Why D&D?

Best Selling RPGs - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

Tyberious Funk

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 14, 2020
Messages
67
Reaction score
122
The discussion of OSR and D&D history has triggered an question I've often wondered about...

Why has D&D gone on to become such a dominant player in the RPG market? Not just recently with 5e, but throughout the history of the hobby. Yes, it's true... it was first, and that probably helped. But there are numerous instances of industries created by one company, but dominated by a follower. In fact, sometimes coming second is better because you can fix all the mistakes the first entrant made.

Take Traveller as an example... it was published only 3 years after D&D. It's a terrific game, with features that went on to become staples of RPG design for years to come. And it was released the same year as Star Wars, so interest in sci fi was pretty high at the time. It became pretty popular, but never toppled D&D. It's not like D&D was being produced by a smarter or more savvy company -- TSR was badly mismanaged at various times in it's history, and ultimately went bankrupt.

These days, being owned by Hasbro gives D&D pretty deep pockets to invest in product development, marketing, distribution, etc. So it's in a position to bounce back from setbacks like 4E. But pre-Wizards period... how come no-one could touch them? Better product? Smart business? Or did they just do a Bradbury?
 

Bunch

E-Rocker is a goose.
Joined
Aug 16, 2017
Messages
13,010
Reaction score
26,176
The main reason in my mind is it's a game that requires multiple participants for an extended period of time. That time and number of people commitment is a barrier to entry. It's not surprising that T&T came along and had success alongside D&D because in my mind it didn't complete. It's strength was it's solo play.
For a multi player game you have to get everyone to agree what to play. That can be challenging for a single session board game. For a multi session game it takes just the right group. Same with RPGs. It's much easier to go with whatever is popular. In a specific area it might mean a competitor has a chance but when you move to a new town and say I want to play an RPG D&D is going to be the easiest to find. If I go with D&D I have the largest number of personalities to pick from. If I go with Flagons and Flaguents I might have to deal with THAT guy in order to play.
 

TheophilusCarter

Milliner and Haberdasher
Joined
Aug 15, 2017
Messages
2,551
Reaction score
4,430
In general? No idea. For me and my pals BackInTheDay(TM)?

It was first.
It was the game we were most likely to find products for in our one-horse town.
We were collectively more into the fantasy genre than others such as scifi, supers, etc.
It was really fun.

Marvel FASERIP was probably the closest competitor, but still a distant second.
 

Trippy

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Messages
3,438
Reaction score
5,457
There are commercial issues, such as how good distribution is into retail outlets, and also - for many gamers - 'D&D’ is largely synonymous with the roleplaying game hobby in general. It is a household name in the same way Monopoly or Scrabble is.

Culturally, I think it was also introduced at a time (early 1970s) when the fantasy genre - à la Tolkien’s Middle Earth novels - reached a certain apex of popularity and playing D&D became an expression of that. In the case of Traveller, while it had it’s niche (via Star Wars, which ultimately dissipated a bit when an official Star Wars RPG came out), it wasn’t ever taken in such an iconic way. There are lots of avid sci-fans that have never heard of Traveller, but you’d be hard pressed to find a fantasy fan that hasn’t, in some way, heard of D&D.
 

Doc Sammy

Ninja
Joined
Apr 25, 2017
Messages
1,767
Reaction score
2,275
I think it was due to being the first game and being a fantasy kitchen sink with no real defined setting. Even the editions that have a default official setting (like Mystara in Basic or Forgotten Realms in 5th Edition) are designed to be easily adapted to homebrew settings.

Plus there's the brand recognition
 

David Johansen

Legendary Member
Joined
May 4, 2017
Messages
4,748
Reaction score
8,729
I think mechanically D&D is easy to DM. The mechanics are simple and evocative. It pretty much hands you an established style of play. You're young adventuring heroes going down into dungeons to kill monsters and get treasure. The setting is broadly fairy tales and myths plus old west frontiers.

Why other games never managed to overtake it probably amounts to the sheer weight of a household name when compared to everything else in the industry being really small. Never underestimate the exposure of D&D being on ET and Sixty Minutes.

Most people like name brands and glossy professional art and base their judgements on those things. It's not their fault they were failed by the education system and parents. :grin:
 

Nick J

Members Only
Joined
Sep 25, 2017
Messages
996
Reaction score
2,667
I think it's a bit like people calling tissue "Kleenex." For most people D&D is a shorthand for tabletop-roleplaying.

It certainly was for me as a 13 year-old kid when my friends introduced the game to me; it never even occurred to me to seek out another game, because it was so good at feeding into whatever power fantasies I had at the time and firing up my imagination like nothing ever had. It's not until much, much later that my tastes changed and enough editions came and went that I felt compelled to seek out something that scratched whatever itch D&D no longer did.

I suspect that 13-year old me would find my current tastes in games very odd (the BRP family) "What the hell?! No levels!? No Phat Lewt?! No dungeons?! No Monsters lurking around every corner?!" It goes without saying that I think 13-year old me was probably an idiot.
 

Tyberious Funk

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 14, 2020
Messages
67
Reaction score
122
It was the game we were most likely to find products for in our one-horse town.

IMHO, this is a BIG one... We had no FLGS in town. RPG products were sold via a single shelf in the sci-fi/fantasy section of a local bookshop. The only reason we knew there were other roleplayers in town was because we could track stock being sold from that single shelf. Non-D&D products would occasionally show up on that shelf, but it was rare and they never piqued my interest. In retrospect I suspect they were only ever TSR products. The first non-D&D game I bought was Star Wars, which didn't turn up until maybe 3-4 years after it was published.

I've always thought that if we had come across Traveller, we might have played that since our group leaned more towards sci-fi than fantasy. But I also remember that the cover art on the red box is what sucked me in. Completely. And a couple of my friends too. I'm not sure if a little black book with no artwork would have grabbed my attention so much.
 

Black Vulmea

No. Appearing: 30-500
Joined
Apr 27, 2017
Messages
804
Reaction score
2,701
Why has D&D gone on to become such a dominant player in the RPG market?
Because D&D remade fantasy in its image. It took mythology and popular fantasy and fused them together, redefining the genre as itself.

Take Traveller as an example... It's a terrific game, with features that went on to become staples of RPG design for years to come. And it was released the same year as Star Wars, so interest in sci fi was pretty high at the time.
Traveller did not come to define sci fi, and neither did Star Wars, for that matter.
 

Trippy

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Messages
3,438
Reaction score
5,457
Because D&D remade fantasy in its image. It took mythology and popular fantasy and fused them together, redefining the genre as itself.
If that was the case, then why does so much fantasy literature, released since D&D was first published, bare so little comparison to D&D?

Traveller did not come to define sci fi, and neither did Star Wars, for that matter.
Traveller remains a big influence on game design in general, however, while Star Wars certainly did have a massive influence on expectations for science fiction audiences since its release.
 

T. Foster

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 12, 2018
Messages
650
Reaction score
1,916
D&D was first and almost all of its early competitors were pretty flagrant imitations (D&D+X or D&D-Y). Due to TSR’s distribution deal with Random House it was much more widely available than any of its competitors which were only sold in weird hobby shops. Its licensing deals - the cartoon show, the toys, etc. - made it, or at least its name, ubiquitous. All the free press from the church groups and the tabloid media solidified its status and made it synonymous with rpgs as a whole in the mind of the general public - Pat Pulling and Jack Chick and Rona Jaffe and 60 Minutes weren’t talking about RuneQuest or Traveller or The Fantasy Trip.

But it’s also fun and accessible and easy to grasp in a way that most other RPGs really aren’t. Fantasy tropes are familiar - knights, wizards, dragons, giants, goblins, fairies, etc. The paradigm of dungeon crawling and gathering treasure and accumulating XP to become more powerful is easy to understand and has a self-reinforcing feedback loop - the more you play the more powerful you become and it keeps going and going. It’s also easy to get started playing without really understanding the rules - classes give you an instant sense of what you’re playing and what you’re trying to do without having to make a lot of decisions. D&D is more recognizably game-like than most other RPGs, and that makes it more accessible. That’s easy to overlook for those of us who are deep in the weeds, but it’s true.
 

TristramEvans

The Right Hand of Doom
Administrator
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
29,625
Reaction score
83,540
If that was the case, then why does so much fantasy literature, released since D&D was first published, bare so little comparison to D&D?


Like what? I mean seriously, I'd say finding fantasy novels post D&D that aren't D&D influenced is like a 1 in a thousand shot.

1 in a million for fantasy videogames.
 

Faylar

Legendary Member
Joined
May 1, 2018
Messages
2,087
Reaction score
3,500
Harry Potter is like D&D? Game of Thrones is like D&D? His Dark Materials is like D&D? American Gods is like D&D?

D&D, as a genre, is a generic mash-up of ideas that were already established - especially Tolkien, Robert E Howard and other fantasy authors like Moorecock, Vance, Leiber, etc of the time mixed with whatever else source it could find in fantasy. The game has its own conventions, like Races, Classes, Levels etc, but the idea that these things have ended up remaking the entirety of the fantasy genre 'in its image' is incorrect. If the fantasy literature you read only reads like D&D, then you really need to read more.
Sabriel, Bartimaeus, Dresden Files, The Iron Druid, etc...
 

Black Vulmea

No. Appearing: 30-500
Joined
Apr 27, 2017
Messages
804
Reaction score
2,701
If that was the case, then why does so much fantasy literature, released since D&D was first published, bare so little comparison to D&D?
For the first ten years after D&D hit the peak of its popularity, fantasy readers were treated to very little but D&D-like multi-volume epics, including, most notably, fiction published by TSR itself.

Change came slowly, around the periphery, long after 'fantasy' and D&D became one and the same, through Anne Rice, China Mieville, anime and manga, and video games, but for every Myst there was Zelda, through Final Fantasy, culminating with World of Warcraft.

Traveller remains a big influence on game design in general, however, while Star Wars certainly did have a massive influence on expectations for science fiction audiences since its release.
This isn't about 'game design' - it's about the zeitgeist surrounding roleplaying.
 

David Johansen

Legendary Member
Joined
May 4, 2017
Messages
4,748
Reaction score
8,729
Dave Duncan deliberately avoided listening to his son's D&D stories because he was afraid it would influence his work. So, I'd say, Seventh Sword, A Man of His Word, and The Kings Blades aren't D&D influenced. The Ethshar stories by Lawrence Watt Evans are really an inversion of D&D's tropes. A fantastic world of very mundane people living pretty normal lives. Ursula K LeGuin and Patricia McKillop's works certainly owe nothing to D&D but they're mostly a bit earlier. LeGuin is even on the record as not liking rpgs as fiction is about characters and rpgs are about archetypes. She' clearly never tried Fate or GURPS or HERO or Rolemaster.
 
Last edited:

TristramEvans

The Right Hand of Doom
Administrator
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
29,625
Reaction score
83,540
Dave Duncan deliberately avoided listening to his son's D&D stories because he was afraid it would influence his work. So, I'd say, Seventh Sword, A Man of His Word, and The Kings Blades aren't D&D influenced. The Ethshar stories by Lawrence Watt Evans are really an inversion of D&D's tropes. A fantastic world of very mundane people living pretty normal lives.

I know Duncan's series, which I was funnily thinking about the other day in the way it pre-anticipated the Isekai genre in anime.
 

Dammit Victor

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 18, 2017
Messages
1,633
Reaction score
3,769
I suspect that 13-year old me would find my current tastes in games very odd (the BRP family) "What the hell?! No levels!? No Phat Lewt?! No dungeons?! No Monsters lurking around every corner?!" It goes without saying that I think 13-year old me was probably an idiot.

Whereas, 13 year old Viktyr was absolutely an idiot but 40 year old Viktyr is trying to remind the world that once upon a time, the way 13 year old Viktyr played D&D was a very popular playstyle and it's still totally legitimate, you guys.
 

TristramEvans

The Right Hand of Doom
Administrator
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
29,625
Reaction score
83,540
At 13, we played in the playground during recess at school and didnt have any dice, so it was pretty much just freeform.
 

Trippy

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Messages
3,438
Reaction score
5,457
For the first ten years after D&D hit the peak of its popularity, fantasy readers were treated to very little but D&D-like multi-volume epics, including, most notably, fiction published by TSR itself.
Well, it’s just not true. Sure, if you limited yourself to fiction published by TSR then you may well have a limited yourself to a steady diet of D&D novels, but there were lots of other fantasy novels in the 70s and 80s.

Change came slowly, around the periphery, long after 'fantasy' and D&D became one and the same, through Anne Rice, China Mieville, anime and manga, and video games, but for every Myst there was Zelda, through Final Fantasy, culminating with World of Warcraft.
Fantasy never became one and the same with D&D, so it's a moot point to make.

This isn't about 'game design' - it's about the zeitgeist surrounding roleplaying.
Well, the influence of a game design can contribute to a zeitgeist, otherwise we couldn’t make the same claim about D&D either, could we?
 
Last edited:

TJS

Legendary Member
Joined
May 5, 2018
Messages
2,573
Reaction score
5,475
D&D's influence has never felt all that big on most of the most popular fantasy series to me, although it's there a lot in the more B grade stuff.

But it's still obvious in some of them - Discworld, as said but also Malazan Book of the Fallen, and Raymond Feist.

But given the very idea of secondary world fantasy was popularised so much by D&D; it's there in most of them, even if the game didn't originate it, and so many fantasy writers have played D&D.

D&D influence is much stronger in computer games, however, and I think it's increasingly computer games, not novels, that are increasingly new players' main reference points for D&D.
 

dbm

AFK
Joined
Aug 21, 2017
Messages
1,107
Reaction score
2,172
To the original question, I think a lot of the key points have been mentioned, and I also think you need to keep the time (70s) in mind, too.

It was more difficult to produce a book, more difficult to distribute it, more difficult to get customer awareness.

D&D is a result of a combination of factors and sheer luck. Gygax had enough insight, skill and perseverance to create it and was sufficiently plugged in to the wargaming hobby to get it off the ground. Once that starts, the network effect makes D&D the only game in town at first, then the easiest to find a game of so therefore what people are most likely to play. Given it is a game you play as a group the ability to find other players is key. As said upthread, why invest time in learning a game that only a couple of other people play when D&D is available?

This needs to be combined, of course, with being good enough to be a game worth playing. I think the design of D&D (classes and levels) made an easy on-ramp for players and the default structure (dungeon raiding) was a similarly easy on-ramp for GMs. And the idea of dungeon raiding is exciting and interesting enough to pull people in, especially that initial demographic of teen-boys who really took to it.

The negative press mentioned then gave it huge name recognition. And the name is easy to remember and distinct. GURPS does not roll off the tongue or stick in the mind of the uninitiated.

Ultimately I think most players of RPGs are casual gamers - so a game which is easy to find players for, easy to start playing (both as a player and GM) and is focused on a fun table experience. That hasn’t changed and probably never will, simply based on how groups and hobbies work.

So, D&D will always be king of the hill and is only really challenged by similar but different games like World of Warcraft that probably scratch a similar itch for the majority of players. In fact, the only way D&D would likely be dethroned is if all the players with those preferences abandon table-top completely, and the hobby refocussed on a different type of game experience that MMORPGs cannot provide.

But, given the smashing of barriers (PDFs and desktop publishing, the internet) mean that you will get a fractured landscape, and I would argue that is already happening with the surge in niche publishers and targeted games.
 
Last edited:

TJS

Legendary Member
Joined
May 5, 2018
Messages
2,573
Reaction score
5,475
Surely a big part of D&D's popularity is that it is comparatively easy to play and run.

To run, just put a dungeon together. You've got a wide range of monsters to choose from to keep things from being too repetitive and whole lot of rewards to motivate people to keep playing.

For players you've got strong clear and simple archetypes to draw from.

It helps that it's soaked enough into the culture, especially from computer games that those archetypes are recognisable.

Imagine giving a group of new players GURPS. You can do anything with it, but the question is what do you do?
 

Nobby-W

Expert in the Dunning-Kruger effect
Joined
Oct 7, 2018
Messages
6,780
Reaction score
14,476
D&D got brand recognition in the same way that Star Wars or Batman did - being first helped, but the happenstance of the brand going viral made it the incumbent and the brand that everybody recognised. This happens in a lot of markets.

Incumbent brands can withstand an amazing degree of mismanagement. The U.S. car industry, for example, has withstood a lot of competition due to its incumbency - in spite of producing many objectively terrible products. Toyota and other Japanese manufacturers got in by producing cars that were cheaper and better quality in the 1970s, but still failed to shake the incumbents. Tesla is the first domestic brand to gain any real mindshare in the U.S. since the second world war, and had to come up with a disruptive innovation in order to do so.

But, still Ford, General Motors and Chrysler plod along, producing the same schlock because (literally) that's what their dealer networks can sell. They could produce much better cars if they wanted to it but their channel can't sell it. That is the power of incumbency.
 
Last edited:

Trippy

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Messages
3,438
Reaction score
5,457
Surely a big part of D&D's popularity is that it is comparatively easy to play and run.

To run, just put a dungeon together. You've got a wide range of monsters to choose from to keep things from being too repetitive and whole lot of rewards to motivate people to keep playing.

For players you've got strong clear and simple archetypes to draw from.

It helps that it's soaked enough into the culture, especially from computer games that those archetypes are recognisable.

Imagine giving a group of new players GURPS. You can do anything with it, but the question is what do you do?
I think the archetypal nature of D&D is one of the most important aspects of its appeal, actually. Even though it has frequently been cited in the past about how awful fundamental design features like Class and Level are, I have to admit I find them quite compelling and addictive even.
 

Black Leaf

And we'll fly away on those angel wings of chrome
Super Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Messages
5,832
Reaction score
15,961
Er... most of those do not actually exist in GoT except as folklore and heraldic devices. (some of them I can't even remember seeing in the series. Walrus-men?) The ones that do bear very little resemblance to the ones in D&D.

Also, should we add "denying the supreme cultural importance of D&D" to the growing list of things that set you off? Just trying to keep track. :tongue:
Agree with this. Pratchett, the influence is definitely there. (There's a reason he was so hands on in the design of GURPS Discworld). George R R Martin not really; that's mostly a combination of stuff he'd made up and drawing from English folklore and history.
 

dbm

AFK
Joined
Aug 21, 2017
Messages
1,107
Reaction score
2,172
Discworld started as a clear pastiche of D&D with The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, but has moved far beyond that over time.
 

Black Leaf

And we'll fly away on those angel wings of chrome
Super Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Messages
5,832
Reaction score
15,961
Surely a big part of D&D's popularity is that it is comparatively easy to play and run.

To run, just put a dungeon together. You've got a wide range of monsters to choose from to keep things from being too repetitive and whole lot of rewards to motivate people to keep playing.

For players you've got strong clear and simple archetypes to draw from.

It helps that it's soaked enough into the culture, especially from computer games that those archetypes are recognisable.

Imagine giving a group of new players GURPS. You can do anything with it, but the question is what do you do?
I think this is crucial. Give a 13 year old D&D and they'll be able to knock up a dungeon to run for their mates. Where I remember my reaction to Traveller being "this is so cool but I have no idea what to do with it". The dungeon structure is excellent for first time GMs.
 

Ladybird

TRAHR
Joined
Aug 13, 2017
Messages
3,972
Reaction score
10,233
D&D influence is much stronger in computer games, however, and I think it's increasingly computer games, not novels, that are increasingly new players' main reference points for D&D.
As I said in one of the other threads, it's a self-sustaining cycle. The oldest generation of D&D players made videogames based on D&D with their own quirks, the players of those games found D&D and added their own quirks to it, people who played that made videogames based on D&D and added their own quirks, etc.

It's vastly oversimplifying, but D&D begat Rogue begat AD&D begat Diablo begat 3e begat Guild Wars begat 4e begat Dragon Age begat 5e begat Divinity : OS2 begat 6e begat... you get the idea.
 

TJS

Legendary Member
Joined
May 5, 2018
Messages
2,573
Reaction score
5,475
I think this is crucial. Give a 13 year old D&D and they'll be able to knock up a dungeon to run for their mates. Where I remember my reaction to Traveller being "this is so cool but I have no idea what to do with it". The dungeon structure is excellent for first time GMs.
Yes. I think experienced gamers underestimate this greatly. Vampire is the other game that brought a lot of people into the hobby, and I don't think it's a coincidence that it also has a very clear structure for play.
 

Black Leaf

And we'll fly away on those angel wings of chrome
Super Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Messages
5,832
Reaction score
15,961
Yes. I think experienced gamers underestimate this greatly. Vampire is the other game that brought a lot of people into the hobby, and I don't think it's a coincidence that it also has a very clear structure for play.
Fighting Fantasy books had a big effect in England, which fits with the idea that an easily accessible route in is the most important thing. And as the vast majority of rival RPGs are targeted at people who already game that isn't the case.
 

cranebump

Legendary Member
Joined
Sep 7, 2019
Messages
263
Reaction score
566
I’m just gonna go with timing and the name. Whatever they did, they did it at the right time, and well enough to gain lasting traction. It helps that the name is memorable in long and short form.

And those dice, which I always called “dungeon dice” back then.:-)
 

PolarBlues

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 22, 2017
Messages
1,867
Reaction score
4,673
Yes. I think experienced gamers underestimate this greatly. Vampire is the other game that brought a lot of people into the hobby, and I don't think it's a coincidence that it also has a very clear structure for play.

As someone with only minimal exposure to WoD games, what is Vampirie's clear structure for play?
 

CRKrueger

Eläytyminatör
Joined
Apr 25, 2017
Messages
7,064
Reaction score
14,282
1. Being first, it mainstreamed and thus became the face of the hobby.
2. In a proof of the “No publicity is bad publicity” concept, the Satanic Panic catapulted D&D into the zeitgeist of a nation.

Game Over

For the rest of humanity’s existence every other RPG will be a game “you know, like D&D but...”
 

Trippy

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Messages
3,438
Reaction score
5,457
1. Being first, it mainstreamed and thus became the face of the hobby.
2. In a proof of the “No publicity is bad publicity” concept, the Satanic Panic catapulted D&D into the zeitgeist of a nation.

Game Over

For the rest of humanity’s existence every other RPG will be a game “you know, like D&D but...”
That is pretty much it, in a nutshell.
 

CRKrueger

Eläytyminatör
Joined
Apr 25, 2017
Messages
7,064
Reaction score
14,282
I don’t think Tristram is angry, I’ve been on the receiving of a post when he’s angry, this ain’t it.

The key here in this disagreement, I believe, is looking at the phrase “reshaped fantasy in its image”.

I think Trippy is taking that phrase to mean that “all fantasy is D&D fantasy”. So, a single example of non-D&D fantasy disproves the point.

I think Tristram is taking that phrase to mean “fantasy as a genre has been permanently changed by D&D, which is a major influence”. This meaning is practically axiomatic, it’s obviously true.

So Trippy and Tristram are each arguing a viewpoint that is obviously true and can’t be wrong, based on how they view the phrase.

Tolkien had a permanent, transformative effect on fantasy forever. “Tolkienian” as an adjective will be around forever. Not all fantasy is Tolkienian fantasy, but he stands atop the genre like a colossus.

D&D has also had a similar effect. With its impact on the genre across multiple media platforms - literary, tabletop RPG, film, television, video game, card game, war game, board game - for many people, when you say the word fantasy, what pops in their head is something very recognizeable as D&D-inspired.

It doesn’t matter that D&D didn’t create centaurs, it matters that when most people these days first learn of centaurs, they most likely do so in a context inspired by D&D.

D&D stands on Tolkien’s shoulders and casts an even larger shadow on the genre of “Fantasy”, becoming it’s own subgenre and through a feedback loop with culture, is becoming seen less as a subgenre and more of a default.

Does that mean that there are non-D&D subgenres of fantasy...absolutely.
Does that mean that D&D has shaped Fantasy to the extent that it “remade it in it’s image?”

Well, if it is considered by people to be fantasy’s default genre and what pops in people’s heads when they hear fantasy, then yeah, I guess it kinda has.
 

robertsconley

Legendary Member
Joined
May 3, 2018
Messages
4,189
Reaction score
9,104
Why has D&D gone on to become such a dominant player in the RPG market? Not just recently with 5e, but throughout the history of the hobby. Yes, it's true... it was first, and that probably helped. But there are numerous instances of industries created by one company, but dominated by a follower. In fact, sometimes coming second is better because you can fix all the mistakes the first entrant made.

So there are three main reasons the first is only supportive. That D&D's class, level, armor class, hit points, vancian spell casting are minimalist concepts compared to many of the competitors that arose later. This is not the cause of D&D's dominance but more about why D&D has remained "good enough".

The second and most critical reason is ....
the dungeon.

No other RPG ever came up with a more straight forward way of running an adventures then the dungeon. The concept is easily explained.

1) Take a piece of graph paper
2) Draw a maze with rooms
3) Fill some rooms with monsters, some with traps, some with treasure, some leave empty.
4) Your players start at the top of the stairs leading down into the maze.
5) If you want to expand then make another maze like the above fill it with tougher creatures and better treasures.

The format was critical in allowing D&D to retain its first mover advantage. No other type of adventures or even campaign ever rivaled it. Some equaled it like the The Fantasy Trip. But the Fantasy Trip system wasn't superior enough over D&D's good enough system and the Labyrinth was the same style of adventure as the Dungeon so it only matched it's simplicity not exceeded it.

Finally it was the 1st, the 1st to build a social network of hobbyist to play the game. Because it was "good enough" and because of how straight forward the most basic adventure was, the dungeon, it never lost it grip except once. And that was to another RPG that was also D&D, Pathfinder.
 

robertsconley

Legendary Member
Joined
May 3, 2018
Messages
4,189
Reaction score
9,104
Examples? What specific 'D&Disms' are there in Game of Thrones?
Martin has played GURPS. Granted most of the details we know about his roleplaying were in the context of superheroes and the Wild Card series, however he was undoubtedly aware of GURPS Fantasy.
 

Winterblight

Legendary Member
Joined
May 26, 2018
Messages
703
Reaction score
1,380
Someone else said it up thread, but D&D was the only RPG I ever saw on the bookshop shelves when I was young. Now that I'm old, its still the only RPG that I can see in the bookshop shelves. Though I did see some Wharhammer40K stuff in a magazine rack somewhere once for a short period of time. As for Game of Thrones, its just a series of TPKs... doesn't get more D&D than that :hehe:
 

Black Leaf

And we'll fly away on those angel wings of chrome
Super Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Messages
5,832
Reaction score
15,961
No other RPG ever came up with a more straight forward way of running an adventures then the dungeon. The concept is easily explained.

The one concept I think could have come close in an alt universe is a gladiatorial arena. But that's better served by solo gaming (hence "Arena of Khazan" did so well for Tunnels and Trolls).
 
Cthulhu Mythos - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com
Top