"How do I beat the Matt Mercer effect?"

On Reddit, a user named Mister-builder asked Matthew Mercer how to deal with folks who unfavourably compare their home game to that of Critical Role's videos. Matt took to Reddit to pen a reply.

"I'm running a campaign for a lot of first-timers, and I'm dealing with a lot of first-timer problems (the one who never speaks up, the one who needs to be railroaded, the NG character being played CN and the CN character being played CE). Lately, however, there's a new situation I'm dealing with. A third of my group first got interested in D&D because of Critical Role. I like Matt Mercer as much as the next guy, but these guys watched 30+ hours of the show before they ever picked up a D20. The Dwarf thinks that all Dwarves have Irish accents, and the Dragonborn sounds exactly like the one from the show (which is fine, until they meet NPCs that are played differently from how it's done on the show). I've been approached by half the group and asked how I planned to handle resurrection. When I told them I'd decide when we got there, they told me how Matt does it. Our WhatsApp is filled with Geek and Sundry videos about how to play RPG's better. There's nothing wrong with how they do it on the show, but I'm not Matt Mercer and they're not Vox Machina. At some point, the unrealistic expectations are going to clash with reality. How do you guys deal with players who've had past DM's they swear by?

TL;DR Critical Role has become the prototype for how my players think D&D works. How do I push my own way of doing things without letting them down?"




Critical-Role-Matt-Mercer.jpg



Here was the reply from Matthew Mercer:

"Seeing stuff like this kinda breaks my heart. Regardless, the fact of the matter is our style of play is just that...our style of play. Every table is different, and should be! If they just want to “copy” what we do, that’s not very creative nor what makes the game magic at the table.

I DO believe that it’s important for any gaming group to discuss expectations early into a campaign so everyone can get on the same page and avoid dissonance. However, it’s EVERYONE’S responsibility at the table to provide and add to the experience for everyone to enjoy themselves and the story, not just the DM. As I saw some comments below mention, you want a particular style of game? That level of commitments rests on YOUR shoulders. Consolidate your style and wishes with those of the other players and DM, and somewhere in that unique mix you will find your table’s special style of storytelling.

Need I also remind your players that we are a table of professional actors, and I have been DMing for well over 20 years. We have spent our lives training in particular skills that allow us to get as immersed in the characters as we enjoy doing. Anyone can jump in as deeply, should they wish to, but EXPECTING that immediate level of comfort and interest is unfair and absurd. Do they want a deep, convoluted emotional journey like Scanlan? They better be able to bring it like Sam did. No? Then sit down and just have fun finding your own path. ;)

PLUS, our style isn’t for everyone! Hell, just scan the comments below to see how many folks don’t like us, haha. I’ve played with many different players, ran games of many different styles and focuses, and I can tell you... there is so much fun variety to how a TTRPG can be played, they’re limiting their chances to enjoy it by trying to “play it just like us”.

Anyway, I say the best course is have a very frank conversation with them about these things. Clearly say that your game will feel like YOUR game (meaning you and the players together), and it’s THEIR responsibility to bring to the table what facet they want to see in it. Show them this post, if it helps. In fact, show them this message:

“Guys. Relax. Your DM is kicking ass, and is doing this for YOUR enjoyment and journey. Appreciate that, listen, build with them, and make this something UNIQUE. Abandon expectations and just have fun together as friends.”

Anyway, so sorry. Things like this are never my intent. It’s a weird, wild west these days. Your gonna be great, friend.
 
Russ Morrissey

Comments

Sacrosanct

Legend
We see a lot of it here as well. Many comments about along the lines of “Well, Matt DMs it that way, and he’s awesome, so it must be the best way.”

Usually in discussions when people point out how they might be frustrated because of Matt’s loose relationship with the rules.

Ultimately, he’s just a dude having fun with no more authority of how the game should be played than you or I.
 
I'm glad I don't play with anybody who's too invested in Mercer and his gang. But I can imagine a lot of (young?) folks who get into the hobby via RPG shows could be more susceptible to believe every round of D&D should be like this. Mercer should put this message as a disclaimer before every video. :)
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I think it's great that Critical Role brings in so many new players. I don't think it's unreasonable for new players to think that D&D is just like the example they've seen, but I would think that viewpoint would diminish after a few games.

I guess in an ideal world, new players would get to play with a variety of DMs and see the range of play styles available, but that's obviously not something available to everybody -- I had just the one group for the first decade of gaming. Then again, we didn't know any better, as we'd never seen anybody else play. Nobody to get inspiration or tips from, which is something we have in abundance now. But absent availability of other groups to play with, maybe recommend some other livestreams, just for a wider overview?

I always feel that if the DM is having fun, usually everybody else has fun too. Even if that's not true, if the DM is not having fun, certainly nobody else does.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I had to deal with this situation from 2 players who would argue the rules because ''that's not how they do on CR!''. I had to make them see that those comments were hurtful and impolite, like being invited to supper at a friend's home and constantly whining that their grand-ma's spaghetti sauce is soooooo much better than the host's one and how it's sad that it doesnt taste like hers.

I also had to remind them that even though I did not watch the show, I know enough about it from Reddit to know that their character is a straight rip-off from the show and that will likely create dissonant expectations when they'll realize that I wont threat their character the same way Mercer did.
 

ad_hoc

Adventurer
One thing to keep in mind is that there is a large difference between playing for yourselves and playing for an audience.

This goes for DM and player dynamics as well. The type of player who has irked me the most when I DM is the one who thinks it is my job to entertain them.
 

Georgie

Villager
Side note I would love to see Matt run other games. D&D is fun and all but it'd be cool to see him bring his style of DMing to something like vtm or shadowrun 4e
 

pogre

Adventurer
I run a high school gaming club and the "Matt Mercer effect" is a thing with these kids in a slightly different way than mentioned above. Critical Role has been wonderful for attracting player interest, but has made so many of the kids gun-shy about putting on the D.M. shoes. None of the kids want to risk creating a game that is different (or in their minds) less than Mercer's.

I tell them right up front - I run a better game than Mercer ever could and they can too - because they will own it.

We still always have huge tables, because players outnumber DMs at least 10-to-1.

edit: btw - I admire Matt Mercer's response and attitude. I may not appreciate Critical Role or other streamed games personally, but I am thankful for what they have done to invigorate the gaming community.
 
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I had to deal with this situation from 2 players who would argue the rules because ''that's not how they do on CR!''. I had to make them see that those comments were hurtful and impolite, like being invited to supper at a friend's home and constantly whining that their grand-ma's spaghetti sauce is soooooo much better than the host's one and how it's sad that it doesnt taste like hers.

I also had to remind them that even though I did not watch the show, I know enough about it from Reddit to know that their character is a straight rip-off from the show and that will likely create dissonant expectations when they'll realize that I wont threat their character the same way Mercer did.
Hurtful and impolite? Maybe grow thicker skin, and be open to improving. No GM is perfect, even Mercer.

Comparisons have been around since... forever. They're inevitable.

VS
 
D

DQDesign

Guest
I would be interested in knowing if wotc is worried about this kind of effect and in such case which are the countermeasures they would put in action or if they are just satisfied with the luring power of those shows and don't care about the 'what?!? sex is not exactly like porn?!?' effect the shows create.
 
W

WhosDaDungeonMaster

Guest
You know, I've never even heard of this guy or Critical Role (?)... and I don't think any of my players have, either, but I'll have to ask.
 

Jester David

Adventurer
I commented on this discussion on Twitter a few days back, arguing the "Matt Mercer/ Critical Role" effect is just a modern (and more widespread) take on an existing phenomena.
How many people got into D&D from the video games or the novels and expected a very similar experience? Specifically, how many Dragonlance fans moved onto D&D and expected their campaign to be very similar to the War of the Lance or rather than making a copy of a Vox Machina character they ended up making a Drizzt clone?

Matt Mercer has become the gold standard of DMing. He's knowledgeable of *most* of the rules, and is quick to keep things moving if he doesn't know and only stops to check if he's really uncertain. His descriptions are solid and he's good at managing the table, doing his best to keep the players from becoming bored.
But, as he says, he's been DMing for twenty years and has experience in acting and a vocal field. Plus, he has spent the last three-and-a-half years DMing live in a weekly show that has very limited above the table chatter, so he's "on" for long stretches of time. He's been through a crucible. He'd better be good.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Hurtful and impolite? Maybe grow thicker skin, and be open to improving. No GM is perfect, even Mercer.

Comparisons have been around since... forever. They're inevitable.

VS
Or I could just tell my player that their constant comparison is unwelcome and induce an unwanted pressure on my game. You know, just discussing the things that might create conflict, like normal adults. I dont think having one side ''endure'' is the way to go and, seeing from the number of time those threads pop-up online, I dont think I'm the only one in this situation.

EDIT: Where did I say that I wasnt open to improvement? The fact that I use RAW ressurection and potion use and not Mercer's doest mean that I dont want to improve myself, I just dont like his rules for my campaigns. After each game my player do a short evaluation survey, and we have reserved time at the start of ech session to discuss the changes players want to make because I see DMing as a shared task.
 
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I

Immortal Sun

Guest
I think there's a difference between saying "That's the way my gramma/my fav DM/Matt does things!" as a statement of badwrongfun, and "Oh, I thought that's how things were done." as a statement of ignorance that things could be different. I haven't personally encountered any players who assume that Critical Role is the way to play D&D. That could be just because I'm fairly picky with my players and don't really "teach" people the game very often.

As far as "this dwarf sounds like CR's dwarf" I mean...come on, is that reallly a complaint? I've had players sounding like bad Irish/Scottish parodies for 20+ years, I mean heck, my first DM liked to play dwarves and thought he was hot stuff because he could do a parody dwarf pretty well. Players can play their character however they want, inspired by whatever source they want. If they express surprise at a dwarf that doesn't sound like that, again that's where you need to watch for the difference between "If you're not doing it the way CR does you're wrong!" and "I had no idea that was an option!"

So, again, really I think what this comes down to is player attitude. Are they ignorant? Or are they arrogant?
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
I would be interested in knowing if wotc is worried about this kind of effect and in such case which are the countermeasures they would put in action or if they are just satisfied with the luring power of those shows and don't care about the 'what?!? sex is not exactly like porn?!?' effect the shows create.
I think they've already put their countermeasures into effect, which is streaming a crapton of their own D&D games on their Twitch channel. And anyone who watches any of those can know for certain there are wide disparities between them and Critical Role. CR is one style of game... and Dice, Camera, Action, and Sirens of the Realm, and Heroes of the Vale, and Inkwell Society, and Girls, Guts, Glory are all other styles of game.

Now whether any new players watch any of those games is another question... but really what else can WotC do? They make options and styles of D&D available to watch, and the people then decide if any of them float their boat enough to bother.
 

Vael

Adventurer
Everybody knows that Dwarves have Russian accents. Celtic accents are just wrong.
Geez, I just wish I could maintain a consistent accent. It's a common joke at my table that every character of mine has an international accent ... that it travels the world, often in a single sentence.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
But I can imagine a lot of (young?) folks who get into the hobby via RPG shows
I know plenty of grown-ass adults who got into the hobby through Critical Role, The Adventure Zone, Dice Camera Action, and similar shows.

could be more susceptible to believe every round of D&D should be like this. Mercer should put this message as a disclaimer before every video. :)
Now that, I strongly agree with. I’ve seen a lot of choices that the Critical Role folks make, that work fine for them, but that I really wish Matt would just take a moment to look at the camera and say, “for folks watching, this is how we handle situations like this, but we’ve been gaming together for a long time, and had plenty of opportunity to find what works for us as a group. In your own games, it’s important to talk about these things with your DM and fellow players so you can find what works for your own group.”

im thinking, for example, about the way they describe their use of material and somatic components when casting spells. An awesome choice for a streamed performance, but might not be reasonable to expect at every table.
 
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