D&D in the zeitgeist

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zunbazu

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It seems like a cliche at this point to remark on D&D 5e's success and sudden pop-cultural visibility, but it does seem to be out there in the zeitgeist right now.

I was wondering: how has this manifested itself in your own life? Has it at all, or has it been totally unremarkable?

For my part, 5e (and I guess the larger cultural resurgence of D&D, i.e. Stranger Things, etc), brought me back to tabletop games after several years away. And much more importantly, it has been a vehicle for introducing my wife and her friends to the hobby, something neither of us had ever considered in all our years together.
 

Baulderstone

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It hadn't impacted me in any dramatic way, but when I mention my hobby around random non-gamers, I rarely encounter anyone who isn't familiar with it. Gaming is actually kind of unremarkable.
 

Voros

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5e sparked my interest in D&D again and as you say I found old friends were restarting their games, other friends who had never expressed interest in RPGs started to play and even family members became interested in it.
 

Haffrung

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  • When a bunch of younger co-workers at my office learned I played D&D and was a DM, I was roped into running a game at the office during lunch hours. I've had to cap the size of the group at 6.
  • My kids want to me to run a campaign for them and their friends.
  • I've heard other parents at school events talking about D&D.
  • One of my buddies who hadn't played in 20 years borrowed the D&D Starter Set to play with his kids.
  • The proliferation of Youtube channels offering DMing advice has prompted a player in my regular group to try his hand at DMing.
 

Black Leaf

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It's part of the fact that gaming (and being a geek) no longer seems to carry a stigma with the younger generation.

Among the young 'uns at club though I've not noticed much of a difference. They're mostly interested in games other than D&D. I think partly because they played D&D at school so it doesn't have the same novelty value as playing other games.
 

Dumarest

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It seems like a cliche at this point to remark on D&D 5e's success and sudden pop-cultural visibility, but it does seem to be out there in the zeitgeist right now.

I was wondering: how has this manifested itself in your own life? Has it at all, or has it been totally unremarkable?

For my part, 5e (and I guess the larger cultural resurgence of D&D, i.e. Stranger Things, etc), brought me back to tabletop games after several years away. And much more importantly, it has been a vehicle for introducing my wife and her friends to the hobby, something neither of us had ever considered in all our years together.

Hasn't manifested itself at all as I am not interested in D&D all that much in any edition, and if I were going to play it I'd just dig out Basic or AD&D, or maybe even OD&D. I just have no reason to care about new editions of a game I already have three versions of. If the shiny new edition brings more players and refs into the hobby, that's a good thing overall, but if they limit themselves to D&D then it has zero effect on me or my potential pool of players. We shall see.

On a happy note, it was very cool to see any RPG in Toys R Us today when I took my kids there for a reward after school, even if it was just the "Starter Set" and no other products. It was mixed right in with some board games and collectible-type games. They had three copies. Almost reminded me of when I was a kid and we'd see several racks of RPG stuff, mainly D&D, when we were lucky enough to merit a visit to Toys R Us. Pretty sure we got some of our AD&D hardcover books there, possibly Basic and Expert boxes too, maybe even the ones I still have on my shelf.

I don't know that it's "out there," though, as I never hear anyone mention it who isn't already aware of it. I haven't heard anyone say, "Hey, what's this D&D thing they mentioned on in that low-rated cult TV show? I wanna try it out!"
 

Haffrung

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I don't know that it's "out there," though, as I never hear anyone mention it who isn't already aware of it. I haven't heard anyone say, "Hey, what's this D&D thing they mentioned on in that low-rated cult TV show? I wanna try it out!"

D&D is getting all kinds of high profile mentions in pop culture, including two of the most popular shows on TV - the Big Bang Theory and Stranger Things. I'm not sure what part of the world you're in, but the latter was a sensation here in Canada. Basically, a whole generation of kids that didn't know about D&D 24 months ago are curious about the game now. The owner of my FLGS says he sold 1,200 copies of the 5E PHB last year. He hasn't seen those kind of numbers in 30 years.
Even high-brow platforms like the New Yorker are taking note:
The Uncanny Resurrection of Dungeons & Dragons
 

Apparition

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Ratings contradict that notion.

Ratings for everything are down as a whole compared to fifteen years ago thanks to video streaming, video games, and other hobbies, but Big Bang Theory is definitely popular. I don't watch it, but many of my family do, (unfortunately). I couldn't tell you about Stranger Things though. I've heard about it, but don't have Netflix and from what I've heard I wouldn't be able to watch it anyway.
 

Ulairi

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D&D has this level or even more pop appeal in the 80’s. From ET, TV shows, its own cartoon, comicbooks, etc.

I’m glad D&D is back from the brink after 4E almost killed the line.
 

Bunch

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Ratings contradict that notion.
Yeah add in Game of Thrones as a general Fantasy is ok and you have a massive shift in how cool it is to pretend to fight dragons.

My personal trainer was relating to me how his teenage son was playing D&D and asking me questions about it. It's about as mainstream as it's ever been.
It's out there.
 

Ulairi

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D&D has a boom like this with the release of 3E as well. I think we are getting more press because of the avg age if the writers at these outlets is like 26. They were too young back then to appreciate how big 3E was. Couple it with the Lord of the Rings films, Harry Potter, etc.

Social media just makes it easier for the masses to connect. Usenet, IRC, BBS, etc weren’t as easy for folks like social media is.
 

Ulairi

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I feel like GoT has made fantasy more cool by a large margin, even moreso than LoTR.

Hard to compare because the times are so different. TV is completely different, social media can amplify things far more now, distribution is a lot easier.

I’m not sure if Fantasy is cool or if Game of Thrones is cool. We haven’t seen successful brands really after it. The Shannara series didn’t do that well for MTV. Are there others?
 

Bunch

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We'll know we're back when we get a bunch of Deathstalker/Beast Master/Krull/Legend reboots and people start airbrushing wizards and unicorns on the sides of their minivans.
:wink:
I don't think we're going back to the 70's &80's. completely
 

Baulderstone

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Hard to compare because the times are so different. TV is completely different, social media can amplify things far more now, distribution is a lot easier.

I’m not sure if Fantasy is cool or if Game of Thrones is cool. We haven’t seen successful brands really after it. The Shannara series didn’t do that well for MTV. Are there others?
Then again, Shannara is about as far from Game of Thrones as you can get. They are both fantasy, but it is hard for me to see them as the same genre in any real sense.
 

S'mon

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D&D is getting all kinds of high profile mentions in pop culture, including two of the most popular shows on TV - the Big Bang Theory and Stranger Things. I'm not sure what part of the world you're in, but the latter was a sensation here in Canada. Basically, a whole generation of kids that didn't know about D&D 24 months ago are curious about the game now. The owner of my FLGS says he sold 1,200 copies of the 5E PHB last year. He hasn't seen those kind of numbers in 30 years.
Even high-brow platforms like the New Yorker are taking note:
The Uncanny Resurrection of Dungeons & Dragons

Well Dumarest is proudly ignorant of the RPG zeitgeist never mind the zeitgeist in general. :p
 

S'mon

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I was wondering: how has this manifested itself in your own life? Has it at all, or has it been totally unremarkable?

I have insane numbers of newbies fighting to get places in my 3-4 GM multi-table open world Wilderlands 5e D&D Meetup every week.
They're playing in a setting* from the mid '70s - some of the ladies are even playing bare breasted butt kicking Amazon Warriors :grin: - and they're having a good time. :smile:

*In fact, the earliest RPG setting ever published, as I had to explain 2 weeks ago when one of my GMs was telling his table "this is a setting S'mon invented"! :grin:
 

Charlie D

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My 3E group is back together to play AD&D 2E Dark Sun. And two of us have our teenage sons joining us.

And while my son's Boy Scout troop doesn't play RPGs they play boardgames and card games that when I was a kid would only have been played by gamers. I think the spread of a variety of board and card games has helped increase the appeal of RPGs as well.
 

Baeraad

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Er. I wasn't aware that it was the case, actually, until I saw this post... But then, I don't have much contact with the mainstream at all, aside from knowing a few token normal people. In most places I frequent, there was never a time when almost everyone didn't know all about D&D.
 

Haffrung

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D&D has this level or even more pop appeal in the 80’s. From ET, TV shows, its own cartoon, comicbooks, etc.
Well yeah, D&D was definitely a huge fad in the early 80s. I don't think anyone has claimed it's as big as it was back then.

D&D has a boom like this with the release of 3E as well. I think we are getting more press because of the avg age if the writers at these outlets is like 26. They were too young back then to appreciate how big 3E was. Couple it with the Lord of the Rings films, Harry Potter, etc.

Social media just makes it easier for the masses to connect. Usenet, IRC, BBS, etc weren’t as easy for folks like social media is.

I do think D&D is bigger than it was in the 3E era. As I mentioned, the owner of the biggest hobby game store in the world told me he hasn't moved this many copies of D&D books in the last 30 years. And he sold far more last year than he did at 5E's release. There's definitely something going on in the zeitgiest.

While 3E may have brought a lot of gamers back into the fold, 5E hasn't just brought back lapsed players in their 40s and 50s, it's also appealing to hipster Millennials, who are the ones fueling the Youtube streaming craze, and to kids - often the children of returning lapsed players. I don't recall 3E being a big hit with the 10-15 crowd.

This also has to be looked at in the context of the mainstreaming of tabletop gaming. Hobby boardgaming has been growing at a rate of something like 25 per cent a year for a decade now. Sales are exploding. Boardgame cafes opening up all over the place. In the last 10 years, our local boardgaming con has grown from an attendance of 150, to over 800, and had to move locations twice to find more space. It's gone from an event for mostly hardcore gamers - guys in their 30s to 50s - to couples, 20-somethings, families, kids. D&D is being pulled in the slipstream of this boom.

I guess this also points to how culturally fragmented we've become. As someone who moves in urban, white-collar, educated middle-class circles, I see D&D everywhere. It's far more prominent than it was even four years ago. But then, I work in the tech industry with a lot of Millennials, I know more people who have Netflix than who have cable, and me and most of my friends have 9-14 year old kids. I guess if you don't travel in those worlds, the dramatic increase in the profile of D&D could pass your notice.
 
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Ulairi

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I’m in the middle to upper middle class circle you’re in. I see it being popular but I saw the same thing back with 3E. You do have a good point that we are in a board gaming boom for the last 5-10 years and I’m sure they primed the pump for 5E. 5E is also post WoW which I think was an historic product for the current boom we are in with hobby gaming. We also now are at the point that kids in high school were born post 2000 which means that we can have third generation D&D players.

The thing they I want to see is to see the hobby boom outside of D&D like it did in the 80’s and early 2000’s and I haven’t seen that. The urban hipsters haven’t started picking up games other than D&D where my generation did when games like Rifts, GURPS, white wolf, etc were all selling hundreds of thousands of copies each new book.
 

Baulderstone

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That's a mean thing to say. Dumarest absolutely has his finger on the pulse of what's hip in the 17th Century.

You make it sound like he would just fit in there. Even if you transported Dumarest to the 17th Century, he'd still be adhering to his own views with the bloody-mindedness of Cyrano de Bergerac. He'd just be getting into more sword fights over his strongly held opinions.
Er. I wasn't aware that it was the case, actually, until I saw this post... But then, I don't have much contact with the mainstream at all, aside from knowing a few token normal people.
You aren't missing much.

Well yeah, D&D was definitely a huge fad in the early 80s. I don't think anyone has claimed it's as big as it was back then.

I don't think anything is as big a fad now as it could be in the '80s.

Thinking back to the '80s, the real test will be in a few years, as D&D was never as big it looked on paper back then. I remember a number of times I went over to another kid's place and they would have a Red Box sitting on the shelf.

"Oh, cool! You play D&D?"

"No, I just got that for Christmas."

During the era when D&D was selling in toy stores, I suspect a pretty high percentage of those sold never got played or only got played once or twice.

On top of that, the number of kids that actually played D&D was much higher when I was in middle school from 83-86 than it was when I got to high school. Granted the Satanic Panic played a role in that. We had an actual school D&D club when I started 6th grade, full of kids, but by 8th grade, it wasn't an appropriate activity for the school to sanction anymore.

While I think we will see a fall off in a few years, I don't think it will be as sharp as the one in the '80s. This boom built of the pretty strong popularity of board games. A lot of people getting into D&D are people that genuinely enjoy playing games with their friends.
 
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Bunch

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You make it sound like he would just fit in there. Even if you transported Dumarest to the 17th Century, he'd still be adhering to his own views with the bloody-mindedness of Cyrano de Bergerac. He'd just be getting into more sword fights over his strongly held opinions.

You aren't missing much.



I don't think anything is as big a fad now as it could be in the '80s.

Thinking back to the '80s, the real test will be in a few years, as D&D was never as big it looked on paper back then. I remember a number of times I went over to another kid's place and they would have a Red Box sitting on the shelf.

"Oh, cool! You play D&D?"

"No, I just got that for Christmas."

During the era when D&D was selling in toy stores, I suspect a pretty high percentage of those sold never got played or only got played once or twice.

On top of that, the number of kids that actually played D&D was much higher when I was in middle school from 83-86 than it was when I got to high school. Granted the Satanic Panic played a role in that. We had an actual school D&D club when I started 6th grade, full of kids, but by 8th grade, it wasn't an appropriate activity for the school to sanction anymore.

While I think we will see a fall off in a few years, I don't think it will be as sharp as the one in the '80s. This boom built of the pretty strong popularity of board games. A lot of people getting into D&D are people that genuinely enjoy playing games with their friends.
It helps that being geeky now is kinda cool vs social suicide
 

Haffrung

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The thing they I want to see is to see the hobby boom outside of D&D like it did in the 80’s and early 2000’s and I haven’t seen that. The urban hipsters haven’t started picking up games other than D&D where my generation did when games like Rifts, GURPS, white wolf, etc were all selling hundreds of thousands of copies each new book.

Given the way hobbies spread these days, it's hard to imagine that happening unless people playing those other RPGs put up lots of streaming of play, channels with GM advice, etc. I think it's much less common today for people to learn just from a book. Youtube, podcasts, and Twitch seem to be the way people learn about and share enthusiasm for gaming hobbies.
 
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Necrozius

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Man I hope that the movie adaptation of Ready Player One doesn't replace the Tomb of Horrors with something else non-D&D. So far I've got a feeling that they won't include it.
 

K_Peterson

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5E hasn't really impacted my life, or my gaming, in any real way. I've kept on, keeping on, with the Rpgs I enjoy over the past 19 years. (Which is when I was brought back to gaming after a long absence).

I think it's great, of course, that it's bringing people back into gaming and making a splash in pop culture.
 

Apparition

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Given the way hobbies spread these days, it's hard to imagine that happening unless people playing those other RPGs put up lots of streaming of play, channels with GM advice, etc. I think it's much less common today for people to learn just from a book. Youtube, podcasts, and Twitch seem to be the way people learn about and share enthusiasm for gaming hobbies.

That's quite depressing.
 

Grelan

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Given the way hobbies spread these days, it's hard to imagine that happening unless people playing those other RPGs put up lots of streaming of play, channels with GM advice, etc. I think it's much less common today for people to learn just from a book. Youtube, podcasts, and Twitch seem to be the way people learn about and share enthusiasm gaming hobbies.

I think game companies share this opinion. I've noticed Monte Cook Games and Arc Dream getting into streaming lately.
 

Endless Flight

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My daughter is 15 and she’s read more books than I have. She can chew through two books a week. On the other hand, I read slow. It’s really amazing. I keep buying them for her because I love the fact that she reads.
 
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