Random RPG Thoughts #3: Why is D&D so niche?

Dungeons & Dragons once was a huge hit amongst teenagers. And to some teenagers it still is. Except that some of them are now forty plus year old teenagers. Yet, certainly now in Europe, it is niche.

Science Fiction is a hit amongst many people, as a genre. Star Wars is one of the all time box office hits. But Science Fiction for people at large is... niche.

Fantasy is hot amongst teenagers. Lord of the Rings is an all time box office hit and a huge New Zealand mega production. Even the book it was based on is an all time hit, reluctantly admitted on literature lists in college. Bu fantasy as a genre is... niche.

Even since Harry Potter. Which is a brilliant concept coming of age series. Brilliant at least in the sense that Harry Potter and the novels grew in age with their audience. It thus gained a growing grown up audience. But even Harry Potter is a bit... niche. Mainstream niche perhaps. But nerdy niche.

Naturally, D&D and other typical role playing games are more niche than HP. Even since World of Warcraft - which is at least akin to tabletop role playing.

Most sensible grown ups will not come near the games. Why not?

Several reasons I guess. To name a few:

1. Typical RPG rules are way to complex, rulebooks are way to thick, and it appears to take a week long course to even start understanding the game. I suspect this is one of the most important put offs.

2. Typical RPG games look childish in a way, or simple minded. Mindless slaying of monsters and looting of treasure may seem a bit nerdy and adolescent.

3. Too few sexy women play the game. Including the typical party-going kind. This may have to do with reason #1. It may also have to do with reason #2. The game itself seems unsexy.

4. The competition element is unclear. Or at least the goal of the game is. This may be why How to Host a Murder games may not be so niche, even if they have small audiences too. There the goal for an evenings play is clearly set.

So, if you'd eliminate these points. Simple rules, less childish themes (and I do not mean adult themes instead), a sexier concept, and a clear goal for the evening. Would you entice a less niche audience?

I'd love to know!


  1. My take on the last question is yes, but it would be a very different game. I think in order to grow the audience of the game we know and love, its dependent on inclusive DMs to be ambassadors for the game and spread the love!

  2. But fantasy games are sometimes The thing for those bearded old gamers. But they grew up in fantasy boom with D&D so that's in their blood.

  3. So, in number 3 you are implying women don't like complex things?

    No wonder they don't play with you with that attitude.

  4. @JFM You totally misconstrued the writer's argument, and I can assure you that Jaap never has had a shortage of women to RPG with him :-)

    Back to the issue at hand: I am sure that tabletop RPG's have always been a niche hobby, even in the golden days.
    There are so many different passive and active ways to satisfy your fantasy/rpg needs nowadays that people would tend to spend their time in the easier/more convenient ways. Despite their faults, MMORPG's and cRPG's do tick a lot of the same boxes as tabletop roleplaying without having to make RL apointments with all the logistics that entails.

    I think there's no fewer roleplayers than there were before, the ways that they exercise their hobby has become more diffuse.

  5. @JFM: Hahahaha! :-) If they do not, I say they're right :-)

    Still, despite that there ARE sexy women playing rpgs, just as there are sexy men doing same, the game tends to be male dominated. Just figure how many RPG blogs out there are written (and read) by men, compared to those by women.