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

innerdude

Legend
Not even that, just if it hadn't had a post 2000 Renaissance.

Hmm, interesting. So less that D&D doesn't exist, but more that it just dies off before being revived.

To me that would heavily weight the scale toward Warcraft eventually becoming the mind share RPG game. It has all the hallmarks taken from "the original RPG", but with a scale of penetration Gygax could only have dreamed of.

Between Warcraft 2 + 3, DOTA, and WoW, it's hands down the most widespread interactive fantasy media property ever, with the possible exception of Final Fantasy.

I read an interesting theory once that suggested RPGs would have appeared anyway but would have come through sci-fi and Trek conventions whose fans were already freeform roleplaying with some parlor game influences. That would be an interesting alternate universe.

That is interesting. I can definitely envision an alternate history where RPGs are more like a narrative card game, like an advanced game of Coup, that later in the '90s melds in narrative control techniques with mechanics based on Euro board games.

So rather than Fantasy Vietnam, we end up with something that looks like a mix of Coup, Mysterium, and Catan.
 

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innerdude

Legend
In this context, Game of Thrones gets reframed against Warcraft -- "It's Warcraft, but in a funky alternate fantasy version of England."
 

That is interesting. I can definitely envision an alternate history where RPGs are more like a narrative card game, like an advanced game of Coup, that later in the '90s melds in narrative control techniques with mechanics based on Euro board games.

So rather than Fantasy Vietnam, we end up with something that looks like a mix of Coup, Mysterium, and Catan.

Catan did not even originally come out until 1995, so a lot of weirdness would have had to happen in the late 80's/early 90's first.
 

The reason I posited traveller is that I recall reading somewhere that its genesis was independent of D&D, though I cannot find a reference. If so, it would have the first mover advantage. There was a market, how much did the rules matter?

The mechanics certainly don't suggest a lot of D&D influence. Even RQ shows more influence.
 

Just to be clear, I wasn't really talking about a timeline where D&D never existed so much as I was talking about this current massive uptick in interest in RPGs. They are hard to separate of course, and initially at least 5E was popular because it leaned heavily on nerdstalgia, but since its popularity is also driven by celebrity adoption and actual plays,I am curious what else conceivably could have become the Big Thing that made RRPGs mainstream in the 2020s.

I really have trouble thinking of something else doing it; D&D was already almost the generic RPG to people outside the hobby (and honestly, a lot within) and that's an intrinsic advantage it'd have been hard to match even with streamers focused on something else.
 

Tangential but: has there ever been a "significant" TTRPG adaptation of a video game? I can't think of one. Modiphius has Dishonored and Fallout and it seems like they sold well but I don't see them being discussed anywhere with any regularity. Granted, a lot of discussion has moved to venues I don't frequent like dedicated Discord servers. I guess the WoW d20 RPG lasted a few years.

Well, there's some intrinsic problems with the lifespans of licensed products.
 

Not even that, just if it hadn't had a post 2000 Renaissance.

I read an interesting theory once that suggested RPGs would have appeared anyway but would have come through sci-fi and Trek conventions whose fans were already freeform roleplaying with some parlor game influences. That would be an interesting alternate universe.

Its the most credible alternate I can see.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
Just to be clear, I wasn't really talking about a timeline where D&D never existed so much as I was talking about this current massive uptick in interest in RPGs. They are hard to separate of course, and initially at least 5E was popular because it leaned heavily on nerdstalgia, but since its popularity is also driven by celebrity adoption and actual plays,I am curious what else conceivably could have become the Big Thing that made RRPGs mainstream in the 2020s.
The problem with this position is that D&D as first mover in this game space had a huge mindshare and many if not most games released after it were reflections and reactions to D&D, its concepts, rules and perceived flaws.
It was also very influential in computer games. Text based adventure games based on D&D were a thing on mainframe systems almost as soon as D&D was a thing and before any video rpgs.

That gives two potential scenarios: one, where D&D never happened and something like Traveller was the first mover and the other one, where D&D was dethroned in the nineties by Game Workshop or perhaps World of Darkness.
My bet in that case would be Vampire:WOD. It could very well have survived issues that were fatal if it was the premier game in town.
 

Reynard

Legend
Yes, but the current batch of celebrities and writers and directors, etc grew up playing D&D, so we have to look at what was hot or not in the 80's and 90's to know why D&D became so mainstream after the release of 5E. If D&D had died with TSR, what game from that same time period could have taken it's place or would any game have? With no new D&D in the 21st century, the gaming market would be likely be microscopic now, compared to what it is. No 3E means no OGL and all the awesome games and settings that were spawned from that don't exist as we know them.
Nostalgia did set the stage for the current zeitgeist but most of the current players weren't even born in the 80s.

Also, if TSR had died and no one picked up the D&D mantle, it is absolutely certain that the RPG industry would have continued on. It is not like people suddenly stopped making RPGs when TSR collapsed. To say that there would be no modern RPG landscape without 3E is a bold statement. I think our current landscape would have come sooner, in fact, because people wouldn't have had to fight 10 years of the d20 glut for ideas like PbtA or FATE to appear. It's not like WotC invented the idea of an open license. Like role-playing itself, that would have likely emerged eventually.
 

Reynard

Legend
That gives two potential scenarios: one, where D&D never happened and something like Traveller was the first mover and the other one, where D&D was dethroned in the nineties by Game Workshop or perhaps World of Darkness.
My bet in that case would be Vampire:WOD. It could very well have survived issues that were fatal if it was the premier game in town.
I think WoD was already off the throne before TSR fell, wasn't it? It's "reign" was exceedingly short lived (but very influential).
 

I think our current landscape would have come sooner, in fact, because people wouldn't have had to fight 10 years of the d20 glut for ideas like PbtA or FATE to appear.

And yet these alternate systems are a tiny drop in the bucket of RPGs. Sometimes these types of systems feel like the hipster, cool, anti-mainstream games that only certain types of people "get", let alone play. And yes, a lot of them only exist in a way that does not bankrupt the creators because of the internet and sites like Kickstarter, which did not even launch until 2009.
 

Reynard

Legend
And yet these alternate systems are a tiny drop in the bucket of RPGs. Sometimes these types of systems feel like the hipster, cool, anti-mainstream games that only certain types of people "get", let alone play. And yes, a lot of them only exist in a way that does not bankrupt the creators because of the internet and sites like Kickstarter, which did not even launch until 2009.
The biggest RPG Kickstarter in history thus far was a PbtA game.
 



UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
I think WoD was already off the throne before TSR fell, wasn't it? It's "reign" was exceedingly short lived (but very influential).
You could be right, I do not really remember. So WoTC never buys TSR, The WEG D6 system would have been in with a shout via the Star Wars implementation.
There is a lot to be said for a d6 based system., there were a few good ones knocking about,
 

Aldarc

Legend
I have so little interest in all these oddball game systems that I still don't know what that stands for.
Powered by the Apocalypse. It refers to any game inspired by Vincent and Meguey Baker's Apocalypse World game. In general the game action is propelled by player characters whose actions may trigger Moves, which require rolling dice (2d6 + mod), which in turn may generate success (on a 10+), a partial/complicated success and a GM soft move against them (on a 7-9), or a failure and a GM hard move against them (on a 6-).
 

Mezuka

Hero
At the time, if TSR went under and no one picked up D&D, there was Dragonquest, Role Master, Runequest and Ars Magica. My bet would have been on Dragonquest.
 

innerdude

Legend
Going back to the parlor game alt theory --- the more I think about it, the more it makes sense that it would have been the genesis of the RPG movement.

When I look at Ironsworn, for example:

  • It doesn't make any assumption that there's anyone serving in a GM role, and provides strong guidance if that is the case (though it fully supports GM-led play as well).
  • It uses minimal dice --- d6 and d10 only --- but could have gone even simpler with the basic 2d6 like its PbtA predecessors.
  • Its main asset cards are already meant to be used as cards handed out to the players. The entire game is meant to be played with a single sheet of paper and 3 asset cards.
  • It's very, very clear about how to handle narrative structure as a shared imaginary space.
And maybe that's why I like it so much, even though I still enjoy traditional RPG play. Ironsworn looks very much like an RPG might look if it was deconstructed in reverse from outside of D&D's assumed wargame background.
 

GreyLord

Legend
A Final Fantasy RPG...a TTRPG based on the video game. Maybe Sword World?

I'd prefer it to be a Warhammer FRPG combined with a 40K RPG myself...as that's one of my major fallbacks for RPGs without D&D.
 

D&D not existing leads to vast holes in the timeline including foundational video games like Colossal Cave Adventure, Wizardry, Ultima, and from them DragonQuest and Final Fantasy. It possibly also sweeps the legs out from under Games Workshop who initially grew from the makers of hand crafted wooden boardgames when they got an exclusive license as the D&D importers.

It's such a huge hole I'm going with "If Gygax & Arneson hadn't published D&D in 1974 then something equivalent would have happened".
 

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