D&D General Why Is D&D Successful?

5E's strengths are it's flexibility and inclusiveness.
It's a system that tends to get out of the way and lets you play the game you want, the way you want.

Sure, there are lots of cultural elements bringing more people to try DnD, but the quality and ease of the game are why they stay and that has made it the massive success we've seen over the past decade.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
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.
Six factors.
  1. Geek culture in general has been on the rise, and that has given D&D tons of free advertising. Stranger Things is just the most recent and dramatic. Shows like Big Bang Theory are responsible as well, and films like The Lord of the Rings are too. This is something that's been building for a while.
  2. The rise...and then fall of World of Warcraft. As much as TTRPG folks love to crap on anything they can accuse of being an MMO, WoW, ESO, Guild Wars, and other MMOs have done more to spread the idea of cooperative adventuring than anything D&D ever did. But after WoW stumbled hard, repeatedly, and shed literally something like ten million users, people opened up to other, newer things.
  3. Anyone who knows me knows I'm no fanboy of 5e. But, giving credit where credit is due, it's pretty easy to get started playing. The guidance is awful and the rules are full of holes, but it does actually do some stuff to make it accessible that previous editions didn't.
  4. Concomitant with #2, the rise of the virtual tabletop. I still argue to this day that 4e was permanently crippled by the murder-suicide that destroyed its digital tools team (and then bedridden after they committed to Silverlight...only for it to immediately stop getting support from Microsoft.) Virtual tabletops made it dramatically more feasible for people to get together, fitting quite well into the slow but steady rise of "online co-op" play for small groups.
  5. Bouncing back from the 2007 financial crisis and subsequent economic lag, only to be followed by COVID-19 lockdown right when the usual plateau would have hit. By the time jobs and the economy had gotten back to where they were pre-2007, 4e was on the way out and 5e was on the horizon. The public playtest did what it was actually meant to do--attract attention, not do any effective playtesting, it was little more than a publicity stunt.
  6. The rise of the podcast. Tablet and smartphone adoption finally hit full saturation, and podcasts became wildly successful. A significant number of these podcasts and other related things (e.g. Acquisitions, Inc. from PennyArcade) were either specifically about TTRPGs, were actual plays of TTRPGs, or had people that loved TTRPGs and thus would talk about them. This is another chunk of absolutely huge and completely free advertising right at the moment when that free advertising blew up massively.
Social forces well beyond WotC's control or influence ensured monumental exposure, and other forces ensured not just sustained profits but outright growth at a time when one would normally expect at least a plateau, or even decline.

One other factor that, IMHO, contributed to 5e enduring (and increasing) success, is the willingness of the D&D team to adapt. When 5e came out, it mostly appealed (quite successfully) to the existing fan-base. When, due to many factors already discussed in this thread, it started to expand and gain an ever-increasing following among younger players, the game (especially the lore) was updated to be more in sync with the younger generations.
I guess I just don't really understand what exactly has "adapted." They don't contradict anything in the PHB--ever. That's one of the several reasons why we're getting 5.5e (though they are too afraid to actually call it what it is, and thus insist it is "the 2024 books" or whatever.) Non-Tolkien races remain ghettoized, the "true exotics," while the Tolkienesque races are asserted to appear in every fantasy universe even when that is demonstrably untrue, especially of halflings.

The only thing that's changed is that they're willing to recognize that people of varied ethnicity and gender identity exist.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
2. The rise...and then fall of World of Warcraft. As much as TTRPG folks love to crap on anything they can accuse of being an MMO, WoW, ESO, Guild Wars, and other MMOs have done more to spread the idea of cooperative adventuring than anything D&D ever did. But after WoW stumbled hard, repeatedly, and shed literally something like ten million users, people opened up to other, newer things.
This is a bigger factor than many might notice. Back in '07 WoW was a juggernaut in both video game and table top scenes. Everybody was talking about it. If you yourself didn't play it, you knew folks who did. Lots of chatter about videa games ruining table top and destroying TTRPG groups etc.. and WoW was actually providing some fruit to that notion. Fast forward to today and I barely know anyone who plays WoW any longer. A hunger for TTRPG groups seems prevalent.

I know thats anecdotal, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was a common experience among folks playing then and now.
 

aco175

Legend
Nobody seemed to mention that 80s kids are now having kids getting into that age bracket. The whole, "Dad/Mom, did you play this game I seen on the interwebs?" "Lets give it a try and see if you like it." Now buying a whole family of 5e stuff.
 


EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I agree that 5e's design is a big part of it. I remember introducing some people to 3e back in the day but it never stuck, because it was too complicated.

5e, for its shortcomings, is incredibly elegant and easy to learn.
It really isn't. It's just so full of holes and has people so used to winging it, the gaps get papered over.

I've had genuinely brand-new players asking questions. They almost immediately ran into deeply confusing elements of the rules that had to be glossed over with "well that's not important right now."

Besides, for all your criticism of 3e, 5e is almost identical to it in most ways. It was specifically designed to be that way, because those were the fans betrayed by the creation of 4e.
 

Oofta

Legend
It really isn't. It's just so full of holes and has people so used to winging it, the gaps get papered over.

I've had genuinely brand-new players asking questions. They almost immediately ran into deeply confusing elements of the rules that had to be glossed over with "well that's not important right now."

Besides, for all your criticism of 3e, 5e is almost identical to it in most ways. It was specifically designed to be that way, because those were the fans betrayed by the creation of 4e.

A lot of people would disagree with you. I enjoyed 3E but it tried to have a rule for everything which never really worked, PCs could be buffed multiple times, it had a lot of finicky situational modifiers and you really had to understand the rules to build effective characters. If you did understand the rules and set out to optimize a PC, that optimized PC was far more powerful than PCs who were not optimized.

I've introduced many people who had never played a TTRPG before (over a dozen that I can guarantee had never played) to 5E and I've never hit major issues. There were far fewer questions than previous editions.

Of course both of our experiences are an infinitesimally small slice of the pie, but considering how quickly the game has grown and continues to grow, I think it's self-evident that the game is relatively easy to pick up. There simply aren't enough old school players to support the double digit growth for a decade.
 

wedgeski

Adventurer
It really isn't. It's just so full of holes and has people so used to winging it, the gaps get papered over.

I've had genuinely brand-new players asking questions. They almost immediately ran into deeply confusing elements of the rules that had to be glossed over with "well that's not important right now."

Since my experience differs, I'm genuinely interested in what a brand new player would run afoul of that they wouldn't in other systems.

Do you mean brand spanking new to RPG's, or a more experienced player coming into 5E?
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Since my experience differs, I'm genuinely interested in what a brand new player would run afoul of that they wouldn't in other systems.

Do you mean brand spanking new to RPG's, or a more experienced player coming into 5E?
The former in most cases. Two players were the latter. The only relevant thing they have in common, to the best of my knowledge, is that they are both dyslexic.
 

The former in most cases. Two players were the latter. The only relevant thing they have in common, to the best of my knowledge, is that they are both dyslexic.
My little borther is dyslexic and also had troubles. Thats more because of the disorder as opposed to the rules. 5e is a lil crunchy, but the idea is very easy to get.
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top