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D&D 5E The Mainstreaming of D&D

Reynard

Legend
First and foremost: I am glad D&D is having a renaissance, and I am glad lots of new people are coming into the hobby. I am glad there is a robust 3rd part of semi-pro support ecosystem out there. I am glad there are YouTube channels, streamers and tik-toks aplenty on the subject of running and playing the game. I am glad celebrities are "coming out" as fans.

All that said, if I am honest, I liked it better when D&D was a nerdy little hobby that felt a little weird and a little transgressive. I'm not lamenting exclusion -- it is great that everyone gets to discover D&D -- nor am I missing the unfriendly stereotypes of old school sword and sorcery -- although you can take Frazetta from my cold dead hands. It's more like as I see what is emerging for D&D in this new mainstream environment, I am... bored. Uninspired. It feels like TMNT on saturday mornings compared to its origins. It feels a lot like teh 2E transition, in fact, with everything glossy and clean and, well, safe.

Anyway, just thinking with my fingers, really. Like I said, it is good that D&D is popular and mainstream for any number of reasons. But the shape it is taking in the mainstream leaves me cold, a little sad even.
 

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I feel completely opposite.

I love that I can bring D&D up in social situations and not feel embarrassed because of its reputation! I love that my player base has grown more diverse. I love how people I connect to through other hobbies also wind up playing D&D!

I also think the popularity of D&D is making a lot of room for cool independent RPGs that can try interesting, innovative things. I mean, look at all those Kickstarters!

That said, I completely ignore Critical Role and other streaming games... watching other people play just isn't fun for me. D&D remains for me a very personal hobby that now I get to share with a lot more people.
 

Slow_Travel

Explorer
First and foremost: I am glad D&D is having a renaissance, and I am glad lots of new people are coming into the hobby. I am glad there is a robust 3rd part of semi-pro support ecosystem out there. I am glad there are YouTube channels, streamers and tik-toks aplenty on the subject of running and playing the game. I am glad celebrities are "coming out" as fans.

All that said, if I am honest, I liked it better when D&D was a nerdy little hobby that felt a little weird and a little transgressive. I'm not lamenting exclusion -- it is great that everyone gets to discover D&D -- nor am I missing the unfriendly stereotypes of old school sword and sorcery -- although you can take Frazetta from my cold dead hands. It's more like as I see what is emerging for D&D in this new mainstream environment, I am... bored. Uninspired. It feels like TMNT on saturday mornings compared to its origins. It feels a lot like teh 2E transition, in fact, with everything glossy and clean and, well, safe.

Anyway, just thinking with my fingers, really. Like I said, it is good that D&D is popular and mainstream for any number of reasons. But the shape it is taking in the mainstream leaves me cold, a little sad even.
I agree completely.

DnD is pop music. It's vanilla.

Maybe it's time to dig deeper into the scene and play other stuff.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I too am happy for D&D's popularity but also often feel like the current shape of the game's expectations are not for me at all (basically, ever since getting back into it after a 5ish year break, skipping an edition and jumping in 5 years into the newest edition, I feel OLD a lot of the time). That said, I'm totally okay with some versions or understandings of the game not being for me. . . I just need to find and develop my niche.

As the tagline for my HOW I RUN IT zines says, "Old school vibes. New school inclusion."
 

Okay, that said, I experienced something similar with Game of Thrones.

When I first started reading it, it was a 3 book series that was well known in fantasy circles but also seen as innovative and a little rebellious.

When the show first came out, it was really exciting to be able to talk about R+L=J theories at Thanksgiving.

But then the show became more and more popular (and the quality of the storytelling plummeted), and I started feeling nostalgia for when Game of Thrones was a quirky series of books.

But then I ask myself: where would I be without the TV show?

I'd still be waiting for Winds of Winter, and have fewer people to talk about it with.

So I think in a way the nostalgia is misguided.
 



Yeah, TMNT was a very cool, strange, quirky, kinda punk rock black and white comic that I knew primarily through the Palladium RPG. Then it morphed into something for kids. I mean, I was a kid, but I liked it because it wasn't for kids, you know?
I never caught onto how it originally satirized Daredevil comics...

The Ninja Turtles mutate because of mysterious ooze spilled in a traffic accident. Matt Murdock gained his abilities by exposure to mysterious ooze in a traffic accident.

They learn from a teacher named Splinter. Daredevil's teacher was named Stick.

They fight a gang of ninjas called the Foot. Daredevil fights the Hand.

It's a funny evolution how a parody comic turned into a children's entertainment empire! But they do say that the best satire is also a great example of its own genre.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
I unironically have and wear this shirt:

s-l1600.jpg

I feel like you might need to grab one, too. 'Cause honestly, that's what this feeling is. We're D&D Hipsters, the lot of us.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
All that said, if I am honest, I liked it better when D&D was a nerdy little hobby that felt a little weird and a little transgressive. I'm not lamenting exclusion -- it is great that everyone gets to discover D&D -- nor am I missing the unfriendly stereotypes of old school sword and sorcery -- although you can take Frazetta from my cold dead hands. It's more like as I see what is emerging for D&D in this new mainstream environment, I am... bored. Uninspired. It feels like TMNT on saturday mornings compared to its origins. It feels a lot like teh 2E transition, in fact, with everything glossy and clean and, well, safe.

I think you are discussing an interesting issue. D&D, if you were young when it was vital in the 70s and very early 80s, was like coming across a stash of Playgirls or Playboys in the forest (depending on your preference ... or both ... no judging). It was deeply weird and adult in ways that other things just weren't.

The culture itself has changed- one of the weird moments if you watch Stranger Things with a younger generation is things that seem unremarkable if you grew up back then (riding bikes at all hours, parents with no idea where you are) are bizarre today.

Admittedly, some of the things that made it weird and transgressive also made it exclusionary- such as the art, which tended to be more "male-gaze-y".

I wouldn't say that it is uninspired today- I would say the game itself is more "safe" (more "kid-friendly") while the surrounding culture is also more "transgressive" in general (many computer games, for example, have such wild ideas ...) that D&D seems fairly tame by comparison.

Part of it is probably just the nostalgia- it was weirder when you first played it because it's all new. New players probably find it pretty weird! You can't recapture that feeling.

Maybe try some other TTRPGs?
 




It's weird that people keep saying this, when I have not only played a bunch of different RPGs in the 35 years I have been gaming, but I've written for a pretty wide variety, too.
To be fair, you did tag this as D&D5e, so I imagine the conversation is going to be based around that context.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Yeah, TMNT was a very cool, strange, quirky, kinda punk rock black and white comic that I knew primarily through the Palladium RPG. Then it morphed into something for kids. I mean, I was a kid, but I liked it because it wasn't for kids, you know?
The Saturday Morning Cartoon version was on the air when I was 2, so it's primary to my mind, and awesome.
 

Yeah, TMNT was a very cool, strange, quirky, kinda punk rock black and white comic that I knew primarily through the Palladium RPG. Then it morphed into something for kids. I mean, I was a kid, but I liked it because it wasn't for kids, you know?
I was also a kid with a subscription to Daredevil at the time, so the parody was right in my face.

But this exactly. The original comic was also bloody and more raw than the comics code would allow Marvel to be. When it turned into a cartoon with color-coded bandanas for the characters to help the audience tell them apart, the shark had officially been jumped for 12 year old me.
 


D1Tremere

Adventurer
I honestly don't see any difference in the material with regard to being more "safe, kid friendly" or having a different direction than it always has. Could someone elaborate on these things?

The main difference I see in content is that the game, and to some extent the player base, has grown. As much as I appreciate Gygax and Arneson for creating D&D, it is easy to see today that they came from a place of simplistic tropes and stereotypes, and fairly unimaginative (by today's standards) "Fantasy" gaming. That is just my opinion. Gygax specifically was very focused on keeping the game grounded in a romanticized medieval European aesthetic.
 

D1Tremere

Adventurer
First and foremost: I am glad D&D is having a renaissance, and I am glad lots of new people are coming into the hobby. I am glad there is a robust 3rd part of semi-pro support ecosystem out there. I am glad there are YouTube channels, streamers and tik-toks aplenty on the subject of running and playing the game. I am glad celebrities are "coming out" as fans.

All that said, if I am honest, I liked it better when D&D was a nerdy little hobby that felt a little weird and a little transgressive. I'm not lamenting exclusion -- it is great that everyone gets to discover D&D -- nor am I missing the unfriendly stereotypes of old school sword and sorcery -- although you can take Frazetta from my cold dead hands. It's more like as I see what is emerging for D&D in this new mainstream environment, I am... bored. Uninspired. It feels like TMNT on saturday mornings compared to its origins. It feels a lot like teh 2E transition, in fact, with everything glossy and clean and, well, safe.

Anyway, just thinking with my fingers, really. Like I said, it is good that D&D is popular and mainstream for any number of reasons. But the shape it is taking in the mainstream leaves me cold, a little sad even.
Can you elaborate on the shape you see it taking?
 

Dragonsbane

Proud Grognard
I agree completely.

DnD is pop music. It's vanilla.

Maybe it's time to dig deeper into the scene and play other stuff.
Try Cypher System. We play 5E and 3E and 1E modules as well as homebrew, and it is much more satisfying than DnD for me and my 1980s grognard group. Fixed everything I had houseruled. It is SO not vanilla.

That said, I do remember in the 80s during the Panic a sense of coolness for being in that outside nerd/freak group lol
 

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