With Dungeons & Dragons going full blast on the marketing push for its big 2024 update, the player base is divided. It’s not so dramatic as to say that there’s a line being driven that could end DnD as we know it. It’s just that, in the age of social media, everything is going to garner very vocal reactions from all different sides. Furthermore, there’s many smart creators out there who know how to capitalize on discontent to push their own products. Thus, several “DnD Killers” have emerged over the last two years. 

But what does MCDM mean? Why did this DC20 Kickstarter thing take over our Instagram feeds for a while? And what exactly is a “DnD Killer”? 

First off, there’s no such thing as a game that will end Dungeons & Dragons. The brand has exceeded being just a game and is now a household name. It’s t-shirts, figurines, coffee mugs, video games, and anything else you can slap a logo on. No matter how great or financially successful a new game is, it won’t dethrone DnD as a cultural icon. The “DnD Killer” descriptor is something largely used by YouTube to dramatize things for clicks. 

What actually exists are some enticing crowdfunding projects that play similarly to DnD Fifth Edition (5E) but aim to tackle specific criticisms of the famous game. The creators took inspiration from older DnD editions, other tabletop RPGs, storytelling styles, and their own house rules to create games they’d find fun. Here is a breakdown of those games and what made them so successful. 

Tales Of The Valiant

via: Kobold Press

Perhaps the first to capitalize on the DnD Killer hype was Tales of the Valiant (TOV) from Kobold Press. Back in early 2023, DnD publisher Wizards of the Coast got into hot water over a very bad business decision. It’s a whole saga involving ownership of the game rules and who gets the right to create content, but the end result was enraging the majority of DnD players. Kobold Press seized the chance to kickstart its own take on DnD 5E, TOV, and raised over $1 million. At the time, a brand name like Avatar: The Last Airbender was usually needed for a TTRPG Kickstarter to gain such funding. 

What allowed Kobold Press to get TOV out so quickly, and the secret to its success, is that it is very similar to DnD 5E. Kobold Press already had many popular 5E supplement books under its belt, such as the Tome of Beasts series that offers more deadly monsters to fight. This combination of DnD development experience and a ready-made list of 5E improvements laid a clear path for TOV’s direction. The result is a more tactical version of DnD 5E gameplay. Players get more ways to use their Bonus Actions while GMs can use Doom to amp up boss fights. Overall, TOV is great for DnD groups looking for more challenge without wanting to learn a lot of new rules. 

Play Tales of the Valiant here!


via: BackerKit

While some so-called “DnD Killers” try to replicate the 5E experience, the MCDM RPG falls more in line with DnD 4E. It also plays similarly to tactical video games. It’s the creation of popular YouTube DM Matt Colville, hence MCDM. Name recognition and hype carried this one to great heights even though it isn’t fully releasing until 2025. The crowdfunding campaign on BackerKit raised over $4 million, showing just how much TTRPG fans value the take of Colville and his designer friends. 

Epic heroic fantasy is the name of the game with MCDM RPG. One of the bold rules revealed during early previews is that attacks never miss. Instead, players roll and use resources to determine how hard they hit or if they apply additional effects. Most characters also have access to magical abilities so that they offer more than just hitting things. There is still a sense of defined party roles, however, like you’d see in a Final Fantasy or Fire Emblem game. The end result seems to be a game where each player character gets several chances to do something amazing every session. 


via: Darrington Press

Name recognition can take a product very far. Just look at Daggerheart, an original fantasy TTRPG from Critical Role. Daggerheart design is led by Spenser Starke, who also made Alice is Missing and Candela Obscura. Critical Role DM Matthew Mercer is also a part of the design team. The excitement of the Critter fandom alone was enough to generate massive buzz when Daggerheart’s open beta was announced. Daggerheart does not have crowdfunding numbers to analyze, but the sheer amount of discussion around the first open beta answers the question of interest. 

Daggerheart gameplay strikes a middle ground between the numerous rules of DnD and a more free-flowing narrative system like Powered by the Apocalypse. You’ll find options for tactical combat using grid maps if you want, alongside dice mechanics aimed at creating dramatic story moments. After playing a few sessions, you can definitely tell it was created with the Critical Role cast in mind. Many TTRPG critics have found the Daggerheart rules too vague, while more roleplay-oriented fans love the back-and-forth between GMs and players. 

Play Daggerheart here!


via: The Dungeon Coach

The DC20 Kickstarter campaign was the latest to the “DnD Killer” party but certainly not the least. It raised $2 million by offering the “new evolution” of TTRPGs. Like the others here, it began with a YouTuber (Dungeon Coach) deciding that there’s a better way to play DnD 5E. And a fan base ready to put their money into proving him right. 

DC20’s take on DnD is easy to learn, hard to master. It uses a four-action economy, meaning players can do up to four things of their choice each turn instead of being strictly limited to an Action and Bonus action. Death Saves are more dire and damage dice are eliminated to quicken turns and keep the battle flowing. Characters are reduced to four core stats to simplify creation, while customization upon leveling up is expanded to allow tactical players to go as deep as they’d like. DC20 just finished its Kickstarter and is aiming for a mid-2025 release. 

Play DC20 here!

And those are the four big “DnD Killers” in play at the moment. There’s likely to be more stepping up to the plate as long as these crowdfunding campaigns keep bringing in millions. There’s also more DnD 5E hacks coming out based on beloved movies and TV shows, such as Adventure TIme: The Roleplaying Game. Only time–and the post-release reception to DnD 2024–will tell if these games stake a lasting claim in the marketplace. 

Jul 4, 2024