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D&D General Why Is D&D Successful?

bedir than

Full Moon Storyteller
So we are talking about different things. I asked why D&D specifically is as hugely popular as it is right now.
That's why. The people who played as youth in the early 80s are now in massively influential roles in major entertainment. The entertainment they greenlight is strongly influenced by their love and memories of D&D.

Cocks, the Duffers, every video game company, musicians, etc, etc

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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.
You ninja'd my choice. Just the internet in general. I think one thing that might be huge is how to videos. I remember as a kid my younger brother and I wanted to learn to play. We had nobody to teach us. So we stuck with things like Heroquest and video games. I met a few folks who did play, and knowing how was a big deal. They learned from parents, siblings, and friends. If you had nobody into D&D, it was hard to get started. I think if we had easy to access teaching videos it would have been much different for us.


[edit] didn’t see the D&D-specific-ness of the thread, so my post isn’t as valid.[/edit]

Lots of good stuff abovethread that I’m not going to repeat, but I’ll add the following:

it’s a young hobby only becoming mature. 50 years ago, D&D players were pioneers. RPG is a rather recent media. It was always played on a smaller scale than other recent entertainment media like video games, mostly because it requires multiple players, time and dedication (or at least more than video games which can be played solo or two or three siblings in a household, for easy entertainment and without commitment). Not to say that people didn’t commit to video games; only that for most video games, commitment wasn’t necessary.

So it’s only been two generations since the whole thing exist, and only one generation where being a geek doesn’t get you stuffed in a locker in school. Geeky, nerdy stuff is much more accepted now, and the new generation grew with parents who either played themselves or see it as a legit social activity (or at the very least, don’t freak-out about devil-worshipping cults talking through D&D).

In short, the conditions are better than they ever were before. D&D and other RPGs just didn’t stand fair chances before. Add traction of a growing hobby and you get the (deserved) popularity it has today.

So I don’t think it’s getting more popular as much as it isn’t being dragged down like before.


You know what would be interesting (but I doubt the data exists for)?: a distribution map over time. That is, where D&D sales occurred over time. We know it started in the upper Midwest and moved pretty quickly to the west coast, but when did the South start playing D&D? Texas? Canada? Europe?


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.
A lot of point that have been brought up that are valid but I think 2 stand out to me. It is now acceptable to be a bit weird. In the past letting your weird flag fly could be dangerous.
The other thing is related to the saw that roleplaying is Improv theatre with maths. However, a lot of people find impov hard and do not want to do it. These are the vast bulk of casual players in my experience. D&D has enough mechanical heft to allow people the fantasy of being the charming rogue or the skilled weapon master with the laconic one liners without having to be that in real life or to write the script.
They can describe what they want to accomplish and let the dice and the mechanics write the script.


That's why. The people who played as youth in the early 80s are now in massively influential roles in major entertainment. The entertainment they greenlight is strongly influenced by their love and memories of D&D.

Cocks, the Duffers, every video game company, musicians, etc, etc
The general constructs behind D&D influencing in some ways story tellers leading to D&D's popularity is a huge stretch of logic. Some influence? Sure. The acceptance of fantasy in general and speculative fiction have an impact. Fantasy fiction is far more prevalent than it was when D&D was created and so of course there's a feedback loop.

But a significant reason for 5E's popularity? I don't buy it. There's no reason for those factors to favor D&D over any other system.


I'll throw out one possible reason I don't hear a lot about:


The idea that you have these straight forward core classes but zillions of potential subclasses that can really change up what the class feels like and you get these by 3rd level. 3rd edition had prestige classes. 4e had paragon paths end epic destinies. But those took forever to get to. With subclasses, you get a nice big branch in your character at a really low level – low enough that it can feel like 3rd is where D&D actually begins.

I think subclasses gave 5th edition a lot of legs. It meant players could play in dozens of campaigns for a decade and not run the same character twice. It was just crunch enough to give players something different about their character and not so complicated that it bogged down the whole game. You could get all your subclass options on a single page.

I think it's a brilliant design in D&D history and one of the big reasons this game has as much staying power as it does.

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