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Critical Role PSA: You are not Matt Mercer

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Thank you for that explanation. Having been in embarrassing situations before I get it. I do really think had you been in that seat Matt would have at least tried to put a stop to the stuff that bothered you. And I think the other players would have acted differently too.

May you find the game you love.
I'd like to think that Mercer has a feel for his players' sensibilities and sensitivities, yes. And he doesn't seem like the sort to be an intentional bully. OTOH, no DM is right for everyone.

I have found the games I love, but I'm DMing them, which makes it hard to play in them. No plan is perfect. ;-)
 

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I haven't read the entire thread yet, but something occurred to me that I wanted to write down. I'll probably catch up to it later when I've finished reading the thread.

I'm not a golfer, but is the "Tiger Effect" a bad thing in golf? Is there a negative "Manning Effect" in American Football or a "John Wayne effect" that people complained about in the 50's?I think I remember hearing about a "Kirby Effect" in comics when I studied them a few years back (referring to Jack "The King" Kirby).

I wonder this because I don't think I've encountered this idea in other entertainment media very often, and Mercer is probably going to be seen as the first "big star" of DnD. I mean, sure, Gygax and Arneson were the creators of the game, but beyond that I don't know if there are really any players that got this "famous" for playing the game, not like Perkins and Mercer, and there is no "Chris Perkins Effect".

So, I'm a little... curious I suppose, why "The Mercer Effect" is seen so negatively. I mean, literally all I think would be required is to tell players "Those guys are professional actors. We aren't." and that would take away a lot of the expectations put forth onto people. I mean, telling your Pee-Wee Football team, "Guys, you aren't Peyton Manning, he is a professional." is pretty standard, right? Why is this so hard for the DnD community?
 

BRayne

Villager
I haven't read the entire thread yet, but something occurred to me that I wanted to write down. I'll probably catch up to it later when I've finished reading the thread.

I'm not a golfer, but is the "Tiger Effect" a bad thing in golf? Is there a negative "Manning Effect" in American Football or a "John Wayne effect" that people complained about in the 50's?I think I remember hearing about a "Kirby Effect" in comics when I studied them a few years back (referring to Jack "The King" Kirby).

I wonder this because I don't think I've encountered this idea in other entertainment media very often, and Mercer is probably going to be seen as the first "big star" of DnD. I mean, sure, Gygax and Arneson were the creators of the game, but beyond that I don't know if there are really any players that got this "famous" for playing the game, not like Perkins and Mercer, and there is no "Chris Perkins Effect".

So, I'm a little... curious I suppose, why "The Mercer Effect" is seen so negatively. I mean, literally all I think would be required is to tell players "Those guys are professional actors. We aren't." and that would take away a lot of the expectations put forth onto people. I mean, telling your Pee-Wee Football team, "Guys, you aren't Peyton Manning, he is a professional." is pretty standard, right? Why is this so hard for the DnD community?
My guess at least is the same reason there are so often "How do I deal with a problem player?" type posts in various D&D communities. Since the answer to both problems is "talk to them".
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I'm not a golfer, but is the "Tiger Effect" a bad thing in golf? Is there a negative "Manning Effect" in American Football or a "John Wayne effect" that people complained about in the 50's?I think I remember hearing about a "Kirby Effect" in comics when I studied them a few years back (referring to Jack "The King" Kirby).

I wonder this because I don't think I've encountered this idea in other entertainment media very often, and Mercer is probably going to be seen as the first "big star" of DnD. I mean, sure, Gygax and Arneson were the creators of the game, but beyond that I don't know if there are really any players that got this "famous" for playing the game, not like Perkins and Mercer, and there is no "Chris Perkins Effect".

So, I'm a little... curious I suppose, why "The Mercer Effect" is seen so negatively. I mean, literally all I think would be required is to tell players "Those guys are professional actors. We aren't." and that would take away a lot of the expectations put forth onto people. I mean, telling your Pee-Wee Football team, "Guys, you aren't Peyton Manning, he is a professional." is pretty standard, right? Why is this so hard for the DnD community?
I don't think it's just a "Mercer Effect". I think there's a recognizable "Gygaxian Effect" in various message board discussions about how the game is played, maybe particularly among the OSR enthusiasts. It's just not called that, as far as I can tell, and may be a bit less defined.

I would also argue that it's not just among RPGers. You see it in movies too. There are plenty of directors who will explore another influencing director's style. To give you an example, Zak and Miri Make a Porno is about as Judd Apatow a movie as I've seen that isn't directed by Judd Apatow. I think Kevin Smith was deliberately exploring Apatow's style. And you see that with movies that aren't by Wes Anderson but really feel like they might be.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I haven't read the entire thread yet, but something occurred to me that I wanted to write down. I'll probably catch up to it later when I've finished reading the thread.

I'm not a golfer, but is the "Tiger Effect" a bad thing in golf? Is there a negative "Manning Effect" in American Football or a "John Wayne effect" that people complained about in the 50's?I think I remember hearing about a "Kirby Effect" in comics when I studied them a few years back (referring to Jack "The King" Kirby).

I wonder this because I don't think I've encountered this idea in other entertainment media very often, and Mercer is probably going to be seen as the first "big star" of DnD. I mean, sure, Gygax and Arneson were the creators of the game, but beyond that I don't know if there are really any players that got this "famous" for playing the game, not like Perkins and Mercer, and there is no "Chris Perkins Effect".

So, I'm a little... curious I suppose, why "The Mercer Effect" is seen so negatively. I mean, literally all I think would be required is to tell players "Those guys are professional actors. We aren't." and that would take away a lot of the expectations put forth onto people. I mean, telling your Pee-Wee Football team, "Guys, you aren't Peyton Manning, he is a professional." is pretty standard, right? Why is this so hard for the DnD community?
Well first of all, I don't think the “Matt Mercer effect” is a real thing. It’s been pointed out a few times in this thread that accounts of players and DMs actually expecting their games to be just like Critical Role seem to always be third-hand. It looks less like a genuine phenomenon to me and more like a poor attempt at scaremongering targeted at old fogies who don’t like all this newfangled streaming business (which is itself a bit of a caricature).

Second of all, the quality of play in sports can be objectively measured, where DMing and playing is far more subjective. Fans setting Matt Mercer as an example of quality DMing is far more dubious than setting Tiger Woods as an example of quality golfing. Tiger undeniably golfs well, whereas opinions on Matt’s DMing are varied. Which, again, I think is the point of the alleged “Matt Mercer effect” - to scare gatekeep-y folks who are already worried that streaming is “ruining D&D” by saying “look, new players are treating The Bad Internet DM as a benchmark for good DMing! Won’t someone please think of the newbies!”
 

I caught up!

My guess at least is the same reason there are so often "How do I deal with a problem player?" type posts in various D&D communities. Since the answer to both problems is "talk to them".
I can see that, but I wonder still why this particular subject always seems to start negatively. People rarely open a topic like this to talk about how "The Mercer Effect" inspired them to create a new campaign and they are loving every minute of it. Or how the "Mercer Effect" showed them that DnD is a game that is inclusive to everyone and that cool people play it.

It is always "how do we deal with players wanting to be actors like Sam Reigel" or "How do we deal with DMs feeling inadequate next to Mercer"

That's why I brought up other famous people in their respective fields, not neccesarily the best, just famous. Would you expect people to go to a basketball game and complain about the unrealistic expectations set by Shaq or Jordan? Why do we associate Mercer with problem players while rarely talking about the positive aspects within the community.

I don't know if the video is still up, but I remember in Season 1, back when they still had time to read letters, they would constantly get mail from people about how CR helped them through a rough time in their lives, or helped inspire them to create, to the point where I remember they had a video, I think it was almost an hour, that was just full of dedications people gave for the positive impact CR and/or DnD had on their lives.

That is just as much the "Mercer Effect" as people coming to the table and expected houserules that you don't use.

I don't think it's just a "Mercer Effect". I think there's a recognizable "Gygaxian Effect" in various message board discussions about how the game is played, maybe particularly among the OSR enthusiasts. It's just not called that, as far as I can tell, and may be a bit less defined.

I would also argue that it's not just among RPGers. You see it in movies too. There are plenty of directors who will explore another influencing director's style. To give you an example, Zak and Miri Make a Porno is about as Judd Apatow a movie as I've seen that isn't directed by Judd Apatow. I think Kevin Smith was deliberately exploring Apatow's style. And you see that with movies that aren't by Wes Anderson but really feel like they might be.
It is late and I'm not sure I'm fully understanding your point. Could you elaborate?


Well first of all, I don't think the “Matt Mercer effect” is a real thing. It’s been pointed out a few times in this thread that accounts of players and DMs actually expecting their games to be just like Critical Role seem to always be third-hand. It looks less like a genuine phenomenon to me and more like a poor attempt at scaremongering targeted at old fogies who don’t like all this newfangled streaming business (which is itself a bit of a caricature).
I disagree with a catch.

I think there is an effect Matt Mercer and CR has had on the Dungeons and Dragons community. I do not believe it is being accurately portrayed very often in these discussions, but if DnD lasts another hundred years and gets a comprehensive history, Mercer gets a full chapter in that history.

But I do agree, I think the anecdotes do seem to be blown a little out of proportion.

Second of all, the quality of play in sports can be objectively measured, where DMing and playing is far more subjective. Fans setting Matt Mercer as an example of quality DMing is far more dubious than setting Tiger Woods as an example of quality golfing. Tiger undeniably golfs well, whereas opinions on Matt’s DMing are varied. Which, again, I think is the point of the alleged “Matt Mercer effect” - to scare gatekeep-y folks who are already worried that streaming is “ruining D&D” by saying “look, new players are treating The Bad Internet DM as a benchmark for good DMing! Won’t someone please think of the newbies!”
I can see that, but I want to clarify my point.

I was trying to come up with "famous" people in their fields, not neccesarily the best. And, by default of how the world works, people famous within a field tend to be very good within that field.

But, look at John Wayne. Was he a good actor? I assume so, but I'm also positive film critics could name a half a dozen actors who were better than him. But Wayne was incredibly famous and affected the Culture.

I think also, that if we step back and think about it, the new players that come from Critical Role are 100% right. Mercer is the Best DM they have ever seen. He is also probably the only DM they have ever seen.

In fact, thinking about it, most people will likely have had only around a dozen DMs, some people far far less than that. And those new players will have never seen your (speaking to the invisible "you" over that way) DMing style.

But I also think it is fair to say that while you might not like Mercer's style, he is an excellent GM. I won't say the greatest or the best, but I think even his worst critics will admit he gets a solid B as a GM. And he is visible. When I first picked up DnD books around the age of twelve, that didn't exist for me. I was in college before I ever played a single game, and I refused to run until I had played, because I had no idea what to do. I had no idea what DMing "looked" like. But now, there is a highly visible, competent DM. And if you don't like him, there are about another dozen you could refer to, but people who don't have someone to ask "hey, what is DnD" might still stumble across Critical Role and see what it is that we all love.

And, I think that is worth getting a few players who insist on things being a certain way.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I disagree with a catch.

I think there is an effect Matt Mercer and CR has had on the Dungeons and Dragons community. I do not believe it is being accurately portrayed very often in these discussions, but if DnD lasts another hundred years and gets a comprehensive history, Mercer gets a full chapter in that history.

But I do agree, I think the anecdotes do seem to be blown a little out of proportion.
I don’t think we’re using different approaches to try to communicate the same thing here. When I say “I don’t think the Matt Mercer Effect is a real thing,” I don’t mean critical role doesn’t have an effect on the hobby. That would be kind of naive. It definitely does have an effect, I just don’t think it has the specific effect people typically use the term “Matt Mercer effect” to describe - namely, creating unrealistic expectations in new players who get into the game through CR. I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it has happened, but I don’t think it’s a widespread problem.

I can see that, but I want to clarify my point.

I was trying to come up with "famous" people in their fields, not neccesarily the best. And, by default of how the world works, people famous within a field tend to be very good within that field.

But, look at John Wayne. Was he a good actor? I assume so, but I'm also positive film critics could name a half a dozen actors who were better than him. But Wayne was incredibly famous and affected the Culture.
Right, I just don’t think the metaphor works. D&D is just not analogous to sports like that. Movies works a little better, but I still don’t think it communicates your point well.

I think also, that if we step back and think about it, the new players that come from Critical Role are 100% right. Mercer is the Best DM they have ever seen. He is also probably the only DM they have ever seen.

In fact, thinking about it, most people will likely have had only around a dozen DMs, some people far far less than that. And those new players will have never seen your (speaking to the invisible "you" over that way) DMing style.

But I also think it is fair to say that while you might not like Mercer's style, he is an excellent GM. I won't say the greatest or the best, but I think even his worst critics will admit he gets a solid B as a GM. And he is visible. When I first picked up DnD books around the age of twelve, that didn't exist for me. I was in college before I ever played a single game, and I refused to run until I had played, because I had no idea what to do. I had no idea what DMing "looked" like. But now, there is a highly visible, competent DM. And if you don't like him, there are about another dozen you could refer to, but people who don't have someone to ask "hey, what is DnD" might still stumble across Critical Role and see what it is that we all love.

And, I think that is worth getting a few players who insist on things being a certain way.
Oh, no doubt. Matt is an excellent DM, even if his style isn’t what I prefer. And I think it’s a great thing that new players have an easily-accessible and entertaining example of D&D being played - again, even if it’s not the style I prefer, it still helps to demystify the game for people. My partner got into D&D thanks to Critical Role, so I’m no stranger to the advantage that is. All I’m saying is, I think the alleged disadvantage of those new players having distorted expectations of what a game should look like is way overblown. Maybe once in a while a new player or DM will be a bit disappointed their home game doesn’t look quite like Critical Role, but I don’t think most new players really expect it to, and of those who do, I don’t think most are going to make a fuss about it.
 

It is always "how do we deal with players wanting to be actors like Sam Reigel" or "How do we deal with DMs feeling inadequate next to Mercer"

That's why I brought up other famous people in their respective fields, not neccesarily the best, just famous. Would you expect people to go to a basketball game and complain about the unrealistic expectations set by Shaq or Jordan?
True.
But...
When you watch a basketball game you see one person who is Jordan and twenty people who aren't. And there's a physical aspect that becomes apparent when you look at a hoop: you know how high you can jump.

If you'd never seen a basketball court or played before your early teens, and then watch a whole bunch of Jordan highlight reels—hundreds of hours—you might think it's easier than it looks. When handled the ball you might be surprised how hard it is to run and dribble at the same time.
And if you play in a group, you might be surprised by how much they don't play like a professional team.

Why do we associate Mercer with problem players while rarely talking about the positive aspects within the community.
Because the internet is a relentlessly horrible place full of whiners upset about something.

So people are going to complain about Mercer... unless you go to reddit.com/r/criticalrole[/QUOTE]
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
It is late and I'm not sure I'm fully understanding your point. Could you elaborate?
My point is - it's not just Mercer who people want to emulate in gaming. I think the OSR movement is based around ideals of Gygaxian play - the Gygax Effect, if you will. It's just not identified as such (and there are probably all sorts of reasons why that get into intergenerational gamer politics).

And it's not just the gamer community where we see this... or where we see problems. I pointed out Kevin Smith working in Judd Apatow's style, but a lot of directors and other artists will do so deliberately and understand how they're working someone else's mojo, in part, because they've been educated in their art. They're engaging in exploring, not trying to compete. But to expound a bit more, we also have problematic approaches such as fan edits and fan fiction that purport to have "better" versions of their source material such as the version of Phantom Menaces without Jar-Jar. Those really are examples of amateurs thinking they can do as well as or better than the professionals. But as Charlaquin said, it's harder to pull that off in sports since you can't argue that an unsuccessful attempt at a field goal is better than a successful field goal - there are certain objective measures of success/failure that don't exist in art forms. That, however, clearly does not apply to coaching and play calling since armchair quarterbacks have been claiming they can do a better job helming a team since football became a spectator sport.
 

Lem23

Explorer
@Charlaquin do you mind if I ask what your GM style is if it differs so much from Mercer's?

I'm honestly a little perpelexed by people that aren't GMing like Mercer; as I said above, it's been the style we've used for 30-40 years now. I thought that was the standard GMing style, and expected more from someone that people have been lauding. If his style is somehow superior to such an extent that people are saying they can't live up to his standards, I'm seriously wondering how they GM a game!
 

I don’t think we’re using different approaches to try to communicate the same thing here. When I say “I don’t think the Matt Mercer Effect is a real thing,” I don’t mean critical role doesn’t have an effect on the hobby. That would be kind of naive. It definitely does have an effect, I just don’t think it has the specific effect people typically use the term “Matt Mercer effect” to describe - namely, creating unrealistic expectations in new players who get into the game through CR. I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it has happened, but I don’t think it’s a widespread problem.
Yeah, I knew what you meant. I shouldn't have been typing so late at night, made my response a bit sloppy.


Right, I just don’t think the metaphor works. D&D is just not analogous to sports like that. Movies works a little better, but I still don’t think it communicates your point well.
Which I actually think is part of the problem, to a degree. We don't have a good analogue for this. DnD is something that doesn't quite line up with the types of things that usually get a person famous. We are used to thinking about famous people being "the best" at something, but you can't be the best at DnD, that isn't how the game works, and in fact, we've got a bit of a sore spot from people who have claimed to be "the best at DnD" or "winning DnD".

So, part of the backlash might just be an innate disconnect. How can someone be famous because of DnD, if you can't be the best at DnD?

I think it shows that our views of fame are changing to a degree, but I could see that being a reaction from people.


Oh, no doubt. Matt is an excellent DM, even if his style isn’t what I prefer. And I think it’s a great thing that new players have an easily-accessible and entertaining example of D&D being played - again, even if it’s not the style I prefer, it still helps to demystify the game for people. My partner got into D&D thanks to Critical Role, so I’m no stranger to the advantage that is. All I’m saying is, I think the alleged disadvantage of those new players having distorted expectations of what a game should look like is way overblown. Maybe once in a while a new player or DM will be a bit disappointed their home game doesn’t look quite like Critical Role, but I don’t think most new players really expect it to, and of those who do, I don’t think most are going to make a fuss about it.
I fully agree

True.
But...
When you watch a basketball game you see one person who is Jordan and twenty people who aren't. And there's a physical aspect that becomes apparent when you look at a hoop: you know how high you can jump.

If you'd never seen a basketball court or played before your early teens, and then watch a whole bunch of Jordan highlight reels—hundreds of hours—you might think it's easier than it looks. When handled the ball you might be surprised how hard it is to run and dribble at the same time.
And if you play in a group, you might be surprised by how much they don't play like a professional team.

I hope this doesn't come across as rude, but my response to that is "and?"

This literally happens with every professional field in entertainment or sports. Every time you have a kid watch professional wrestling, or baseball, or soccer, or literally anything you have the same effect. And we figure out quite quickly that just because we see someone do something and make it look easy, or do it in a certain way, doesn't mean we can or should.

I'm not arguing that it never happens, I'm actually saying that it always happens, and it is something that people have been dealing with in every field for decades. It isn't a problem, at worst it is a minor nuisance.

My point is - it's not just Mercer who people want to emulate in gaming. I think the OSR movement is based around ideals of Gygaxian play - the Gygax Effect, if you will. It's just not identified as such (and there are probably all sorts of reasons why that get into intergenerational gamer politics).

And it's not just the gamer community where we see this... or where we see problems. I pointed out Kevin Smith working in Judd Apatow's style, but a lot of directors and other artists will do so deliberately and understand how they're working someone else's mojo, in part, because they've been educated in their art. They're engaging in exploring, not trying to compete. But to expound a bit more, we also have problematic approaches such as fan edits and fan fiction that purport to have "better" versions of their source material such as the version of Phantom Menaces without Jar-Jar. Those really are examples of amateurs thinking they can do as well as or better than the professionals. But as Charlaquin said, it's harder to pull that off in sports since you can't argue that an unsuccessful attempt at a field goal is better than a successful field goal - there are certain objective measures of success/failure that don't exist in art forms. That, however, clearly does not apply to coaching and play calling since armchair quarterbacks have been claiming they can do a better job helming a team since football became a spectator sport.
Got it, we are pretty much in agreement then.

I will say though, I have read some excellent fanworks that improve on the work of the professionals. More and more I come around to the idea that while the professionals are amazing, sometimes they make huge gaffs and especially in the realms of writing, it is possible for an amateur to have a better vision and presentation.

After all, everyone started as an amatuer, professional just means you get paid for your work.
 

I hope this doesn't come across as rude, but my response to that is "and?"

This literally happens with every professional field in entertainment or sports. Every time you have a kid watch professional wrestling, or baseball, or soccer, or literally anything you have the same effect. And we figure out quite quickly that just because we see someone do something and make it look easy, or do it in a certain way, doesn't mean we can or should.

I'm not arguing that it never happens, I'm actually saying that it always happens, and it is something that people have been dealing with in every field for decades. It isn't a problem, at worst it is a minor nuisance.
Okay then. I’ll and.

AND when kids finds out they can’t play basketball like Jordan many give up. Some practice and get slightly better but after failing badly, many people just stop trying.
The disparity between what they’re capable of and what others can do is just too great. And there’s the knowledge that no matter how hard they try, how much they practice, they’ll never measure up.

DMing is a very draining and defeating activity at the best of times. You spend so much of the game being “the enemy” while also trying to enable fun. And it’s sometimes hard to tell if your players are having fun and are merely satisfied. If they could be having more fun with someone else as their DM.
And you always know you can do better. You see the mistakes you make. You remember the bad calls the awkward scenes, the forgotten rules, the slow scenes, the problems in the encounter, the bad tactic, and the flaws in your craft. Every artist hates their own work.
This is human nature.
The uncertainty of wondering whether the grass is greener is hard enough when said allegorical grass is theoretical. But when you can see and watch the green grass on the other side of the DM screen and know for a fact how much greener it is, it’s depressing. Defeating. Disheartening.

Okay, dodgy AF metaphor aside, it’s just easier to be easy on yourself as a DM when your only points of comparison are your friends and their shitty DMing. But when you can watch Will Wheaton, Deborah Ann Woll, and Mr. Mercer it raises the bar of “good” and even “adequate”.
And when you know your players have also seen said DMs that’s more than enough to give someone an inferiority complex.
 

Okay then. I’ll and.

AND when kids finds out they can’t play basketball like Jordan many give up. Some practice and get slightly better but after failing badly, many people just stop trying.
The disparity between what they’re capable of and what others can do is just too great. And there’s the knowledge that no matter how hard they try, how much they practice, they’ll never measure up.

DMing is a very draining and defeating activity at the best of times. You spend so much of the game being “the enemy” while also trying to enable fun. And it’s sometimes hard to tell if your players are having fun and are merely satisfied. If they could be having more fun with someone else as their DM.
And you always know you can do better. You see the mistakes you make. You remember the bad calls the awkward scenes, the forgotten rules, the slow scenes, the problems in the encounter, the bad tactic, and the flaws in your craft. Every artist hates their own work.
This is human nature.
The uncertainty of wondering whether the grass is greener is hard enough when said allegorical grass is theoretical. But when you can see and watch the green grass on the other side of the DM screen and know for a fact how much greener it is, it’s depressing. Defeating. Disheartening.

Okay, dodgy AF metaphor aside, it’s just easier to be easy on yourself as a DM when your only points of comparison are your friends and their shitty DMing. But when you can watch Will Wheaton, Deborah Ann Woll, and Mr. Mercer it raises the bar of “good” and even “adequate”.
And when you know your players have also seen said DMs that’s more than enough to give someone an inferiority complex.
And I say that's their own fault for comparing themselves to professionals when they're just starting out.
 

S'mon

Legend
I'm honestly a little perpelexed by people that aren't GMing like Mercer; as I said above, it's been the style we've used for 30-40 years now. I thought that was the standard GMing style, and expected more from someone that people have been lauding. If his style is somehow superior to such an extent that people are saying they can't live up to his standards, I'm seriously wondering how they GM a game!
I think a lot of GMs do feel that way, I know I do. I haven't seen anything amazing in CR compared to some of my games, or some other GMs. But I do think Mercer is above average - along with half the GMs out there. :D
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
@Charlaquin do you mind if I ask what your GM style is if it differs so much from Mercer's?

I'm honestly a little perpelexed by people that aren't GMing like Mercer; as I said above, it's been the style we've used for 30-40 years now. I thought that was the standard GMing style, and expected more from someone that people have been lauding.
He’s far more expository than I am. I prefer to keep the exposition to a minimum so we can get on with the actual game. I also don’t focus as much on interacting with NPCs. Time spent talking to quirky townies is time not spent making consequential decisions, which in my view is the point of the game.

Matt’s narration style is also very different than mine. He tends to describe in terms of the characters’ experience, (e.g. “as you step into the chamber, you see [whatever]”) and frequently describes the character’s actions in the resolution of said action. I try to avoid starting my narrative sentences with “you” and I never tell the players what their characters do. That’s a big pet peeve of mine.

The conversation of my games also flows differently than his. In my games, an action must have a clear goal and approach, and I will only call for a check if the action has the possibility of succeeding, the possibility of failing, and a cost for attempting and/or consequence for failing. In contrast, Matt will often call for checks simply because an action was declared, even though the outcome isn’t uncertain (e.g. calling for a Perception or Investigation check when there isn’t actually anything to be found.) Along these lines, he’ll call for checks to resolve action declarations I would consider incomplete. For example, Sam often just says “I check for traps” and Matt calls for an Investigation check, whereas I would ask that the player tell me what their character is doing to try to determine the presence of traps.

The last two points are related - it becomes necessary to describe what a character is doing as part of the resolution of the action if you call for a check with only a goal and no approach. As well, for all Matt’s exposition, I find he doesn’t always sufficiently telegraph hidden elements (such as traps); this makes it difficult for the players to describe clear approaches since they don’t have enough information to decide how to interact with the environment, which in turn necessitates the DM describing the character’s action since the player did not. It’s all interconnected.

If his style is somehow superior to such an extent that people are saying they can't live up to his standards, I'm seriously wondering how they GM a game!
To be clear, I don’t think his style is superior. He is very descriptive, he does great sound-effects, and he makes very entertaining NPCs. If those are things you value highly in the game, you’ll like his style. But the alleged “Matt Mercer Effect” (which remember, I don’t believe is a real thing) isn’t that Matt Mercer sets an impossibly high standard. It’s that he creates very particular expectations. The (IMO unfounded) fear is that players who get into the game through critical role will have their idea of quality DMing set by what they’ve seen Matt Mercer do, and that they will consider DMs who do things differently to be doing them poorly.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
DMing is a very draining and defeating activity at the best of times.
I don't find that to be the case.

And you always know you can do better.
Yes, striving to improve is great even if you're already very good at something. This doesn't require thinking that your past or present effort is terrible either. It's just an acknowledgement that one can always get better in any domain.

The uncertainty of wondering whether the grass is greener is hard enough when said allegorical grass is theoretical. But when you can see and watch the green grass on the other side of the DM screen and know for a fact how much greener it is, it’s depressing. Defeating. Disheartening.

Okay, dodgy AF metaphor aside, it’s just easier to be easy on yourself as a DM when your only points of comparison are your friends and their shitty DMing. But when you can watch Will Wheaton, Deborah Ann Woll, and Mr. Mercer it raises the bar of “good” and even “adequate”.
And when you know your players have also seen said DMs that’s more than enough to give someone an inferiority complex.
Wow. That is some stinkin' thinkin' right there. This is why you don't compare yourself to other people, but rather to the person you were yesterday. If you're better than you were yesterday, great. If you're not, work harder at it.
 


Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
@Charlaquin do you mind if I ask what your GM style is if it differs so much from Mercer's?

I'm honestly a little perpelexed by people that aren't GMing like Mercer; as I said above, it's been the style we've used for 30-40 years now. I thought that was the standard GMing style, and expected more from someone that people have been lauding. If his style is somehow superior to such an extent that people are saying they can't live up to his standards, I'm seriously wondering how they GM a game!
For what it's worth, I do find my game runs a lot like Mercer's. I generally spend less time on miscellaneous and trivial encounters ... but it really depends on the group. Half the fun of the game for me is immersing myself and my players in a world. What that means is going to vary.

As an example session before last we probably spent half the game resolving "downtime" activities which included a side-investigation, starting up a business and dealing with paperwork and bureaucracy, family issues and so on. We had a lot of fun, even if I was just making stuff up as we went along.

But I don't think there is one standard, or one "right" way to play the game, every DM needs to figure out what works for them.
 



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