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Critical Role PSA: You are not Matt Mercer

Seramus

Adventurer
I imagine responding to a player complaining "This game isn't as good as X!" with "Well, play better then!" wouldn't go down well though! :D
Hahaha. I always get sad when someone says "They are paid actors, nobody can be as good as them!" Because while Matt is a really talented person, most of the Players are pretty average. They forget their abilities constantly, often aren't prepared when their turn comes up, argue for large chunks of time, etc. After 5 years, you would think they could figure things out. But Liam is the only one who has.
 

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jasper

Rotten DM
I don't have any major problems with CR fans. Okay one but he is also a fan boy for anime and other stuff. For others I tell them I can't do voices and Matt and his team are professional actors and us gamers at the table are just cut ups. I think bad CR fans are either a myth or a minor problem like having to dm for your younger brother.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I am not a fan of Critical Role (or the genre it dominates), but that's primarily because my primary response is an overpowering desire to play; after about seventy-five seconds I'm at the point of "Turn that off, let's get the books out." I suppose in many ways, that's a compliment.

I have several players who are big fans, including my wife, and at least one player in his first campaign; there have been some efforts at accents, which haven't always stuck, and the bard's player figures out what his spells look and sound like (and he usually at least makes an effort with things like Vicious Mockery to come up with something appropriate). I'm not a voice actor, and I tell people that I'm probably not going to do really identifiable voices, but I still try to make NPCs feel like people. I'm fortunate that the players at my tables don't have an expectation that I'll DM like Mercer, if for no other reason than that I don't watch him so he's not a model.

I am pleased to see liveplay casts bringing people into the hobby, and/or serving as a way for people who can't find a group to get some enjoyment from it (albeit a different enjoyment than playing).
 
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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
My teen sons both go pommel deep in the accent thing. Thankfully they aren't terrible at it. Lots of Scottish and Irish, a little Latin America, and some Toydarian-style generic middle eastern. I don't know why people would bother comparing themselves to voice actors though. It's like making fun of someone playing a hacker in a Cyberpunk game because they can't code in HTML.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Another way to look at this: They raised the bar by showing more of what a game could be.

They're professional voice actors. However, the majority of them had no D&D experience before that first campaign.

Matt Mercer is an exceptional DM. Not perfect (nobody is), but the best I've seen in 40+ years.

Taliesin and Liam had a bit, Marisha a tad, but the rest were brand new. What thy bring is a willingness to put themselves out there and acting talents.

D&D is an RPG. A role playing game. Characters play a role in a story. The better the story and storytelling, the better the game. We can either say, "Critical Role is not how I play D&D", or we can challenge ourselves to try the things we see in Critical Role that we are not doing and see if they make things even better.

A lot of people are unwilling to try. Some are afraid to try more acting for fear their peers will laugh at them. Others do not know how to begin. Other people just think they do not like it for various reasons. However, many of those people (but certainly not all) will find that they have a very positive experience if they try.

And, honestly, if you read the DMG, if you look at the advice there, if you really think about what it says - Mercer and Critical Role are playing the game as recommended. There is a lot of hedging language in the books about how every type of game is fine and there is no wrong way to play - but then if you look at the meat of the advice in the DMG's style of play, the flavor of fantasy, creating a campaign, creating adventures, between adventures, etc... they encourage you to build the story around the PCs - which is the core of the way Matt DMs.

Green Eggs and Ham it, folks.

And if you want to call me a Mercer fanboy - Hell yeah, I'm a huge Fan Man. As I said - best DM I've seen in 40+ years. I've stolen a lot from him, including how to help clueless players without insulting them, how to add drama, how to use silence as a tool, etc...

Mercer had a fully developed campaign world to start??

Personally I start small with a big idea for the endgame but slowly build on things. I don’t have a word developed but rather one is created through the story.
Matt created the world over time - starting with one location and expanding it until it was his broader world. That is the 5E DMG advice.

He created it as he needed it rather than creating it all and dropping PCs into it. Both approaches have merit. I like to build the broad strokes first and then fill in the details as I go (which is what I think Mercer actually did as well).

I do not wan to be caught unprepared if the PCs travel to a neighboring country so that I do not need to make cities on the fly, but I want the flexibility to shape around the ideas of the PCs as they encounter the town - and there will always be a bit of fly creation.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I don't know why people would bother comparing themselves to voice actors though. It's like making fun of someone playing a hacker in a Cyberpunk game because they can't code in HTML.
In my own case there are two reasons. First, I worked for almost twenty years recording spoken word/voice over. Second, I know I can't do it--specifically, I can't maintain an accent for more than about a sentence and a half. It's not a dig on my GMing--I'm confident in my competence, there--it's just a matter of knowing my limitations.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
In my own case there are two reasons. First, I worked for almost twenty years recording spoken word/voice over. Second, I know I can't do it--specifically, I can't maintain an accent for more than about a sentence and a half. It's not a dig on my GMing--I'm confident in my competence, there--it's just a matter of knowing my limitations.
My Scottish and Irish accents devolve into Brad Pitt from Snatch after a sentence or two, I feel your pain. If you can't, don't would be my take, and I can't, so I don't. I can and will do voices, but not accents.
 
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Inchoroi

Explorer
Slightly longer write-up on the comic, but here's the gist:

Lately, I’ve begun to see a disturbing litany of complaints on the boards. My GM won’t give me my bardic inspiration dice because I didn’t make up a song like Scanlan. One of my fellow PCs is ripping off the Tyberius Stormwind voice, and now I’m getting shit on for not doing an accent. My players expect me to have a fully fleshed out fantasy world “more like Matt’s.” This is my first campaign! As a longtime gamer I’ll find myself sitting there and shaking my head in dismay. The fact is that it’s not fair to watch professional entertainers and then compare your buddies. You aren’t going to get the New York Yankees at the local sandlot. Your student film is probably not going to be Infinity War.

It goes deeper than that though. Different GMs have different styles, and there are plenty of good games out there that look nothing like Mercer’s. Sandbox play, zero level character funnels, adventure paths, and West Marches style games can all be a blast. If you hold them all to the standard of “it ought to be just like my favorite podcast,” you wind up missing out on cool experiences. While there’s nothing wrong with having preferences, I also think there’s such a thing as unrealistic expectations.

Have any of you guys met with this issue out in the wilds? How do you deal with it when it shows up at your table?

I've never encountered a player that expected that of me as the DM. It helps that we're all friends and such in addition to fellow players. However, that being said: I did have a (bad) DM who tried to emulate Mercer and failed miserably and didn't take it well.

The poor guy was great at voices, absolutely amazing at them, but he couldn't be arsed to put the work in on the world and campaign that Mercer does. It was also his first time DMing, so it was...pretty bad. My wife's online game suffers a bit from the same problem; their DM really wants to make his own setting and run his own adventures like Mercer does. I applaud the desire, but I never recommend jumping into the deep end like that for first time DMs or DMs without a good bit of experience. Speaking from the experience of a published minor RPG author, making a campaign world is effing hard.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I think every DM and player needs to find their style. Personally? I like acting things out, doing funny accents, making in-game jokes. Just had a game with two-headed trolls with each head having distinct accents and arguing about what the toll should be (because troll under the bridge, duh). Then proceeded to try to eat the monk and talking about how they liked their meals with kick. I grunt and growl, scowl and (pretend to) spit if the role calls for it.

On the other hand, I would never expect someone to do an accent if they don't want to. I encourage people to talk in person and act out their characters but I don't push it. People play for different reasons, for me in part it's an opportunity to let out my inner thespian.
 

Inchoroi

Explorer
I think every DM and player needs to find their style. Personally? I like acting things out, doing funny accents, making in-game jokes. Just had a game with two-headed trolls with each head having distinct accents and arguing about what the toll should be (because troll under the bridge, duh). Then proceeded to try to eat the monk and talking about how they liked their meals with kick. I grunt and growl, scowl and (pretend to) spit if the role calls for it.

On the other hand, I would never expect someone to do an accent if they don't want to. I encourage people to talk in person and act out their characters but I don't push it. People play for different reasons, for me in part it's an opportunity to let out my inner thespian.
That reminds me of the ettin I had in a game where each head was a different alignment because of a curse.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
The poor guy was great at voices, absolutely amazing at them, but he couldn't be arsed to put the work in on the world and campaign that Mercer does. It was also his first time DMing, so it was...pretty bad. My wife's online game suffers a bit from the same problem; their DM really wants to make his own setting and run his own adventures like Mercer does. I applaud the desire, but I never recommend jumping into the deep end like that for first time DMs or DMs without a good bit of experience. Speaking from the experience of a published minor RPG author, making a campaign world is effing hard.
A lot of us wanted to and tried to create our own campaign worlds when we started out - didn't hurt that when I started, it was before FR was published and there were reams of setting material out there. It's normal and most of our attempts fall flat. It's part of the learning process. Best we can do, when a DM's world peters or flames out, is to pick the poor DMs up, dust them off, bandage their skinned knees, and let them know that the next attempt will be better. And the next attempt after that will be better still.
 


teitan

Hero
...

Matt created the world over time - starting with one location and expanding it until it was his broader world. That is the 5E DMG advice.

He created it as he needed it rather than creating it all and dropping PCs into it. Both approaches have merit. I like to build the broad strokes first and then fill in the details as I go (which is what I think Mercer actually did as well).

I do not wan to be caught unprepared if the PCs travel to a neighboring country so that I do not need to make cities on the fly, but I want the flexibility to shape around the ideas of the PCs as they encounter the town - and there will always be a bit of fly creation.
That was my point. He went as needed and the books came later based on what he’d done so far. I was being cheeky. He didn’t follow the 5e DMG though. They started with 4e and then Pathfinder and had been playing together for a year or two before it became a show. They converted to 5e then and it’s why there isn’t a rule familiarity but they had by the point the show aired been playing once a week for 8 or so hours at a time according to comments on various episodes.
 


Doc_Klueless

Doors and Corners
And if you want to call me a Mercer fanboy - Hell yeah, I'm a huge Fan Man. As I said - best DM I've seen in 40+ years. I've stolen a lot from him, including how to help clueless players without insulting them, how to add drama, how to use silence as a tool, etc...
(This is gonna git a little rambly, but it'll have a positive ending! I swear!)

I would never call you that. And anyone who did should be ignored. I positively think that for his style of play that he is a fantastic DM. I also think that, quite possibly, his style of play is one that you would (and obviously do) enjoy. To that I say: "To Infinity and Beyond!!"

Myself, I don't find him particularly engaging. Not anymore so than many other GMs/DMs I've had over the decades. His style of play is not a style that would keep me in focus during the game. As a player, I would find the plethora of voices, etc. to be highly annoying! (Voices like the Mindflayer dude in Season 1 or Kiri in Season 2 had me going: Ok, the cute has worn off. Can we drop it now?)

My style of play is waaay more Adventure Zone than Critical Role. I enjoy the small shots of CR I get from the podcast to and from work. But anything over that 20-30 minutes and I start thinking: Get to the point! Let's go, let's go, let's gooooo!

I think that MM and the CR team are a huge boon for D&D. They do an awesome job at highlighting one way of playing the game. And I'll admit that I'm getting more knee-jerkish as time goes by whenever I hear how he's the best DM ever. My first response is usually around "Uh, no. He's ok, but I've seen/had better." I have to rein it waaaaay back and think "Yeah, I guess he is for his way of playing."

What I do find positively incredibly awesome about Matt Mercer is the podcast/videos/etc. of him saying just about the same thing: That his way of doing it is one way and that there are multitudes of ways of doing D&D. So don't copy him! Find your own groove!

If I had players compare my game to CR, I'd just send 'em to those videos of him and to the Adventure Zone podcasts and go, "yeah, it's gonna be more like that."

I can recall only only one player so far who made a disparaging remark about my game in relation to CR. My response was "you know there is a whole professional production team involved, right?" I think that CR can set up unrealistic expectations for beginning players, but at least it get people playing!

So, no. I wouldn't call you a Fan Boy/Fan Man. I'd more call you a Dude-Who-Has-Found-Someone-Who-Runs-The-Game-How-He-Loves.

TLDR: I think it's awesome that you've found someone whose game-style really jams with ya! Go, go, Gadget Copter!

(See! Positive ending!)
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I understand that there are people out there who get so enamored of the stuff they watch that they want to be able to experience it in their own games. It became an in-joke for us for one player to tease us DMs while watching action movies, "Why can't we do that in your adventures, Bill (or Dave)?"
[Side note: He did not do that while watching the Dungeons and Dragons movie when the group went to watch it - clearly a bad sign]

So the whole issue of comparing to other games is old. Critical Role is just a recent example that has a broader popularity and is currently in vogue.

That said, comparison isn't all bad as long as it's put in the right context. Watching other games can give you some good ideas and push you to improve your skills. But it fundamentally has to be a process of self-driven improvement, not one imposed by external pressure because someone at the table thinks CR or another game they've seen is the bee's knees.

And there is a lot about CR that is worth learning from. The players get into things but never lose their cross-table joking and laughter. They cheer on interesting results. They play characters that learn and grow that have backstories that range from quirky to dramatic and that they are willing to discuss and explore. They learn how to play their characters and, while forgetting things from time to time, generally get better at them and the overall rules. They're engaged. They also accept that they're not always each the center of attention. They interact in character about all sorts of things, not just the action on the mini board - and sometimes, those interactions aren't all that smooth because they're improvising it but they accept that and move on. They don't expect their play and game to be as perfect as some their fans seem to think their own games have to be.
And all of that is worth learning from.
 

Yardiff

Adventurer
They converted to 5e then and it’s why there isn’t a rule familiarity but they had by the point the show aired been playing once a week for 8 or so hours at a time according to comments on various episodes.
I believe the "once a week" is incorrect. I think in an interview Matt said that before CR, because of conflicting schedules, they had only been able to meet like once a month but those sessions were for 8+ hrs at a time.

I could be wrong though.
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I'm not all that impressed by Mercer's DMing. I don't get any complaints in any of the games I run even from players who are CR fans.

The truth is, we shouldn't compare ourselves to other people. We should compare ourselves to how we were yesterday. If we're slightly better today than we were yesterday, then that's the perfect place to be in my view.
 

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