A step out of the video game lane this week to talk about another sort of game. Dungeons & Dragons is a game that I have only gotten into more recently. Looking at the sales figures of the source material it seems I’m not the only one. In 2020 Wizards of the Coast (The game’s Publishers) announced that 2019 was the companies 6th year of growth in a row. One of the source books (Volo’s Guide To Monsters) managed to get into the New York Times best sellers list in November 2016. This week I’ll be looking into what factors have helped this rise in popularity.
For those who are unaware, Dungeons & Dragons is a table top game created by Dave Arneson & Gary Gygax back in 1970. The game was created as a medieval battle table top game under the name Chainmail. Later revisions added that players controlled individual characters instead of armies as well as the story telling aspect, races, classes etc. It was Gygax’s 2-year-old that decided on the name “Dungeons & Dragons”. When her father pitched her a selection of potential names she replied “Oh Daddy, I like Dungeons & Dragons best!”. Through the years the game has gone through several rule revision with the current 5th Edition rules being the most current, being released in 2014. The game consists of 1 player who is the Dungeon or Game Master (DM or GM) who is the narrator and referee of the game. The rest of the players are Playable Characters (PC’s) who play characters within the game. The DM builds the scene for the PC’s, the PC’s will then choose the course of the game and the DM will build the story in response to the other players actions.
The 5th Edition Rules
Speaking of the 5th Edition of the rules, they are probably one of the reasons for the soring popularity of the game. The previous 4th Edition was not well received with current players. The 4th Edition was essentially a rebuild of D&D from the ground up to cut a lot of the chaff that had accumulated in the previous editions, to Wizards of the Coast (who had bought publishing rights to the game in 1997) nothing in the game was sacred and all aspects were up fro review. In doing this they lost a lot of what long time players loved about the game which fractured the D&D community. A lot of players didn’t move across to the 4th Edition, instead remaining with edition 3.5 having invested in the game already being only released 5 years earlier. Others moved to other fantasy table top games such as Pathfinder or moved back to previous edition of the game.
The 5th Edition was developed in order to bring back to the fold a lot of the players they lost by returning some of the elements from previous editions that were cut but keep the simplicity of the 4th edition for new players to not feel too lost. This was done by modulating each section of the game. Where 4e focused a lot on the rules of combat and glanced over a lot of the other aspects, 5e had specific ruling and guidelines for all aspects of the game allowing the game to be better tailored to each game session or campaign. This means a lot more work for DM’s but PC’s still get a streamlined experience that is new player friendly.
We live in an age where information is but a click or a finger press away. This has done wonders for the D&D community. People can gather, discuss the game and share their own homebrewed campaigns or characters. Also because of the ever increasing popularity of YouTube & Twitch it’s easier than ever to sample the game by watching other play. In fact in 2017 over 9million users watched a D&D stream. This allows people easy access to the game if they are interested in checking out before they jump in. Sites such as Roll20 or Owlbear Rodeo allow players to play with others all over the world meaning people are no longer limited to playing with people in their local area or with friends/family.
Geek is in. Video games, Manga/Anime, Comic books, all the shit that kids were beaten up for when we were kids is now what all the cool kids like. This includes Dungeons & Dragons. This can be seen in the number of celebrities that openly discussed playing D&D. This list includes Drew Barrymore, Dame Judi Dench, Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Chester Bennington, Steven Spielberg, Robin Williams, Marilyn Manson, George R.R. Martin, Elon Musk are but to name a few. This increases the exposure of the game to further demographics. In inclusion in modern culture too helps the reach of the game such as it’s inclusion in the Nexflix show Stranger Things as well as other TV shows like Futurama, The Big Bang Theory, The Simpsons & even My Little Pony. Wizards of the Coast has actually capitalised on this and has beginner sets based off of the characters used by the characters in Stranger Things as well as a Rick & Morty themed set.
These are but a few of the main reasons in my opinions. If you have any others feel free to leave a comment and discuss them.
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