What game Could "Be" D&D, Culturally?

Reynard

Legend
I know that no such thing is going to happen. I am just curious what folks think.

What game do you think could conceivably be the pop cultural touchstone that D&D is? Note that I am not asking what game could topple D&D from it's current position. I am just asking what game, if D&D wasn't already in that position, could "BE" rpgs to the wider population, could power a fanbase like Critical Roles, and/or could really get midwestern parents up in arms?

My gut reaction is Star Wars. I don't even think it would matter what the system is. If it weren't D&D, I think it would be something licensed with a huge fanbase already present. i could see celebrities playing Star Wars campaigns at "Star Wars RPG Live" events and making guest appearances on Lightsaber Role or whatever.

What do you think?
 

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payn

Legend
I'll go back to just before D&D and say some form of war gaming. Has a historical connection, is still pretty nerdy, and the options for setting are wide open.
 






Jer

Legend
Supporter
I know that no such thing is going to happen. I am just curious what folks think.

What game do you think could conceivably be the pop cultural touchstone that D&D is? Note that I am not asking what game could topple D&D from it's current position. I am just asking what game, if D&D wasn't already in that position, could "BE" rpgs to the wider population, could power a fanbase like Critical Roles, and/or could really get midwestern parents up in arms?

My gut reaction is Star Wars. I don't even think it would matter what the system is. If it weren't D&D, I think it would be something licensed with a huge fanbase already present. i could see celebrities playing Star Wars campaigns at "Star Wars RPG Live" events and making guest appearances on Lightsaber Role or whatever.

What do you think?
When West End Games had the Star Wars license, it basically was the "other" entry point RPG for people. I don't know if it was ever actually bigger than D&D, but it was huge at the time.

It's tough to answer a question like this though because D&D is the 800lb gorilla in the room. To come up with another RPG taking its place means thinking about the circumstances that have led to D&D being the 800lb gorilla, where in history it could have stumbled off that path, and who could have been there to pick up the pieces.

And that's really tough because when you look at the history of D&D there are all kinds of places where TSR "stumbled" early on and throughout its stewardship of the game, so you'd think someone else could have taken over from them. And yet here we are - nearly 50 years later and it's still the king of the hill.

There are a few times when properties might come close. 35 years ago I might have said "Star Wars". 30 years ago I might have said "Vampire the Masquerade". But in both cases I'd have been wrong. Even during the TSR bankruptcy the game didn't lose its place.
 

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
Another vote for Traveller.

  • Rich lore; infinite variety of worlds; possibility for a range of characters that can work together in a team setting.
  • It's early enough that it feels mostly independent of OD&D; too many others are so consciously responding to the D&D of their time, that without the point of reference, they would not find the same purchase.
 


Reynard

Legend
In an alternate universe where the Critical Role crew (or equivalent) had decided to start playing a superheroes game (maybe M&M, but I don't think it would matter much) at the same time that the MCU took off, i can imagine a scenario in which supers gaming took the gaming adjacent nerdosphere by storm instead of D&D.
 


Parmandur

Book-Friend
Another vote for Traveller.

  • Rich lore; infinite variety of worlds; possibility for a range of characters that can work together in a team setting.
  • It's early enough that it feels mostly independent of OD&D; too many others are so consciously responding to the D&D of their time, that without the point of reference, they would not find the same purchase.
I love, love, love Traveller...but...I can't really see a scenario where it is anything but niche.
 


In an alternate universe where the Critical Role crew (or equivalent) had decided to start playing a superheroes game (maybe M&M, but I don't think it would matter much) at the same time that the MCU took off, i can imagine a scenario in which supers gaming took the gaming adjacent nerdosphere by storm instead of D&D.
That makes sense. A Supers game allows for the "dramedy" CR is (best?) known for, btw. I can see it working. The MCU was everywhere and the hottest thing for a whole decade. Could have been the time of the Supers RPG.
 


overgeeked

B/X Known World
Either some other fantasy RPG, like one of the other dozen or so early day games.

Maybe Traveller since it was so quick on the scene (1977).

But if I had to put money on it...Call of Cthulhu (1981). If D&D didn't cause the Satanic Panic, something like Call of Cthulhu would have.
 


MGibster

Legend
When West End Games had the Star Wars license, it basically was the "other" entry point RPG for people. I don't know if it was ever actually bigger than D&D, but it was huge at the time.
And they deserve credit for keeping Star Wars alive during a time period where there was a dearth of new material. No movies or toys it was just WEG making Star Wars stuff for the most part.

What does it mean for a game to be a cultural touchstone? I think it means that a significant number of non-gamers know the name of the game and have at least a vague idea of what it's all about. Vampire the Masquerade became a cultural touchstone in the 1990s in the years following its 1991 release. There was a prime time television series that aired on Fox for about half a season, VtM inspired a similar moral panic to what we saw with D&D in the 1980s, and the game was mentioned on talk shows and programs like Real Stories of the Highway Patrol (I actually saw that episode.) Of course VtM never became the cultural touchstone D&D did.

We've got to think outside the box here so let's look at non-traditional sources. I'm given to understand that there are quite a few people, mostly women, who essentially role play urban horror/fantasy romances. We might not think of them as gamers because they don't post on these forums and they don't buy RPGs or dice, but they're out there. I think some urban horror/fantasy romance game could potentially be a cultural touchstone if someone could figure out how to tap into that market.
 

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