So what is today's conversation? Well, one writer summed it up in a letter with the subject line of "My take from a non-D&D player." Although I know the vast majority of the folks that read the articles on the D&D website are D&D RPG players, an increasing number of non-RPG players have been contacting me with their feelings and impressions of the D&D brand. If they don't play the RPG, then where are they coming from?
Dragon's Eye View - Across Worlds. Across Media.
Discuss this article here.
"Don't expect us to sell the brand name anytime soon. It's a cash cow!"
I wonder how much a Salvatore fan actually cares about D&D beyound it's association with Forgotten Realms, and even then, the Realms outside their role as setting for Salvatore's stories.
If Menzoberranzan were not in Toril, would the Realms still matter to these fans?
If Forgotten Realms was associated with a different rpg, how much would D&D still matter to these people?
By packaging them together, marketting numbers become easier to manipulate, and losses in other areas absorbed, yet it marries two fan bases which do not entirely over lap together.
I think it's great that D&D enjoys this kind of market penetration and brand recognition. I hope they keep it.
But that recognition has risen out of what is basically a well made niche product that's hit a wider consciousness in popular culture because it of its niche.
D&D players are really avid fans, usually. Most of the time if I get someone to come over for a session and keep them for three sessions, I've probably got that person to play with for years. But it's the social event that surrounds the game that keeps them coming back.
The game's the reason we're all here and I think trying to design around the preconceptions of someone who does not play but recognizes the brand is ultimately going to do harm to the game as a whole. By extention, the brand will suffer for it.
The whole approach in 5e is conciliatory. They're trying to get the fans back to all buying into the one product, so I can see how they might want to look at all fans, including those who don't actually play. But if the game isn't going to make a stand somewhere and decide that they need to leave some people out, the game probably won't be very good. I don't know if they've taken enough of a stand in places, but the current materials aren't enough to go on.
I liked the article. I'd say I mostly play the game but I have read some novels. I also have played miniatures here and there. But my dollars follow the game itself far more.
Given that above I still have some free advice on the worlds.
1. Stop making the same world for every ruleset. Keep expanding the world indefinitely independent of the ruleset. Instead of a few books that are nearly identical save crunch getting released repeatedly each edition. Just assume that world books are setting neutral. This makes buying those books for non-gamers even more enticing. If you want a players guide with crunch the do that.
2. Expand the world. Give us well detailed city guides. Think Ptolus. These are again useful outside that campaign world. Someone could easily drop Waterdeep, the city in their own world if they wanted. Again less crunch more details and flavor. Again if you want to provide a book of NPCs and their stats as a separate thing thats fine.
3. Stop wrecking the world because new rules have arrived. If you want to add a new race then have it arrive from some distant land. In some cases just save that race for the next world. Advise DMs to allow special cases where needed.
Then what happens is you provide real value and you can sell the books forever. If your campaign book is rules independent you don't have to rewrite it over and over. You can write something new for that campaign or if you feel you've detailed a world well enough you can create a totally new setting.
As long as you keep your books available all the time, everyone will be very happy.
I only play the RPG.
I tried to read D&D novels, and I simply couldn't. I made it through the first of the DragonLance novels, and that was only at the insistence of friends in my playgroup. I started reading the next book and stopped midway through the second chapter. I've never finished a Drizzt novel. I know Salvatore has his fans, but I am simply not one of them. I have, from time to time, picked up a D&D novel that's getting some buzz from the fanbase, and each time I have been left disappointed within a few pages.
Perhaps I'm not giving the novels a fair shake, but I don't have time to waste on a book that "gets better". I have plenty of books that are good now.
Truth be told, I find I don't like much fantasy, or it's half-brother sci-fi. Most of if is, IMO, simply hack-work. So this is not a derision of D&D as a brand, but a derision of the genre. There is simply a much larger crap:gold ratio in speculative fiction. The only genre that seems to have a worse ratio is soft-core erotic romantic fiction.
I don't play the video games anymore, beyond what I play as a video game designer as a part of research. I liked Icewind Dale and Baldur's Gate, and Neverwinter Nights was pretty cool, but little since then has been appealing. Quite frankly, the games since then have been trading far too much on their brand, rather than their quality. If the games lacked the brand, I doubt their mechanics would justify purchase.
And nothing against comics, but I haven't cared about comics outside of the indie/alt scene for years. There lot's of talented writers and artists in mainstream comics right now, guys like Morrison and Bendis and Azarello and Vaughn. But for some reason, I have just lost all passion for the medium as I've grown older. I have no real explanation.
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