I keep hearing this and as 5E gains in popularity, I keep hearing it more. At first, I did buy into it but I’m starting to wonder about that.
I get the idea. 5E D&D does well and by default so does the rest of the RPG market. It brings more people into the hobby. More things are sold. But I think that it does get to the point the the rising tide can start to swallow up the smaller ships. Let’s look at a few things.
It brings more people into the hobby is the big one. But how many people come into the hobby via 5E stray from the 5E fold. And how many stay for any long period of time? I can only offer opinion on these two points based on my own observations. There’s a hard core sector that won’t stray from 5E. They don’t look outside that box. And I’ve seen lots of folks who I thought weren’t gamers, get into 5E for a while but not stay that long and just move on. I don’t think many of them will be still be playing their “old” game decades later. I think some are just playing it because it’s popular right now.
It’s mainstream now. So many times, I see this as more of a curse than a blessing. Sure you can get D&D stuff at big box stores and even on Amazon and usually at a lower price than available at your friendly local mom and pop gaming store. So much for supporting local businesses. Along with that, there’s plenty of folks who want to pop in start a shit storm then walk way because they have actual interest in the hobby. And then there’s the higher profile articles about RPG’s from “news” sources that don’t cover table top gaming. Any one who’s been around a while notices that a lot of those articles are very poorly researched and do nothing for other RPG’s and often puts them into a less than stellar light.
Celebrity endorsements! Ugh. There is no gentle way to put this. If you’re playing just because some celebrity is playing then you aren’t going to be looking around for more games. I put these folks in the same bucket as the “playing because it’s popular” crowd.
Corporations kill creativity. Let’s just say that corporate D&D will do for RPG’s what McDonald’s did for hamburgers. And don’t forget the lawyers and accountants. Lawsuits and bean counting aren’t the most creative of environments.
Hello, small publishers. Congratulations. You’re even more insignificant. There’s a steep hill to climb for small publishers. That hill gets steeper as bigger companies dominate the space. Just ask all those local bookstores when Amazon started selling books.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Yes, I’ve heard “so goes D&D, so goes the hobby”. That’s bad but it’s an unfortunate reality. Paizo did pull of Pathfinder when many fans disliked 4th Edition. But as WOTC’s influence grows, it makes it even more difficult for another Paizo to come along.
Having one company has so much influence over the market, tone, and community doesn’t lend itself to a long term healthy community. As I said, it kills creativity when the dollars and conversation are centered just one publishers/game. It makes competition even more difficult for mom and pop games stores and small publishers.
What do do? Well, keep the home fires burning and keep the grass roots growing. Support the local games stores. Support the odd ball small publishers. Have fun and talk about it.