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Stop trying to turn Dungeons & Dragons into a Marvel-esque cash cow – it won’t work Stop trying to turn Dungeons & Dragons into a Marvel-esque cash cow – it won’t work

The way that Wizards of the Coast is treating this venerable game is totally at odds with how its players see it

Stop trying to turn Dungeons & Dragons into a Marvel-esque cash cow – it won’t work

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  • I mean, even as a DnD player, I appreciate that you DO need to turn a profit as a company, and I enjoy my favourite hobby getting wider attention. I'm actually not opposed to them making this into a bigger franchise because I think that it IS suitable to fill that sort of Marvel role, contrary to the article. It has clearly defined heroes and villains, iconic designs, and very flexible storytelling, all of which CAN be compared to a more mature Marvel. Making a handful of recognisible heroes and villains and promoting them honestly seems like a perfectly sensible and legitimate business tactic.


    As a DnD player, I also actively dislike the story design in most official content because it's painfully generic. Everything is made to be very comfortably within the realm of mass appeal and staying within the realms of conventional fantasy. They have unspoken rules and tropes that they simply Do Not Violate and as a result they struggle to craft stories that aren't predictable. They are noticeably complete shit at having any idea how to make a force for good that's more powerful than the players that isn't used as a punching bag to make the players feel like they're in danger. And my point is that they COULD and should take more risks when doing storywriting and character design, because the nature of DnD is that even if you totally fuck something up, because everyone runs their own worlds a retcon isn't going to destroy everything- and more than that, writing out a story, while time-consuming and requiring effort, is nowhere near the money sink that a movie is. It's fine to take risks! Defying conventions is OK! It's completely fine if not everyone likes each product, so long as it's well-made on the whole!

    Otherwise the game is also super unbalanced (I know this because I have extremely extensively created homebrew for it, I can tell you EXACTLY how and where it is unbalanced), although this isn't as bad as it would be in a lot of other games because you won't really notice the balance issues if you're just playing a casual game with your friends. If one of your friends is trying to play the game optimally though, then they can rapidly make the game unplayable by taking advantage of especially unbalanced parts of the game.

    And this is to say nothing of the fact that the absolute greatest strength of DnD is the fact that players can do whatever they want. So trying to make stuff that tells players they need to act a certain way is only going to diminish that strength.

    • The concept of a well-balanced DnD really bothers me. I do not think balance should be a core design goal. The Wish spell is horribly unbalanced, and should be. I think its representation of endless possibilities and horrifying consequences is emblematic of the spirit of the game itself, rooted in the olden days of DnD, when the DM was really doing his absolute best to TPK his party in a more competitive, adversarial, board-game-esque setup.

      The lack of balance in the older versions of the game had benefits. A player who wished less engagement with the game mechanics could play a fighter, where someone who wanted a larger amount could play a wizard.

      Balance in and of itself is not a problem, but unless done very carefully with a lot of attention paid to how that balance is arrived at, it's just too easy to make everything feel very samey. Like a video game that becomes so well balanced that the awesome laser rifle is a perfectly balanced option against some other guys bow and arrow, making it all start to feel hollow and soulless. Like a fighting game that does not acknowledge that Green Arrow and Wonder Woman really aren't actually in the same league, to be able to fairly fight each other in an immersive way.

      Starcraft and Helldivers 2 managed to arrive at a degree of balance that still feels wholesome and maintains distinction, but they're very much the exceptions to the rule. It's such a difficult thing that the vast majority of times its attempted, it results in some sort of failure. Personally, I prefer a different route, where devs simply embrace the inherent imbalance, and allow people to do broken-ass things that might be fun, and allow other options to exist that are just plain bad. I see nothing wrong with this outside of competitive, pvp style genres.

      • While you make fundamentally good points, I think there is a core reason that balance is important to me: DnD is a multiplayer game, not a singleplayer game.

        I actually think it's fine that different classes are strong at different levels! The entire premise of Wizard is that they're a squishy who will die if they're sneezed on at level 1, who grows into a reality-warping god by level 20. Having someone that needs to be looked after at low levels and can then look after the team at high levels encourages teamwork!

        The reason that I say DnD is so badly unbalanced is because once level 5 comes around? Casters very, VERY firmly become way better than non-casters for two reasons. Casters have AoE damage, and casters have utility. Non-casters have no utility, and because they also really struggle to increase AC, they can't function in any role except for single-target damage. A good level 5 caster can make the rest of the party feel really lackluster because they can do in one turn what the rest of the party needs 4 or 5 turns to do (HP and AC are much less of an issue at this point too). And this gap only gets wider and wider with every passing level, which rapidly makes it less and less fun to play a non-caster.

        Once level 13 hits, anyone who isn't a full caster is completely irrelevant. That is not fun for anyone who isn't a full caster. Hell, it's SO badly broken at this level that it's almost certainly the reason why Baldur's Gate 3 only goes up to level 12- and that game already does a huge amount of buffing martials and nerfing casters. A 13th level caster can instantly beat pretty much any encounter not explicitly designed to bully them, and even then there's a good chance they find a way to solo the encounter on turn 1 anyways.

      • All that balance does in a pen and paper game is provide predictability for the GM. "If I hit them with X, it will take Y to overcome it using A,B, and C". That only leads to homogenization if the GM doesn't do anything meaningful with that knowledge.

        Way, way too many people view this shit as "demands from the designer" rather than "tools to use for your convenience," and I super don't get it. If you want some of the players to outshine others, you can predictably boost their power level if the game is balanced.

        But I guess just flexing on friends is what many people really want out of the game.