Some weeks ago, the newest Unearthed Arcana came around for D&D5e. This included a collection of subclasses that can work for more than one class. I thought it was very imaginative of WotC to go that route, considering how they stuck to the same classes and subclasses formula for so long. In my group chat with my friends I DM for, they all started questioning if this meant we were getting close to a new edition for D&D. As the conversation progressed, they started to get pumped and were looking forward to this new edition… And that sparked an idea for a new article.
If you’ve been following me lately on Twitter you may have noticed that as time passes, I look forward to trying out new RPGs and help the indie game devs. Partly, this is because I really like game development, be it for tabletop or videogames. However, this is also because, after 5 years of only playing D&D5e, I’m starting to get tired of it, how bothersome and unnecessarily complex the rules can be (even though they are pretty simple if you compare it with past editions), and primarily because it tries to be good at every aspect to be the perfect RPG for any style of play. Note that I don’t dislike D&D. I’m pretty sure it’s the thing I’ve invested most of my money on. However, I believe one needs to try other games to get out of one’s comfort zone, which will make you in the long run a better GM and player.
Instead of making this a long rant, I prefer to analyze why it is that so many of the TTRPG players play D&D instead of other games. That’s why when my players were pumped about 6e I asked them why it was that they are eager to learn how to play a new edition but would not try out other games that might do everything they enjoy about the dragon game, some even better. I decided to get some of those answers and brainstorm a bit about everything that keeps a player from trying new games. If I am lucky enough, I may crack the puzzle and understand how to get them, and maybe you the reader (or your friends), to try out new things.
My friends’ answers
Despite being different editions, the core game remains the same
This may be one of the most common answers, yet those who played through more than one edition know for a fact how different each one was from the one before it. The different D&D editions had different objectives in mind. I am no connoisseur, as I only played its latest edition and am pretty new to the hobby, but I have a faint idea of the things each of them tried to accomplish. They all tried their shot at different strategies, and when they felt it was time for a change, a new edition would appear.
It is known for a fact that D&D 5e is by far the most successful edition yet, with popularity still exponentially increasing. This may lead us to think that the game will not change as much if the people at WotC decided to create a new edition. I still think we are pretty far away from them looking to make a big change, even though they showed there are some things that needed a fix-up, such as the races with their recent change to lineages.
Does this mean that if a 6th edition was to come, its core would remain mostly the same? I believe we are still far away from knowing that, but I could be surprised. Nevertheless, there are still many other games you can try out that aren’t that different from D&D, which might fit your player group even better. Don’t be scared to giving them a try!
We spent a lot of money and time on this system
This is a huge factor why people don’t want to jump to other games, both GMs and players. I share a D&D Beyond account subscription with my players and did pay for pretty much all player content in there, while I also bought many of the books in physical format as well. Let’s compare, however, how much it costs to play D&D in comparison to other games though: Even though you can play with just the free SRD and Basic Rules, most of the D&D content requires the DM to have the PHB, the Monster Manual, and the DMG. That’s about $49.95 per book, meaning you need to spend about $150 to play. That’s how their business model works and I can get behind it, as players don’t really need the Monster Manual and the DMG, so it makes sense to keep them in separate books. If you compare that with other RPGs, a great deal of them have all the content you need in one single book (most of them even cheaper than $49.95!).
Getting to play other RPGs doesn’t mean you have to burn your D&D books, however. Even if you like some other game more, you can always come back to D&D. I personally don’t have any intention to stop playing any time soon! Additionally, all those monsters from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, the cities in Storm King’s Thunder, and even some mechanics can be stolen and added to your Call of Cthulhu game for example. I even created a Monster Combo article mixing up a Call of Cthulhu monster with a D&D giant, and it shouldn’t be difficult for you to do something similar. What I am trying to get at, is that your money and time is not thrown away by trying out other games. In fact, you will surely become a better GM and/or player by trying out different stuff!
It’s extremely easy to find stuff for D&D5e
I can totally get behind this one. When one of my players said how easy it is for him to find videos of D&D shows, character-building, and more, I had to agree with him. D&D is a behemoth of a game, and the most popular RPG ever. There are videos, memes, homebrew stuff, 3rd party content, even TV shows and movies making references to it! If you have a doubt about a rule, you can google how it works and there surely is someone that came by before you and asked the same thing in a forum. Can other games compete against it? Not for now… But other games are slowly gaining popularity, so that could probably change a bit in the future.
There’s a big distinction to make between the different types of games. Both rules-heavy and rules-light RPGs exist, with some of them being at a point in between. Rules-light RPGs don’t really have a need to have a lot of content around the net as everything you can imagine you can drop into the game without much problem. There’s no need for thousands of videos and articles of homebrew stuff you can add to your game, nor character builds because the simplicity in the rules creates such a structure in which you don’t need that. If you want your superhero character to control matter, it’s only the GM who can stop you from choosing that, not the rules! On the other hand, rules-heavy RPGs that are not very popular can present some difficulty when trying to find guides, debates, etc. online, which can be a problem for some people.
D&D5e provides the right amount of complexity
My players love the tactical aspect of combat D&D provides for them, as well as the cool aspect D&D gives as they level up by having tons of different things they can do. D&D has everything they want and does it well enough. Another thing one of them said is that a complex system gives them a guideline of all the things they can and can’t do. Therefore, they don’t need to be extremely creative when thinking of things to do, as their character sheet already has all possible answers. When playing a rules-light game, you often rely on the players’ and GM’s creativity to push the story forward. Only some things are statted out and the system is as great as the players’ imagination. In other words, rules-heavy games present guidelines for players who aren’t looking to be particularly creative when playing.
Is D&D the only complex RPG though? Absolutely not. While rules-light games are the vast majority in the indie RPG space, there’s at least one rules-heavy game for each genre. Pathfinder is a great example of this in the medieval fantasy genre. Starfinder, Shadowrun, 7th Sea, Mutants & Masterminds are some other great examples from other genres. The downside, however, is that complex games require a lot more time to learn the rules, which makes jumping from D&D to one of these more difficult. Nevertheless, just like when you jump from an iPhone to an Android phone or vice-versa, you already know the basics, which makes learning a new system much faster than what it took you to learn to play your first RPG. Many things have similar mechanics, and you already tell all types of dice apart.
You can just homebrew it
D&D sells itself as a game that can work pretty much for every kind of game you might want to run, and if there’s something you can’t do with it, you can just homebrew it. This has kept lots of players from jumping to other games. D&D does a whole lot of things right, but at the same time there are lots of things in which it could be better, or you may want something to work differently. To put an example, last week I had a conversation with my friends in which they were talking about different ways in which AC could be more realistic or work better in D&D. There are a huge amount of homebrew rules that fix that, but there’s a reason why WotC decided to make AC work that way. WotC was looking for simplicity when building many of the rules for the game, which means some of the rules might not be perfect but are simple enough for new players to quickly understand.
Homebrewing rules in D&D or changing the way it works can add a whole new level of complexity to the game. If there is something you might want to homebrew in, there surely is another game that does a better job at it. Pathfinder, for example, can be a better fit for you if you are still looking for a D&D-like level of complexity but want armor for example to work in a different way. Homebrewing stuff into your game can make it better, but don’t be scared to look at other games that might be offering exactly what you are looking for, in a way that might work better. What’s more, playing other games is a great way to learn new mechanics to homebrew into your D&D games! Blades in the Dark’s clock system works greatly in D&D for example!
Dimension 20 shows how weird it can be
I might not have seen as much of Dimension20 as I may want to, but from what I’ve seen, the show makes a great example of how you can homebrew stuff into your D&D games. Dimension20 has run games in a University setting, a present-day city game, a Candyland setting, and much more all using the D&D rules. Is it ok to do this? Absolutely! Could these games have been better if they used a more appropriate system for the setting? Possibly. Brennan is an amazing DM though and created great narratives and gameplay using a system that was not built for those kinds of settings. I’m using this as an example to show you that D&D can be heavily homebrewed and still work. A game of Fate may have been a better approach for these settings though. Go give a glimpse to its rules to see if is what you are looking for in your next campaign.
Ask this same question
First of all, if your players aren’t eager to try out new games, consider asking them why they might want to keep playing future D&D editions and not play other games. They may have reasonings you haven’t taken into consideration, as some of the ones I wrote about in this article. No matter the answer, D&D is still an amazing game and there’s nothing wrong with playing it, but broadening your horizons and trying out other stuff will surely make you a better gamer, and you may find some other game you enjoy playing more than D&D. Just don’t be an dic* if your players really don’t want to try out something else. The core idea of this article is to create some debating within your friends’ group to see if you can get to try new games.
Ask if they want to try out 3/4 sessions game with you explaining the rules
When I asked my friends if they would be willing to try a short campaign from some other game if I explained the rules, they mostly agreed. This is a great way to give your friends a sneak peak of what other games are about without committing to running long campaigns in games other than D&D. Best case scenario, your friends end up liking the short campaign so much they want to play the new game some more. Be sure to have this game ready with premade characters to jump quicker into the game. Wasting an entire session to explain the game rules might bore your friends, making them want to go back to their comfort zone. Jumping straight to the action and explaining the rules as you play is key to hook them into new games!
Truth is your players may not want to commit to something very long, more so if it’s in a system they haven’t still tried out. Start by playing one-shots of these other games that showcase the rules as best as they can. Rules-light games such as Fiasco are great examples of things you can try out to show your players that RPGs is much more than D&D. Start with short easy games, and slowly show them more complex stuff they might find interesting.
Hopefully, this article may have given you and your players enough reasons to try out new games. D&D is not the only RPG, and there are definitely tons of ways to hook your players in stuff they might find even more interesting, or good enough to try out at least once.
Is your player group (or you) stuck only playing D&D? Are you planning to try out other games, or have you accomplished to do so? If that’s the case, how did you manage to convince your friends to try out something different? Or what is keeping you from trying them out? Let me know in the comments below! I might end up doing a second part with your answers.