Why do you play games other than D&D?

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Inspired by a question somebody asked on Twitter. My response was that every system feels different and provides a different play experience. You can certainly make most any system do anything, but playing Call of Cthulhu with the Mutants & Masterminds rules is going to feel very different to CoC with the CoC rules.

Every game has it's own niche and just needs to serve that niche well.

In the last year I've run: D&D 5E, WOIN, Pathfinder 2E Playtest, Ghostbusters 1980s RPG, Call of Cthuhu. Some for longer than others (Ghostbusters was just a couple of sessions, and we only got halfway through the PF2 playtest because the playtest schedule was so fast). Each of those games feels very different.

So why do you play games other than D&D? What is it that your game of choice does that makes it the best fit for the stories and genres you're playing with?
I consdier DnD a generic game for playing most types of fantasy. I can play modern urban fantasy, star fantasy, classic dnd, romantic fantasy, fairy tale, fantasy Leverage, etc in dnd no problem.

But for some things, it just isn't going to do a great job, and someone built a really rad game specifically dialed in to that specific thing. Like The One Ring. I appreciate the 5e conversion, but I'd rather play The One Ring proper, because it just does a better job of playing like I'm in Middle Earth. There are things that are hard to translate.

Or, I just don't want to play fantasy at all, so I grab a different game so that I'm not building half a game from scratch just to use the 5e engine.

Also a lot of the games out there are fricken gorgeous!
 

ccs

39th lv DM
It's honestly a really short answer: Variety.

Right now though, RPG-wise, I'm kinda stuck in a rut of 5e & PF. (so 2 flavors of D&D). It's an enjoyable rut, but a rut none the less.....
And on the miniature wargaming front it's virtually all WWII.
So guess what's not at all on my schedule for GenCon in a few weeks?
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
On the popularity and default state of D&D ...

I think people tend to overstate the dominance of D&D -- not that it isn't the biggest player by far, but it seems common to assume that most games are D&D. Even at "Peak d20" this was not the case -- here's the list of events from GenCon 2003 (events counts only, I could not get details on the players allowed per event). I'm not sure that even if we assume some of the living events had huge numbers of players, that even then half the people were playing a d20 game.

So dominant in terms of "no close competitor", but not dominant in terms of "more of this than everything else".
(determination as to which events were d20 does by me using name, rules version and genre. Not evenly slightly guaranteed to be accurate, but I hope errors roughly balance either way ...)

GameEvent Count
*** ALL D20 ***368
BESM d2019
D&D2
D&D - Living City12
D&D - Living Greyhawk21
D&D - Living KoK10
d2017
D20 Modern5
d20 System3
d20 System - Living Arcanis8
d20 System - Living Death7
d20 System - Living Dragonstar5
d20 System - Living Jungle7
d20 System - Living Spycraft5
d20 System -- Living Arcanis1
d20 System -- Living Death2
d20 System -- Living Jungle1
Dungeon & Dragons59
Dungeons & Dragons126
HackMaster4
HeartQuest D203
Home Rules - d203
Mutants & Masterminds6
Mutants and Masterminds2
Mutants and Masterminds (d20)/Modern (d20)1
Star Wars - Living Force8
Star Wars -- Living Force5
Star Wars d204
Swashbuckling Adventures (D20)6
TBA16
*** ALL Others ***833
14924
7th Sea24
7th Sea Roll & Keep1
Aberrant1
AD&D6
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons17
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (1st Ed)10
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (2nd Ed)13
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (3rd Ed)9
Advanced Marvel Comics RPG1
AFMBE/Unisystem13
Amber Diceless RPG2
Ancient Lands RPG4
Anything's Possible - The Game2
Anythings Possible The Game6
Arcana Unearthed6
Arcane2
Asylum1
Big Eyes, Small Mouth11
Blue Planet3
Buffy1
Buffy The Vampire Slayer3
Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG3
Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG (Eden Studios)1
Call of Cthulhu53
Call of Cthulhu (1920s)4
Call of Cthulhu, 1890s1
Call of Cthulu2
Cartoon Action Hour6
Champions11
Changeling1
Changeling the Dreaming1
Changeling: The Dreaming2
CHILL4
Chosen1
Cinematic Unisystem5
Cinematic Unisystem/Angel24
Cinematic Unisystem/Buffy18
Conspiracy X3
Courting Murder6
Cyberpunk 20201
Dark Ages: Inquisitor1
Dark Ages: Mage1
Dark Ages: Vampire1
Deadlands2
Demon: The Fallen2
Doom City1
Dragonquest29
DragonStorm29
Dread4
Dungeons & Dragons12
Earthdawn2
Everquest RPG2
Everway4
Exalted4
Farscape d201
Farscape RPG7
Feng Shui1
Fight the Evil Power6
Forbidden Kingdoms2
Four Colors al Fresco3
Fudge10
FVLMINATA1
G.U.R.P.S1
G.U.R.P.S.6
GURPS Supers (Golden Age)1
GURPS Supers (Silver Age)1
GURPS Supers (Victorian Age)2
GURPS: Technomancer2
Hero5
HERO (Champions)2
Hero Clix2
Hero System69
HiBrid4
Hunter: Reckoning3
Immortal2
IronClaw2
Jovian Cronicles2
Justice Inc.3
Kayfabe2
L5R RPG6
Legend Quest1
Little Fears3
LOTR:RPG12
Mage: the Sorcerors Crusade (White Wolf)1
Marvel SAGA1
Matrix Game12
Now Playing6
octaNe1
Ogalepihcra/Fudge1
Ogalepihcra/TBD1
Over the Edge1
Palladium1
Paranoia6
PlayThings System4
Revelation4
Rifts: Southern Brigade3
Savage Worlds22
Shadow Hack1
Shadowrun23
Shadowrun - Virtual Seattle4
So Ya Wanna Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star!4
Spacemaster1
Spookshow1
Spycraft10
ST:RPG10
Star Wars (TSR)11
Star Wars (West End)56
Starchildren3
Super Human High School5
Tech Noir2
The Secret of Zir'An2
Traveller T203
Tribes1
Unisystem21
Unisystem/Armageddon3
Unisystem/WitchCraft/AFMBE1
Unknown Armies2
Villains and Vigilantes2
Violence1
War Machine1
Weird Wars II1
West End Star Wars2
Wheel of Time1
When Darkness Comes&3
White Wolf24
White Wolf Storyteller System4
World of Darkness1
World of Darkness Crossover1
Wraith the Obilivion: The Gear War1
Wyn D mere2
X-crawl1
Xcrawl: Adventures in the Xtreme Dungeon Crawl League4
ZERTZ1
(blank)12
Grand Total1201
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Even at "Peak d20" this was not the case -- here's the list of events from GenCon 2003
What makes you think that GenCon is a representative sample of gamers, or the games they play on a regular basis?

Since GenCon is a very particular experience that requires a notable effort and investment of time and money to have, and is had only by a small part of the overall RPG community, I would not expect the selection of games there to be representative of what the broader community plays.
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
Why do I play other games than Fate and D&D?
(I'll explain why I modified the question lower down)

These two systems are go-to systems for me. If I think of a game I'd like to play, my first thought is "is it fantasy?" and if so, I default to D&D (actually 13th Age, but I'm calling that D&D for th purposes of this discussion). If it isn't, I default to Fate. The reason is that they can do what the standard genre tropes call for pretty well. D&D can cope with outrageously stereotypical Scottish dwarves, with Elric of Melnibone, with mad-science-built robots, with demons and magic, with Kender, with an evil inquisition, with a good inquisition, with Monty-Pythonesque inquisition. And the truly insane part is -- it can have them play not only with the same set of rules, but in the same campaign!

D&D is accepting of different styles and players in a way that few -- make even any -- other systems are. That's why 5E took a step away from 4E's much more focused play style and is more popular; it moved back to its traditional role as being highly adaptable and allowing a huge variety of anything fitting the genre of "fantasy". And that's a big segment of that players want to play.

Fate is my personal go-top game for, well, pretty much everything else. It also has a very broad set of assumptions and works well for a variety of styles of play. Unlike D&D though, it's not as good at mixing them within the same campaign. It's not as easy to mix and merge styles together. But still, it's a go-to choice.

So why so I play other games? For me, it is because another game hits a niche that I'd like to play. Modern day horror, for example. I could run it with Fate, but a modern-day horror-focused game will likely feel better for that niche; more evocative, more immersive. Or sometimes a game defines a niche -- Toon or Paranoia are good examples. A game can define a niche and then I play it because I want to play in that niche.

I added Fate to the OP's question, because the obvious answer is "I want to play something non-fantasy". It's that, true -- but there's more reason than just that, making it a go-to game for many.
 
D&D offers clear fun rules for a specific setting. It's the generic fantasy setting.

I play other games because, imho, mechanics intrinsically link to the setting's feel. And D&D offers a specific feel. It does not mold itself well to say, Hyboria or The Witcher or Middle Earth. Those worlds have different feels; gritty, deadly, and limited magic respectively. Those things are hard to accomplish when you have creatures that house a lot of hp, when you have death saves, or books upon books with spells players can use.

But for fantastical story telling that still satiates the rule geek and optimization player, D&D is hard to beat.
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
What makes you think that GenCon is a representative sample of gamers, or the games they play on a regular basis?

Since GenCon is a very particular experience that requires a notable effort and investment of time and money to have, and is had only by a small part of the overall RPG community, I would not expect the selection of games there to be representative of what the broader community plays.
If you have another source of information, feel free to offer it!

I am a little curious why you expect people with less money to being significantly different in their playing habits from those with disposable income. Is there some reason you feel that rich people are more likely to play non-D&D games, and poor people are more likely to play D&D? Looking at prices of games from the time and now, it's not like it's a significantly different different buy-in cost, so it seems you are suggesting an innate correlation between wealth and liking D&D.

I'm going to challenge that assumption, based on anecdotal evidence. In fact, anecdotally, the people buying dwarven forge and flat screen TVs and blinged out gaming equipment that I know of seem to do so more for D&D than for for, say, Fate. But again, this is anecdotal. So I'll stick with the assumption that wealth has at best a weak correlation with roleplaying game preferences. But if anyone has some better metrics (outside of WOTC who I assume has all the metrics, but little incentive to share), I'd love to hear them, being a statistics sort of guy.


EDIT: The "games people typically play" comment seems more plausible. Anecdotally, I know people often go to cons to try new things, so new games, or unusual ones may be over-represented due to that factor. But, also anecdotally, people who's main home game is D&D do seem to play mostly or exclusively D&D at cons, so although it's more plausible, I'm not sure it will be enough of a factor to serious skew conclusions.
 
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Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
If you have another source of information, feel free to offer it!

I am a little curious why you expect people with less money to being significantly different in their playing habits from those with disposable income. Is there some reason you feel that rich people are more likely to play non-D&D games, and poor people are more likely to play D&D? Looking at prices of games from the time and now, it's not like it's a significantly different different buy-in cost, so it seems you are suggesting an innate correlation between wealth and liking D&D.

I'm going to challenge that assumption, based on anecdotal evidence. In fact, anecdotally, the people buying dwarven forge and flat screen TVs and blinged out gaming equipment that I know of seem to do so more for D&D than for for, say, Fate. But again, this is anecdotal. So I'll stick with the assumption that wealth has at best a weak correlation with roleplaying game preferences. But if anyone has some better metrics (outside of WOTC who I assume has all the metrics, but little incentive to share), I'd love to hear them, being a statistics sort of guy.


EDIT: The "games people typically play" comment seems more plausible. Anecdotally, I know people often go to cons to try new things, so new games, or unusual ones may be over-represented due to that factor. But, also anecdotally, people who's main home game is D&D do seem to play mostly or exclusively D&D at cons, so although it's more plausible, I'm not sure it will be enough of a factor to serious skew conclusions.
It has to do with being a representative sample and the bias that self-selection introduces to the data collection process. It won’t have nearly as random a selection of hobby participants as data collected from, say, a list of 1000 people who bought games from a set of websites or a similar number of people selected entering or leaving game stores.

In my 42 or so years of personal experience in the hobby across 3 states and 5 cities, I’ve only gamed with 2 other people who ever attended an RPG convention...and they went with me. If you expand the selection parameters to include CCG tournaments, I get to about a dozen.

I doubt that my experiences are typical, however. In fact, based on my time at ENWorld, I suspect they’re not.

So while the GenCon crowd may be an actual mirror to the hobby’s general demographics, odds are pretty good that it isn’t.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I disagree that 5e is more flexible. I attribute most of its success in being wonderfully tuned to the predominant play pattern first established with Dragonlance and refined by 1990s games like Vampire, Shadowrun, Legend of the 5 Rings, etc. GM creates an elaborate plot for players to play through. Along the way they get to express their predefined awesomeness at controlled points, but never with any danger they will disrupt the plot or fail to express their "concept". It also pays just enough homage to classic tropes. Basically, everyone at the table gets their moments and is protected from having their individual creativity disrupted.
 

ParanoydStyle

Peace Among Worlds
Maybe I'm oversimplifying the question, but I play RPGs other than D&D when I want to roleplay in a genre other than high fantasy? Like sci-fi, or horror. D&D does not have assault rifles or attack helicopters: one could certainly stat those things in D&D, and I probably will lol, but D&D's default assumptions are built around the high fantasy genre, not any other genre one might care to explore. (Actually, 5th Edition is the first edition of D&D that really proclaims that the system can be used for many other genres, and that is with the many optional rules outlined in the 5E DMG.)

But the answer to the question of "why do you play high fantasy RPGs other than D&D?" my answer would simply be I don't. It's not that I think D&D is "the best", it's that D&D is working for me, so I feel no need to go looking for something else to scratch that particular itch. I will also admit to a little bias in favor of D&D over various "D&D-likes": they all have their own merits, but the fact that D&D is the original does have some appeal to me. This was a large part of my stated reason for not playing Pathfinder until 2018, when I finally gave in and played Pathfinder.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
I want to clarify my view, based on some of the other responses in this thread.

Many of my favorite systems- HERO, 3.X, etc,- are great for simulating a wide variety of settings with little or no tweaking. But sometimes, a system designed for the express purpose of modeling a particular bit of fiction will simply do it better, more immersively.

Other RPGs are lean and sleek, with just enough “system” in the system to provide all you need with none of the bells & whistles that occasionally get in the way. For example, shortly after D&D brought me into the hobby, The Fantasy Trip/In the Labyrinth proved that a game where 2-5 minutes of character generation were all you needed to run truly fun swords & sorcery games. Especially when you wanted something easier on the brain.

(Similarly I found Star Fleet Battles and Starfighter both to be great fun.)
 
I disagree that 5e is more flexible.
The flexibility comes in giving the DM latitude to go beyond, ignore, override, and, of course, if he wants to, formally change or 'house rule,' the system.

That's not really flexibility at all, but it's functionally used the same way.

It's like, you can break it, and fix it to be however you want. That's like being flexible - except for the loud snapping sound and the duct tape.

I attribute most of its success in being wonderfully tuned to the predominant play pattern first established with Dragonlance and refined by 1990s games like Vampire, Shadowrun, Legend of the 5 Rings, etc.
Then why did none of those games take off like 5e is taking off now? (That's rhetorical... I mean, ST did do really well in the 90s, relative to the niche non-D&D RPG market of that decade.)

Well, for one thing, there's been a huge renaissance in TT gaming going for like 5 or 6 years now, that wasn't there 20+ years ago.

Then there's the magic trick WotC pulled in developing & releasing 5e without any of it's longtime fans crying foul. 3e & 4e both suffered excessive criticism from what became the OSR crowd for not being traditional-D&D enough. (And 4e for not being 3e enough, /either/) 5e presents as both traditional-D&D-enough and 3e-enough to avoid that sort of controversy, which means when a potential new player looks into this D&D he's heard vaguely about, he doesn't find it's ardent fans arguing about how badwrongfun it is, and just write it off. So 5e fully benefits from the D&D name recognition and legacy of past market dominance.

And, even more so than earlier in WotC's tenure, D&D has gotten mainstream exposure in the media and via people streaming examples of play.

I'm sure there are other factors.

GM creates an elaborate plot for players to play through. Along the way they get to express their predefined awesomeness at controlled points, but never with any danger they will disrupt the plot or fail to express their "concept". It also pays just enough homage to classic tropes. Basically, everyone at the table gets their moments and is protected from having their individual creativity disrupted.
I mean, a DM could totally run 5e that way, and the AP paradigm it lifted from Paizo certainly fits neatly into it, too, with /long/ elaborate adventure 'paths' instead of itty bitty modules or home-cook'n adventures or random dungeoncrawls.

OTOH, the DM can do prettymuch anything else he wants with it, too, like said home-campaign adventures or random dungeon crawls, or even collaborative storytelling campaigns, PvP contests, borderline wargaming, whatever - he could take it further than just style, to genre &c, at least nominally, but might scrub away everything making it remotely recognizeable in the process, and have just "a d20 game" at the end of the day.


Besides, growth comes from new players, who don't come to the game with any particular agenda rooted in how games were played in the 90s.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
On the popularity and default state of D&D ...

I think people tend to overstate the dominance of D&D -- not that it isn't the biggest player by far, but it seems common to assume that most games are D&D. Even at "Peak d20" this was not the case -- here's the list of events from GenCon 2003 (events counts only, I could not get details on the players allowed per event). I'm not sure that even if we assume some of the living events had huge numbers of players, that even then half the people were playing a d20 game.

So dominant in terms of "no close competitor", but not dominant in terms of "more of this than everything else".
(determination as to which events were d20 does by me using name, rules version and genre. Not evenly slightly guaranteed to be accurate, but I hope errors roughly balance either way ...)
(chart snipped to save space)

The chart says how many events were offered but doesn't say how many of them sold out, or got cancelled due to not enough interest. It's a decent guide to who was willing to run what type of game but not so useful in gauging player interest.

2003 was my first GenCon and I'll freely admit to not remembering much of it (I ran on about 8 hours total sleep over 4+ days) but I do recall D&D/AD&D (0e, 1e or similar) events being hard if not impossible to get into unless one flew standby and hoped for a no-show.

In more recent years I recall better, PF has become hugely popular largely because Paizo maintain a big presence at GC while WotC have pulled out of the Con. Also, every CoC session offered sells out in seconds flat. Every 0e-1e D&D event also sells out immediately. After that...you'd have to ask the GenCon people themselves. :)
 

Arilyn

Adventurer
I can't imagine only playing one game system. I enjoy a variety of games, and love trying new ones. D&D is fun, but far from my favourite system, and I would get tired of playing it exclusively.

Gumshoe offers great rules for a variety of investigative games. Fate is my favourite system, because it hits all the narrative story beats, is elegant and immersive. Star Trek appeals to my inner trekkie that has never gone away. Icons, Worlds in Peril and Marvel Cortex are great for super heroes. There is a wealth of well designed and exciting rpgs that are not D&D. There's a variety of styles I enjoy and want to try. Only playing D&D? That's a limited diet.
 
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Aldarc

Adventurer
Four pages in and no one has still linked or contextualized the original tweet?

ORIGINAL TWEET THAT [MENTION=1]Morrus[/MENTION] REFERENCES HERE

Why play a RPG other than D&D? For the professional game designers out there working on non-D&D systems, do you try to do what D&D already does well but do it better? Or, do you look at what D&D doesn't do well and try to make your mark there?
And here are some follow-up questions that they ask some of the responding posts that tease at the issues that press the author:
For argument's sake, let's assume that most new RPG players are getting pulled in by 5e (I suspect that's true, but I couldn't produce hard evidence). So, as a professional game developer competing with 5e, how do you lure those players? How do you answer that important question?
Interesting. D&D is obviously the 800 pound gorilla in the room. What's your thinking here about ignoring it? It has such an impact on the industry.
Has ignoring D&D translated into business success? Has it pulled in customers? I'm not trying to sell anybody on D&D being the only RPG worth playing (I feel like I've had to repeat that a lot in this thread). I love all sorts of RPGs.
Not sure I agree that it's a bad premise that D&D has the largest audience of players and pulling players away from D&D to try something different isn't a question professional RPG designers should be trying to answer.
Someone wrote:
I’m getting from your responses that part of this question is about how we contextualize the realities of DnD’s stranglehold on the industry when we design a game. For a current project, I’m actually interested in capitalizing on some things people love most about DnD ...
To which the author responded:
Someone gets it!
I could keep going, but hopefully I have helped more strongly ground the question posed in the OP.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I could keep going, but hopefully I have helped more strongly ground the question posed in the OP.
I was only asking about players. My question was prompted by that tweet, but it isn't the same question. The question I wanted to ask is the one I posted. :)
 

5atbu

Explorer
I like the way different systems generate different effects, moods, stories, or how my mind interacts with the mechanics.
It can also be that some systems and settings are **so** symbiotic that to experience one you have to use the other.
 

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