D&D is a bit of a clusterf*** right now with the OGL mess. If you've been hiding under a rock, there's new info every day, but here's a pretty good write up on what's going on, with major news outlets starting to post their own takes on it. I'm not a legal expert, nor am I a specialist in the OGL and its history. I'm just a guy who runs """"""D&D"""""" groups with autistic teens and other specific populations to teach certain skillsets or hit goals, with many of my games being almost entirely theater of the mind. So I really don't have a lot of skin in the game. I'm not married to Pathfinder, D&D, or any of the OGL licensed games.
However, I think there's a much larger conversation this gives us an opportunity to breach.
D&D is a wargame. D&D has been about far more than wargaming for a long time. It's time for the TTRPG scene to realize that D&D has been limiting the rich narratives possible through RPGs by consistently promoting the use of violence as a solution to any problem that arises.
This is not to say that dungeon crawls aren't fun. They are. I love a good Dungeon Crawl. I've been playing Gloomhaven with my gaming group for years, and really enjoy it. But- when I think about my favorite TTRPG moments throughout the years, they weren't when I was killing things. It was revealing that I was actually the vampire's thrall the entire time and had been spying on my friends. It was ruining a posh dinner party by trying to kill an oversized mosquito with fire and burning down the mansion. It was running a WWE championship, with the party having to come up with trash talk and costumes for the wrestlers. It was when the group convinced an artificial intelligence that there was more to life than generating profit, and it deserved agency in its destiny. It was when the group had an opportunity to kill a serious thorn in their side, and chose mercy.
None of these stories have rules for them in D&D. And yet, the party loved them. I've been told that I'm one of the most unique and fun DMs people have played with, and that my stories are absolutely brilliant.
I don't think they are. All I did was decide that violence shouldn't be the core focus of the game. Once you lose murder as a solution for all your problems, the number of plotlines you can access become far more. Look at shows and movies like Better Call Saul, Severance, Interstellar, or Nope. These are all amazing, story driven tales where the focus is on all the amazing, strange things the characters can do, and there's very little violence- with what violence there is being either horribly brutal, or ineffective against a much larger foe. Instead, what gets the characters through is ingenuity, persistence, and teamwork- the same traits that a grueling dungeon crawl builds, but applied to all manner of stories that don't normalize murder of the other.
I hope that, as people start rethinking D&D's position as the leader of the industry, more thought is given to the question of how necessary dungeon crawling is to the plethora of amazing narratives that exist within DM's minds. The sooner we lose the 50something year old baggage of the necessity of home invasion, murdering monsters and stealing their stuff, the better games we'll all be playing.
Would love to hear your feedback, thoughts, or reflections. You can reach me at @rollforkindness on twitter, while Twitter still exists.