D&D General Why Is D&D Successful?


I definitely don’t think there’s any single factor. Several of these are intertwined (see Game of Thrones and CRPGs for instance) which in combination have created a critical mass. In no particular order…
  • Its good. Its hit the sweet spot between simplicity and complexity.
  • The production values are excellent, books feels like something you can give as a gift
  • Similarly the quality of art is frankly mind blowing now. Characters, maps, vignettes, covers etc.
  • It’s cheap at a time when everything else is more expensive. Take your family to the cinema once or play D&D every weekend for a year.
  • Focus on the Adventure as the driving product. A build-your-own-package not a tool box and raw materials. At a rate which allows supply to keep up with demand.
  • The rise of VTT has removed a huge historical barrier to play.
  • Online resources - google images, patreon, pdf reprints, wiki’s etc have put an an astronomical amount of game resources at peoples fingertips for very low cost.
  • it’s a broad church catering to a wide array of gaming styles.
  • Lack of product bloat making it evergreen and reducing edition wars and fragmentation.
  • Ubiquitousness. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (Looking at you Level Up)
  • A generation raised on excellent CRPGs Skyrim, Final Fantasy, Witcher 3, etc. primed to play D&D.
  • A generation folks who played the game in the 80’s and 90’s are playing it with their kids/grandkids.
  • Inclusivity. The removal of chainmail bikinis, all-white artwork and their Ilk. Opening up the game to 50%+ of the population.
  • The establishment of fantasy as a mainstream TV and film genre for everyone. Thank you Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones.
  • Geek-Chic reducing the disincentive to be seen playing or to suggest it.
Its worth repeating point one, that it is a damn good game though. Were that not the case I don’t think we would be where we are now. Not perfect but a solid 4.5 stars. Better than anything we’ve had before.

I was just about to post much the same thing, so thanks for saving me some typing! :) I would add my thoughts on a couple of points
  • People crave an excuse to have social interaction that goes beyond sharing videos or posts online. D&D gives people a structure to get together and spend time with people interacting with each other. At the same time, it's relatively low pressure in an age with polarized opinions on politics, religion and other cultural aspects.
  • Online streaming has shown what the game really is like. That a large component can be people just playing, joking and being a bit silly.
  • The plethora of resources in blogs and forums like this for when you have questions on how to do something or how to run a game.
  • The generic nature and broad types of games that can be played to suit people's tastes.
  • The flexibility to make small tweaks to the game without worrying about breaking the system.

But I also don't think we can underestimate how much the design of the game has helped. Yes, there are many other factors that means D&D is best selling, but that wouldn't have happened without a game that simply works for a lot of people. Much of the rules and text of OD&D was confusing, the math of AD&D was obtuse. With 3.x there was a tremendous difference between character builds that really raised the perceived cost of entry. The difference between an optimized PC and on played by someone more casual was huge and ubiquitous. With 4E, it was just a different approach to the mechanical structure of the game which simply didn't resonate with a lot of people along with the complexity of tracking conditions and interrupts along with hours-long combat.

Now we have an edition of D&D that takes the core concepts, cleans them up and packages them together in a comprehensive well designed product. It's not perfect of course, it will never appeal to everyone under the sun because it can't, no one is saying it can't be improved. But it is a game that simply works for a wide swath of people, including those that I never in a million years would have expected to enjoy playing the game.

Despite claims to the contrary, D&D does not have a magic hold on the imagination of people. There is nothing stopping another game from grabbing the crown. You can't just slap a D&D label on a game and expect it to succeed. The game has evolved over decades and, hopefully will continue to evolve. But I think 5E is the best version of D&D yet for broad appeal.

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Similar I see multiple factors contributing to this (most of which have already been mentioned):
  • First mover advantage and a few good business decisions on the way (esp. the spreading its influence via the (original) OGL)
  • Enough D&Disms have spread throughout the gaming community via video games
  • Strong brand and good exposure via series and movies
  • Streaming and generally D&D being big enough to have its own influencer eco system
  • The Faux-medieval setting seems to work well for escapism
  • The "diverse team of fantasy heroes/super-heroes" thing seems to resonate with the Zeitgeist
  • The core experience of fighting things, getting treasure and improving in power seems to work for a lot of people
  • Similarly, having a lot of buttons to push (class powers, spells, feats, etc.) seems to be attractive to many people
  • The game is enough to pick up, especially if you can now watch other people play over the Internet


CR 1/8
Whenever I've thought about this, I generally boil it down to three things:

1. The internet. Online communities and VTTs have greatly expanded reach of gamers, enabling them to talk about and engage in it far beyond the kitchen tables local FLGSs we were once limited to.

2. "The nerds have inherited the earth." That is to say the timing is such that those 70s/80s/90s kids who first played have introduced it to their own kids. And aside from being parents, those same early gamers are also now in the sorts of positions in their jobs and communities (e.g., as managers, teachers, organizers, etc) to push the stuff that they enjoyed in their own youth, in all sorts of contexts.

3. The game itself as entertainment. D&D (and RPGs in general) has a broad appeal, being all at once social, creative, analytical, dramatic, etc, so it attracts a wide range of people. Add onto that D&D as a passive entertainment (e.g., streamers, movies, etc), and that popularity only expands.


I wonder how many people play via VTT or otherwise online. Is that data available anywhere. I know Roll20 use to report some information but I don't think they do any more.


Prince of Dorkness
I think it's just a societal change in general. Without getting into any (potentially off-topic) specifics, a lot of things that, when I was growing up in the 80's, were considered either "taboo" or "uncool" are now gaining public acceptance.

In terms of D&D specifically, when I was younger it was only for dorks, geeks, nerds, etc. But as I've gotten older, more and more people have come out of the woodwork and admitted to having played (or are still playing) D&D. Actors like Matthew Lillard and Jon Manganiello. Brawny tough-guys like Vin Diesel. Athletes like Johnny Stanton, Myles Garrett, and Wyatt Teller of the Cleveland Browns. All kinds of people who didn't fit, and are shattering, the stereotype of old are making it easier for embarrassed introverts like myself to come out of the D&D closet. I, personally, am no longer "ashamed" to admit I play D&D to my friends and family.


Because the people who grew up playing D&D are now the people who run cultural companies (video/music/games/etc). Their creative direction is influenced by the game they played as youth. They power and promote the stories that connect them to their youth
I don't think that is a sufficient explanation. A lot of GenXers run TTRPG companies and none of them are 5E popular.

bedir than

Full Moon Storyteller
I don't think that is a sufficient explanation. A lot of GenXers run TTRPG companies and none of them are 5E popular.
They run RPG companies, yes

D&D players from the 80s run major divisions of Disney, Hasbro, Paramount, CAA, Apple, Netflix, etc.

People who played Invisible Sun or Pathfinder at ten years old don't


Doing the best imitation of myself
It is the OG of RPG games, and for most people, Dungeons and Dragons IS role playing games. Just like how in some parts of the US a Coke is any kind of soda (or pop or ... you get it).

Combine that with Stranger Things and Critical Role and you have it.


They run RPG companies, yes

D&D players from the 80s run major divisions of Disney, Hasbro, Paramount, CAA, Apple, Netflix, etc.

People who played Invisible Sun or Pathfinder at ten years old don't
So we are talking about different things. I asked why D&D specifically is as hugely popular as it is right now.

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