"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

Since multiple people asked me to directly name my GMing book, it's called How To Game Master Like A F'ing Boss (although, f'ing is actually spelled out). It can be found on both DriveThruRPG: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/148728/How-to-Game-Master-like-a-:):):):)ing-Boss

...and Amazon.com.

Wasn't trying to be mysterious, thought that most people on here knew me and my works. Not sure why, now that I think about it... I rarely post on ENworld.

VS
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Since multiple people asked me to directly name my GMing book, it's called How To Game Master Like A F'ing Boss (although, f'ing is actually spelled out). It can be found on both DriveThruRPG: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/148728/How-to-Game-Master-like-a-:):):):)ing-Boss

...and Amazon.com.

Wasn't trying to be mysterious, thought that most people on here knew me and my works. Not sure why, now that I think about it... I rarely post on ENworld.

VS
Also your handle looks like a gaming handle. Not like an real name.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
It is a gaming handle. My real name is infinitely more pedestrian. FYI, I've written all of my 40+ gaming books under Venger As'Nas Satanis.

VS
Well how nice for you. Amazon lists 24. And looking at the covers. Well does not look like stuff I would want.
 
Well how nice for you. Amazon lists 24. And looking at the covers. Well does not look like stuff I would want.
20 or so softcovers on Amazon, but if you look at my PDFs on DriveThru, it's over 40 (some are quite short... a few of them are even free).

No, I don't think most regular posters on ENworld would be interested in the kind of gaming material I write. I'd be surprised if there was more than a title or two reviewed over here. But it takes all kinds, doesn't it?

VS
 
Funny!
A friend of mine - I played AD&D with him about 25 years ago, then he moved away, now we're living close together again - watched the Mercer videos and really enjoyed it. I didn't have the time...
We started playing D&D again, and knowing the game he never complained about my DMing style.

But then he started DMing (ToA), although he said he was a little afraid of his 1st DMing experience. But no problem at all, IMO the "Mercer-influence" had a really positive impact on his DMing style. He did a good job from the beginning. Well prepared, and entertaining in all aspects, descriptions of settings, events, NPCs and his role-playing of the NPCs: all really good.

So thumbs up for the "Mercer's online school of DMing"! :)
 

Aebir-Toril

std::cout << "Hi" << '\n';
Myself? No. But those wendsday night groups are pretty much AL (without the obligatory bookkeeping and stuff), with people just signing up and sitting down. And people still take the time to thank the DM. And no, i'm not Canadian or something, us Dutch people are actually considered on the rude side afaik ;)
Oh Lolth, never run a public game in the U.S. if you expect to be thanked.

However, I still have fun, just without being thanked.

Of course, I always say thank you when I play.
 

phantomK9

Explorer
As a fan of Critical Role....I have the exact opposite problem from the original poster....

As a background, I've been DMing (D&D as well as many other games) for 25 or years before the first episode of Critical Role even went up. And I've been gaming with the same group since the mid 90's. Funny thing is, that while I've watched every episode (as well as a dozen more D&D podcasts) NOT A SINGLE ONE OF MY PLAYERS watches any of them, nothing.

I've mentioned to them how much fun they are (especially Critical Role) and I'm met with blank stares and questions like, "Why would I want to watch someone else play D&D?".

I will say that my style of DM'ing is fairly similar to Matt Mercer's but of course I don't have his acting chops. Fortunately for me, watching Critical Role has helped to break me out of shell I didn't even know I've had and the gaming sessions at my table have definitely been improved in the past few years. Hell we are going on a currently just over 3 year long campaign right now and the players are having a blast (and so am I). :)
 

Rhenny

Adventurer
Funny!
A friend of mine - I played AD&D with him about 25 years ago, then he moved away, now we're living close together again - watched the Mercer videos and really enjoyed it. I didn't have the time...
We started playing D&D again, and knowing the game he never complained about my DMing style.

But then he started DMing (ToA), although he said he was a little afraid of his 1st DMing experience. But no problem at all, IMO the "Mercer-influence" had a really positive impact on his DMing style. He did a good job from the beginning. Well prepared, and entertaining in all aspects, descriptions of settings, events, NPCs and his role-playing of the NPCs: all really good.

So thumbs up for the "Mercer's online school of DMing"! :)

Bravo. I’m an old timer and when I learned to play and DM I never had the benefit of watching others play unless I joined different groups. I really like how streamed games show ways to play and DM.

My son and his friends play now and they all watch Critical Role. When I listen and watch them play, it warms my heart. They really role play and when my son DMs, he captivates his group. They are much better at roleplaying than my old groups were.

The Matt Mercer effect is a boon.
 

ModernApathy

Explorer
As a fan of Critical Role....I have the exact opposite problem from the original poster....
NOT A SINGLE ONE OF MY PLAYERS watches any of them, nothing.

I've mentioned to them how much fun they are (especially Critical Role) and I'm met with blank stares and questions like, "Why would I want to watch someone else play D&D?".
I wouldn't sweat it too much, it means you can borrow ideas from the show and they'll be completely new to your players.
 

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