Tabletop roleplaying games have been a hobby embraced by outsiders for decades; a space where players can tap into their creativity and immerse themselves in fantastical worlds. However, the acquisition of Wizards of the Coast (and therefore D&D) by Hasbro has led a profit-driven market consolidation of this beloved hobby. With the release of a new OGL that fundamentally prevents small publishers from contributing to their favorite games, it's time to finally ditch D&D and move on to games created by small publishers.
When large corporate-backed publishers come at game design from a profit-motive, their offerings can become homogenous. Repeating the same old thing is safe and locking ideas behind copyrights and paywalls is a necessity to protect investment. Small publishers, on the other hand, have the freedom to take risks and explore new and unique ideas, leading to a wider variety of themes, narrative styles, and technical executions. This diversity not only benefits players but also helps to keep the industry fresh as a whole.
Small publishers also provide a sense of real community that Wizards simply cannot create. Small publishers are run by passionate and dedicated individuals who are just as invested in the hobby as their players; marketing themselves and their games means going into the communities they serve, something Wizards simply cannot do.
Furthermore, they often have a direct line of communication with their customers and can respond quickly to feedback and suggestions. This level of engagement and connection helps to foster a sense of community among players, which is essential for the growth and sustainability of the hobby. Hasbro has shown they are unwilling to listen to feedback around the OGL changes as well as the actual contents of their products.
Small publishers also provide opportunities for new designers and artists to break into the industry. Many large publishers have strict submission guidelines and a rigorous selection process, making it difficult for new creators to get their work seen. Small publishers, on the other hand, are often more open to new ideas and are more likely to give new artists and designers a chance to showcase their talents.
Small TTRPG publishers are a vital part of the industry and should be supported and celebrated for the unique and valuable contributions they make. As Wizards and Hasbro struggle with the new OGL, consider picking up a new TTRPG by a small publisher.