Critical Role and the Rise of D&D



  • Oh, interesting! Do you know how she got involved in this business, if it's recent?
  • One vector was appearing in the series Force Grey, also DMed by Mercer. Though I believe her pedigree goes back further and her DMing is well respected by those in that circle.
  • She always wanted to play in school but didn't have friends who played . 7-8 years ago, she was asking everyone she knew about the game, and found out her manager was a lifelong player, and he introduced her to the game, and then she would not shut up about it to everyone she met. (She's awesome.)
  • edited December 2018
    I just had a vision. Excitingly fun roleplaying has spread across the land. Those game sessions that everyone really wants to be fun but just aren't, are largely a thing of the past. And all the folks who spent so many years and decades trying to help bring this about, with talk and theory and philosophy and design, are just blinking in bemusement, as the conclusion becomes inescapable. They didn't save the world. The cool kids did.
  • I'm fine with that. (And it's not like some of us didn't bump elbows with Mike Mearls when we were trying to save the world.)
  • edited December 2018
    I have no problem with that scenario either, I just think it's hilarious in an absurd sort of way. :)

    And yes, it's true, we may have played some part somewhere in the chain. I like to think so, anyway.
  • I see nothing absurd in that. It looks fairly typical if you have heard about the 'rules' of success.

    1. Performance drives success, but when performance is immeasurable, networks determine success. (Cool kids have advantage in networks)

    3. Fitness x Previous Success = Future Success (the same advantage, etc.)
  • I did not know Ms Woll was doing this. I'll have to check it out. I like her body of work as well.
  • @Adam_Dray, thank you for that link. What a charming interview! I love it. Since looking it up I see a few people recommending it as THE starting point to introduce a non-gamer to D&D. Nice! It reminds me a lot of the Mayim Bialik interview linked to earlier in this thread, as well.

    Meanwhile, let's see what I can make of the most recent comments:

    * D&D is cool and popular now, and finally we can leave sucky not-fun roleplaying behind forever!

    * Streaming D&D is going to destroy our hobby and make us all thralls to the inexorable advance of the Capitalist Machine.


    (Though I do think there's some truth to both points of view. Watching online streaming play is probably helping people learn a lot better/faster than in previous decades; we can compare notes and look at techniques and note how the way our group does it isn't the only way it can be done. I'm going to do some of that in my next post!)
  • edited December 2018
    I keep thinking about how this game works, and how the various bits and pieces of D&D's rules contribute (or fail to contribute) to the fun the players and the audience are both having.

    For instance, when I watch this show, I love the story developments and the dramatic roleplaying scenes, as well as some of the sheer joy and laughter. But I get pretty well bored to death during the combat scenes. (And the sequence leading up to the clip I'm about to post was somewhere in the realm of 2-5 hours of nothing but combat... boring as hell, for a viewer. I wonder what it looks like to non-gamers, watching?)

    Would this group and this show be better suited to a different formula for roleplaying? Different mechanics, different rules-light/rules-heavy design? Sometimes I think that something like a good PbtA game would suit them well, but then those games aren't usually *designed* with "exciting to watch" in mind. They have other drawbacks in this sense (e.g. a lot of out-of-character conversations, potentially, depending on the ruleset). I'll have to file that thought for later and come back to it.

    But I know that *I* would enjoy watching Critical Role a lot more if the fight scenes weren't so long (an hour long on average, as we know from the stats posted earlier).

    Earlier in this thread I mentioned that I'm excited by the phenomenon of streaming play, its popularity, and (in the case of Critical Role, anyway) the high quality of the play. However, I am also VERY disappointed by the lack of good advice, guidance, and help for people looking to recreate it.

    I know that earlier in this thread, I complained about the content of the various "advice" videos, and (I think) many people took my complaints as attacks on Critical Role itself. However, what I was trying to get at was that I didn't see the actual kind of advice and techniques in those videos which could get a group to the same kind of play. I've seen far better advice and discussion elsewhere, and to me it's a shame if the kind of "DM Tips" videos I've watched are seen as the best available (and potentially being watched by thousands or even hundreds of thousands of gamers).

    Now, thanks to the conversation over in the Perception thread, I have a perfect example.

    At the end of session 32, there is a tense moment as the party interacts with an old woman behind bars. There is some suspicion about her identity, and one of the players (Vex is the character) goes to the bars of jail cell to fiddle with the lock. The GM has the old lady come forward, as well, to "help" her, and then calls for a Perception roll.

    Here it is - the link will start you in the right spot, and then you should watch for just over a minute:

    As you can see, the Perception roll is successful, which leads to a big reveal (or, perhaps, rather, a mysterious detail which enables the big reveal in the following session). Mercer calls the end of the session, creating a dramatic cliffhanger and a perfect launching point for the next session. This is highly enjoyable to both the players and the audience, who start floating their favourite theories about what's going on. It's also very television-like.

    Now, it's interesting because it's clear that Mercer has created the situation for this quite deliberately: placing this NPC there in the first place (if @Gaerik guesses right, he might have made the decision to do so at the end of the previous session, as the players have made no secret of their plans to infiltrate the castle via the underground entrance), then having her come forward to handle the lock (an entirely unnecessary and risky maneuver for her, if we think in-character for a minute), and finally calling for the Perception roll that leads to the reveal.

    However, the roll obscures this somewhat, even as it signals a possible reveal and heightens tension.

    What I would like to know is:

    * What would have happened if the roll had failed?

    Now THAT is the kind of thing I would love to hear Mercer make a video about. Creating this kind of thing reliably, and the techniques that go into it.

    Have any of you watched enough of the show to take a guess as to what's really happening in this minute-long segment, and what techniques enable it?

    (Cutting away halfway through a tense reveal is one he likes a lot, and it very effective. But creating this kind of thing in the first place, and doing so consistently, is less obvious.)

    The best find would be a moment in play where something like this is intended to happen but the dice don't magically go the way the story wishes. Are there any obvious "missed reveal" moments due to player decisions and missed rolls, or does Mercer always deliver the delicious reveal, instead? What does it look like when there's some struggle in the process? I'd love to see an example of that.

  • After reading a few old articles on clashes in our RPG culture I realized that these CR people are playing D&D in a 'collaborative storytelling' way. They play with a stance to entertain the others and the audience. Of course, they are professional but I think the main difference between them and a large part of D&D players is not competence but attitude. The latter is more focused on immersing in a personal 'virtual experiences' than performing.
  • Paul - for me the embedded video just starts at the beginning.
  • edited December 2018
    @Hans_c-o I had the same problem but found it. Timestamp 3:32

  • Strange. The link points to the video at 3:32:40.
  • edited December 2018
    Thanks @moconnor, and @Paul_T for taking the time to drill down our attention at this.
    then having her come forward to handle the lock (an entirely unnecessary and risky maneuver for her, if we think in-character for a minute)
    Maybe I'm missing context, but I found this natural - the lady wants out, and someone's going to pick her lock. Why wouldn't she help if she has some knowledge about how to do it?

    What I'm really surprised at in the above scenario is that Mercer didn't have the person who was trying to deceive the lady about trying to in fact pick the lock when she wasn't make a Deception or Sleight of Hand roll. If I were running this game, as soon as she said 'I want to motion like I'm picking the lock but not actually try," I would've called for one of those two rolls, with a failure being that the lady behind bars would be pissed at the party and not want anything to do with them (or something commensurate to her motivations, which again, not knowing the context, I know nothing about). Instead Mercer just lets her successfully deceive the lady with no roll needed.

    ANYWAY, your point is well taken about the reaction to the Perception roll. "Make a Perception Check."



    "Oh shit!"

    In this instance (as in many others, I presume), rolling Perception isn't primarily about a character accomplishing (i.e. noticing) something, but more about signaling to the players-as-audience (and the audience itself, naturally) that something dramatic is going on. If this were a TV show, we would have already had a scene with the lady behind bars that revealed and foreshadowed her motivation in the current scene. But since it's D&D, we don't have cut-aways with only NPCs, so rolling Perception is a hint that Something Dramatic That The PCs Don't Know About Is Going On Behind The Scenes!

    Fascinating. All the more so that I doubt Mercer or his players have thought about Perception in this regard; he's just using the tools available to him to get the effect he wants, RAW be damned.

    Also: I've never watched this before and the fact that they have a stream of comments in the video as the game is happening makes me want to (!!!) stab (!) myself.
  • edited December 2018

    When it comes to the old lady's attempt to help with the lock, I still maintain that it was (in retrospect) a pretty transparent attempt to feed clues to the players. That's why Mercer doesn't ask for a Deception check, as well: there's nothing at stake here, and he's (probably) more interested in creating this cliffhanger moment, instead.

    The context is that the "old lady" is magically disguised, and is actually a villain of sorts, who only has one hand. However, the disguise is purely visual: she looks like an old lady, but her physical form is still that of a one-handed woman.

    If you were interested in maintaining your disguise (which she is), and (obviously) well aware that you only actually have one hand, why would you reach forward to do something entirely unhelpful, and use both hands to do it? (She knows full well that she doesn't have a second hand - that's not the kind of thing you forget, you know? - and yet reaches forward with both.) Either she is honestly trying to help (in which case she wouldn't bother to pretend to use the other, non-existent hand), or she's trying to play up the disguise (in which case she would want to keep the false hand as far as possible from potential detection).

    If it was the other way around - someone with two hands, disguised as a one-handed person - it would be quite believable that reaching forward and revealing yourself could happen, by accident (you instinctively reach forward, forgetting for a moment about your disguise) but not in this case.

    Of course, it works great, since we don't know any of this when we're seeing the scene unfold - it's only in retrospect that it's fishy, and a minor detail at best. In the heat of play it delivers perfectly. But I do think it's likely a "tell": Mercer was deliberately trying to create this cliffhanger moment here.

    I still have no idea what he would have done on a failed roll, of course.

    (On a sidenote, I'm not sure what you mean with your reference to the "RAW be damned". Is some rule being violated here?)
  • @Paul_T:

    Some musings on your post. Perhaps this would be more appropriate in the Perception thread, perhaps not. The roll of the Perception check in this scenario is not, I think, to discern a clue as to the identity of the character, but rather as a sort of obstacle that the characters must overcome to earn the knowledge. Without that obstacle, it wouldn't be "fair" to simply give the knowledge away, would it?

    (Answer: it would because I don't know how anyone would miss the character having but one hand in the scenario, but Mercer is holding onto the veneer of what I believe the locals describe "sim play.")

    I suspect that Mercer set the DC incredibly low to ensure that the roll would succeed. He wants the players to have this knowledge, but he is obligated, either by his sense of fair play or the rules, to demand a Perception check to grant this information. (When running 5e, outside of using Perception as save-by-proxy, I call for it very occasionally as a measure of acuity. How much information does the character gather and, more importantly, how quickly?)

    To answer your question here:
    What I would like to know is:

    * What would have happened if the roll had failed?
    The information would have been revealed to the players (and audience) in some other manner. If the player missed the roll, the scene would have moved onward, only for some variation of the following to take place:

    1. "You don't notice anything immediately..." but then the reveal happens anyway. The Perception check is there to see how quickly the character notices.

    2. "The character turns away..." and he quickly calls for another Perception check from another player who might be in a position to see the non-existence of her hand. The Perception check will be passed before the end of the episode.

    3. "Nothing seems amiss," and the scene continues with roleplay and cleverness until the opportunity for another "slip up" of the disguised character presents itself. Another Perception check is called for, perhaps from one or two participants, and the reveal happens.

    The reveal must happen regardless. Although I have long had a sour opinion of Critical Role simply because of the playstyle, I refuse to harbor any sourness toward Mercer's ability to engage his players (and audience) and weave a story. It's not my preferred playstyle, but it's how most players want to play D&D. It's a much rarer breed, in my admittedly limited experience, that wishes to author his or her own story.
  • edited December 2018
    The roll of the Perception check in this scenario
    I'd like to point out (with glee) that you've successfully constructed a sentence where the word "roll" can simultaneously mean itself while also taking on the meaning of the word "role" and in either case, the sentence makes sense and in fact means the same thing!

    I think you just definitively solved the asinine old rollplay/roleplay debate in favor of BOTH! One point for world peace.

    Anyway, Paul, by "RAW be damned" I didn't mean he was misusing the rule, just that I suspect he's more concerned with the effect applying any given rule might have than he is at applying the rule-as-written.
  • A quote of said rules if you have them would work wonders here.
  • I have recently been referring to streaming as the "professional wrestling" to gaming's "sport wrestling."

    And this isn't a dig! Professional wrestlers are absolutely athletes and it is absolutely a tough, intense event. But they are putting on a show first and foremost in the same way that a circus performer is.

    Sport wrestling, by contrast, is much less interesting to watch for anyone who doesn't know the sport. There is no performance for the audience, just the activity. Viewership of sport wrestling is typically people who have wrestled or have family in the sport.

    I think that interest in professional wrestling doesn't necessarily increase participation in sport wrestling, but it doesn't take away from it either.
  • I dunno, televising Texas Hold 'Em definitely screwed with my ability to play Kitchen Table Poker, even while greatly increasing the number of poker enthusiasts overall in my social circles.

    I mean, it generated interest. It got lots of people over their trepidation about playing poker and actually excited to try it. OTOH, it only really benefitted one specific form of the game ( one favored by casinos and highly competitive) and one associated playstyle, and that combo pretty much eclipsed all other styles and variants in public consciousness.
  • I watched a few episodes. It is a fun thing to have on in the background.

    I'm fascinated with the way the players aren't active audience members for their fellow players. Or maybe just not as active as I'd like. There was a really touching scene and they watched quietly but no one commented on it. Huh.
  • That's something I think about as well. They vary a lot, in what I've seen so far: sometimes the players are making a lot commentary, in and out of character, and sometimes they listen quietly (though they rarely seem bored). The high level of attention and emotional engagement, in any case, is, I think, a major part of the appeal of the show.
  • edited December 2018
    Some further thoughts and observations, in case anyone is curious:

    1. There is now at least one academic thesis written about the show. Skimming it didn't leave me with any particularly interesting takeaways, but it's fascinating to see that:

    * The author has been following the show during most of the duration of her studies (or so it seems), and concludes the paper just before the final episode.

    * Although I haven't seen the ending of the show, to be sure of this, it seems telling that the nature of the "final episode" was known before it even took place, much like the series finale of a TV show.

    Here's a link to the PDF, and anyone is interested in reading it:

    2. Second, on the subject of Illusionism and GM techniques, an interesting encounter takes place in Episode 33 (part 2). The party is attacked by ghosts, who are capable of possessing player characters. They do so, turning three of the party members against the rest of the party, causing a PC vs. PC fight which is pretty brutal (and almost sees two character deaths).

    According to Mercer himself (he confirmed this on Reddit), the encounter was designed or chosen with the presence of Pike (a cleric) in mind (the player was supposedly on her way to join the session; perhaps her surprise arrival would have been a very dramatic deus ex machina moment!). However, that player didn't make it to the session, which meant that the group had no real way to counter the ghosts' possession.

    Mercer improvises two interesting effects which are quite fictionally compelling but do not have a legitimate basis in the rules. First, one of the characters (Vax) has been carrying a glowing symbol given to him by the cleric, and has a particular relationship to that character. Mercer narrates the symbol flaring up, has the player make a roll (a Religion check), and narrates how the cleric's voice speaks to him, freeing him from possession.

    Second, the use of radiant damage in the fight, which shouldn't affect the ghosts possessing the PCs' bodies, is applied to them, allowing the party to eventually win the encounter. Nevertheless, it's a close one (and presumably could have been far worse, and very anticlimactic, if Mercer had not made these moves).

    It's interesting; it's fairly clearly an Illusionist or Participationist technique, as far as I can tell, but is presented in a compelling way which fits the narrative and makes a lot of sense, story-wise (which is really well handled by Mercer). Again, I find myself wondering what he would have done if the roll had been a miss.
  • Isn't acknowledging Participationism/Illusionism the first step on the road to, Road to Dirty-Hippy-ism? Or at least less-Hardcore-gamism?
  • In other news, the rise of D&D continues:

    D&D is a Bestseller this Holiday Season

    Check it out. To what extent is Critical Role responsible? Likely to a very large extent, many people are saying (to borrow a Trumpism for second - I couldn't resist).
  • I told you so!
  • edited December 2018
    Reading people's commentary on Critical Role is also pretty fascinating.

    Take a look at a couple of these comments:

    "I think if a game consists of all Critical Role fans it goes a long way toward making it more like Critical Role, regardless of their backgrounds. Granted I have very little to base this on, as only one of my players across 2 campaigns is a Critical Role fan, but he does his best to play like the Critical Role players do because his interest in D&D came from the show.

    "Unfortunately none of the other players in either campaign has expressed any interest in the show (except one, but it took him over a year to go from episode 1 to 23, so I hardly count that), and as such they play nothing like the Critical Role players. I've considered canceling one of the campaigns because of it.

    "That's the main reason I fully support people using this subreddit to find players for their games. Because if you want a game similar to Critical Role, that's how you have to do it, not /r/lfg. Unless you're lucky enough to know people who naturally play like that."


    "I sort of tried d&d in high school and I was completely unimpressed and thought it had potential but didn't like the vibe, the way people were acting and thought the gamestyle was bad. I then saw Critical Role and saw...wait THAT'S an option? people can play like this? No i didn't think I would get a group of professional voice acors with lights etc. I just sought out more RP centered games online, and they were easy to find and I was happy. SOOO many people I've talked to have a similar story."
  • "I sort of tried d&d in high school and I was completely unimpressed and thought it had potential but didn't like the vibe, the way people were acting and thought the gamestyle was bad. I then saw Critical Role and saw...wait THAT'S an option? people can play like this? No i didn't think I would get a group of professional voice acors with lights etc. I just sought out more RP centered games online, and they were easy to find and I was happy. SOOO many people I've talked to have a similar story."
    I'm not sure I'm parsing correctly what they're saying here: they tried D&D, didn't like it, but liked how Critical Role were playing it, and are now playing in groups that play like that?

    I feel like there's a missing step there. I can understand why someone would dislike the typical high school D&D experience but like Critical Role... but how are they now getting the Critical Role experience? Just enough exposure to Critical Role among the player base? I can't quite believe you can learn to play at anywhere near that level just by being a fan of the show.

    The techniques I've seen Mercer talk about have been considered good DM advice for decades, I don't think just doing those comes anywhere close, I think the core of the Critical Role experience is how well it looks when it's those are done by professional, charismatic, good looking voice actors. Maybe I'm underestimating the power of showing over telling, but I don't see how you can pick that up from the show.
  • edited December 2018
    I can't speak for a random stranger on the internet (and I would love to hear other people's' takes on this). But one possible interpretation is that the first group wasn't even trying to do that (or didn't think this kind of game could do that), whereas the more mature (let's not forget age factoring into this!) group, given a good "model" to aspire to, could attempt to create enjoyable play of this sort.

    I've seen that before. When I first encountered d&d, it didn't take me more than a handful of sessions to start imagining epic fantasy stories. But I've seen some people play and come away with the impression that the game can only be suited to goofy, silly antics (or whatever other form their particular experience took).
  • edited December 2018
    Reading people's commentary on Critical Role is also pretty fascinating.

    Take a look at a couple of these comments:

    "I sort of tried d&d in high school and I was completely unimpressed and thought it had potential but didn't like the vibe, the way people were acting and thought the gamestyle was bad. I then saw Critical Role and saw...wait THAT'S an option? people can play like this? No i didn't think I would get a group of professional voice acors with lights etc. I just sought out more RP centered games online, and they were easy to find and I was happy. SOOO many people I've talked to have a similar story."
    Maybe it is the difference between D&D as collaborative storytelling vs D&D as a virtual experience?

  • (except one, but it took him over a year to go from episode 1 to 23, so I hardly count that)
    Almost 100 hours of streamed game content, consumed in a year. That's a lot! I guess the "true fans" are consuming all four hours every Thursday...

  • Yeah, that struck me, too. Yikes!
  • edited December 2018
    RE: @Paul_T's post above that documents comments from Critical Role fans (you will have to cut off one of my toes to get me to call them "Critters") wherein they talk about wanting to play in the style of CR:

    You know how there's always something in social media that's an outrage, but the thing we're all outraging over isn't actually a thing, like maybe it's one dumb person? Like the Starbucks "Merry Christmas" thing a few years ago where some evangelical idiot (I can say this because I come from Evangelicalism) made a video about how he told the barista his name was "Merry Christmas" so the barista had to say "Merry Christmas!" to him instead of "Happy Holidays" because KEEP THE CHRIST IN CHR

    you get it. And then everyone just HAD to comment with their outrage about how they didn't care what Starbucks baristas say because they're not like those people who are all uppity about keeping Christmas about Christ.

    Anyway, when I hear D&D players saying "Oh my god, I love to RP but it's hard to find a group who is really into RP in the same way I am," I feel like we're doing the social media getting-worked-up-about-literally-nothing thing, because fully 90% of D&D players I've ever come across say that they are an "RP-focused" player.

    Why are these people pretending like they're not the vast vast majority of D&D players?
  • I actually sort of sympathize with the position, because the bundle of aesthetic and social preferences that define a style of play of tabletop RPGs of any sort is infinitely divisible, and the more you play, the more you learn about yourself and the form, so everyone actually is a unique snowflake in our hobby, and I very much like that about us.
  • You know, it's an interesting phenomenon, but also a familiar one.

    Pretty much every single D&D group I've ever been involved with (except for the OSR-types) complains about "not enough roleplaying" (or, at least, the GM does).

    I'm not exactly sure why this is, but it sure is common. The game rules/system sure doesn't help: provide the players with a long list of carefully-balanced combat powers, and then wonder why they focus on that? Give the GM guidelines for balancing combat encounters and to give rewards for defeating bad guys, then wonder why the personal drama gets set aside?

    But it's also that this style of artistic expression does require thought, effort, and work. I get the impression that D&D players often expect that to do done for them, by the others: how likely do you think it is that the person saying "I love to RP but it's hard to find a group who is really into RP in the same way I am" is the one who is contributing the MOST in terms of drama, character depiction, and story development to the group's game?

    Traditional gaming advice (as seen in those videos I've linked to earlier in the thread) lets these people down, I'm afraid. The GMs are given advice on how to structure a story and how to world-build, and then how to identify the "type" of every player and "provide" the type of fun each of those needs - 25% fighting, 25% intrigue, 25% traps, and 25% talking, let's say; the players are given advice on the best feats to choose and how to optimize their character for combat.

    That's at the root of my dissatisfaction with this kind of advice and this kind of attitude towards gaming, and why I'm not happy to see it glorified and repeated in this context.

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way, however. This note earlier made me happy:

    The techniques I've seen Mercer talk about have been considered good DM advice for decades, I don't think just doing those comes anywhere close [...] Maybe I'm underestimating the power of showing over telling, but I don't see how you can pick that up from the show.
  • In a way, that approach is just realistic: it's unlikely to have a group of people all ready to study advice, pick apart their experiences for lessons, test new approaches... More likely, one (or several) will have that level of investment, and they'll be the DM (or DMs), and the rest will be more along for the ride, than willing to drive. So there's a lot more DM advice than player advice.

    But it becomes a bit of a vicious circle, where the expectation is set that the DM is the one (helped along by all this DM advice, and discussions with other DMs) to orchestrate this masterpiece game for and around the players. This then places quite a substantial burden on the DM, and is a reason why noticeably fewer people are willing to DM than to play.

    There's an ongoing discussion in my long-standing group that's somewhat illustrative of what you're saying, I think: we're finishing up a long-running high-level game, and inevitably, there has been "not enough roleplaying", and the proposed solution so far is a list of overpowered spells to be banned from the next game. There is something to be said for removing elements which tend to short-circuit interesting situations in non-interesting ways, but we're not really examining our approach or our shared goals or which ones might not be shared, I expect that just means a different set of spells are now left at the top of the heap, and any undesirable behaviour remains the same.
  • Well spotted, the vicious circle effect.
  • Holy shit, we truly are in bizarro-world now. We have Onion-esque articles that basically describe the phenomenon we've been discussing here.

    Every Character in D&D Campaign Just Slightly Modified ‘Critical Role’ Characters.
  • Yeah, that's a pretty interesting twist of an article.

    I've definitely seen people on Reddit describe their home D&D play in Critical Role terms ("So, our Grog-guy and our Scanlan-guy are now in the Briarwoods-analogue part of our home campaign, when...").
  • Man, it's as if emulating some sort of inspirational source material is a really big motivation for becoming involved in RPGs, especially at the start. :wink:
  • I've found a rare fenomenon lately: friends of mine who had abandoned roleplaying (for 4-5 years) have these big plans of streaming a campaign, and they're using those plans as a motivation to get back into the hobby. A few years ago another group of friends also got quite pushy about streaming our sessions, with big ideas about fame. What's weird is that this motivation seems to work for some people: the first group started working on a logo, sound and video equipment, gathering players, picking a game.
    In my mindset, you first get back into gaming and then if everything works out smooth, start thinking big, but in their case it got them working and excited, which is good.
    Have you found other groups with similar proyects? Is the promise of fame by streaming a reason for people to get back into the hobby?
  • @Khimus

    I've certainly seen related phenomena: discussions about streaming rpgs not as a path to fame, but as a way to participate in a broader community. I think that for many people, streaming can be like engaging in forum discussions, playing con games, following rpg blogs, and sharing hacks. Maybe you'll get a small payday down the line, if you write a popular game of your own or your stream takes off. But I think it's usually not about that. Lower-viewership streams (not Critical Role) create a rpg streaming scene that people can join and feel a part of something bigger.
  • RPG takes a lot of time (no luck this solstice, it was all card games and guess what I draw). If there is some real product you can send an internet link to, then it's at least arguable that you did something for real. It wasn't hours of idle time all in your head second life addiction. And if you get viewed, success and efficiency will redeem you.
    That would be my wild guess.
  • I guess you're right. When I GMed and wrote actual plays of my sessions, it kept me motivated to prepare material and go on with the campaign. It's probably a similar thing.
  • A related observation, or perhaps a GMing trick: I've found that it's a good policy in player management to treat the RPG campaign as a Serious Project, as that generally causes an all-around improvement in how seriously the players treat the exercise.

    (The opposite approach would be to emphasize the casual, detached nature of the activity.)

    I could see this "let's broadcast our campaign" thing as an extreme version of this: the whole group psyches themselves up to finally play for real instead of fuzzing about. I can personally see how I would be much more excited to join a group that is playing "seriously" than a lackadaisical group uncertain about what they're doing. The scheduling alone will pay off if you can get to a point where some random TV show doesn't automatically have priority over the game night.
  • edited January 2019
    A related observation, or perhaps a GMing trick: I've found that it's a good policy in player management to treat the RPG campaign as a Serious Project, as that generally causes an all-around improvement in how seriously the players treat the exercise.
    In my experience, doing this has led to most of the better gaming experiences of my life. I realize now that I've usually left this up to the game and the group, though, without making a concerted effort to do it when otherwise those things don't seem to come together - for example, I absolutely didn't communicate this in my latest 5e campaign - I had assumed that the nature of the starting situation (political, fairly serious, in a specific setting chosen to encourage investment in the players), would create this feeling of the campaign as a Serious Project.

    It did not.

    Whereas, for example, in playing Sorcerer and Burning Wheel, that investment has almost always been there without need for a specific discussion about it. Because most people who are going to play those games have read the texts, and the texts either specifically call this out as a goal (Sorcerer uses the band metaphor and even specifically says that if you invest in it, game night will very likely be better than watching your favorite TV show (!); Burning Wheel asks so much of the player that that investment is nearly a baked-in as a prerequisite to play).
  • I've found that it's a good policy in player management to treat the RPG campaign as a Serious Project, as that generally causes an all-around improvement in how seriously the players treat the exercise.
    This is a great point. I've found a similar effect when traveling to game with a specific group or planning an all-day event. The tone of the game changes when you frame it as a project you're committing to. I imagine that starting a streaming show requires you to step up to that level.

    @Hans_c-o I've had similar experiences with people who are committed to playing a specific system to the fullest. I think it's both a result of folks investing in a game and having a clear, shared sense of how that system should feel.
  • I was thinking about this thread recently when I stumbled across some pretty detailed and insightful commentary about the new campaign by a fellow named Mick Riley. He starts out with a very celebratory (perhaps almost fawning!) review of the first episode of the new campaign, breaking down in detail how Mercer constructs the opening session to perfection. (And I don't disagree with his observations, although I found the episode almost unwatcheable due to boredom - but it's true the Mercer does do a lot of things very well within the session.)

    However, then I saw that he also did a "breakdown" video for the second session, and that was far more interesting, because the session was seen by many as a failure.

    He seems well informed on Mercer's practices and techniques, and looks carefully at what elements of the game are prepared (for example, keeping careful track of which bits of description or dialogue are scripted). This is pretty interesting for the purposes of this thread, because he breaks down what he thinks Mercer's prep might be like and his various attempts to "keep the players on track". The analysis is thorough and seems very believable to me. It also fits well with our hypothesizing here in the thread, supporting the notion that Mercer (as he says in his own interviews and videos!) does NOT directly railroad the players, but he does prep content which outlines the adventure, and has to work to get the players "back on track" when they deviate from it. As we can see from this episode, however, Mick Riley argues, we can see what it looks like when it's not working well - in this case, a full episode of frustration, boredom, and fatigue, to the point where it overtakes the joy of play. (Riley suggests that if this happens at home, you should just call the session and pick it up another time, in fact.)

    This is all seems pretty accurate to me, and is a good window into how the game is actually functioning.
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