There's a discussion on Twitter right now about whether or not D&D is a "violence simulator" and it just strikes me as such an off-mark conversation to have

Because, there's a certain sense in which, of course it is. If, for you, D&D is the thing in the core rulebooks, it's a wargame with extra things tacked on to it to make the combat asymmetric and handle out-of-combat scenarios. A third of the rules are things to fight.

But there's also a sense in which it makes little sense to say that at all. If D&D, to you, is the thing that happens at the table, it's an expression of what the players find interesting. It's a way to give players a kind of power they don't have in their real lives. The rules put limits on that power so that it's satisfying to gain more - more gold, more magic items, more class levels, more political power.

So what we end up arguing about is which semantic level we're speaking on - something we should just acknowledge and frame the conversation around in the first place.


If your players want to do violent things - players here including the game runner - they will build that kind of story, in D&D or Heart: The City Beneath or Microscope or Dream Apart. If your players are interested in finding non-combat solutions, they will find, execute, and enjoy those plots, in whatever game you pick.

And it's worth noting that the worst conflict happens when your ideas about this are misaligned. If one player wants to eat nachos and kill orcs, and the other players want an epic tale of romance and want violence to be rare, dramatic, and consequential, *they will come into conflict*. It's even worse if the player with the differing assumptions is the game runner.

Anyway I hate being the person defending D&D because WotC is bad. But, as someone who plays a lot of other games, including games by people who have expressed exactly this opinion - that D&D is about violence in a way that other games are not - I keep coming back to it, not because of marketing but because of community, because of modularity, and because of the, frankly, wide breadth of things it does well.

If you want to play D&D, acquire the sourcebooks without giving WotC money [in an entirely legal way], buy supplements and adventures by other, smaller companies, and have fun how you want to have fun.

@tindall I think the conversation is a poorly disguised attempt to get the people who play d&d as something other than a fantasy wargame to explore indie rpgs that better serve their interests

@clayote sure but I don't see why we can't just say that

If the reason is that it doesn't work, we should interrogate why people are sticking to D&D!

@tindall what's to interrogate? Hasbro has a much better marketing machine than some hipsters on

@clayote that's obviously true but I don't think it's sufficient to explain the difference. ActiBlizz has better marketing than indie devs on itch but indie video games have better market share than indie ttrpgs, in general

@clayote and, if it really is the only reason, that's a golden opportunity for someone to get some VC money. I'm generally against that kind of thing but if the only problem is the market I do think the market can help solve the issue

@tindall indie videogames have more market share than indie ttrpgs because videogames have more market share than ttrpgs, generally

And word of mouth is a legit marketing tactic, so people are using it. In this case, by posting provocations

@clayote I meant "market share" as in a percentage of people who play games in that medium; iirc the ORR report from 2019 says that >65% of games on Roll20 were D&D or a D&D descendant, and WotC claims it's more than that in the general market.

@tindall @clayote 1) some people at their tables only/primarily/at all want to play DnD
2) some people turn this into a moral panic (and have for at least years) about... anything
3) no one involved has enough experience with collaborative anything to identify their own problems and propose constructive solutions

I think that's why

@tindall playing D&D is not really playing. It is historical enactment. There are soo many better RPGs and rule sets these days.

@jens_d I'm not sure what you mean. Is playing chess not playing, either?

@tindall chess is a classic game. D&D was a prototype. We now have games like Rune Quest or Vampire The Masquerade or Call of Cuthulhu...

@jens_d are you saying that VtM and CoC are categorically better than D&D in every way? That seems hard to defend.

@tindall D&D is a primitive hack & slay & level up game. You hardly need dice. High level Character
wins the fight anyway.

@jens_d I don't agree with you, on an experiential and factual level. It's good to play other games but D&D is also pretty good.

@tindall this just reminds me of, the 80s?
Where d&d was very villanized

@tindall Also, I quite like biffing things in games. Nothing wrong with a game being “about violence” if that’s what you want to play

@ghost_bird Absolutely. To the credit of folks talking about this, I think they recognize that and acknowledge it.

@tindall @ghost_bird I remember one night where we didn't advance in the plot at all, because we were too busy with shenanigans in the fictional tavern. One of our game masters was really good at filling the game with jokes and puns and nonsense. No power gamers at our table!

@gunchleoc Power gaming’s related but not identical. You can absolutely have a game of combat without power gaming

@ghost_bird We did combat too of course, it's part of the game. What we did though was to abolish the XP system and simply decide as a group when it was time to level up, so that we wouldn't level up too fast.

@gunchleoc One of the things I like about 5e is they made that an official option. It always made more sense to me, really, but that’s because I tend to focus on narrative

@ghost_bird We always had some house rules, e.g. the skill "Dangerous half knowledge" which was the most fun when you rolled badly.

@gunchleoc Nice. I’ll have to borrow that for something :-)

@tindall Case in point: We joined a friend's campaign mid-stream and were introduced into the scene as a spy targeting this doofus of a noble who'd allied himself with the bad guys. Plan was he'd make an amusing midboss to destroy and then we'd be rescued and join the party and go from there.

Instead, they took him alive, I was like "hey while we're escorting him anyway I should talk things out," we forged a connection and face-turned him and he's our idiot himbo sidekick/helper/son now.

@tindall To some extent, that feels a bit like a nature/nurture argument.

There may be players with a greater or lesser natural inclination toward violence (or any particular kind of play) but on the other hand, the context of the rules provide direction on what type of play the game nurtures.

D&D might do politics in a pinch if the players want it enough, but it doesn't do it /well./ Microscope doesn't do violence /well./

As always, the final result is a mix of both in different percents.

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