Soap Box Ranter

I’ve seen this many times over the last two or three years. When I was regularly reading Twitter, I saw this regularly. Endless people using the #dnd hashtag while attacking D&D and/or Wizards of the Coast—pointing out the flaws and weak elements—while also championing their favourite niche and artisanal-hand-crafted RPG game. Even now I see this in some D&D Discord channels, subreddits, and forums (as well as when I risk going onto Twitter to look for news under the #dnd hashtag). Especially when someone dares to ask how to run a D&D game with a slightly different genre, which is immediately answered with a chorus of people responding how D&D isn’t right for that and suggesting their highly specialized RPG of choice.

While recommending other games is fine, attacking D&D while doing so just feels… foolish.

Now, not that I’m saying 5e D&D is perfect. It’s not. Or that WotC is a perfect company. They’re also not.
WotC is made of individual humans, which inherently means it is as flawed as the worst of its employees (and, conversely, as noble as its best employees). Its views are as contradictory as the many varied viewpoints and opinions of all its staff. Different departments have very different standards, because they’re run by wholly different people. But most of the D&D team is populated by truly decent people who are trying to be a positive influence. 

Meanwhile, D&D 5e was created by committee and a few hundred thousand playtesters and designed not to be the best RPG ever or the most generic RPG ever, but to be the “best of” version of D&D to date, distilling the most iconic elements of the game in a streamlined new product. It wasn’t meant to be a generic fantasy game system; that’s never been D&D. And it wasn’t meant to be a modern updated version of D&D that rejects dated tropes and cliches. That was 4th Edition: the version of the game rejected by most fans and was quickly revised then replaced.
And I think that’s what many people complaining about 5e forget; it’s easy to look at problematic elements—like racial essentialism—and call out D&D as horrible for including them. But back in 2012, D&D was dying and the entire hobby greying, and that design was what most of the D&D community wanted: it was the result of feedback given regarding player character races, which allowed players to make iconic characters. The intent wasn’t on fixing D&D for a whole new audience and the next generation, and instead the goal was to preserve the audience they already had, win back the ones who had left, and prevent D&D from joining DreamBlade and HeroScape in the annals of cancelled WotC product lines.

Regardless of all the above, when trying to tell people how cool your favourite role-playing game is, attacking the industry leader is probably the single worst way to spread the word. When you attack Dungeons & Dragons, you put fans of D&D on the defensive. They become protective of their hobby, arguing against any criticism (valid or otherwise). It just doesn’t work. Insulting D&D to sell people on your favourite RPG is truly as effective as screaming from atop a soap box.



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