Thursday, April 16, 2015

"Dungeons and Dragons stopped being a tabletop game years or decades ago" - Nathan Stewart, Brand Director for Dungeons & Dragons at Wizards of the Coast

There is a decent sized interview with Nathan Stewart about D&D over at Forbes, but this is the quote that really caught my eye:
Q - One of the big goals of fifth edition was to revitalize the brand overall –to make Dungeons & Dragons associated with stuff like video games, board games, books, and comics as much as it is with tabletop RPGs. Is the brand where you wanted it to be at this point? 
A - Is it where we wanted it to be? Let me back up a little bit and say that for the first part of your question, we obviously had big goals for the in shoring up the core of the brand –the tabletop RPG fifth edition and the playtest, that was the heavy lifting done behind the scenes. Wizards is publishing the spiritual core of the brand. 
But yeah, on the whole, Dungeons and Dragons stopped being a tabletop game years or decades ago. I mean, we’ve been a powerhouse in video games, for years now, and we’ve had movies –whether you like them or not, we still had them– tons of novels, comics, apparel, table top minies, just a lot of stuff across the board. So I will say that in terms of the 40th anniversary, I thought it was a tremendous year to celebrate all things D&D. We saw people coming back in waves, we’re seeing tastemakers and celebrities continue to devote their love of D&D publicly, and I think that’s a sign that culturally, you’re hitting the marks that you want.
D&D stopped being a tabletop game decades ago? That would mean at least back to 1995.

Dungeons & Dragons was a viable tabletop game in the 3x era. 4e is where it dropped much of it's tabletop luster, and that was in 2008.

Still, if there were any doubt that those migrating to D&D 5e are already playing a dead system...


  1. I couldn't disagree more. WotC is treating D&D as a cross-platformed brand. Tabletop RPGs are part of that, but so are board games, video games, and other media. I guess a more accurate statement would be D&D stopped being *just* an RPG decades.

    I think this is a great way to look at it, because I think it'll lead to fewer mistakes like the ones we saw in 4e. Instead D&D the RPG is just part of a larger brand. With 4e we saw a game that was over designed, over analyzed, badly marketed and just had "corporations telling writers what is best" and it shows in the game.

    Instead, by taking 5th and making a central game that's not overly supplemented, and instead focusing on the adventures themselves, we're getting a game that's free to be played with without a glut of supplements cluttering up the game play.

    I like the logic of the current D&D team and I like the RPG's current incarnation.

  2. I think that may not be a charitable reading: the question refers to the brand, i.e., what the trademark signifies. And from a monetary point of view, I expect Stewart is right: the D&D brand extends across several different media, and tabletop gaming isn't the lucrative or largest part. It's like saying Marvel stopped being a comic book company years or decades ago.

    I don't think it's particularly damning: whatever trademarks have survived for 40 years, have almost certainly done so by zipping into various licensing deals. James Bond hasn't been a novel series since 1962.

  3. You are taking the comment way out of context... and I'm pretty sure on purpose, not out of ignorance.

    He is saying D&D is not only a table top RPG, but has been present as a brand in other media for years upon years. When did Pool of Radiance come out? 1988! Over 25 years ago. Even before that there was the the Intellivision video game title (1982).

    Not to mention the cartoon or other media avenues that were explored in the 80's and 90's.

    That's over 30 years in media other than just table top RPGs.

    Saying that "D&D is a dead system" is just sensationalist way to turn page views and has little to do with the quote in the Forbes article.

  4. I might be charitable and infer he *meant* to say "stopped being exclusively or even primarily a tabletop game..."

    1. I can go with the charitable definition, but then he tacks on "decades"

      Right through the end of 3x, D&D was primarily a "table top game"

    2. When I was in high school, at the end of the 1980s, I knew many people whose primary knowledge of D&D was through novels and video games.

    3. I didn't know D&D was an rpg until the late 90s. Most of my knowledge of the brand came from the Capcom arcade games and the 80s cartoon.

    4. Is anyone else beginning to see how NYPD gets "confessions" from suspects? "I never heard him use a 'just' or 'only', even if it's obvious from the context! I completely believe this random journalist quoted everything absolutely verbatim!"

    5. Sorry, Bad Wolf - but that shit is recorded these days.

      Now, we can lie to you - "we found your finger prints at the scene" or "your friend BoBo gave you up" but we can't misstate what you said.

      Nathan said what he said, and I strongly suspect the interview was via email. If it wasn't it was certainly recorded.

      No one, reporter or detective, interviews anyone without recording it.

      Now, either Nathan gave a piss poor answer, or you are claiming the interviewer misquoted Nathan. Neither has anything to do with interviewing a suspect, let alone a confession.

      Gee, just wait until I post my next selection from this article...

    6. Eric -- D&D branched into other media as early as 1982 (possibly even before). That was "decades" ago... 30+ years. You seem to be trying to twist words to suit your narrative.

      Since the article was specifically about 5e being the best D&D launch in WotC history, your interpretation of his quotes is a stretch.

    7. Fair enough; i was thinking of a recorded interview that the interviewer later transcribes. I know many times they are given to the interviewee to double-check; in either that case or an email exchange, i guess i still doubt he intended the meaning you've inferred, and would have modified it if he had noticed how it 'sounded'. So to me you sound like you've "made your mind up" and cherry-picked quotes.

      In any case my comment was overly jerky it/myself so i apologize for that.

    8. Everyone has the right to be jerky. I am myself at times. I don't moderate away jerkiness ;)

      I personally hold "suits" to a higher level than creators. "Suits" do PR for a living. They have canned responses. They generally get their questions well in advance. They also, in general, do not know their topic as intimately as creators. Therefore the canned responses.

      Again, Mearls would have had better answers. I might not have liked them, but I wouldn't need to assume his meaning and add missing words to get there.

  5. The guy is a brand manager. They are a subtype of posthuman species known as marketing specialists that do not quite operate in the same realtime meat space of normal humans. The transhuman culture of "brands" and "marketing" and "memes" and many, manh other things is among us and we are all just grist for their mill.

  6. Yeah, gotta agree with the rest of these guys. You're being a big obtuse if you are looking at it from an edition war perspective. By 1995, you'll notice every big AD&D release had a multimedia strategy: novel line, SSI gold box game, you name it. The tabletop game continues to be a tent pole product, but D&D isn't a tabletop game any more than Star Wars is a movie; it's an industry in itself. To look at it any other way is to miss the bigger picture.

    1. He says it basically has stopped being a table top game. He does say "only" a table top game.

      The rpg is an afterthought now.

    2. does not say "ony"

      post from the pub, never a good choice ;)

    3. Pedantic nit-pickery of word choice in an edited article != proof of meaning.

  7. I think Nathan Stewart was hired by Hasbro.. even if he "interviewed" with WoTC and is paid by WoTC, he is a "Hasbro man." He is not a "gamer.." Oh, he may play D&D, even regularly, but he is not playing the game of his ancestors. When I read that snippet, I see "Goals," "Brand," "Spiritual Core," a snarky comment about the D&D movies, and money, money. money. Sure, money makes the world go round, but imagination gives it meaning.

  8. Yeah, it's a stretch and an attempt to keep labeling WOTC as an evil corporation. I could care less about edition wars and attempts to keep branding WOTC as the bad guys. TSR was doing the same things back in the day.

    1. The edition wars are useless, I agree, as they are just the public face of what has actually been going on. It seems like "back in the day" the game required more imagination and a lot less money. Today, the game requires less imagination (thanks to rule bloat, splatbooks, supplements, etc etc) and more money (to buy those rulebooks, splatbooks, supplements, etc etc). And edition wars are like arguing Chevy vs. Ford without realizing how complicated the automobile in general has gotten. Perhaps 5th Edition will straighten things out. Perhaps not. I am not encouraged by what Nathan and others have had to say, but then I'm just a grumpy old Grognard. :o)

  9. I think you're deliberately misunderstanding what he said and focusing on the literal definition of "decades" for whatever reason. But truly D&D stopped being primarily a tabletop RPG decades ago as the brand expanded into other media and merchandise. Which is pretty surely what he meant by that remark.

    On the other hand who gives a shit, I haven't bought a D&D product since the late '80s.

  10. It's all just words. I love 5E. For me, it's a great system. Play what you like and let others do the same.

  11. I'm with Matt Cellis in that I haven't bought a (new) D&D product since maybe 1988. So I'm ignorant as to the winding trail of multi-platforming or whatever the hell these things are called in modernity.

    But I know a bit about the Real Thing. What is the Real Thing?

    -A scorching electric guitar is Rock N'Roll. Period. You can multi-platform media twittergram whatever, add synth, fiddle with computers and rehash old tracks or add that country twang with a dumb tattoo. It's the guitar that makes Rock N'Roll.

    - Performance cars are judged by how fast they GO. Sure, it's nice how fast they stop, and turn, and that fine burled walnut on the dash and surrounds. GO is what makes a performance vehicle.

    - Big boobs are what you find on centerfolds. Centerfolds = Big Boobs. What a horrible thing to say, what chauvinism! Sorry for pointing out an unfortunate but all-too-true business fact.

    - Toilet paper is white. If it ain't white, it might be used.

    There may be better, there are certainly worse, and it looks like it all got fancy, but The Real Thing is one guy with a King Kong Flamethrower DMG, a smattering of semi-doped other guys with a PHB (usually flipped to serve as a coaster for a Big Gulp or two) and some dice, and maybe a circulating Centaur MM, paper and pencil, and endless goddamn griping about who gets the magic sword.

    That's the Real Thing. The businessmen are tasked with convincing us we need more.

    Us old buzzards know better. Raise a bourbon brimmer to the RPG that fits in a briefcase. The Real Thing.


  12. "D&D is Dead!" - Every fan email list, newsgroup, blog or fan website I have read since 1991.

    1. Well, it may not be dead, but it certainly is different...

    2. @Timothy - I heard Apple died decades ago too.


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