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D&D 5E The Overwhelming Dominance of D&D is Bad for Everyone...

Stormonu

Legend
I don’t think D&D being so big as the problem. I think the problem is when its in the hand of one company. Even on its best days, a unified D&D can’t handle everyone’s desires in the game. It’s good when there’s so many choices for different flavors of D&D (various flavors of OSR, Pathfinder, 5E, LevelUp, etc.) and role playing overall.
 

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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
free market is an illusion lmfao you want me to compete with hasbros advertising pockets???? hey paizo, have you tried having literal hasbro levels of money hahahhaha

That's an odd argument to make. It's certainly true that markets are not completely free (as in the classical economics sense, wherein the participants have perfect information and we don't worry about transaction costs), but .... the market for TTRPGs is surprisingly open and competitive; it's not like trying to set up a competitive long-haul airline.

There is a low barrier to entry for new market participants. There are already a large number of market participants. The "cost" to switching to a competing product is low. There aren't much in the terms of regulations or other barriers keeping people from competing in the market. In fact, there is a long history of competing games and systems. Finally, the primary product (in terms of books) is something that is differentiated by the content, not the form; there are numerous ways to deliver that content (both electronically and through various publishers).

Understanding the dominant position of D&D in the market (especially the American one) is an interesting exercise- and, at times, a frustrating one, especially for those who don't prefer D&D. But it's not because free markets are an illusion, or because D&D has traditionally ran giant Super Bowl advertisements with all of that sweet, sweet Hasbro money.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
That's an odd argument to make. It's certainly true that markets are not completely free (as in the classical economics sense, wherein the participants have perfect information and we don't worry about transaction costs), but .... the market for TTRPGs is surprisingly open and competitive; it's not like trying to set up a competitive long-haul airline.

There is a low barrier to entry for new market participants. There are already a large number of market participants. The "cost" to switching to a competing product is low. There aren't much in the terms of regulations or other barriers keeping people from competing in the market. In fact, there is a long history of competing games and systems. Finally, the primary product (in terms of books) is something that is differentiated by the content, not the form; there are numerous ways to deliver that content (both electronically and through various publishers).

Understanding the dominant position of D&D in the market (especially the American one) is an interesting exercise- and, at times, a frustrating one, especially for those who don't prefer D&D. But it's not because free markets are an illusion, or because D&D has traditionally ran giant Super Bowl advertisements with all of that sweet, sweet Hasbro money.

This. I've had hipster dumping on D&D since 1996.

I'll see what the kobolds cone up with buy the PDF methinks.
 


Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
While I believe this is true it always surprises me.

I've never met a gamer in person that just plays D&D, or a DM that just runs D&D, yet it seems a common thing on the internet. I guess because when I meet gamers outside my own groups (which play all sorts of RPGs), it tends to be at conventions and conventions (at least in the UK) tend not to be D&D focused, they are a multitude of different systems often with people demonstrating the latest releases or indie game they have discovered.
Same

Most people begin with D&D, and they return to D&D. But it hasn't been my experience of playing nothing but D&D exclusively for decades.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
I mean a large of the reason why D&D is so dominant is because so many of our game designers knew it was dominant and they deliberately hitched their design wagon to it since that would be the most effective way to get eyeballs and wallets on their products. And they helped grow the D&D bubble just as much as anyone.

The argument against your point here is that D&D was dominant before the OGL, too. It was dominant before designers could hitch their wagons to it. I was dominant before what we think of as "game design" existed in TTRPG

It is very easy to oversimplify, or be reductionist with, the reasons for D&D's dominance. Some are historical, or based in long-term network externalities. Some come from the size of financial backing. Some even come from the fact that it is, in fact, a pretty darn good game that delivers experiences that are pleasing and satisfying to a wide swath of people.

But is having D&D be such a huge slice of the pie a bad thing?

I don't think so. I have mentioned before, most arenas wind up with dynamics that can be thought of as a sort of ecology, with different sized entities at various levels - there is an interplay among them that winds up keeping the whole ecology more vibrant and healthy.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
Luckily for you, WotC recently took the one decision that is sure to break this dominance - burning down the OGL.
Probably too strong a word. We will have to wait and see. There are A LOT of D&D players, and most of them probably do not care one way or the other about this issue, and even if they do they probably don't care enough to end their Beyond subs and switch games.
 

ECMO3

Hero
Okay, maybe it's not bad for WotC or Hasbro. I think we're all in agreement here the role playing game industry, insofar as we can call it an industry, is overwhelmingly dominated by Dungeons & Dragons. It's the oldest, most recognizable property whose very name is synonomous with RPGs for much of the public. Telling a coworker I'm playing Pathfinder this weekend will elicit questions about what that is, whereas telling them I'm playing D&D will only elicit questions like, "Aren't you a little old for that?" I've been gaming for about 35 years now, and D&D is the only game I can think of where I could easily find players for no matter my location. And why is that? Because D&D, pretty much all versions, have been good games.

The recent leak of the alleged new OGL from WotC prompted me to question whether it was harmful for D&D to so utterly dominate the market. Yeah, I think it is. It's just not healthy for such a significant chunk of an industry to be so strongly affected by the actions of one company. It's not just a problem that WotC seems to want to change the OGL, it's a problem that it affects so many other publishers, some very seriously. I'm not really sure what, if anything can be done about this, but surly other people see D&D's overwhelming dominance as a bad thing, right? Or am I way off base here?
It is not universally bad. D&D dominating the market has some positives and let's draw a clear distinction between D&D dominating the market and WOTC dominating the market.

Reasons it is good for D&D to dominate the market:

1. It is easier to find players. While telling a coworker you are playing pathfinder might generate confusing, convincing a coworker to round out your pathfinder group is going to be downright impossible.

2. One ruleset to rule them all one ruleset to bind them. It is easier to learn 5E then it would be to learn 2 or 3 different rules sets.

3. More developed flavor and less confusion about fantasy elements. Things like Mind Flayers and Drow can't exist outside of D&D. While Goblins, Orcs and Elves can all exist they would not and probably could not be the same thing. A Goblin in the English language is probably closer to something from the movie Gremlins or alternatively a ghost than it is to a humanoid. Elves are santa's helpers and in some fiction stand less than a foot tall. D&D's dominance means that these terms mean close to the same thing to a group of players.


To be honest I think the IDEAL situation is for D&D to dominate the market without WOTC dominating the market.
 

I would say, it's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it's bad because the dominance of D&D means that D&D basically is the RPG market, so there is a strong incentive to run genres on D&D for which it is not made. And it also creates a situation that's a bit like a world in which Skyrim is the only video game with a meaningful audience, and when you bounce off Skyrim, you might think "yeah, maybe video games are not for me".

On the other hand, for quite a while, RPGs were below the mainstream threshold, and only through the rise of D&D we reached a point, where it is at least "nerd cool" and you don't necessarily get a dismissive look for spending your time with it.

I feel it would be healthier if there were at least a handful of equally large players in the RPG space (this was the situation in Germany for the better part of my time with RPGs and only started to shift now that D&D5 is taking over), but unless WotC's recent actions really cause a landslide decline in popularity, I don't see how that would change in the near future.
 

RareBreed

Adventurer
I have been thinking this for years. I've never understood why so many gamers will only play 5e OGL systems (or maybe Pathfinder). The reason I most commonly hear is that gaming groups either cannot learn too many systems (eg, not enough time money to learn) or simply refuse to because it's what their group enjoys. But maybe to a lesser degree, some gamers simply don't know there are other TTRPG's out there?

With regards to thinking that groups can only play one or 2 systems, I find that dubious, and I wonder if these groups have even tried? As a pre-teen and teen in the 80s, using just the allowances of our gaming group, we bought and played so many games it would probably make people's heads here spin. I could probably name close to 30 game systems we played in a 6 year time span (I actually just started listing them down...and so far have 32 games I could remember off the top of my head). Granted, a few of those games we may have only played 1-4 sessions, but at least we gave it a try. Could we afford every supplement and module? No, but that's what imagination is for anyhow.

If the problem isn't money or lack of time, I suppose it could just be an unwillingness to try out anything else. But that's also just anathema to me. It'd be like eating pizza everyday for the rest of your life. Sure, pizza is great and switching the toppings around might be a small change, but I'd get sick to death of pizza too if that's all I ever ate.

As for gamers who aren't aware there are other TTRPG's beyond 5e OGL (or even D&D), I wouldn't have thought it possible in this day and age with the internet. But I was just watching a Youtube video from The Gaming Group where they listed 29 fantasy games that didn't use the OGL. Many comments were along the lines of "thank you so much...I wasn't aware these other games existed!". Back in the pre-internet days, I was lucky. We played at a hobby store that sold lots of RC cars, train sets, plastic models, and a decent amount of wargames and TTRPGs. In those days, I only remember a handful of stores in my state that were dedicated to TTRPGs, Board Games, or Miniature games (CCG's weren't really a thing until the early 90s with MtG). For example The Compleat Strategist and Enterprise 1701 (now Sci Fi City). These days, if there isn't a dedicated game store, they seem to combine with comic and collectible card stores. But in the age of the internet, I honestly scratch my head how people aren't aware of the vast universe of TTRPGs out there.

It also makes me wonder where the majority of people play now? At a store? At a member's house? On VTTs? If it's not at a store, then I can somewhat see why people may not be aware of other games, but it's still surprising to me.
 

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