Why D&D?

Tyberious Funk

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.
 

Trippy

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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.
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, mixed with whatever else source it could find in fantasy at the time and added to over the years. 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.

In the above comparison, I would suggest that Star Wars has had a bigger influence over the direction of science fiction than D&D has had over fantasy.
 

Faylar

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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

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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.
 

TristramEvans

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Game of Thrones is like D&D?
Yes, there's quite a few D&Disms in there

Harry Potter is like D&D?....His Dark Materials is like D&D? American Gods is like D&D?
Ok, you've named three. Do you really think that I couldn't name 297 fantasy books published from the 70s on as counterpoints?

I mean, I dont think it's worth my effort to compile the list, but I'm actually curious if you're unaware of just how many of those exist?

But I'll make this a bit simpler - let's cut out the sub-genres of "Boys (or Girls in the case of HDM) Own Adventure" and "Urban Fantasy"...

Can you likewise name several epic psuedo-medieval fantasy books that have no influence from D&D?

If the fantasy literature you read only reads like D&D, then you really need to read more.

I'd love to hear suggestions. Books that are epic medieval fantasy that are not D&D influenced (and are actually good). As I've said before, it's my favourite genre, but one I've learned to largely avoid due to a lack of creativity and an over-reliance on genre cliches.
 
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David Johansen

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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.
 
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TristramEvans

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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.
 

FaerieGodfather

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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

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At 13, we played in the playground during recess at school and didnt have any dice, so it was pretty much just freeform.
 

Trippy

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Yes, there's quite a few D&Disms in there, and Martin has admitted as such before.
Examples? What specific 'D&Disms' are there in Game of Thrones? I mean, we can see that Martin is a gamer, and it’s not hard to see how he may have been influenced to some degree by his experiences with D&D, but in terms of being a fantasy novel cast in the image of D&D, it isn’t. There aren’t any Tolkienesque Demi-humans, or characters that look like they’ve been recognizably constructed out of a Class or level system. Characters don’t go off in adventuring parties into dungeons or the wilderness particularly. So how does it fit into the ‘mold' of D&D?

Ok, you've named three. Do you really think that I couldn't name 297 fantasy books published from the 70s as counterpoints?
Well...you haven’t (!), and considering the ones I’ve mentioned were easy enough to name as major titles off the top of anybody’s head, I’m not sure how you can just dismiss them.

I mean, I dont think it's worth my effort to compile the list, but I'm actually curious if you're unaware of just how many of those exist?
It is beside the point... it isn’t just a claim about ‘the influence’ which can be hard to pin down - the claim was that D&D had ‘remade' the entire fantasy genre 'in its own image'. It patently hasn’t.

Can you likewise name several epic psuedo-medieval fantasy books that have no influence from D&D?

I'd love to hear suggestions. Books that are epic medieval fantasy that are not D&D influenced (and are actually good). As I've said before, it's my favourite genre, but one I've learned to largely avoid due to a lack of creativity and an over-reliance on genre cliches.
Just to point out again, that the epic pseudo-medieval fantasy genre was already well established way before D&D came about. D&D didn’t invent that. You can’t just claim that it didn’t exist before D&D came along, or that Tolkien and the rest wasn’t the bigger influence on the fantasy genre. Anyway, besides the ones already mentioned, I dunno, try Bernard Cromwell or Connie Willis.
 
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TristramEvans

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Examples? What specific 'D&Disms' are there in Game of Thrones? I mean, we can see that Martin is a gamer, and it’s not hard to see how he may have been influenced to some degree by his experiences with D&D, but in terms of being a fantasy novel cast in the image of D&D, it isn’t. There aren’t any Tolkienesque Demi-humans, or characters that look like they’ve been recognizably constructed out of a Class or level system. Characters don’t go off in adventuring parties into dungeons or the wilderness particularly. So how does it fit into the ‘mold' of D&D?
There are D&D-esque demi-humans (have you not read the books?), but as to the rest, I'm sure you can google it up. I'm thinking based on the criteria you are using there though..."characters that look like they’ve been recognizably constructed out of a Class or level system. Characters don’t go off in adventuring parties into dungeons or the wilderness particularly" that perhaps you aren't understanding what most people are talking about in regards to D&D influence. It certainly never occured to me you thought we literally were talkinga bot class and level systems in fiction....that seems, just really odd to me.

So let me give a clearer example of a fantasy series blatantly influenced by D&D....Discworld. There's no "class & level systems" in the books per se, and characters don't really "go adventuring in dungeons and the wilderness". Regardless, it is a series born from D&D.

Well...you haven’t (!)
...for the reason stated, but I guess the next part does answer my question...

and considering the ones I’ve mentioned were easy enough to name as major titles off the top of anybody’s head, I’m not sure how you can just dismiss them.
...is that confirmation that you aren't aware of the hundreds of fantasy novels that aren't exceptions? You don't think maybe the reason you are able to rattle those three titles off the top of your head, what made them stand out and contributed to their popularity, was that they're exceptions to the norm?

I'll be honest, I have no intention of wasting an hour or two writing out titles to win a forum argument (I'm about 15 years past the point of engaging in that sort of behaviour), but it does sort of blow my mind that this isn't obvious.

It is beside the point..
no, that was my point. Someone else may have a different point that it's an exception to, but it's pretty much exactly my point.

Just to point out again, that the epic pseudo-medieval fantasy genre was already well established way before D&D came about.
Well, that is indeed a statement of the obvious that is besides the point, but ...duly noted, I guess?

D&D didn’t invent that.
Im not aware of D&D having invented....anything, actually.

You can’t just claim that it didn’t exist before D&D came along,
Good thing no one claimed that, I guess?

or that Tolkien and the rest wasn’t the bigger influence on the fantasy genre.
Tolkien was a huge influence on D&D, just as D&D was likewise a huge influence on the fantasy genre after it. But I'm not going to agree to "...and the rest", there, like a later season Gilligan's Island throw-away, to agree that everyone else was as big an influence as Tolkien. I doubt very many people would have even heard of Vance these days if not for D&D. That's not a statement of quality, just influence. I don't think "...and the rest" had much influence, really.

Anyway, besides the ones already mentioned, I dunno, try Bernard Cromwell or Connie Willis.
(sigh), no, neither of those authors fit what I was asking for
 
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Trippy

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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?
 
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Trippy

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There are D&D-esque demi-humans (have you not read the books?), but as to the rest, I'm sure you can google it up.
Sorry, what?! Are you trying to claim that the 'Children of the Forest’, or whatever, are like D&D Demihumans?! Have you not read the books? They are nothing like Elves, Dwarves and Halflings. Where are the Half-Orcs?!

I'm thinking based on the criteria you are using there though..."characters that look like they’ve been recognizably constructed out of a Class or level system. Characters don’t go off in adventuring parties into dungeons or the wilderness particularly" that perhaps you aren't understanding what most people are talking about in regards to D&D influence. It certainly never occured to me you thought we literally were talkinga bot class and level systems in fiction....that seems, just really odd to me.
Well, how are managing to differentiate between the fantasy sources that influenced D&D and D&D itself? Because this is the point - the cultural zeitgeist of the fantasy genre was already there, before D&D. Did D&D influence Led Zeppelin? No. Tolkien did. Fritz Leiber and Michael Moorecock were well established for writing Sword and Sorcery tales in the 1960s, while Conan had already made a comeback. Add to that ‘classic fantasy’ like Arthurian or Greek tales and the fantasy genre was going strong. D&D came in on the zeitgeist and made the innovation of making war-game rules work for individual characters and world building. It didn’t remake the whole fantasy genre in its own image though.

So let me give a clearer example of a fantasy series blatantly influenced by D&D....Discworld. There's no "class & level systems" in the books per se, and characters don't really "go adventuring in dungeons and the wilderness". Regardless, it is a series born from D&D.
Sure, I’ll give you Discworld because Pratchett was clearly lampooning a lot of D&Disms in his writing from time to time, but even then, the irreverent comedy that Pratchett was writing wasn’t the same as a typical D&D tale.

...is that confirmation that you aren't aware of the hundreds of fantasy novels that aren't exceptions? You don't think maybe the reason you are able to rattle those three titles off the top of your head, what ade them stand out and contributed to their popularity, was that they're exceptions to the norm
Well, no, because it is beside the point that I actually made as my original counter argument. You are arguing at cross purposes. I’m saying that the statement "D&D remade fantasy in its image” is not correct, because the obvious exceptions to this disprove it.
 

TristramEvans

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Sorry, what?! Are you trying to claim that the 'Children of the Forest’, or whatever, are like D&D Demihumans?!
lol, centaurs, deep ones, demons, giants, grumkins, harpies, ice elves, rock goblins, selkies, tiger-men, walrus-men...that's just off the top of my head


Well, how are managing to differentiate between the fantasy sources that influenced D&D and D&D itself?
Mostly by the peculiar StarTrek-esque D&Disms. Very little fantasy literature actually steps up to Tolkien's approach.

Sure, I’ll give you Discworld
well, you don't have to give me anything, Pratchett was very open about it's influence.

Well, no, because it is beside the point that I actually made as my original counter argument.
Your counter-argument was

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?
...so, I'm fine leaving that up for you to prove, I guess, if you want to cite hundreds of examples necessary to support that statement. Though I won't blame you if you don't want to even attempt it, as I don't expect you to consider it any more worth it than I do...

I guess then we're at an impass. You seem to think that a tiny fraction of books published in the genre is enough to dispute that claim, I don't agree, but that's fine, I don't care enough to prove you wrong and I'm confident enough that you couldn't do that that I don't care enough to prove to you that I'm right. So...agree to disagree, I guess
 

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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.
 

Trippy

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lol, centaurs, deep ones, demons, giants, grumkins, harpies, ice elves, rock goblins, selkies, tiger-men, walrus-men...that's just off the top of my head
You think these all come from D&D?!

well, you don't have to give me anything, Pratchett , like Martin was very open about it's influence.
Well, you aren’t really giving much is the real point I’m making. Pratchett’s stories are not like D&D because they they are comedies. Neither Pratchett’s or Martin’s work reads like D&D, and D&D doesn’t play like them, so it can't be claimed that they have been made in D&D’s ‘image'.

Your counter-argument was

...so, I'm fine leaving that up for you to prove, I guess, if you want to cite hundreds of examples necessary to support that statement. Though I won't blame you if you don't want to even attempt it, as I don't expect you to consider it any more worth it than I do...
Again, you have hardly cited anything and the things that I have cited to support that argument are ample, indeed, to prove that D&D and the fantasy genre as a whole are not one and the same.

I guess then we're at an impass. To me, and others, that D&D essentally remade fatasy fiction in it's image is pretty obvious. You seem to think that a tiny fraction of books published in the genre is enough to dispute that claim, I don't agree, but that's fine, I don't care enough to prove you wrong and I'm confident enough that you couldn't do that that I don't care enough to prove to you that I'm right. So...agree to disagree, I guess
Sure, we can agree to disagree - but the tiny fraction of the fantasy genre we are talking here is D&D and whatever influence it has brought to the genre as a whole.
 

TristramEvans

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You think these all come from D&D?!
I believe I said earlier I'm pretty certain D&D has not invented anything. Maybe Bulettes?

Well, you aren’t really giving much is the real point I’m making.
Well, I quoted it directly, if you have ANOTHER point, I mean I can't say I'm interested, but feel free to state it.

Pratchett’s stories are not like D&D because they they are comedies. Neither Pratchett’s or Martin’s work reads like D&D, and D&D doesn’t play like them, so it can't be claimed that they have been made in D&D’s ‘image'.
Maybe you just haven't played enough D&D...

Again, you have hardly cited anything
Again, you already know why. If you wan't to disagrree, again that's you're perogative.

and the things that I have cited to support that argument are ample
Well, no, you haven't convinced anyone of anything.

but the obviously hugely overwhelming porttion of the fantasy genre we are talking here is D&D and whatever influence it has brought to the genre as a whole.
fixed that for you
 
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Trippy

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I believe I said earlier I'm pretty certain D&D has not invented anything. Maybe Bulettes?



Well, I quoted it directly, if you have ANOTHER point, I mean I can't say I'm interested, but feel free to state it.



Maybe you just haven't played enough D&D...



Again, you already know why. If you wan't to disagrree, again that's you're perogative.



Well, no, you haven't convinced anyone of anything.



fixed that for you
Now you are just being tetchy. Maybe have a cup of tea and lie down?
 

dbm

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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.
 
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TJS

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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

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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.
 
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Trippy

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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.
 

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lol, centaurs, deep ones, demons, giants, grumkins, harpies, ice elves, rock goblins, selkies, tiger-men, walrus-men...that's just off the top of my head
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:
 

Black Leaf

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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.
 

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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.
 

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“TristramEvans said:
The statement was that GoT doesn't include any "Tolkienesque Demi-humans", if you go back in the conversation to what I was responding to.
And your own examples show that it doesn’t, or that you don’t know what a "Tolkienesque Demi-Human" is. I specifically included them by example in the conversation: Tolkienesque Elves, Dwarves and Halflings. And Half-Orcs.

The creatures you are citing aren’t Tolkienesque Demi-Humans, aren’t original to D&D either, and aren’t really present in GoT in any substantial way.

Nah, don't really care about that, just Trippy's bad arguments
Stop making them, then?
 

TristramEvans

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Stop making them then?
Wow, well, you asked for this....

Just to point out again, that the epic pseudo-medieval fantasy genre was already well established way before D&D came about. D&D didn’t invent that. You can’t just claim that it didn’t exist before D&D came along,
Trippy said:
You think these all come from D&D?!
Trippy said:
Sure, if you limited yourself to fiction published by TSR
Trippy said:
Did D&D influence Led Zeppelin?
Those are a few of your very obvious strawman arguments.

Just to be clear:

The basic structure of the starman fallacy consists of Person A making a claim, Person B creating a distorted version of the claim (the "straw man"), and then Person B attacking this distorted version in order to refute Person A's original assertion.
The second one was also one of the clearer examples of bad-fath goal-post shifting:

Trippy said:
There aren’t any Tolkienesque Demi-humans
Trippy said:
You think these all come from D&D?!
here's another, where you flatly ignore the argument made and instead try to shift it to your disagreeent with someone else's argument, instead of actually engaging with what I said...

I'd say finding fantasy novels post D&D that aren't D&D influenced is like a 1 in a thousand shot.
Trippy said:
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.
Trippy said:
the things that I have cited to support that argument are ample, indeed, to prove that D&D and the fantasy genre as a whole are not one and the same.
Either that, or you are under the impression less than 3000 fantasy novels have been published since D&D's cultural influence asserted itself on the genre.

But who knows, because you deliberately ignored any direct question that was inconvenient to your narrative.

And , when I basically said, fine agree to disagree, because the argument wasn't worth it, you responded with what you have to know is an obvious falsehood

So...yeah. I don't like "bad arguments". When a poster is debating in bad faith, as exemplified above, I find it annoying. Ultimately, I don't really care what you believe about D&D's influence, but dishonesty is disheartening.
 

Black Leaf

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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.
 
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