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Author Topic: If It’s Fear, I Think People Need Therapy or Something  (Read 2931 times)

Dropbear

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If It’s Fear, I Think People Need Therapy or Something
« on: September 08, 2021, 07:41:33 AM »
I have noticed a greater reticence lately in gamers as a group outside of the forums I read through to discuss or play anything else besides D&D 5E. Hell, one of my favorite games of all time, Talislanta, is soon to attempt to make a resurgence with a new Kickstarter… my questions in the Fb group about possible changes to the system were met with silence for quite a while until I straight up asked the company who will be Kickstarting to please tell me that they were not producing a D&D 5E version of the game. And, of course, that’s exactly what it is to be.

So what is it exactly about 5E that is creating this slavish devotion? I have had the books and even run it several times since the Starter Set came out, but it’s not been the best game Rules set that I have encountered then or since, and it’s not something I want to play or run all the time and it’s not even easier or simpler than some of the games I have had more fun with running and playing.

How do you draw people into games you’d like to run that are not 5E?

I’m about to start running games for a gaming store that has told me I can run anything I want to. But then they counter that with a monthly D&D 5E game that everyone on staff is supposed to be a part of and run. So I’m interested in your answers to the second question mainly to ensure that I can draw some folks to playing other games, and am not locked into running 5E for every game I’m going in there to run.

Thanks!
« Last Edit: September 08, 2021, 07:44:05 AM by Dropbear »

Steven Mitchell

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Re: If It’s Fear, I Think People Need Therapy or Something
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2021, 08:17:32 AM »
Go slow with a plan.  Make sure when you pick a different game to run, have that first session or two be something that will show off how the system works well and pick an adventure/setting/events with the same thing in mind. 

A great deal of good gaming is the GM having a clue.  You want to run any 5E games you do as well as you can, because then people want to play in your game, whatever it is. 

However, the style of the game is also where you make your distinctions.  If you are running 5E games as part of a larger campaign with multiple GMs, then you need to conform to that setup.  If they are independent games, run them according to your style.  For me, that means all my 5E games were far more old school than the default 5E rules.  When you can, take advantage of the 5E DMG options to make those games more old school or whatever your style is. This will do two things:

1. It will acclimate some of the players at the store to this style, which will make it even easier to get them to follow you to another game.
2. It will naturally, without rancor, filter out gradually players who do not enjoy that style at all.  They were never going to easily transition to another game with you.

If everyone is in category 2, then the game store is probably a waste of your time.  If the store 5E games are part of a set style that isn't yours, then you need to be a little more careful.  You build up credit as a GM in players minds, then you sell the new game/style in the same pitch, as something different.  Just remember in this case that there is a fairly large chance that some of the players are honestly going to find it outside their tastes.

If you do all this and end up with only 1 or 2 players that like what you want to do, use them as the nucleus of a new group, maybe outside the store, and then recruit new players from acquaintances.  You might be surprised how easy it is to do this when you've ironed out some of the start up difficulties.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2021, 08:20:32 AM by Steven Mitchell »

Squidi

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Re: If It’s Fear, I Think People Need Therapy or Something
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2021, 10:57:53 AM »
So what is it exactly about 5E that is creating this slavish devotion?
I call it the World of Warcraft effect - though I'm sure others have a better, more business-like name for it, that's when I first noticed it.

Basically, MMOs before WoW were a bunch of small productions by small teams, and they all went in many different directions. Stuff like ShadowLands was different from Horizons was different from Meridian 59 was different than Ultima Online was different from Everquest was different from Star Wars Galaxies. Then WoW gets released - it has polished all the rough edges out (and all the individuality), creating a mass market leader with high production values that requires none of the genre knowledge needed to succeed. Your first days in WoW went really well and you felt powerful and capable. Your first days in Everquest or Star Wars Galaxies were terrifying.

Because WoW got mass market, other MMOs found that they couldn't appease the crowd of players that just wanted WoW, but different. The subscription service meant that players couldn't afford to try all of them and why would they pay $15 a month for some game that isn't WoW when they are already paying $15 a month for WoW? Some MMOs failed, others changed almost everything about themselves to be more WoW-like (EQ2 and SWG being the more extreme examples). Then, within a year, basically, the entire industry homogenized.

The same thing appears to have happened with D&D 5E. It is a slick, polished product that makes new players feel powerful and capable (except when they get wiped by the goblins in the first encounter of Mines of Phandelver, but then they quickly learn that the GM should fudge game results). All their friends are playing it. Critical Role is playing it. The bookstore carries it when it doesn't carry anything else. And it also has a semi-subscription model of new game releases every month or so. D&D is the first game these players encounter, and they expect everything else to be like D&D.

So, how do you fight the mass market normie appeal of something like D&D? Well, you can't. Even if you create a more polished product that is more mass market, you are still dealing with an entrenched audience who isn't exactly looking to try new RPGs. This is why I doubt there will be a D&D 6e any time soon - it runs the risk of alienating the group of new players who've never had to suffer an edition change before (I have to buy Ravenloft again!?). But something like Pathfinder 2e feels a lot like Everquest 2 to WoW.

You can do what some companies are doing, and making their games more like D&D. Symbaroum, for example, just had a kickstarter to make 5e rules for their game world. If you haven't committed to a system yet, starting with 5e with open up your potential market a bit more. In either case, you'll probably struggle to get the audience you want for the same reason that you can't make a better D&D. Symbaroum's attempt won't amount to much because now it has created confusion in the marketplace. You can't just buy something with "Symbaroum" written on it and expect it to be compatible with another.

The other approach is to do your own thing. You can develop a passionate core of niche fans. You'll never get mainstream success like D&D, but something like Blades in the Dark can support a company. Plus, with stuff like Kickstarter, you can build on niche fans to do your marketing for you, as people walk in and go "What does Powered by the Apocalypse mean?" Another advantage is that you don't have to support the entire ecosystem yourself. You don't need to have special dice, maps and miniatures, videos on how to play RPGs, GM screens - a bunch of generic ones already exist to support D&D (and D&D has its own ecosystem there which does benefit new players greatly, much like Games Workshop's paints/tools/tutorials/terrain support all miniature games ultimately).

Long story short, D&D is like World of Warcraft, or I guess something like Warhammer 40k. It is an industry unto itself, rather than part of the larger roleplaying games industry. Its existence both benefits other RPGs, while also limiting their success greatly. But regardless, it is impossible to compete directly with it, and I personally think making 5e rules for one's game systems is the height of folly. It can't be defeated except through its own sheer incompetence (which Wizards is trying their best at).

So what can you, yourself, do to get other people to play non-D&D RPGs? Basically, you extoll the virtues of other games every chance you get. Yeah, people will roll their eyes when you show up, but some of those details about the game will get through and eventually they be curious enough to either try it out, or familiar enough that it becomes something they recognize in other games. Basically, "Have you accepted Forbidden Lands to be your lord and savior? Here's a pamphlet."

Ka'arl Sorcerer of Cha'alt

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Re: If It’s Fear, I Think People Need Therapy or Something
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2021, 11:12:52 AM »
There was the same thing when 4E came out and 3.5 and 3.0 and 2E.

The Companies that have owned D&D often foster this both directly and indirectly and many of it's gamers also pick it up.

Every edition is SO MUCH BETTER than whatever came before it. I mean really they have no choice. The Edition Wheel Drives the Sales. This is somewhat mitigated by hardback adventure path type books that sell very well but even then most players of the game do not purchase the adventures so the company NEEDS to churn out new editions.

If your old edition if just fine to keep playing you are much less likely to spend your hard earned Money on the new.

Now with the huge influx of new players you are just seeing this more pronounced than in the past but it's the exact same issue just with...more people. Now however with the charged social issues of the day they can add negative labels to the older games as well! Even better to keep the players on the wheel!

therealjcm

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Re: If It’s Fear, I Think People Need Therapy or Something
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2021, 01:34:48 PM »
Not everyone who plays rpgs is a rules wonk who masters 10 new systems before breakfast. To such players a different system won't be viewed as a positive and may even be viewed as a negative.

If you want to sell players on something new it has to be the setting that catches their eye and you are going to have to do at least some handholding in character creation. Use templates or pre-gens if you can and let the players modify them slightly.

I've always been the guy in my gaming group pushing to try new games and new systems, and sometimes I just have to bow to the group and accept that they want to play 3.5e or pathfinder for a while. It seems like 5e is what is currently in that default game spot for many players.

King Tyranno

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Re: If It’s Fear, I Think People Need Therapy or Something
« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2021, 01:53:29 PM »

The same thing appears to have happened with D&D 5E. It is a slick, polished product that makes new players feel powerful and capable (except when they get wiped by the goblins in the first encounter of Mines of Phandelver, but then they quickly learn that the GM should fudge game results).




Nope. Sorry. But no. If you as a GM feel you "have" to fudge dice in order for your group to enjoy something then you are wrong. If playing the game as intended is more punishing than ignoring the rules. Then the game is badly designed. Something has gone drastically wrong in the design of the splatbook or mentality of the GM. I've played adventures that weren't well designed and full of OP enemies. The option as a GM is to redesign those encounters or just throw that adventure away. You should never EVER be in a position where you have to fudge dice.

Then again this is one of the expectations of 5e at this point. You HAVE to make the players feel like they're in a power fantasy.  Sure you COULD run a hardcore 5e game. But most players just expect Critical Role style story gaming where the GM just dispenses quotes for the players "heckin epic story time." And just like when WoW ruined MMOs. It meant that other options like SWG were sabotaged. Because according to some you must eternally chase trends to make a profit.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2021, 01:56:47 PM by King Tyranno »

Squidi

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Re: If It’s Fear, I Think People Need Therapy or Something
« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2021, 02:50:35 PM »
Nope. Sorry. But no. If you as a GM feel you "have" to fudge dice in order for your group to enjoy something then you are wrong.
Generally speaking, I'm against the idea of "the wrong way to play". It's your game, do what you want. I play with kids, and fudging the dice is an easy way to keep them involved and not get them too frustrated after making less optimal moves. Mind you, they ARE children.

I do agree that D&D 5e is atrociously designed, but I also think that this is a large part of its success.

I was listening to this thing about William Shakespeare and the theater. The theater was not a high class place generally, and the first few rows (sitting in the dirt) was reserved for the poor and generally uncouth - the groundlings, they were called. They would bring rotten vegetables to throw at the actors if they didn't like what was going on... and they weren't exactly known for their patience. So Shakespeare learned, very early on, to always start with a bang. A sword fight. Witches. A ghost. Something to calm to peanut gallery up front.

I see D&D as having learned the same lesson. A new player can basically play without reading a single manual, and the GM can just say "roll the big die and if it is above 12, you win". They get the feeling of "yay, I slayed the goblin" without having to understand the mechanics of it all. Boiling all of roleplaying games to a single D20 roll was genius, as was the advantage/disadvantage mechanic. Not because it was good game design, but because it engaged the groundlings.
 
Quote
And just like when WoW ruined MMOs. It meant that other options like SWG were sabotaged.
I was watching a documentary on Sergio Leone, and it was talking about how the Italian movie industry was all about chasing trends. They did Last Days of Pompeii and a bunch of other swords and sandals flicks (Leone himself was assistant director on Ben Hur's chariot race), and then the bottom dropped out and the entire industry was in dire trouble - until Leone did the spaghetti western... which they then all copied.

I guess my point is, this isn't a trend. It is just the way of things, going back over a century. It has a purpose. After all, RPGs wouldn't be a genre if a bunch of people didn't want to make their own version of D&D...

Ghostmaker

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Re: If It’s Fear, I Think People Need Therapy or Something
« Reply #7 on: September 08, 2021, 03:24:56 PM »
It's worth contemplating that up until WotC bought TSR, most TTRPG designers weren't backed by a shitpot of money.

Seriously. Love it or hate it but Magic the Gathering was basically 'money machine go brrrr' for WotC. And that was BEFORE Hasbro. So suddenly one of the chimpanzees in the room is now ... well, I wouldn't say 800-lb gorilla. But he's quite a bit bigger than he used to be.

You have to wonder what the knock-on effects might be.

Jaeger

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Re: If It’s Fear, I Think People Need Therapy or Something
« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2021, 05:21:36 PM »
It's worth contemplating that up until WotC bought TSR, most TTRPG designers weren't backed by a shitpot of money.

Seriously. Love it or hate it but Magic the Gathering was basically 'money machine go brrrr' for WotC. And that was BEFORE Hasbro. So suddenly one of the chimpanzees in the room is now ... well, I wouldn't say 800-lb gorilla. But he's quite a bit bigger than he used to be.

You have to wonder what the knock-on effects might be.

TSR did BIG heap piles of cash back in the day.

Both Gary and Arneson (even after he was initially screwed over) made millions off of their royalties in the early eighties.

But both of them and TSR eventually mis-managed themselves into the poorhouse.

TSR was bought out by WOTC... Now all owned by Hasbro.

The Knock-on effects:

D&D is shielded more than ever from bad financial decisions by the magic and Hasbro bankroll.

4e is a great example of this. 5e was a blistering turn around when it became apparent 4e was being outsold by a clone.

And they were able to bankroll the design, promotion, and rollout of 5e as if no financial consequences were felt...

Naturally at the department level, heads rolled and restrictions were put in place. But from the outside you couldn't tell that WOTC had to recover from getting their asses kicked by a clone.

That's a big deal.

"Market leader" status in RPG's is HUGE.  They are much like MMO's in that respect.

Yes in a few countries D&D is not the #1 RPG. But those conditions are very hard to replicate in the US.

While there will be localized consequences for WOTC if D&D is mis-managed: ultimately Hasbro can bail D&D out each and every time with a quick turn around to new edition for the pack to run home to.

D&D has gone from the 800lb. Gorilla to the 80,000lb. Gorilla of the hobby.

WOTC would have to really alienate the fan base on a epic level to have a competitor take the #1 spot from them on a permanent basis.


EDIT:

A rather interesting "what if":
Baizuo admitted they did nothing to fix the underlying math issues of 3.5 when they released Pathfinder. (It was literally an employee's polished up house rules.)

But what if they did? What if they did that, got rid of the ivory tower design ethos, and went to a more streamlined 5e level of medium crunch (with a bit more charop choice).

If the first Pathfinder RPG occupied the same design space as the IRL 5e now does - where would WOTC have gone with an alternate 5e?

If I recall correctly from one of Pundits video's Mearls had to Fight within his own design team to reduce the complexity of 5e. What if he couldn't push that agenda because PF was already there? Would Fans have migrated to a more complex D&D they way they did IRL to actual 5e?

If Baizuo had gambled bigger design wise, they might have shaken up the RPG landscape more...
« Last Edit: September 08, 2021, 05:34:11 PM by Jaeger »
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Shrieking Banshee

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Re: If It’s Fear, I Think People Need Therapy or Something
« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2021, 05:28:52 PM »
Its babies first roleplaying game. Its close enough to what feels like D&D to appease the Grognard and draw the people interested in D&D, while not being actually dangerous, nor having meaningful character making decisions, but giving it more then OD&D so it FEELS like your making unique characters.

When its this inbetween of marketting and accessibility, it being shallow matters the least. And shallow, accessible, and markettable warps the market massively.

Trond

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Re: If It’s Fear, I Think People Need Therapy or Something
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2021, 05:48:38 PM »
I think it's just the name D&D. I never quite understood it beyond the groundbreaking first edition.

Marcelus14

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Re: If It’s Fear, I Think People Need Therapy or Something
« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2021, 06:12:05 PM »
Well. D&D has a huge following with disposable income. I would imagine part of the reason so many are switching to 5e versions isn’t about loving 5e but more about “buying in” so they can make the money they need to continue to develop games. The marketing work was done years ago by Gygax and now with the open game license we can all have a built in audience.

How to get others to play something else? I think adventure zone season 1 has a good example of this: put in another game as part of the 5e story. So here is everyone getting hooked on your 5e game and then you say “hey it’s a flash back sequence that will drive the story, but we are gonna use this fun and easy to learn system to do that portion”. Your players are already hooked so they stick around and get exposed to a new system for a bit. Go back to 5e afterwards and finish up your game and I bet people go from “d&d 5e is the greatest system known to man” to “you know, it was awesome that the other game let my horse actually kick something when I was mounted”.

Or whatever. Main point I’m trying to make is give them a taste of something new, go back to the familiar, and watch the illusion start to fall apart.

Squidi

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Re: If It’s Fear, I Think People Need Therapy or Something
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2021, 07:04:33 PM »
Or whatever. Main point I’m trying to make is give them a taste of something new, go back to the familiar, and watch the illusion start to fall apart.
Well, there's a lot of little ways to make people aware of non-D&D stuff. For instance, I bought Symbaroum entirely because the art is fantastic. I've bought other stuff in the past because it was based on specific properties (like Star Wars Saga Edition or going even further back, TMNT). OSR is kind of its own marketing for players who desire something like that.

But the problem is, siphoning off players three or four at a time won't do much. As long as D&D doesn't completely poop the bed or there isn't a major disruptive product (like CCGs), you aren't going to get a mass migration to a variety of systems.

I've argued that the best time to be a miniature gamer was when Games Workshop was pooping the bed. A large part of the audience went to Warmachine, which thrived, but a bunch of smaller games like Infinity, Malifaux, Frostgrave, and X-Wing really got a chance to grow and find an audience. Once GW got their act together, Warmachine was all but abandoned and the other small games stopped growing. But now GW is being jerks again, so maybe we'll see a resurgence again.

I'm not as in tune with RPG history, but I seem to remember the 80s and 90s being dominated by non-D&D (like Palladium Books or West End Games), or something like Magic the Gathering or Mage Knights being far more popular. Someone who is more familiar with RPG history will have to tell me if the times with the most variety coincided with the times when D&D was most troubled...

jhkim

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Re: If It’s Fear, I Think People Need Therapy or Something
« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2021, 07:22:00 PM »
I'm not as in tune with RPG history, but I seem to remember the 80s and 90s being dominated by non-D&D (like Palladium Books or West End Games), or something like Magic the Gathering or Mage Knights being far more popular. Someone who is more familiar with RPG history will have to tell me if the times with the most variety coincided with the times when D&D was most troubled...

I've followed RPG history pretty well. (I have an old website at https://darkshire.net/jhkim/rpg/encyclopedia/ ).

D&D has always been the market leader. However, relatively speaking, it's true that there is more variety when D&D is troubled. The times when D&D is doing well, you get a lot of D&D imitator systems -- like during the D20 boom of the early 2000s or in the late 1970s. The times when D&D is doing poorly, there is a greater variety of other systems. The 1980s saw D&D shrink and a wide variety of other games came out - like GURPS, Call of Cthulhu, etc. The 1990s saw a lot of systems that imitated Vampire: The Masquerade and less variety. There are tons of exceptions, of course, but that seems like the broad trend to me.

Jaeger

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Re: If It’s Fear, I Think People Need Therapy or Something
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2021, 07:28:25 PM »
Well. D&D has a huge following with disposable income. I would imagine part of the reason so many are switching to 5e versions isn’t about loving 5e but more about “buying in” so they can make the money they need to continue to develop games. The marketing work was done years ago by Gygax and now with the open game license we can all have a built in audience....

In addition to the other stuff I wrote - The network effect of the market leader forms a very strong feedback loop.

5e's massive popularity is actually quite crushing to the point that moving your game system to "5e compatible" is really the only way to get some people to so much as take a look at it.

Unless you own the RPG IP rights for: Lord of the Rings, Conan, or Star Wars; Nobody cares about your house game system.


...
I'm not as in tune with RPG history, but I seem to remember the 80s and 90s being dominated by non-D&D (like Palladium Books or West End Games), or something like Magic the Gathering or Mage Knights being far more popular. Someone who is more familiar with RPG history will have to tell me if the times with the most variety coincided with the times when D&D was most troubled...

D&D has Always been #1 a strong in the US.

The two sole exceptions had mitigating circumstances:

In the 90's vampire was briefly number on at AD&D2e's lowest point when it literally went out of print. The only time "official D&D" was beaten on merit, was with Pathfinder... A D&D clone! And the second WOTC gave people an excuse to come back to "official D&D" with 5e, Pathfinder got dropped like a hot potato...

If there had been no Pathfinder, 4e D&D would have stayed a solid #1.

But your impressions of the late 80's through the 90's until 3e in 2000 are not entirely off base.

There was much more system diversity, and willingness to try new games in the hobby as a whole. The space between D&D and everyone else was not quite so vast, and you could walk into a game shop and alongside D&D see tons of other games, with different systems!

But the post 2000 d20 OGL was a huge game changer for a lot of reasons, which has ultimately led to 5e's utter smashing of anything not D&D in the US.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2021, 07:33:08 PM by Jaeger »
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