As is the way of GenCon, awards are bestowed during the Ennie Awards. This year, as I was looking over the nominees, and the actual award winners I was struck by a sort of paradox. On one hand, the hobby has really moved on from Dungeons & Dragons. On the other hand, it is as relevant as ever. I’ll try and explain because it might seem like an odd thing to say.
The first part of this situation is that, it doesn’t win all the awards, or recieve all the accolades. In fact, the RPG hobby seems to have developed this weird sort of tiered organization. D&D is definitely the “gateway drug” so to speak since it is the most well-known brand in the gaming industry. However, if you look at the games that are played and considered top quality, as much as people like D&D, it isn’t the top choice for fans. Once upon a time, this was absolutely not that case. D&D set the pace that most others had to follow, at least in my opinion. Ever since White Wolf dethroned D&D for awhile in the 90’s, and certainly since 4th Edition, the games vanguard name has sort of taken a step back in notoriety. In a way, it has become the way to enter the hobby, but many people move on to play other games once they find out what RPGs can offer. I think this is normal, but it’s interesting to see where D&D stands in the hobby relative to other games.
Now granted, I’m basing on this exclusively on this years Ennies, so take this whole post with a grain of salt.
The part that intrigues me though is that Wizards of the Coast was awarded Gold Medal for Publisher of the Year. This is why I’m sort of stuck on this paradox. When I looked at which game seemed to be getting all the attention this year, it really appeared as if Modiphius was going to be the top choice for publisher. Tales From the Loop won a lot of awards, and has garnered a lot of positive feedback from all over the gaming community. Instead, Wizards of the Coast took top honors. As the publisher of D&D, this makes the first RPG as important as it ever was.
I can’t help but mull this situation though. Almost everyone I know started with D&D, and then moved on to something else. While D&D has basically become a legacy brand (a topic I’ll pick up in another post), it still clearly plays a very significant role in the industry it helped create.
Kudos to the winners of the awards, and I look forward to trying some of these products out. (For example, the 7th Sea Basic Rules that won Best Free Product). No matter how the hobby mutates and evolves, there are many constants. Apparently, the appeal of D&D is one of the constants, even if the rest of the hobby has almost developed into an entirely separate entity.