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


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.
I only play D&D now unlike the 80s when we played a few things and tried a few more. Some may be the familiarity of the game or the part of gathering with friends over what we are playing. My group gets to go to the local con for one day a year and we want to play D&D in the 3 slots we have. There are plenty other games we can play like railroads or Cthulhu, but we want to enjoy D&D "our game" with others enjoying the same.

I play a lot of golf as well. Titleist is golf ball manufacturer that is like D&D in the market of balls. Their tour ball outsells all the other balls on the market. Is it the best? Not sure but lots of people play it and like it enough to not change. Maybe something about the amount of time you have in the week to play, so you might as well play something you like and know.

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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 think I know why. I would suggest the vast majority of RPG-players are "just passing through".

They play RPGs for a period of months to single-digit years. Then they're done. In most cases they were playing with a friend group that didn't last, or whilst they were at high school, or in college or whatever.

You see this an absolute ton in the biographies of writers. "Used to play RPGs" is insanely more common than "plays RPGs". Loads and loads and loads of writers (screen, novel, even article) played D&D when they were younger, for a period. Also, honestly I know a bunch of these people. For example, I DM'd for 7 players in a secondary group for a couple of years in high school. I know for a fact no-one took over as DM when I stopped. I very much doubt most of those people ever played RPGs again. So you've got a bunch of people out there who played RPGs, but they only actually ever played AD&D 2E in that case.

The sort of people you meet as an adult, however, who are still playing RPGs, who might bring the subject up, are almost always people who actually like RPGs and want to play RPGs, and almost none of them are going to have only ever played one RPG. Because they like them as a concept, because it wasn't just an activity with friends that was temporary. It's a hobby they wanted to maintain.

Well it also depends on what 10% you get.

We know there's a DM shortage and whales buy more product than casuals.
I mean, I'm assuming a flat spread because DMs are likely to take players with them, but there's no question more DMs will be in the group that cares than players. So if you lost 10% of people and it was all DMs, D&D might experience a truly critical DM shortage, but I think that's unlikely. Sheesh even losing 5% of players if it was "all DMs" would be a horror show. Players who don't even buy stuff are probably the least likely to be concerned.

Whales, it depends on the species - are they:

A) D&D lifestylers


B) D&D product enthusiasts

D&D lifestylers are unlikely to be in the group most concerned, because they don't actually care about the game all that much, they care about the vibe, the merch, the branding, and so on. They maybe bought some 3PP stuff, but not a huge amount. Their primary loyalty, like Disney fans, is to the brand. A few might be upset if they feel WotC is failing them in some specific way, but not many.

D&D product enthusiasts on the other hand, are extremely likely to buy 3PP products, and to heavily active on Kickstarter. Two of the D&D DMs I know IRL are this. They're both pissed off because this is already causing problems for them as 3PPs have to essentially panic and look at options. The 0% thing really helped, but they're still blocked from using any 1.1 or 2.0 or later OGL because it will prevent them using OGL 1.0a, and so they're looking at operating without licencing or going to different, broadly D&D-compatible systems with difference licences or the like.

Except a lot of the people I hear about that play nothing but D&D have been playing with the same DM, in the "same campaign", for decades.
Yeah I read those stories with skepticism, especially as at least some of the people I've read claiming that have definitely read and played other RPGs. I think what they're really saying is D&D has remained their main game.


Yeah I read those stories with skepticism, especially as at least some of the people I've read claiming that have definitely read and played other RPGs. I think what they're really saying is D&D has remained their main game.

Or maybe, just maybe, some people prefer D&D. Crazy, I know. :rolleyes:


How inconvenient
AD&D *
Traveller *
Gamma World
Top Secret
Call of Cthulhu *
James Bond 007
Rolemaster *
SpaceMaster *
D&D 3.x *
LUG Star Trek
PF1 *
Star Wars: Saga Ed
PF2 *
5e *
Mutants & Masterminds

Seeing this list, and being remembered of many games I played at least once, got me thinking on why D&D dominates the market and whether that is important, dangerous, or whatever or not.

Suppose one argues that role-playing games are, in essence, or in very large part at least, about freedom, about an escape from the “conventions” of “real life”, about being able to express oneself, to be oneself or someone else without fear of being judged for it – and that they can therefore lead to a sense of freedom and belonging.

Then, seeing as how much has been published in this regard by many, many people, it could perhaps be said that D&D and its source material provide the most fertile basis for this, as opposed to, say Call of Cthulhu, Bushido, Gamma World, or Runequest, all of which more or less “dictate” a world in which things are and happen in accordance with its premise. Moreover, at least some of these actually interfere with the PCs themselves, “punishing” them for certain behavior (e.g., PCs going insane in Call of Cthulhu, losing legs and arms in Runequest – at least in their earliest editions). I would say that nothing of the kind has to happen in any version of D&D, for its plethora of settings and source books allow one to pick and choose whatever rules and setting one prefers. Indeed, from its very beginnings, Gary Gygax often mentioned that the DM is the final arbiter of any ruling – where “DM” will often quickly become both him and the players in well-established groups.

Furthermore, I suppose it well be argued that the earliest versions of D&D were developed and played by folks who often felt that society at the time judged them for what they believed, did, or didn’t (believe) – what society would call a “nerd”, “geek”, or black sheep – who would therefore, in practice, attract more folks like them rather than any others. In this, D&D may well have attributed to these people feeling free to express themselves in their own way – of having escaped the chains they felt society put on them, of experiencing a sense of freedom and belonging.

Today, perhaps it is also a need for escape, freedom, and belonging that explains the current D&D craze affecting current generations – especially in a changing world where real life is becoming harder for many and where events may well have led to many feeling that their very existence is threatened and where even indisputable truths are in danger of becoming “just another opinion”.

If all of this is true – or even important – perhaps D&D has become so dominant because role-playing in general will typically attract people looking for escape, freedom, and a sense of belonging. Many of these folks will care little for rules systems (although some of them will, obviously so, still vehemently defend the one they use), wherefore other games with any number of followers may well count many among them with just that – an interest in what rules they use. [Ducks for cover]Interestingly, in case of games like Hackmaster and Pathfinder, it could be argued that they are “versions of D&D”[/Ducks for cover].

In light of the above, if D&D is the RPG that is best at leading to sense of freedom and belonging, I'd say that it doesn’t really matter that it dominates the market – but that it can matter that one large company does.

History teaches us that there will always be times that such a company will go for the money regardless of their workforce or customers and that having a monopoly can well lead to it feeling that it can get away with anything and start curtailing freedoms both product-wise and on a human level.

History also teaches us that people can only be pushed so far and that they will eventually react to limitations of freedom imposed on them, ranging from turning their back on their “oppressor” to rebelling against them.

Sadly, in the case of a large company active in a market that is subject to profound changes in such a way that it allows them to shift its hold on parts of the market without losing much revenue, this may also lead to it not giving (naughty word) about certain groups of their customers turning away from them. A point in case could well be WotC investing heavily in online D&D, effectively in ways to monopolize content for D&D, to prevent 3PPs from contributing to the game, to funnel players into a system from where there is currently but little escape other than simply turning one’s back on OneD&D – indeed, away from a community where “belonging” need not be a topic of discussion.

Hoping that all of this makes sense, I will say that, yes, in my opinion, it does matter that WotC, or, indeed, any company has a monopoly in D&D or actively strives to obtain it.


Or maybe, just maybe, some people prefer D&D. Crazy, I know. :rolleyes:
I'll be honest. It would be difficult for me to establish any sense of preference if the grand magnitude of my experience with games was one single game alone. That doesn't mean that I can't know that I enjoy D&D if I played D&D alone or that I can't prefer D&D if I played other games. However, 'preference' implies experience or cognizance with alternatives that can form a basis of comparison.


Not your screen monkey (he/him) 🇺🇦🇵🇸🏳️‍⚧️
I don't think the RPG market is relevant to Hasbros strategy.

They are concerned with expanding the D&D brand into media and consumer goods which will dwarf the RPG market.

For comparison - Avengers Endgame is a single movie that grossed over $2 Billion, that is a lot more than Disney is making selling the Comic books the movie is based on, I am sure it is more than the entire comic book market. The money is not in the comics, but the Marvel/Avengers brand.

Hasbro wants the same thing with D&D. How much do you think the upcoming D&D movie will make? Add in coffee mugs, video games, a Fast Food tie in and stuffed Mind Flayer dolls. That is what Hasbro wants from D&D.

It is about the brand, not the game and if their strategy pays off Hasbro won't care if no one plays D&D at all anymore as long as they can market the D&D brand.
I don’t think the RPG market is completely outside their strategy - though the tabletop aspect of it might be. Their big push to code up a VTT says that at least the computer portal end of the hobby is in their strategy (complete with micro transactions for cool gear and skins).

But I think you’re right, in the main, about their broader strategy. No matter how much we see D&D portrayed in media as a game, whether played by nerds like Leonard and Sheldon, or by cool kids like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Joe Manganiello, it’s never going to attract as much participation as a big budget movie that’s well-made. It‘s never going to generate the broad toy store merchandizing as movie exposure.

And Hasbro, I’m sure, sees it in their interest to bring the IP under more control so that it’s THEM and their favored licensees reaping the rewards for making those products, exclusively, and not some opportunistic, rich asshat like a Jeff Bezos with his own streaming service and deep pockets.

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