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D&D General Critical Role: Overrated, Underrated, or Goldilocks?


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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I never said what they do is easy. There's a ton of work outside of the game itself that makes CR what it is. That has never, ever, been the issue I have.

They do a ton of work inside the game too.

Again, voice acting is a skill. You understand that, probably from just trying to do that. But other things are skills, too. Inhabiting characters? That's a skill. Improv? That's a skill. Making choices that are both honor a character and are dramatically interesting for an audience? That's a skill as well.

There are all skills.

Moreover, you seem to keep coming back to the idea that it somehow doesn't matter that there is an audience and that they are paid. Well, okay. Sure.

Imagine you have a job. Your job depends on a client. If your client is happy, you get paid- a lot! And if your client is unhappy, you don't get paid, and lose your business. Now, what do you do? Do you make decisions that generally make your client happy, or decisions that make your client unhappy?

The client for Critical Role is you- as in both you (Oofta) and generally the audience. You keep insisting (paraphrase), "Well, there's no idea how anyone would possibly know what they're thinking!"

Sure. Who knows what goes on in the world, right? Maybe you're just a brain in a vat and the rest of use don't exist. But if we use a reasonable supposition that other people are relatively normal and think in a relatively normal fashion as we do (the hallmark of empathy), and we know that they are all performers, and we know that they are all getting paid, indirectly, by their audience, and we know that they have created this venture and made choices (such as the four-hour format to start) then we can understand that there is a distinction.

Which brings us to comments like the one directly above-
They are just like the friends I hang out with every week.

Are they? Try something- record a session. Preferably without everyone knowing (assuming consent state, if not, explain afterwards) and compare how you all sound "hanging out" with how they sound.

See, being able to seem approachable and "on" for four hours like that on demand is a skill. I'm not saying that you and your group can't do that; but I am skeptical. Because over and over again we see people think something is so easy until they try it.

So try it. Get back to us! Or better yet, stream your friends just roleplaying and hanging out. If it's that easy, you can make yourself some Critical Role bank.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
No two games are alike. If I won a contest and got dwarven forge bits for life, it would not change my game significantly. It doesn't matter if I play in my friend's bedroom, the kitchen table or Buckingham Palace. They are amazing voice actors, but the voices any DM does (or does not do) doesn't really change the content of the game it just changes the cosmetics.
The location, props, and voices are not the things I’m saying set their game apart.
What you seem to imply is that CR is to home games is the same as WWE is to "amateur" wrestling. That even though a big part of the fun for me is getting reactions or making other players laugh by performing my character, my roleplaying is inferior. I don't think it is. I think it's just called playing an immersive game.
That’s not at all what I’m saying. I am strongly opposed to judging roleplaying like that. If you’re imagining the fictional scenario and making decisions as you imagine your character would in that scenario, you’re roleplaying, and there’s no superior or inferior way to do that. That’s different from acting, which does indeed hav variable quality. They are very good actors putting on a performance for a very large audience, and that, not the “quality” of their roleplaying sets them apart.
They have more bling, more charisma. But to say that just because is very, very good at DMing Matt is unique puts him up on a pedestal. A pedestal he does not want, and one that says to other DMs "don't even bother trying to be this good".
That is also not at all what I’m saying. Anyone can learn to be a great DM. Matt’s DMing skill (though very good) is not what sets him apart from other DMs. What does is the fact that he is performing for a very large audience.
It also implies that they have predetermined beats and story arcs that they have planning sessions for and discussions about. They claim they do not. The one interview show I watched had Travis say that a critical turning point for his PC was done in the moment because it's what Fjord would do.
That couldn’t be further from what I’m saying. Acting does not require anything be predetermined, and I do not believe, at all, that their story arcs or beats are planned out ahead of time.
Yes, they have an audience. I'm sure it feels a bit different. Just like it feels a bit different to play at my kitchen table versus playing in our living room (sadly, we've never gotten an invitation to the palace). I can only imagine what it would feel like ... but for me? I would just be performing and roleplaying for my fellow players like I always have. Maybe I make minor adjustments now and then .... just like I do now.
Bold added for emphasis. What I’m saying is, the bold is what sets what they’re doing apart from what you’re doing. They are not just performing and roleplaying for their fellow players. They are turning their roleplaying into a performance for an audience of millions. Such a performance has different needs than performing for your friends, which as skilled actors they are able to meet while seeming like they’re just performing for their friends.

But I know this is pointless and the response will just be "Actors!" "Paid!" "Audience!". Because somehow that makes it totally different.
I keep responding with what you dismissively refer to as "Actors!" "Paid!" "Audience!" (and by the way I haven’t once mentioned that they’re getting paid as a difference, so I don’t know why you’re focusing on that so much) because you keep taking that to mean “Bling!” “Charisma!” “Roleplaying!” You seem to be reading a whole lot into what I’m saying that is simply not there, and I’m trying to express what I am actually saying in a way that you will understand.
P.S. I don't know about the entire cast, but Marisha at least has no formal acting education. She did high school level theater and had jobs like street performer.
Well, she’s quite good at it for being mostly self-taught then. Not the point.
 



Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I genuinely don't see them on a pedestal. Certainly they are charismatic people, leveraging their professional skills to improve the performances they put on. But outside of Matt doing Michael Winslow level stuff, and a huge Dwarven Forge budget, I see most of the other players as... definitely above average but not astounding? Liam is the only one I would rate as astounding.

So they are 8/10s for me. And when someone says other players can't be like them, I think back to all the outstanding players I've had the honor of knowing. In some ways, I like the CR team more because they are fallible. They are not godly roleplayers. They are just like the friends I hang out with every week.
Again, nobody is saying other players can’t be like them. What we’re saying is what other players are doing is a categorically different activity than what they’re doing. Just like playing improv games with your friends for fun is a categorically different activity than doing an improv show like Who’s Line is it Anyway. Not because The Who’s Line cast is unattainably better than you at improv, but because improv for fun and improv as performance are different things (though, of course, the latter can also be fun).
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Unless you are on the cast of CR or have insider information that the rest of us are not privy to you don't know what they think or how they view their game. Asserting that it is different is meaningless, all games are different. Nobody is saying that they are not talented and hard working.

That's all. 🤷‍♂️
 

I mean, I guess in a way it is somehow flattering to CR that some folks sooo want it to be known that their table matches the universally(?) admired level of fun of CR. Like, gargantuan sized levels of fun! Just like CR! But... so much so that they won't acknowledge all the differences between the pros and the amateurs as that might be some kind of admission that their game isn't as fun as CR. But, truth is, everyone's home game is as fun as they experience it to be - and no one can say otherwise. CR is not really a barometer for anyone else's game and anyone else's game is not really a barometer for CR.

And yet, there's a vibe in the thread that anyone acknowledging all the differences between CR and a home game is somehow playing a not-quite-as-fun game? That undercurrent is weird to me. Then again, maybe I'm reading way too much into some comments while avoiding doing work on a Friday.
 

Iry

Hero
What we’re saying is what other players are doing is a categorically different activity than what they’re doing. Just like playing improv games with your friends for fun is a categorically different activity than doing an improv show like Who’s Line is it Anyway. Not because The Who’s Line cast is unattainably better than you at improv, but because improv for fun and improv as performance are different things (though, of course, the latter can also be fun).
Sure, the various skills used in roleplaying have different emphasis from one group to another. One might be technically oriented and employ more mechanical ingenuity, while another might leverage acting chops to maintain better pacing, etc. But what is the goal of making that distinction here in this thread specifically?
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Sure, the various skills used in roleplaying have different emphasis from one group to another. One might be technically oriented and employ more mechanical ingenuity, while another might leverage acting chops to maintain better pacing, etc. But what is the goal of making that distinction here in this thread specifically?
The Critical Role cast isn’t just leveraging acting chops to maintain better pacing. They are putting on a performance. It’s just not the same activity as playing D&D casually, the same as dancing at the club is a different activity than doing an improvised dance performance for an audience. The point of making this distinction, as stated in the opening post and reiterated many times in this thread, is to recognize the incredible skill that goes into making their performance look as natural as if it were a home game, and to emphasize that if you want to emulate them, you should keep in mind that their performance has different needs and concerns than your home game, so you might need to make some changes to adapt to the needs of your game.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
The Critical Role cast isn’t just leveraging acting chops to maintain better pacing. They are putting on a performance. It’s just not the same activity as playing D&D casually, the same as dancing at the club is a different activity than doing an improvised dance performance for an audience. The point of making this distinction, as stated in the opening post and reiterated many times in this thread, is to recognize the incredible skill that goes into making their performance look as natural as if it were a home game, and to emphasize that if you want to emulate them, you should keep in mind that their performance has different needs and concerns than your home game, so you might need to make some changes to adapt to the needs of your game.

What does it mean to you to say "they are putting on a performance"? You keep saying that like it has some bigger meaning than how I, or my players, put on a performance when we get into role playing. Are you saying they're performing when they're engaged in chit-chat, making references to pop songs or movies? To me putting on a performance means pre-planning, discussing story arcs that will be entertaining and so on. Not scripted per se but definitely planned out ahead of time.

No one is denying that they are very charismatic, something that is enhanced by their acting skills. I don't know what anyone else thinks, but I make no claims that I or my group is as charismatic and polished as they are. No one is denying that they've done tremendous work promoting and building a small business empire.
 

Yeah. And I don't know if it's even a debate which can be resolved, unless maybe we were to poll the players and Matt.

But I think that's why the analogies got pushback. I don't think anyone's denying that playing to an audience changes the game, but I think folks are on opposite sides of the question "is it entertainment for the audience first and foremost, or entertainment for the group first and foremost?" Which is probably not something we can determine definitively.

If the game exists (at this point) primarily for the audience, it's more like a TV show or a Globetrotters game than it is like our games. Which is what I think Snarf was saying in his OP. But I'm not convinced that's true.

And I think the folks who have observed that we can indeed learn from and improve our games by imitating parts of it are correct.
Sounds like we're still hitting this same difference of opinion.

Are they primarily performing for the home audience, or primarily playing a game with each other?

Obviously their performance skills enhance the experience and make it much more appealing to the passive, non-participatory audience than any of our home games would be. But some folks think it's still functionally a D&D game more than it is a TV show. Some others the reverse.

For my part I think it's more of a game. More like the NBA than like the Globetrotters.
 

BRayne

Adventurer
Similar to =/= the same as. And, again, these are people who went to grad school to learn to put on an entertaining performance while making it look natural. Saying what they do while performing is significantly similar to what you do while not performing is... Well it's a bit like believing the stage magician actually just pulled a rabbit out of his hat. It sure does look like he did.

Forgive my pedantry but I don't think any of them went to Grad school specifically
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
What does it mean to you to say "they are putting on a performance"? You keep saying that like it has some bigger meaning than how I, or my players, put on a performance when we get into role playing.
I’ve explained this many times. A performance is meant to entertain a passive audience. What you and your players are doing is meant to entertain yourselves and each other, all of whom are active participants. I’ve tried analogy after analogy. Sex vs porn. Casual sports vs televised sports. Improv games with friends vs. Who’s Line is it Anyway. Trivial Pursuit vs. Jeopardy. Playing video games alone vs. streaming on Twitch or doing a Let’s Play. The difference is “for who’s entertainment is this being done?”
Are you saying they're performing when they're engaged in chit-chat, making references to pop songs or movies?
Yes.
To me putting on a performance means pre-planning, discussing story arcs that will be entertaining and so on. Not scripted per se but definitely planned out ahead of time.
Well that isn’t what it means. Performances can be entirely improvisational.
No one is denying that they are very charismatic, something that is enhanced by their acting skills.
Nor is anyone saying their charisma is what makes a categorical difference between their game and a home game.
I don't know what anyone else thinks, but I make no claims that I or my group is as charismatic and polished as they are. No one is denying that they've done tremendous work promoting and building a small business empire.
Their charisma and polish aren’t what’s being discussed here.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I’ve explained this many times. A performance is meant to entertain a passive audience. What you and your players are doing is meant to entertain yourselves and each other, all of whom are active participants. I’ve tried analogy after analogy. Sex vs porn. Casual sports vs televised sports. Improv games with friends vs. Who’s Line is it Anyway. Trivial Pursuit vs. Jeopardy. Playing video games alone vs. streaming on Twitch or doing a Let’s Play. The difference is “for who’s entertainment is this being done?”

Yes.

Well that isn’t what it means. Performances can be entirely improvisational.

Nor is anyone saying their charisma is what makes a categorical difference between their game and a home game.

Their charisma and polish aren’t what’s being discussed here.

All I can say is that I disagree with your conclusion. It's not an either/or situation and we don't know what the balance is, if it's even the same for each member of the group. I simply see no reason to believe that it's primarily a performance for the anonymous audience.

Ooh, I know! How about next thread we talk about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin! That will be just about as productive as this has been.
 

If it's annoying you and you don't think it's productive you can also just... stop participating in it. :)

I often bail out on longer threads once I've said my peace and I'm not enjoying the marrow-chewing that the most persistent interlocutors are down to.
 

ReshiIRE

Explorer
Watching Critical Role has been quite useful to me in one way - rewatching (Campaign 1 Spoilers)
Scanlan leaving and Tary showing up
has made me recognise how I made many critical mistakes when I had a character die and then had to introduce my new one, related to my previous character. It just triggered that self-reflection in me and made me realise how I should have approached the situation, and how I approached it probably introduced a shitton of pressure onto my GM and onto the other party members.

I have some apologies to do at some point.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
All I can say is that I disagree with your conclusion. It's not an either/or situation and we don't know what the balance is, if it's even the same for each member of the group. I simply see no reason to believe that it's primarily a performance for the anonymous audience.
I didn’t say primarily.
Ooh, I know! How about next thread we talk about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin! That will be just about as productive as this has been.
Only one Angel knows how to dance 😜
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Only one Angel knows how to dance 😜
I didn't say they had to be good dancers ...

aef5ab38f82ccbcd9f7d3eacd0393b1a--elmo-the-head.jpg
 

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