The other day I came across a post in which a tabletop RPG beginner was seriously stressed out about finding the right game. He had obviously read more than a few “this game is broken” comments and didn’t want to accidentally pick a “broken” game when introducing the concept of tabletop roleplaying to some classmates. His concern highlights a problem that pervades online discussion of tabletop RPGs, which is that we tend to confuse our quest for the ever-elusive “perfect” game with how people actually play games in the wild. Read more
I Am On a Curiosity Voyage
Wizards of the Coast (WotC) released the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons on a rolling schedule in 2014, starting with the beginner boxed set in June and culminating with the the Dungeon Master’s Guide in December. In the four and a half years since then 5th Edition has obviously put Dungeons & Dragons back at the top of tabletop roleplaying sales. It’s undoubtedly selling well, but how well?
I wanted to dig into this question a bit to satisfy my own curiosity. Note that I’m not an industry insider, and I only had access to publicly-available information. That said, I have wherever possible avoided anecdotal evidence in favor of hard numbers. Please also note that this is not an examination of the subjective qualities of the game itself. Whether 5th Edition D&D’s rules are wonderful or terrible in relation to its forbears is a question outside the scope of this inquiry. Read more
The Giant at the Table: Dungeons & Dragons
D&D casts a long shadow in the tabletop roleplaying world. It’s the original RPG, it’s been around for over 40 years, and it’s the most popular. On top of all that, the OGL (Open Game License) introduced in 2000, gave rise to a huge number of games built around the core D&D mechanics, and eventually gave rise to the OSR movement. These underpinnings are usually referred to as d20, because a twenty-sided die (d20) is rolled to determine success or failure, but they also share other features such as character attributes and use of classes and levels.
There are many advantages to sticking with d20 mechanics: You’ll always be able to find players for a d20 game, because so many gamers are familiar with them. Aside from D&D you can delve into 13th Age and Pathfinder, as well as Swords & Wizardry and many other retro clones. Learn one and understanding others is straightforward.
But what if you’re looking for something beyond D&D and its kin? Where do you start? Read more
A while ago I asked people on Google +, Reddit, and Tumblr when they were introduced to tabletop roleplaying, who introduced them, and which game they first played. The results of my thoroughly unscientific poll showed that while D&D is the single biggest onramp to tabletop RPGs, its dominance in that regard has declined over time. Now let’s take a look at some of those games other than Dungeons & Dragons, and the people who bring newcomers into our hobby.
An Unscientific Poll
Since the beginnings of tabletop roleplaying, it’s been a pretty safe assumption that most roleplayers got their start with Dungeons & Dragons. But there have been a lot of games over the years, and some of them have been explicitly focused on attracting newcomers. Is D&D still the point of entry for most of us?
Dungeons & Dragons occupies a special place in my heart. It gave my imagination a means of expression, and it taught me a great deal about everything from teamwork and negotiation to goal-setting and preparation. In junior high and high school it helped me forge strong friendships and shaped a sense of belonging.
There’s a Lot to The Forgotten Realms
Wizards of the Coast selected The Forgotten Realms as the default setting for D&D 5 in part because the world is so deep. Since the days of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Ed Greenwood’s fantasy world has been fleshed out in adventures, setting descriptions, and other supplements. Now that I’m getting back into D&D after a long hiatus, I decided to see how much Forgotten Realms material had been published prior to 5th edition. The short answer is: a lot (and I didn’t even delve into the novels, comics, board games, and video games).