Dungeons & Dragons Historian Ben Riggs’ Open Letter to WOTC

Ben Riggs is a D&D historian and writer of the e-book Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons & Dragons.

Expensive Wizards of the Coast,

Hello! I wrote a history of your company again when it was referred to as TSR. I additionally train seventh and eighth grade, so for the previous 15 years, I’ve watched 12 months after 12 months as children uncover, and go ga-ga for, D&D.

I’m penning this letter as a result of I need you to succeed. Frankly, I believe all true-hearted D&D followers need to see your organization do effectively and produce incredible merchandise which can be worthwhile. So I eagerly watched your media events these previous few weeks, particularly D&D Direct and the content material creator summit. There are some good concepts there, however I need to be sincere with you. On the whole, I’d charge them as meh. I believe D&D has room for exponential development, and none of these concepts are going to gas that type of improve.

TTRPGs are literally a titanically troublesome product to make some huge cash on. Drop $150 on rulebooks and campaigns and you may play for years with out ever making one other buy. Bizarre, proper? We D&D followers really don’t have any must ever buy something from you ever once more. (But practically all of us need to!)

I perceive you’re attempting to get more cash from gamers. Once more, that’s wonderful by me! I can’t watch for a beautiful Atlas of Neverwinter and Edgin the Bard socks. I hope your VTT is so incredible that I need to use it on a regular basis and twice on Sunday. Nonetheless, will any of that basically develop the sport’s participant base exponentially? In all probability not. I perceive a variety of you might have backgrounds in video video games, which is smart. Nonetheless, I’d warning you right here as effectively. D&D isn’t a online game. The VTT is not going to make it a online game.

It’s worthwhile to reframe your pondering. Don’t consider D&D as merchandise. Don’t even consider it as a model. Undoubtedly don’t consider it as a online game.

D&D is the primary and most well-known tabletop role-playing sport, and tabletop role-playing video games are an authentic and radical medium. A TTRPG is one thing new to do with paper, pencils, and the human thoughts that was invented in 1974. Think about performing was invented in 1974, and that we’re a mere 50 years into seeing how performing will change tradition. That’s the potential of the TTRPG revolution.

Probably the most superb options of the TTRPG is that it’s infinite. If one began a D&D marketing campaign in 1974 with the primary guidelines launch, one may nonetheless be enjoying that very same sport right now, which is to say telling that very same story right now. Most video video games, in contrast, will be completed and as soon as full require a brand new buy. Video video games are finite. TTRPGs are usually not. They’re a bottomless bottle of vodka, or a automotive that by no means breaks down and doesn’t even want gasoline.

So how do you earn cash off a brand new medium which, after an preliminary buy, by no means requires one other? It’s difficult, however it may be finished. Essentially the most profitable fashions are sports activities and faith. (I need to be clear right here I’m not denigrating religions, nor am I making some type of reality declare for D&D.) And the important thing to unlocking a much bigger, brighter, and extra worthwhile future for D&D isn’t at Wizards, not at Hasbro, and satirically it isn’t with the gamers, no.

It’s the Dungeon Masters.

The world over, a whole lot of hundreds if not tens of millions of Dungeon Masters ask folks to strive D&D for the primary time. They clarify the foundations. They setup D&D nights. They determine who’s bringing the chips, and who’s bringing the dip. They actually promote your product for you, they usually do it totally free. Take into account this straightforward math. If there have been solely 10 Dungeon Masters in the entire world, however yearly, every DM satisfied one different individual to change into a DM, inside 20 years, you might have over 20 million Dungeon Masters.

You’re going to earn cash by radically rising the quantity of people that play D&D. And you’ll do this by making the lives of these tens of millions of Dungeon Masters a lot, a lot simpler than they’re now.

As chances are you’ll know, there’s a Dungeon Grasp scarcity. Individuals are intimidated to DM. They fear about realizing the foundations. They fear about mastering the journey, or writing their very own. That places a brake, even perhaps a ceiling, on D&D development. Somebody could also be a Important Function fanatic, but when they’ll’t discover a D&D sport to play in, they could by no means change into a D&D fan.

So how do you make a DM’s life simpler?

First, you’re at the moment producing the very best model of D&D that has ever been in existence. Moreover, having watched dozens of 12-year-olds play via the Starter Set, I also can let you know that product does a wonderful job of educating the sport. That mentioned, you must produce a ten to twenty web page pamphlet that might be out there free in your web site of an important D&D guidelines. Proceed utilizing the web and YouTube to create content material explaining D&D and your merchandise. Perhaps even type of audio journey summaries so as an alternative of studying, a DM might pay attention to organize? Perhaps learn by an present D&D superstar?

However outdoors the Starter Set, your different adventures and campaigns are a wildly combined bag. I do know that numerous droves of D&D followers will purchase your books regardless of the standard or content material, however making lifelong followers requires producing incredible adventures. marketing campaign each conjures up DMs to run it and makes their lives simpler. I don’t know the way your books are produced, however based mostly on the ultimate merchandise I’ve seen, you must do the next:

Campaigns ought to have one to a few authors. Add extra with solely nice warning…

Campaigns must be pitched by authors & designers.

You must pay your sport designers like they’re engaged on video video games, and you must give writers royalties.

There must be a constant format for campaigns that carries over from e-book to e-book.

Time for playtesting must be included in your manufacturing cycle. It must be measured in months.

Your books have to be shorter! Incorporate twenty first century RPG structure & design.

Return to the boxed set! Create handouts, maps, character portraits, in-game journals, & clues to go together with the sport. (Additionally make PDFs of these goodies out there.)

What else are you able to do? Are you able to make a type of Dungeon Mastering graduate faculty, with maybe particular merchandise solely out there for buy by graduates? Are you able to run DM contests at gaming conventions? Winners get swag, journeys to Renton, honor, glory, and many others. Are you able to create some type of Academy Awards for DMs? There’s an awards ceremony, with superstar presenters.

That each one could seem absurd. And the way does it result in income? Nicely take into account in a world with 20 million Dungeon Masters, you in all probability have 100 million gamers. 113 million folks watched the Tremendous Bowl in 2023. If D&D is a sport with a fan base on par with that of the NFL, think about the income from t-shirt gross sales alone. Moreover, take into account that these ideas are usually not about changing what you’re doing now. Quite, such a re-focusing on the DM will increase your present efforts. Extra DMs and extra gamers make your VTT extra helpful and extra worthwhile, for instance.

In order that’s the best way it appears from the place I sit. I want you the very best of luck. The film was superior!


Ben Riggs

D&D Historian Extraordinaire

Need extra io9 information? Take a look at when to anticipate the most recent Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s subsequent for the DC Universe on film and TV, and every little thing it’s essential to find out about the way forward for Doctor Who.

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