Kate Welch on Why D&D is so Memorable

Todd Kenreck: Today I'm talking to my friend Kate Welch who is the latest member of the D&D team about the popularity of D&D and why it's so memorable.

Kate Welch: You have, it's sort of a perfect storm, you have this game that is incredibly accessible, that requires so so very little materially of you in order to become involved in it. Then you also have the rise of the popularity of games like Critical Role. Between those two things, I think you have the perfect user experience, frankly. You have ease of use, and you have virality.

I never hear a story about "Wow, my Dungeons & Dragons game really sucked." It's always enjoyable. Even if you don't have the best DM in the world, or you have weird interpersonal stuff, Dungeons & Dragons is always fun. If fulfills the promise that you believe that it has almost 100% of the time. The appeal for me, personally, certainly is I love Theater of the Mind more than anything, I love to imagine. I think that what D&D does really well is that it gives adults permission to pretend, and a framework to pretend. It's a socially acceptable framework for pretending. We don't get to do that. Once you're not a kid anymore, unless you get to be an actor, but even then you're not making up your own stories, you're telling someone else's, but we don't get to pretend anymore when we grow up. I think that pretending in storytelling is a basically human need, it's something that we use to communicate for hundreds of thousands of years.

D&D gives you this sort of basic human satisfaction of storytelling and crafting. Plus, I have no idea if this is scientifically valid, but I'm going to say it anyway, I suspect that there's something in the human brain when you are actively collaborating to invent something with other people, I think those memories stick around a lot longer, because I can tell you everything that happened in my Dungeons & Dragons game in 2012, or whatever. But, I don't what else I was doing in my life. What job did I have? Where was I living? I have no clue. But I can describe everything that was happening in that campaign. I notice that as a trend with people. It's like they remember what happened in their games when they were kids. There's also like you form these memories of these things that you all collaboratively created, then you remember them forever. I don't know, I feel like there's something psychological that D&D taps into as well.

For the most part, it's not much convincing that you have to do anymore. People already know they're intrigued by it, they've read about it, they've heard about it, people they know play it. For that final nudge of like "Hey, if you ever want to play, I'll DM a game for you." Is not a hard sell anymore. I've been able to run now three or four games with at least one new player. I just, I try to let them know, especially for the first time, you don't need to do any work, I will do all of the setup for you, I will do all the prep, I will make sure that you have fun. All you have to do is show up and keep your mind open, which is probably exactly what you would say if you'd invited someone to like a weird orgy. But-

Todd Kenreck: How is that media training going?

Kate Welch: What's the difference? (laughing) I would say this on Twitter, this is fun. But yeah, just keep an open mind and make sure ... the other thing that I do is when someone is first starting out they're very shy, because in any games that you have played before, unless you've played a lot of table top RPGs, if you come from video game culture, everything is structured, there's a right and a wrong way, even if it's an open sandbox game. You still have to like, if you want to move, you have to press forward on the thumb stick, there is a programmed way to interact with something. In D&D that programming is so much looser and really constrained by just a few numbers. In every other way, you can just use your imagination. New players tend to sort of disappear inside themselves at first, they'll be like "What's the right thing? What am I supposed to do right now?" Leading them by saying "There's no wrong way."

Then, if they're still reticent, I'll be like "Okay, your fighter has a noble background, do you think that he trained in a castle?" They'll be like "Yeah, yeah." I was like "Okay, was it a cold castle?" Try to get like leading questions out of them, and get their imaginations going. Once they understand there's no wrong answer to any of these questions, then I start to see it like blossom out of them. They realize like "Oh, I can do whatever I want. This is amazing. This is a different kind of game from anything I've ever played." Then I think that's where they start to see the magic of D&D and that switch flips in their head.

Especially after the events of the past calendar year for me, I've just been ... it's clearly like my destiny, for lack of a better term, has led me to Dungeons & Dragons, and now I sound like a crazy person on the camera.

Todd Kenreck: I mean, you sound like a crazy person off camera.

Kate Welch: Thanks, Todd. Just edit this to make me seem as little crazy as possible.




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