D&D General Why Is D&D Successful?

Reynard

Legend
I was talking about this with my (non-gamer) wife today:

Why is D&D successful in this moment? Like, ridiculously successful.

As a 80s kid Gen-Xer, the idea that the current version of D&D is an order of magnitude or two more successful than either 80s D&D or 3E is really surprising.

RPGs is a weird hobby. It not only requires a lot of time investment, it requires a strange asymmetrical amount of effort on players and GMs. On top of that, it's rules are so vague that the GM position isn't just different, but absolutely required.

So, if you had to distill why and how D&D has become a mainstream success in the 2020s, what would you say.

Note: no points for just declaring Stranger Things and Critical Role. They might explain interest and comprehension, but they don't explain why D&D actually works for millions of people.
 

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darjr

I crit!
Gee. Million dollar question.

I think it’s a few things in different measure for different people and groups. I think that’s why it’s so hard to definitively pin down.

I’ll say it isn’t quite like any other pastime. Yiu get to enjoy something akin to fiction while being a part of it and make it it up. You can hang out with friends at a fun common task. You can build something together in a variety of ways that suites different t styles and tastes.
 



Zardnaar

Legend
RPGs still niche but D&D was the first in a somewhat popular genre.

So you have intergenerational ecosystem of players to draw on and a huge amount of D&Disms have leaked into there media eg classes in video game.

It will wax and wane and can't really challenge it. Other genres aren't really as popular or make for poor RPGs.
 

I think an underappreciated factor is the creation of VTTs. The biggest problem with RPGs has always been finding a group to play with. This problem only gets worse if you are not in HS or college and have a more limited group to potentially find compatible gamers in. VTTs largely solve this problem by vastly expanding your potential player group and making it much easier to find people who want to play the game you want, when it fits your schedule. VTTs also solve the problem of "we used to game, but our DM moved for work" or "we used to game, but life got in the way." I am able to game weekly despite having two young kids at home and a spouse that travels frequently for work, because I can do it from my computer after my kids go to bed without having to find a babysitter or leave the house.

I have seen polls suggesting more than half of people are playing on VTTs. That's huge. Everyone talks about Critical Role, but can you say that half of the people who are playing today got into the hobby because they saw Matt Mercer?
 

MGibster

Legend
Why is D&D successful in this moment? Like, ridiculously successful.
My working theory is that we don't really know why things are successful. If anyone really understood what made something so popular, they'd be able to crank out hit after hit and we wouldn't have any John Carter of Mars or Blade Runner situations (sadly neither movie did particularly well when originally released). Fear not, stalwart friend, I am not here to poop in the thread, as it's certainly interesting to at least try to figure out how something gained such popularity.

As a 80s kid Gen-Xer, the idea that the current version of D&D is an order of magnitude or two more successful than either 80s D&D or 3E is really surprising.
As was I. In some ways I suppose it makes sense. There were only 226,000,000 Americans in 1980 and there are about 309,000,000 in 2010, so potentially there is a larger audience for the game today. That doesn't really explain why D&D is so popular, but having a larger pool to draw from can't hurt. I'm not surprised it's more successful than 3rd edition as the late 90s was one of D&D's low points I think. While I think D&D 3rd edition was successful, I don't recall a broad cultural impact like 5th edition has had. Other than the original D&D movie in 2000 of course.

So, if you had to distill why and how D&D has become a mainstream success in the 2020s, what would you say.
This is a tough nut to crack. I don't know. I can talk about why I think D&D is the #1 RPG, but I'm not sure what it's so much more popular now than it was in the 1980s. One big difference is that portrayals of D&D in the media are more positive now than they were in the early 1980s. i.e. You won't find a whole lot stories about D&D being harmful to young people in most mainstream news outlets. Names like Dallas Egbert, Pat Pulling, and Tom Hank's Mazes & Monsters just aren't part of the zeitgeist these days.

Is it possible more Americans are open to different types of games these days? Board games have been part of mainstream American life for decades, but there was a Video games rose to prominance in the late 1970s, but there was a renaissance in the late 1990s with the introduction of games like Settler's of Catan. I don't mean to boast, ahem, but we played Catan at my bachelor party in 2000. A few years later Catan was being sold in Walmart, Target, and other big box stores. Then there's video games which gained mainstream popularity in the 1970s.

Young people who got into D&D 5th edition starting in 2014 likely had parents who were more comfortable with gaming as a whole than parents were in 1982. Even if those parents didn't play D&D, they were less likely to have any reservations about their kids playing it or any other game.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I think an underappreciated factor is the creation of VTTs. The biggest problem with RPGs has always been finding a group to play with. This problem only gets worse if you are not in HS or college and have a more limited group to potentially find compatible gamers in. VTTs largely solve this problem by vastly expanding your potential player group and making it much easier to find people who want to play the game you want, when it fits your schedule. VTTs also solve the problem of "we used to game, but our DM moved for work" or "we used to game, but life got in the way." I am able to game weekly despite having two young kids at home and a spouse that travels frequently for work, because I can do it from my computer after my kids go to bed without having to find a babysitter or leave the house.

I have seen polls suggesting more than half of people are playing on VTTs. That's huge. Everyone talks about Critical Role, but can you say that half of the people who are playing today got into the hobby because they saw Matt Mercer?
Hadn't considered that before, but I think you've spotted the Elephant in the room.

There's also much less stigma around being a nerd these days than there was in the past. Also, socially it's generally accepted that even adults regularly play games now - whereas 20 years ago it was often viewed negatively.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I mean, obviously it’s a confluence of many compounding factors, Stranger Things and Critical Role among them. The Covid pandemic was also a huge boost, though the snowball had already been going for a good, long while by that point.

I think, if I had to identify a common element among all the things that have been contributing to D&D’s incredible increase in popularity in this particular moment though? It’s the proliferation of fast, stable internet access. That’s what enabled Netflix to become a thing, it’s what allowed VTTs to get better, it’s what made live-streamed Actual Plays possible, it’s what made the books accessible to people without having to go to specialized hobby shops, allowed people to easily share homebrew… And it has been a major contributor to the increasing social atomization and isolation driving people to seek out more social leisure activities like tabletop gaming, which the pandemic then accelerated to an even greater degree.
 

R_J_K75

Legend
I think that first and foremost with the internet and social media its extremely accessible. Second with the shift in culture for people to be more inclusive it's no longer looked down upon to play D&D. Third there are so many online tools like DMs Guild, D&D Beyond and virtual tabletops. I think it's just easier to play and find people to play with.
 

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