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Critical Role Could Critical Role launch their own RPG?

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
"Where a bunch of us nerdy-ass voice actors used to play Dungeons and Dragons, now we play something else just like it but with rules you may not be familiar with." Just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Well, that’s branding, isn’t it? People would say “I’m playing Critical Role tonight!” and folks would know what that means. Building a brand is hard, but if anybody in the TRPG space, CR would have the best shot at it.
 

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robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
They could publish an SRD-compliant variant (e.g. Adventures in Middle-Earth) with subclasses, feats, spells, monsters, etc. So the show would still be 5e-based, but all the groupies would want their rulebook.

Isn’t that exactly what they did with their campaign setting?!
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Could they? Sure. But they shouldn't imo.

The core of their product and that their fans hunt for is not rules.

Instead, the have and should market settings, adventures, classes, sub-classes etc.

Setting books is a great way to monetize their product even more.

Others followed suit.

Not long after Tal'Dorei setting sold so well, another popular scifi stream that was working in a setting they did not own, was replaced with a homebrew setting. Gotta expect a setting book to come soon.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
I would be very interested in a Mercer helmed adventure path, just to see how he’d go about it.
 

OB1

Jedi Master
No, they could not. They're software creators, not hardware creators. At best they could align their brand with another company creating an RPG, but they're already aligned with the most popular platform in the history of gaming, so why would they?
 


A Tal'Dorei Player's Guide, that I could see happening more than anything else.

The Campaign Setting they put out had some player options, and I could see them building and expanding on it. But, that being said, I'm not sure that's a good idea. Some of the design choices in it, like enabling dual concentration, I did not care for.

I think the strength of Critical Role and Matt Mercer isn't so much in the world-building and house-rules, but in the vibrancy of the NPCs and PCs, the depth of the tales they tell.

They could publish an SRD-compliant variant (e.g. Adventures in Middle-Earth) with subclasses, feats, spells, monsters, etc. So the show would still be 5e-based, but all the groupies would want their rulebook.
 
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Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
Well, that’s branding, isn’t it? People would say “I’m playing Critical Role tonight!” and folks would know what that means. Building a brand is hard, but if anybody in the TRPG space, CR would have the best shot at it.
I agree. If anybody has a shot of creating a successful RPG based on branding without any real game design experience (not to discount Mercer's ability and homebrewing), it would be them.

That said, I don't know if it would be as lucrative as what they do now. You of all people should know how much work and effort goes into creating, designing, and publishing an RPG. These people are mostly just actors, and a lot of them have a minimal interest in even mastering the system they are currently using. They were in it for the characters and the story-telling, and largely rely on someone else to tell them how a specific ability, spell, or feature might work.

And this may even extend to how their viewers feel about watching them. How many viewers check out a couple episodes because it is D&D, and how many subscribe to the show because of what they see? I know personally, I find their personalities, their story telling, and their personal interactions to be far more interesting than the actual dice rolling and combats.

In fact, I think there are better systems out there that would be a better fit for their style of play and narrative improvisation (like most Fantasy Flight Games RPGs, for example). It may have been the Dungeons & Dragons brand that put them on the map. Well now they are on the map with a brand name of their own! Imagine how much another game company with its own RPG would benefit if they sponsored a new Critical Role series using their game system? And judging by the numbers you listed in the post, I think that would be a LOT more lucrative to them than to publish another RPG system trying to compete in such a small market already dominated by competitors who have a lot more resources, experience, and their own brand recognition as game designers.

Not saying they can't, won't, or shouldn't. I just think there are much better options available to them, and at some point they will realize that they could start to consider divorcing themselves from D&D/WotC and create more opportunities for themselves.
 
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SkidAce

Hero
Supporter
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They could...but right now I think they have the perfect synergy of roles and strengths, and while its usually a good risk to be bold and innovative, in this case I feel it would detract from the "current" role they have in the community.

BL: I don't think it would be worth it.
 

thundershot

Explorer
I personally would have zero interest in Critical Role if they made their own RPG or switched systems. Part of the charm is that they’re playing the same game people in my home play and we can connect with them.
 

Dausuul

Legend
They could, but it would be pretty silly.

Right now they have a nice symbiotic relationship going with WotC. WotC handles the "design, publish, and support the RPG" end of things, which is not easy and requires a good deal of talent and expertise. Critical Role manages the "create and stream a popular show" end of things, which is also not easy and requires a good deal of talent and expertise. Then they both profit off their shared audience.

Publishing their own RPG would blow all that up and saddle them with the costs of the RPG end. And what would they get? At best, they would collect a fraction of the profits of D&D (since they would now be splitting the market with 5E). More likely, the RPG would crash and burn.

A good business plan needs to offer returns commensurate with the risks. High risks need high potential returns to justify them. In this case, the returns are low and the risks are high.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
You of all people should know how much work and effort goes into creating, designing, and publishing an RPG.

True. But I don't know how difficult it is to make an animated show. It *sounds* a lot more difficult to me, but I've no way of gauging it.
 

OB1

Jedi Master
True. But I don't know how difficult it is to make an animated show. It *sounds* a lot more difficult to me, but I've no way of gauging it.

Well, there are a lot of existing companies that can take a screenplay and storyboards and some art and turn it into a show, which is a difficult operation, but one that can be done well with practice and talent.

Critical Role isn’t trying to draw the animation themselves, even though they theoretically could teach themselves, because there are already skilled production houses that do that sort of thing. Just like there are skilled TTRPG companies who are very good at making games.

While they could potentially use their success to launch their own animation studio, it’s not what they do. Neither is designing RPGs.

Now if WoTC was stoping them from using the D&D brand or demanding too much for the license, then maybe, perhaps, possibly they’d have a reason to do their own game, and could probably get a lot of cash from a kickstarter to create one.

But WoTC would be crazy to get into that fight with them. In fact, I’d be shocked if CR pays a dime to WoTC for the brand. It’s just too good of free advertising. Toy companies usually produce Cartoons at a loss just to get those 22 min advertisements onto a kids monitor. So getting CR to do it for free to WoTC is a huge win.

And it should also help the brand gain awareness before the Movie (which apparently has a near finished script now and is looking for a lead) which should also help.

Maybe someday the monies will get large enough and the egos big enough that WoTC and CR will split ways, but for now, they are too mutually beneficial for it to make sense.
 

Enkhidu

Explorer
I’m in the “why would they?” camp.

Shifting away from D&D to a self made RPG would be akin to a video game company abandoning Unreal to make their own engine. Sure, it can happen. But why would the business incur the additional cost if it could spend that money on additional IP?
 

Parmandur

Legend
True. But I don't know how difficult it is to make an animated show. It *sounds* a lot more difficult to me, but I've no way of gauging it.

There are more successful animated shows than successful tabletop RPGs. Partly a difference in demand, but still. RPGs are complex, and take even more work to fine tune from what I can see. I have family in animation, and while it is skill intensive and time-heavy, it doesn't need the sort of robust mathematical balance AND creative freedom an RPG needs.
 

To publish a new retro-clon of d20 may be a great risk. To use a system created by other is easier than starting from zero.

Other option could be to try a universal d20 for different genres: horror, superheroes, sci-fi, WW II, spies, mechas & kaijus.. but it is a higher challenged, and WotC hasn't published a d20 Modern 2.0. yet.

* It would be fun to create a third d20 system with the classes and races from both SRD. why not changes as adding more abilities scores (astuteness, grace(karma/fate/luck), courage & technique)? And it would need a new setting, for example something about XIX century, with armours as guns.
 

Gradine

Final Form
I would argue that it is still the case that Critical Role needs D&D more than D&D needs Critical Role. There's a reason they switched to D&D from PF in the first place as soon as they started streaming. D&D gives them the bigger built in audience. They would only stand to lose patronage if they went rogue with a homebrew system.

It's not as hard as it used to be, but it still takes a lot of effort to budge newbies off of D&D. CR would only stand to lose viewership if they switched systems.

I mean look at The Adventure Zone. I feel the current arc (where they are using Monster of the Week) has a lot less relevance and presence on the internet now than they used to, even though the McElroys were always fairly up-front that even saying in their first arc they were "playing" "D&D" is a somewhat charitable statement.

Critical Role certainly brought a lot of new players to D&D, but I'd wager that the significant majority of them were already interested in the game, or else they likely wouldn't have been drawn to the show in the first place; I think CR at most just pushed a lot of them into taking the plunge having seen it in action.
 

darjr

I crit!
Way too much effort for the return. They don’t do this now and are making a large share of the rpg industry already. Matt even seemed to lament the effort to make a setting book was too much. Sort of.

I think it’s far more likely they will directly influence the current system and or any future development of D&D. I think their influence will rival all others but the WotC designers themselves. Maybe.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
I think it would actually make more sense for them to launch a Board Game. Lords of Waterdeep style.

Board games tend to Kickstart better than TTRPGs.
 


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