Talking Brands: DUNGEONS & DRAGONS celebrates its 50th anniversary this year… What’s the secret to its longevity?

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, Hasbro, James Wallis, Ian Downes, Lee Allentuck, Heather Delaney, Luc Hudson, Barry McLaughlin

“It’s more than a game, it’s the progenitor of a whole new form of entertainment”: As D&D turns 50, we asked figures in the industry for their thoughts as to why it continues to survive – and thrive!

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, Hasbro, James Wallis, Ian Downes, Lee Allentuck, Heather Delaney, Luc Hudson, Barry McLaughlinJames Wallis, Author of Everybody Wins
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is more than a game, it’s the progenitor of a whole new form of entertainment: participatory storytelling. It’s a gateway to a shared imaginary world, and that’s what makes it so powerful as a property. Because it encourages repeat play more than any other tabletop game, it can quickly become a hobby in its own right, and even a lifestyle – and that makes it a natural for selling accessories and merchandise.

It’s not for everyone – no game is – but 40 years ago it changed my life and introduced me to people who are still friends, and that’s a powerful thing. I don’t wear D&D t-shirts myself, but if I see someone who is then I’ll strike up a conversation – and it’ll usually be a good one.

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, Hasbro, James Wallis, Ian Downes, Lee Allentuck, Heather Delaney, Luc Hudson, Barry McLaughlinIan Downes, Director, Start Licensing
My sense is that DUNGEONS & DRAGONS has survived and thrived as it’s a central hub at the heart of a very engaged community. It has brought like-minded people together and the brand has valued the relationship it has with its fans. It’s a relationship that has been nurtured carefully over the years and I think this philosophy has carried over into licensing.

When developing a licensing programme, it’s important to understand what fans like about a property and be sensitive to their requirements. This is even more acute when dealing with a brand like D&D. I think it’s important that designs are selected with care, appropriate products are developed and the whole licensing experience feels authentic. In many ways, it’s easier these days for brand owners to understand what makes a brand tick from a fans’ perspective… I would imagine Hasbro spend a lot of time listening to the fans and trying to deliver a brand experience that meets their needs.

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, Hasbro, James Wallis, Ian Downes, Lee Allentuck, Heather Delaney, Luc Hudson, Barry McLaughlinLee Allentuck, Founder, The Plan A Group
Long Live the AV Club!

Celebrating 50 years of epic quests and legendary stories, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is more than a game – it’s a foundational stone in the vast kingdom of role-playing games. This pioneering adventure didn’t just open a door to new realms; it conjured an entire universe, inspiring a multitude of RPGs that have followed in its footsteps. The “halo effect” of D&D has been profound, casting a radiant glow that has enlightened the entire genre, setting a gold standard for imagination, community, and storytelling.

At the heart of D&D’s enduring allure is its unparalleled ability to weave complex narratives, fostering an environment where creativity knows no bounds. This game transformed dining tables into battlegrounds and living rooms into enchanted forests, proving that the most powerful magic of all lies within our collective imagination. By encouraging players to step into the boots of bold heroes and craft their own stories, D&D laid the groundwork for a new kind of gaming; one that’s as rich and varied as the characters that populate its worlds.

As for the game levelling up into a lifestyle brand beyond the usual loot – apparel, accessories, you name it – the trick lies in its knack for forging a sense of belonging. Wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a cheeky D&D pun or sporting a beholder beanie isn’t just fashion; it’s a flag that signals your allegiance to a tribe of imaginative adventurers. It’s about showing off your character class in the real world, whether you’re a stealthy rogue at heart or a charismatic bard.

As we celebrate half a century of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, we’re not just marking the milestone of a game but honouring the birth of a genre that has captivated the hearts and minds of generations. D&D’s impact is as undeniable as a critical hit, a cultural touchstone that has inspired countless game developers, writers, and creatives. It’s the grand adventure that started it all, a game that not only pioneered the RPG genre but also continues to shape its future.

Long live D&D; a game that rolled a natural 20 and changed the world of gaming forever. Here’s to the next 50 years of adventure, storytelling, and the endless possibilities that lie just a dice roll away.

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, Hasbro, James Wallis, Ian Downes, Lee Allentuck, Heather Delaney, Luc Hudson, Barry McLaughlinHeather Delaney, MD & Founder, Gallium Ventures
D&D has continued to thrive and inspire for 50 years due to its unique blend of storytelling, creativity and social interaction. The game taps into fundamental human desires for imagination and camaraderie, offering a platform where players can craft their own narratives and explore fantastical worlds together. The flexibility of the game – allowing for diverse playstyles and settings – ensures that it remains relevant and adaptable to changing tastes, along with the ability to play anywhere at any time.

Beyond being a game, D&D has evolved into a cultural phenomenon, with a strong sense of community. It has become a shared experience, fostering friendships and transcending generational boundaries. The rise of online platforms has also enabled players to create lasting connections with others across the globe, all the while making it accessible to a broader audience.

Moreover, D&D’s expansion into various media – such as TV shows, movies and novels – has helped it reach new audiences and prove that it’s accessible to all. This multi-platform approach ensures that the brand remains dynamic and continues to capture the imagination of consumers beyond the tabletop. By embracing diverse forms of entertainment and merchandise, D&D has become a lifestyle brand, weaving itself into the fabric of popular culture and ensuring its relevance for years to come.

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, Hasbro, James Wallis, Ian Downes, Lee Allentuck, Heather Delaney, Luc Hudson, Barry McLaughlinLuc Hudson, Creative Director, Triclops Studio
As a reluctantly non-playing fan of the classic game, I get my fix via artworks, fantasy novels and epic video games of which I am an ardent fan, from Skyrim to Fable and Divinity. I think that immersion in a Tolkienesque high fantasy world is always going to be attractive because if it’s well-written and presented, it feels almost plausible. The faux-medieval setting – with added magic and other-worldly creatures and races – is a far enough step away from contemporary reality to be the perfect escape for players. The notion of role-playing as the person, wizard or monster that you would be in real life – were it not for stupid stuff like the law, or your parents, getting in the way – is also an attractive prospect.

Because there is no tech in classic D&D (although many players now campaign with friends online), the gameplay is timeless and accessible – and the basic theme is quite literally the stuff of legends. The current iterations share the fundamentals of the original game, including the chance to share an immersive adventure with friends and reason and dice-roll your way to victory and/or an untimely death.

The popularity of avatar customisation in video games echoes the rise of cosplay in the real-world. Many fans feel a real connection to the characters they play in D&D, but this doesn’t necessarily directly translate to real-world consumer products, perhaps because the sheer diversity of D&D players means that there is no ‘one-size fits all’ sweet spot in merch terms.

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, Hasbro, James Wallis, Ian Downes, Lee Allentuck, Heather Delaney, Luc Hudson, Barry McLaughlinBarry McLaughlin, Co-Founder, Barry & Jason Games and Entertainment
D&D is one of, if not the most, immersive of all tabletop games, and I think as people continue looking for alternatives to screens, it’s a perfect experience. You get to be part of crafting a live story, where there’s imagination and discovery, fantasy, skill, and luck. I think it’s much better for our brains, nervous systems, and relationships than virtual reality, but just as engaging!

As for why it does so well outside of the tabletop too, I think that’s because the world of D&D is so open-ended. To me, it represents fantasy in an unlimited sense… It can literally be anything the imagination can cook up, as long as there’s some magic, some heroes, and a monster or two. The world is your Wand of Orcus! Riiight??

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