The senior director of Dungeons & Dragons has a surprising answer about where the game still has room for growth. Dungeons & Dragons has experienced a major surge in popularity over the last few years, to the point where the game can now be bought at major retailers like Target. Dungeons & Dragons is expanding on the mass retail market with the release of the D&D Essentials Kit, a new boxed set that contains a quick guide on how to build your own D&D character, plus a new introductory adventure and a variant set of rules for two players.
ComicBook.com had the chance to speak with Nathan Stewart, the Senior Director of Dungeons & Dragons, at D&D Live 2019: The Descent. During the interview, Stewart mentioned that the D&D Essentials Kit came out of a desire to serve a type of player that wasn't being serviced by traditional hobby game stores or Amazon. "The Essentials Kit was born out of conversations with Target asking about what players would buy next after the Starter Kit," Stewart explained, referring to the current D&D boxed set sold in Target's board game section. "Target told us that they didn't think the [D&D] books will merchandise well here because they were training people to go to the gaming section, but they wanted more D&D stuff."
"So it feels like Target is cultivating newer board gamers that we don't think are being serviced by hobby stores or even Amazon based on what we're seeing from the trends," Stewart continued.
Later in the interview, we had the opportunity to ask Stewart what other types of players were underserved by D&D products today. His answer was surprising. "New players," he said. "Brand new players."
"If I can be completely candid, we don't have a solution for this," Stewart continued. "My conversation that I have with Mike [Mearls, one of D&D's lead designers,] all the time, is we do not have a good single player product. There probably never has been in D&D, other than the video games. I would love for a product that a new player could play."
Stewart explained that he wants an introductory product that a brand new player can explore on their own without needing a DM or a group of players and introduces the core mechanics of the game to help players more effortlessly fit into a table without needing the rules explained when they start. "Let's say you have a new player who wants to play with a co-worker and their co-worker tells him to come over on Friday," Stewart said. "So what does that person have to do between now and then? They have to create a character, and they either create one on D&D Beyond or sit down for an hour with a DM and do it together. But when Friday comes around and the new player sits at the table, their DM will describe a scenario with all these crazy things happening. And do you know what that player says? 'What can I do?'"
From there, Stewart noted that the DM usually takes the time to explain how the game works to the new player, explaining the basic rules, what dice to roll, and what types of ability checks the player can make. "There's got to be some fun, light story to have new players go through this stuff, to the point when they show up at the table, and the DM says 'What do you want to do?' the player has three things off the top of their head that they can answer with."
While struggling through that first D&D session may feel like a rite of passage for most D&D players, it can be a barrier of entry into the game, especially for players who feel embarrassed to ask questions or feel like they're being judged by more experienced players. Stewart's answer revealed that the people behind the game are looking for an easier way to "onboard" players so they can dive right into the story of the game without that learning curve hindering them.
"From the product side of things, we want something that DMs and experienced players can point to when someone says 'Hey, I want to play D&D,'" Stewart says. "Then we can say 'Buy this or borrow mine, and let's play on Friday.'"
Are you surprised that the head of D&D feels like they need to find a way for new players to jump into the game easier? Let us know in the comment section, or find me on Twitter at @CHofferCBus to chat all things D&D!