perfectly acceptable and even desirable source
  • No IRL-like politics. If it gets political at all, it's like monarchists vs mercantilists, not "conservative" vs "liberal" or "traditional" vs "progressive" or the like.
  • Diverse environments, and caring for those environments matters; often, exploitation of magical resources in a way that damages the environment will be a key background issue, which may or may not get resolved
 

GrimCo

Adventurer
That could work. For kids, so gen Alpha and youngest among gen Z. As a separate product. But nothing that you described is so specific to gen Z/Alpha. It's same old Saturday morning cartoon style fantasy we have all seen in original He Man, Conan, Galthar, Thundar or Records of Lodoss War.

Gen Z aren't kids any more. They are young (and some not so young) adults. More than half of that generation is 18+.
 


Except they are not, if we go by that pie chart. Millenials, aka people 28-43, are by far biggest single cohort, and one with with largest amount of disposable income, especially older half of millennials who are in their prime earning years. Kids under 14 are also not gen Z, they are gen Alpha.

Gen Z are either still in school or in early stages of career.

I've seen over and over that they (wotc) should make new default setting for "modern" audience. But only one person tried to explain what that means, and he basically described modern audience as left/progressive leaning urban college kid from coastal part of USA.

IMHO, prime spending demographics are millenials and young gen Xers. They are ones that have income to spend on hobbies, but also, they are ones who will buy it for their kids. So anything aimed for kids should appeal to their parents.
I'm a little confused, although it's not your fault. There used to be a cohort in between Generation X and Millennials called Generation Y, and they were significantly different than either of the generations on the border. For reasons that were never clear to me, the Powers That Be in marketing starting pretending like they didn't exist, put some of them as the youngest newly minted Gen Xers and the rest as an older half of Millennials that aren't really anything like the rest of Millennials. (Although they also split "Millennials" into Y.1 and Y.2 to represent this obvious and substantive difference; which is stupid as all get-out since using the older labels of Gen Y and Millennials already accomplished that task quite well.) It sounds like what you're describing are "disappeared" Generation Y, and I would suspect that that's a much bigger cohort than Generation Z, for various reasons, including, as you point out, the fact that they have a lot of disposable income. And as I said, the graph lists supposed players, not customers; and I question where they got data from 8 year olds in the first place. But whatever.

I didn't look very carefully at the chart until just now, and it's got major problems. As you say, Gen Z is mislabeled; a bunch of Alphas are included, making it look larger than it really is. Also, Millennials, especially if you consider both generations within the Millennial "generation" are in fact significantly larger. And Gen Xers and older literally aren't even graphed, as if we somehow don't even exist.

This isn't a true pie chart, it's just some kind of interpretive graphic for data that is clearly egregiously wrong. I know this is starting to sound a little conspiracy theoryish, but this Narrative that Gen Z is this big cohort, but oh, we're actually going to count Gen Z wrong, just not label Millennials and hope you don't notice it, and somehow "lose" the data entirely for any players who are Gen X, Generation Jones or any Baby Boomers who may still be playing (I'm sure there's some) and hope you don't notice that we're pretending nobody over 45 plays D&D at all.

Suddenly the disconnect between why WotC is saying that they're targeting Gen Z for their products, but acting like they're targeting Gen Y and Gen X at least as much so starts to make more sense. There's a whole cohort of players that they're literally not even showing us and not talking about. I know in C suite lingo, targeting the younger crowd is sexier than targeting people who are established in their careers and preferences but who have much of the disposable income is what management wants to hear, but fudging the data on who your player base actually is, which it is more and more apparent that they are doing, is starting to look pretty shady.
 

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