Dungeons and Dragons as a Lifestyle Brand

 The professor over at Dungeon Craft made an interesting video about Chris Cocks of WotC being moved up to the CEO of Hasbro. You can watch his video here:

I think he has done a good job of laying the fact out for us and how this all happened, but what is missing is commentary. I get it, the Professor doesn't dive too much into the battles between WotC and the fans mostly because a lot of his viewer base is 5e and he seems to like 5e more than he dislikes it.

So I'll provide some commentary because I don't care if I make the "5e Community" upset. A majority of my viewers on my channel and those I associate with are OSR players or 5e people who try to bring the play style of the OSR into 5e. So let's talk about this. I want to focus on a few choice quotes about the direction this is all going.
"D&D is a culture. You buy a Harley and you buy into the idea of Harley as a culture. You think to yourself--I'm a Harley rider--that's who I am."
-Mike Mearls
This is an older quote but it is something many critics of WotC (like RPGPundit) have brought up. Defenders of WotC and the direction 5e has gone say this is a good thing because it, "opens up the hobby to more people and grows it." But is that true? Even the professor says the following in his video:
"There are people who buy Harley t-shirts and baby jumpers who have never ridden a Harley motorcycle."
There is a mirrored version of this person in the "D&D Community. The professor goes on to say how there are people who wear D&D apparel and own the books who never play and they might not have any intention of ever playing. They like watching productions like Critical Role and other "actual play" entertainment. Maybe I'm gatekeeping, but watching people play is not the same as playing. Are such individuals a part of the hobby?

Well, are the people that wear Harley Davidson gear but never ride "riders"? To me the answer is not a question of "gatekeeping" but of simple logic. No. Those people are fans of a brand, not a hobby. So is the hobby really growing then? Sure, if you count those people as hobbyists.

Sorry, that isn't fair. There are a lot of people playing 5e, it's just a majority of the players are casual ones who like the brand and casually like the hobby. The professor points out in his video that according to WotC's own data, most (not all but most) D&D sessions do not last past six sessions. As the professor points out, this shows that most players are casual players.

Let's talk about another hobby area that has seen an influx of casuals. Gaming (video games). If you look at the raw data, it seems like everyone is a gamer. But that's if you count your grandma who plays Candy Crush every now and then. Sure they are playing games, but are they "gamers"? What constitutes a "gamer"? Hardcore gamers would probably point to people who play more than ad filled microtransaction generating mobile apps. A "real gamer" to them is someone who plays specific games or genres of games on PC or console (or both).

I think that is what is going on here. 5e is the Candy Crush of TTRPGs. And look that's not intended to be an insult against people who like 5e or Candy Crush. It's just a product that isn't marketed to gamers so much as it is casuals (by WotCs own admission). And the divide in the TTRPG community seems to be between those who really love the hobby and casuals who enjoy 6 sessions before things fizzle out.

I think the gripes from segments of the OSR community and "Grognards" is that sometimes these casuals act like they are the pinnacle of this hobby. That 5e is the best version of this game that has ever existed (and even the best game within the hobby) and that sales figures prove this. For me, I can't help but chuckle. It would be like Candy Crush fans claiming that based on sales, it's an objectively better game than the Dark Souls series. Is that true? Only if you ignore a lot of different factors.


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