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D&D 5E The Mainstreaming of D&D

ShinHakkaider

Adventurer
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.

SAME. I was reading Daredevil and caught the parody/homage elements when I finally got my hands on a 6th printing of TMNT #1. Started really reading it with issue #6 and enjoyed it but quickly fell out of love with it with the cartoon. Haven't really been a fan again to this day.
 

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Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
I actually worry about a couple of the conventions I attend that seem to be getting grayer and fatter every year along with me, without a lot of new blood coming in.

As much as I love to pointlessly rail against D&D and its market dominance, it's an absolutely great thing that it's increasingly mainstream and pulling more people into the hobby. A bigger total pie means bigger slices for everyone (even if D&D still eats with its hands and only leaves like 10 percent for the rest of us to fight over). But I haven't thought about what this influx of new gamers is doing for cons, if anything. I could have it backwards, but I feel like cons have traditionally been really important for indie publishers, and if it's just grognards attending, that could be bad news for the segment of the industry I care about.

Unless remote gaming has permanently upended things, and cons--at least in-person ones--are just fading into irrelevance? I think it'll take a couple more years to figure that out.
 

Reynard

Legend
As much as I love to pointlessly rail against D&D and its market dominance, it's an absolutely great thing that it's increasingly mainstream and pulling more people into the hobby. A bigger total pie means bigger slices for everyone (even if D&D still eats with its hands and only leaves like 10 percent for the rest of us to fight over). But I haven't thought about what this influx of new gamers is doing for cons, if anything. I could have it backwards, but I feel like cons have traditionally been really important for indie publishers, and if it's just grognards attending, that could be bad news for the segment of the industry I care about.

Unless remote gaming has permanently upended things, and cons--at least in-person ones--are just fading into irrelevance? I think it'll take a couple more years to figure that out.
I should note that I don't spend a lot of time at Adventurers League tables or the like, so it may be that younger gamers are there, just not where I am (in the bigger "general roleplaying" room/hall/whatever).
 

Ixal

Adventurer
Welcome to the hard truth.
As long as something is niche, it is made for a specific target group. But once it gets mainstream it is made for the lowest common denominator to please as many people as possible at least a bit, resulting in a watered down product.
 


billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
I actually worry about a couple of the conventions I attend that seem to be getting grayer and fatter every year along with me, without a lot of new blood coming in.
I gave up on one of those conventions in my neck of the woods. It was far too depressing.
 

D1Tremere

Adventurer
Why? I am only talking about my preferences and my feelings about certain aesthetics. We don't have to like the same things. I can prefer blood and mud and you can prefer whatever it is you prefer and we can still both like D&D.
I think the reason it may come off that way to some is that you point out a very specific set of aesthetic options that exist in a large pool of choices, many of which are very blood and mud still. For example, if you compare the art, flavor, and options between Strathaven, Icewind Dale, Ravenloft, and Acquisitions Inc., you get a huge swath of different flavors to choose from.
 

Nebulous

Legend
I just get the sense 5e really doesn't want characters to ever die, and tries to thwart that possibility as much as possible. Which seems to please a vast majority of newer players.
 


Interesting, as I think something of this dynamic was a part of the game from the 80s: Tracking Down the Elusive Shift: A Review

I Was a Teenage Munchkin​

Much ink was spilled about a younger generation of players coming into the hobby without the benefit of the OD&D free-form approach. These players would learn D&D from the Basic and Advanced versions and, the thinking went at the time, would see the rules as inviolate. The focus of who dictated the rules would shift from the DM at the table to whatever TSR published. The original gamers from OD&D who valued their improvisation were coined "grognards" and the young upstarts who were focused on using the rules to “become a superperson” were termed "munchkins."

I was introduced to Basic D&D at seven-years-old (my mom DMed my first game) and, when I later introduced it to my neighbors, had no idea that there was an "Original" version much less an "Advanced" version. My own gaming group split once we discovered there were more advanced rules to play with, which we eventually embraced. It wasn't until high school that I finally gamed with an older player from college, who was so horrified by how chaotic our game was that he quit on the spot.

In short, I was one of the munchkins that grognards complained about in fanzines. Peterson sums this generational conflict up nicely:
Many of the earliest adopters of D&D had begun playing as teenagers and were by the end of the decade college graduates. We inevitably lash out most harshly at the failings in others that we know we have exhibited ourselves. With sufficient exposure to the game and with the maturity of age, the early adopters of role-playing games fervently renounced the desire for power that many readily confessed had motivated them when they first began playing.
 

I just get the sense 5e really doesn't want characters to ever die, and tries to thwart that possibility as much as possible. Which seems to please a vast majority of newer players.
See, I'm someone who thinks character death is boring and I don't see that. I see anemic healing, the double death save fail rule, and stuff like the critters that hit your HP max instead of your HP and kill you at 0 and that doesn't please me.
 

Reynard

Legend
I think the reason it may come off that way to some is that you point out a very specific set of aesthetic options that exist in a large pool of choices, many of which are very blood and mud still. For example, if you compare the art, flavor, and options between Strathaven, Icewind Dale, Ravenloft, and Acquisitions Inc., you get a huge swath of different flavors to choose from.
To be fair, I was asked a question and gave a somewhat flippant answer that while true wasn't especially nuanced. While you are right in saying there is a broad cross section of different flavors in 5E, I think if you look you can fairly easily see the trend I am talking about. It's what I mentally refer to as the MCu Effect: sure, there are lots of different Marvel movies and heroes with different aesthetics, but overall they are very similar in tone and in a specific way meant to produce a broad appeal. D&D is in similar state, I think.

And before anyone pulls out the pitchforks: I don't mean that in a pejorative way. I like the MCU. But it is intentionally samey and consistent and built for mainstream tastes, and D&D is like that too. And as I noted in my OP, this isn't the first time. The transition to 2E occurred at a similar height of popularity and attempt to breach the mainstream.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Speaking as someone who bought secondhand 1E books for the art, and a fan of Dungeon Crawl Classics (another recommendation of another game that hits an indie niche), I do get what you are saying., @Reynard . However, I wouldn't say that D&D has left that older style behind, but expanded into multiple simultaneous styles: Ravenloft, Strixhaven, and Tasha's are doing some stylistically diverse things. Check out these new Magic cards from the New D&D Set for a more old school flavor that persists, note the artist credits:

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I think this review of RotFM was succinct in its description of the 5e aesthetic:

Simply put, Rime of the Frostmaiden feels like the first adventure module in another era. It’s an era that begins with Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and continues through Eberron: Rising from the Last War, Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica/Mythic Odysseys of Theros, and Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus. One of the defining features of this era is a move towards more larger than life moments. Inside the books above and, in Frostmaiden as well, you’ll come across moments that feel like something you’d find in an actual play stream or podcast. And it’s little wonder, considering that streaming/casting shows are on the rise right now. Whether it’s racing on giant infernal war machines that are part machine, part demon, all metal–or dealing with an Awakened Plesiosaur, moments that feel meant for “good TV” abound in the game. Which isn’t a bad thing. Not by any stretch.

In fact some of the more over-the-top moments are among the standout features of Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden. Seriously, this is one of the more whimsical D&D adventures if you take little more than a passing glance: you ride on the back of a magical Narwhal, deal with all sorts of magical nonsense like Living Spells gone awry, potentially even fight a goddess while investigating the magitech ruins of a past age. Not that there’s a shortage of serious moments either, but Frostmaiden is meant to feel fun. You might be asking, isn’t that a good thing? Shouldn’t all adventures be fun?

For me, I just wish they would switch up the art style, it just feels uninspired at this point (though, I never liked the 5e art)
 







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