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D&D 5E The Monetization of D&D and other Role Playing Games

The brand "D&D" is the hook, but lots of 3PPs are testing, experimenting, trying a lot of new ideas. Not all 3PPs are going to live more ten years, but any IPs shouldn't fall in the oblivion. Being acquired by a "bigger fish" is lesser bad than total disappearance.

It is good for D&D to have a a worthy rival as Pathfinder by Paizo.

If D&D becomes one of the most important "cash-cow" within the entertaiment industry, then other companies, for example streaming services, Hollywood producers, comic publishers and videogame studios could start to be more interested into IPs by 3PPs. If, let's guess, Disney is furious because the licence of D&D is for Paramount in the next years, then they could aquire some licence, for example Pigmure by Onyx Path to produce an animated movie.

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Maybe that's it--that part of the promise of ttrpg's is everyone is actually a creator in the context of the game. And the more the game is about taking the purchased rules/settings/adventures as written, the more you lose some of that creative aspect.
When it comes to RPGs, we're all creators. You and I might create a Barbarian Elf for an Eberron game that are mechanically identical to one another from attributes to background, equipment, and class abilities. But they'll be their own separate characters with disctinct personalities.


Mod Squad
Staff member
I think being concerned about the attempts of WotC and others to turn D&D into a lifestyle brand are pretty reasonable, because it's likely to move it away from being a relatively well-designed TT RPG, into a specialist product for collectors and lifestyle hobbyists.

It already was a "specialist product for collectors and lifestyle hobbyists". That's what it was before 5e! The only people who bought products and played them were long-term diehards - there was little room and difficult entry for "casual" players.

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Some of my prior thoughts on the monetization of D&D-

General thoughts re: the post from @Malmuria ...

What do you all think?
I think that, increasingly, D&D has turned away from a DIY model. But that's been true ever since Gygax tried to codify things with AD&D.

Am I wrong to find something distasteful in consumerism in the hobby (even my own)?
No, you're not wrong. The tension between consumerism and amateur/hobbyist activities is a very old one. But unless society makes a very large u-turn, the forces of capitalism will continue to try and monetize whatever it can. Whether that's a good, or a bad thing (or a frustrating mixture of both) depends on your perspective.

Is there a line to be drawn somewhere (perhaps at NFTs)?
NFTs are simply a more efficient way of separating people from their money than a cocaine addiction. It's sort of like getting into Warhammer Miniatures, except ... without the miniatures. To the extent you care about your fellow gamers, you should always advocate to keep bad things out of the hobby. IMO.

Is it still a DIY hobby, or has that not been the case for some time now?
I think that the existence of so many pockets of FKR, rules-lite, indie game, OSR, and homebrew shows that there is still a vibrant DIY part of the community. I would simply say that D&D is much more a "brand" overall- and that there is less of a culture of DIY than there used to be.


Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
There is still a huge free element to RPGs. Magnitudes larger then when the hobby was new due to the internet. You can play thousands of RPGs completely free. You can find RPGs that are published dirt cheap as well, labors of love.

For professionally published RPGs, the costs are ridiculously low by every measure. The creatives behind it are not well paid, and historically never have - there have been multiple articles here on ENWorld in the past year or two about that. If you play a game, the cost per hour ends up being so much less than many other pastimes, including Netflix and boardgames, because of the high reply value.

Purchasing not to play is your own choice. If you see value in picking something up then it's worth that cost to you for whatever reason - the potential to play, the enjoyment of reading + the art, supporting the creators, whatever.


Who your customers are informs your strategy. A WOTC which makes the bulk of it's revenue from PHBs will have a very different strategy than a WOTC which makes $10k DM screens.

I believe that there's a sort of assumption in your post that a company can easily serve two masters. I am not sure that's true. I think one of the customer groups will dominate your strategy, quite possibly to the detriment of the other group.
MtG makes the bulk of their money from selling little pieces of cardboard with a snippet of rules.

D&D makes money from licensing, a little bit from extras such as cardboard DM screens. They hope to make a bundle from movies. But the bulk of their money comes from writing books of rules and adventures that people will use to play the game.

Want to spend $494.37 on a DM screen? You're going to Etsy, not WOTC. Spending that much on a DM screen makes no sense to me, but WOTC isn't making a dime on that sale.

The person with that Etsy hustle? More power to them as long as it's not a scam.


I've demonetized it! At least I'm not making any money, wish I were! :p

A book takes 10 g's maybe 25 and I am not more than like $300 at this point, I made a few hundred back (ok I lied, I am making a little money). If RPG's taught me anything, it is that rules mastery is a thing, so that's why I got a business degree.

I'm reading Radiant Citadel right now, and it certainly is a game module one could run vs just reading. Not very murder hoboey if that is what someone means.

I linked to it in the OP, but the Satine Phoenix/Jamison Stone situation is a good example of the concrete negative effects of Dnd as a monetized lifestyle brand. Look at the Kickstarter page for Sirens: Battle of the Bards.

Look at how glossy everything is! So many add ons! Dice, Syrinscape, Wyrmwood trays, VTT support, etc etc. Endorsements from people in the hobby. A $3000 support tier that includes the "opportunity" to play a game with Phoenix and Stone. And then, two pro-forma paragraphs of possible risks...which of course didn't include the possibility that the creators would be outed as unethical and abusive people. Their celebrity status is what allowed them to both raise $300,000 for this product and mistreat the freelancers who worked for them, as they were actual gatekeepers to those freelancers being able to make a living in the hobby. If you go to the comments page, you'll see that Phoenix/Stone has shut down their discord page and probably won't deliver the product, let alone all the fancy dice and stuff people pledged for.

When these sort of situations go disastrously wrong, they are treated as exceptions and 'scandals.' What I'm wondering, however, is if the way that dnd is monetized creates the conditions for these types of situations. If, when the kickstarter launched, one had criticized it for its influencer-based commercialization, I think the response would have been 'well, if you don't like it don't back it.' Which is a fair response, as it's not like one could predict what would happen. But it leaves aside the connection between that monetization and the way they were allowed to operate as a business.


Moderator Emeritus
there is less of a culture of DIY than there used to be.

Is there evidence for this or is it just a feeling?

I only ask because my experience is the opposite - since getting back into D&D one of the things that has really hooked me is the community of makers I have found online that were not accessible at all in the pre-internet days and existed in a state of constant fear of C&D letters and TSR's litigious attitude in the early internet days.

Is there less DIY than before but I am just seeing more because of the internet? Is there more because of the accessibility via the internet? Something else?

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