Asked on Twitter:
He didn’t specify vs. other RGPs, but I’m going to frame it that way, because I think it makes the answers more interesting. We all know why TTRPGs in general are so loved and replayable. But why does D&D specifically inspire so much dedication? It’s been 40 years, there’s been plenty of time for someone else to come out with something new and better. Ford made the first mass produced car, but after 40 years, there was a ton of competition.
It’s the magic
I have a few theories, but my main one is one that wasn’t mentioned in that thread is magic. The fact that it’s a fantasy world with magic suffused throughout it means that you never have to justify anything with logic. Why are there dragons, and how do they fly and breathe fire? Magic. How is the paladin immune to disease? Magic. Magic means that any ability is possible.
PCs are Superheroes
PCs in D&D are effectively superheroes. They can fly, shoot lasers, get superhuman strength, turn invisible… superheroes.
The problem with most actual superhero RPGs is that they’re usually set in the modern world with an assumed “normal earth” as the default. Which means your enemies are almost always humans (with the occasional alien invasion, but that can’t be too common). Everything is based on reality… and reality is really boring.
Sure, you can get complicated scenarios where there’s an oil tanker rigged to explode and the Supers need to disarm it etc… and that can be exciting, but it’s a lot of work to set up and requires a lot of logic in how things are configured, because of course it has to be realistic, because the basis is reality.
Monsters are cool
Have you ever played D&D where you only ever fight humans? It would be boring. Unfortunately, that’s the default for a lot of non-D&D RPGs… and it just gets tiring. It’s like yet another fight against Nazis in Indiana Jones.
In D&D, the DM can just throw new interesting monsters in your way and spice up things that way. The DM can give opponents weird magical abilities that maybe don’t make perfectly logical sense in the real world, but are still fun in-game. And no one’s going to argue the realism, because it’s just a fantasy world.
People want fantasy
I think this all comes back to being fantasy. We deal with reality every day, why would we want to play there, too? In a fantasy realm, literally anything is possible. Violence is bad in the real world, but in a fantasy world, when you know you’re fighting someone evil, it makes for a straightforward approach to resolve a problem. It feels good to just be able to straight out fight the bad guys, rather than have to try to out-fundraise them, like we do in real life.
What do you think? Why do you think D&D is so popular vs. other TTRPGs?