Chris Gethard "plays" D&D on Beautiful Anonymous

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I'm a fan of comedian Chris Gethard's podcast, Beautiful Anonymous. The format is that he takes a random anonymous caller and talks to them for an hour. There is some pre-screening and he selects which to air and when to air them, except at his live shows, but these are not scripted and the guests are not celebrities.

His most recently released episode was released as an "extra" because when he finds out that the caller often run D&D games, he sets up an impromptu game session.

Except its not.

It ends up just being an improv of a D&D game. No dice are rolled. They just act and the DM resolves actions. While it is funny at times, it is a very poor representation of what TTRPGs are. It is D&D without the game.

While I enjoy listening to Dragon Friends and other "live play" pod casts acted out by improv actors, I'm getting a bit tired of D&D as an improv session.

First, letting the dice determine the outcomes creates a more interesting dynamic to act against.

Second, and for me most importantly, stripping out all the crunch and opportunities for tactics and rules mastery ruins it as a game, both as a player and as an audience member.

Here's the link if you are interested:

https://www.earwolf.com/episode/the-adventures-of-glandon-oakfoot/

More interesting is the main episode with a different caller. A member of a group of D&D players who only knew each other over VTT talking about how she drove hours to suicidal player's house, along with other members of the virtual group to help her out. It is nice to see that kind of friendship build from an on-line group translate into being there for each other IRL.

https://www.earwolf.com/episode/a-heros-journey/
 

Scott Graves

Villager
Comedians want to make stuff funny and get a laugh every 10 to 15 seconds. If they aren't getting the laughs then they aren't doing their job. Many will rape the corpse of their dead mother for material if that's what it takes. The fact that it wasn't a good representation of D&D is nothing. I cringe every time a movie or TV show goes into a bit where people are playing some kind of role playing fantasy game that has initials like T&R so they can avoid being sued. The only one I saw that was any good was on the IT Crowd. They kept at least the spirit intact. Moss as DM was to die for.
 

Atlictoatl

Villager
Comedians want to make stuff funny and get a laugh every 10 to 15 seconds. If they aren't getting the laughs then they aren't doing their job. Many will rape the corpse of their dead mother for material if that's what it takes. The fact that it wasn't a good representation of D&D is nothing. I cringe every time a movie or TV show goes into a bit where people are playing some kind of role playing fantasy game that has initials like T&R so they can avoid being sued. The only one I saw that was any good was on the IT Crowd. They kept at least the spirit intact. Moss as DM was to die for.
Beautiful Anonymous isn't a comedy podcast. Try again.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Beautiful Anonymous isn't a comedy podcast. Try again.
Maybe not, but he was definitely trying to make this episode a comedy episode. Which is fine. I don't have an issue with slapstick D&D. It is that lack of any engagement with the mechanics. It wasn't D&D, it was just improv comedy with a generic fantasy theme.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Maybe not, but he was definitely trying to make this episode a comedy episode. Which is fine. I don't have an issue with slapstick D&D. It is that lack of any engagement with the mechanics. It wasn't D&D, it was just improv comedy with a generic fantasy theme.
So they were having fun wrong?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
While I enjoy listening to Dragon Friends and other "live play" pod casts acted out by improv actors, I'm getting a bit tired of D&D as an improv session.
"Doctor, it hurts when I do this!"
"Well, then don't do that."

If you are tired of a thing, stop consuming that thing. Turn off the podcast and find something you do like, instead.

First, letting the dice determine the outcomes creates a more interesting dynamic to act against.

Second, and for me most importantly, stripping out all the crunch and opportunities for tactics and rules mastery ruins it as a game, both as a player and as an audience member.
Meh. To each their own.

There are entire RPGs that don't have dice, or any random elements at all - for example, some use a resource pool and bidding mechanic. So, while you may prefer the randomness, we shouldn't speak like that's the only way to get the job done.

You probably also need to remember that the podcast *isn't* a gaming experience. It is a separate entertainment. What is entertaining to an active participant is not necessarily entertaining to a passive audience member. Note, for example, how baseball and football catch a lot of flack for how slow their games can get? D&D has similar issues in play, where working through the mechanic takes up time that isn't interesting to watch for the general audience member.

So, everybody makes choices - some might lean to an audience of crunch-heads, that really like working through the mechanics. Others are apt to decide they'll get greater connection to a larger audience if they instead cut to the bits that a more general audience will like.

Neither is right or wrong. They are just designed for different audiences. The benefit of having a world filled with loads of different media is that you have greater ability to pick and choose what media you like, and leave stuff you don't like behind.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
"Doctor, it hurts when I do this!"
"Well, then don't do that."

If you are tired of a thing, stop consuming that thing. Turn off the podcast and find something you do like, instead.
It was still entertaining. I'm not tired of Chris Gethard or the Beautiful Anonymous podcast. I wasn't even tired of that specific pod cast. But it was misleading to say that they were playing D&D.


Meh. To each their own.

There are entire RPGs that don't have dice, or any random elements at all - for example, some use a resource pool and bidding mechanic. So, while you may prefer the randomness, we shouldn't speak like that's the only way to get the job done.
Sure, and there are some games like this that I really enjoy. Dialect is one that involves no dice or randomness. But if I just improv a story, without engaging in the mechanics of Dialect, it is misleading to say that I'm playing Dialect.

I don't really want to argue what makes a TTRPG different from an improvisational story-creation exercise. I can make a game called "Storytime" with one rule: "Make up a story." Then, if I just make up a story, I can accurately state that I am playing storytime. But I can't accurately claim to be playing D&D, or Dialect, or Dread, or Grim, or InSPECTREs, or Paranoia, etc.

You probably also need to remember that the podcast *isn't* a gaming experience. It is a separate entertainment. What is entertaining to an active participant is not necessarily entertaining to a passive audience member. Note, for example, how baseball and football catch a lot of flack for how slow their games can get? D&D has similar issues in play, where working through the mechanic takes up time that isn't interesting to watch for the general audience member.

So, everybody makes choices - some might lean to an audience of crunch-heads, that really like working through the mechanics. Others are apt to decide they'll get greater connection to a larger audience if they instead cut to the bits that a more general audience will like.
Sure, but if you state that you will be playing D&D on a podcast and then don't actually play D&D, then you are misrepresenting the content of your podcast (or podcast episode in this case). And I don't mean follow every rule perfectly and explain to the audience what rules apply and how you are adjudicating them. But if you just improv on the fly, you are not playing D&D. I've listened to a lot of actual-play podcasts and YouTube/Twitch streams. Some, like Critical Role and Godfall obviously care about the mechanics. Others like Dragon Friends and Girls, Guts, and Glory, play very fast and loose with the game. But all are playing a game that is at least recognizable at D&D.


Neither is right or wrong. They are just designed for different audiences. The benefit of having a world filled with loads of different media is that you have greater ability to pick and choose what media you like, and leave stuff you don't like behind.
I'm not arguing that. I'm simply stating that if you are not playing GAME A, do not claim to be playing GAME A.
 

Hussar

Legend
No. But it wasn't D&D, or any TTRPG for that matter.
Amber Diceless would like to have a word. As would a huge swath of TTRPG's which don't rely or even heavily rely on mechanics.

The notion that unless we're throwing dice, it's not really an RPG needs to die in a fire.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Amber Diceless would like to have a word. As would a huge swath of TTRPG's which don't rely or even heavily rely on mechanics.

The notion that unless we're throwing dice, it's not really an RPG needs to die in a fire.
Perhaps my original post was not written clearly. I have no problem with diceless systems. One of my favorite games of the past couple of years is Dialect.

My problem is claiming to play a game, but not actually playing the game.

I would further argue that they were not playing any TTRPG because they were not following any rules.

I have no issues with improv comedy, or collaborative story telling, or playing make believe. All are forms of play. Often they may involve role playing. Who knows, perhaps in certain contexts these are "games" -- I'm not a game theorist. But they are not D&D.

Here's a test. Go to your FLGS and advertise a D&D game. When the players arrive, tell them to put away their dice and books and say you are all going to just sit around the table and improv an adventure. Some may love that. But some will be upset by the bait and switch and they would be justified in feeling that way.
 

Hussar

Legend
Meh. The fact that some would love it shows that it's an idea that has legs. "I love it"or "I hate it" isn't a criteria for what is a TTRPG.

I mean, heck, I've had entire sessions that have barely, if at all, referenced any mechanics. Does that mean I'm not playing D&D? Or I'm doing it wrong?

Lots of folks look at the books of D&D as the starting point, not the ending one.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Fair enough.

Ultimately it doesn't matter. I'll play and run games that I enjoy and avoid those I don't, regardless of a non-gaming podcast episode.
 

Advertisement

Top