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Critical Role PSA: You are not Matt Mercer

Mercurius

Legend
I don’t think bringing up competition is even relevant. All I’m talking about is expectation of one’s performance. There’s definitely an expertise to gaming just as their is in diving. Nobody’s gonna start out as good as Matt Mercer any more than they will as good as Greg Louganis in their respective events.

Forgive me if this has already been talked about as I haven't read the whole thread, but my only issue with this is that Mercer represents a specific style of DMing and gaming, and one that shouldn't be considered as the singular archetype of how D&D "should" be played (I'd imagine that Mercer would strongly agree with me on this point). There are a variety of styles--really as many as there are tables, although I suppose you could narrow it down to a handful of archetypes.

But my point is that Mercer represents a specific style done well, with the benefit of a dramatic skill-set that the vast majority simply do not have. If it is viewed as the way to play D&D, a lot of folks will feel like they always come up short. But if people are encouraged to develop their own style and approach, then budding DMs can find their own brand of success. This kind of encouragement is not on Mercer, but on WotC and the overall community--meaning, us.
 

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HJFudge

Explorer
Yeah its frankly real shocking how much offense is being taken because we're noting its a show. Hell, they sell merch and make money. THAT TOO really changes the dynamic of the game as well.

People behave differently when they are aware they are observed. Not just in games, not just in D&D, but like...in all activities. Its not bad. It doesnt make it wrong. Or even worse really. But it does make it different.

To act like its not is weird and I do not understand this. No one (I dont believe?) is like 'Those guys suck hur hur'. Its simply being pointed out 'Hey its a show so unless you are trying to be a show don't feel you need to emulate this'.

Whats with the umbrage taking? Gatekeeping? Howwwww?
 

Longspeak

Explorer
I ran into a weird variation of this problem when I first offered my game. As mentioned before, it's set in Tal'Dorei. A prospective player worried I might be trying to imitate Mercer and warned me against trying and to be wary of the Mercer Effect. His approach was as some old hand talking to a neophyte, and we were still only talking about character ideas.

He... ended up not working out.
 

Longspeak

Explorer
So the biggest issue I have seen from CR has actually come more into play for me lately, since I can no longer play my face to face for the forseeable future.

This had happened before, but since it wasnt my only option it wasnt a big deal. Now it kinda is.

But the biggest negative effect I have felt is every time I want to play an online game, they want to Stream it or Record it or something...and I do not want to be streamed or recorded. Everyone else always thinks its such a grand idea and I feel bad a bit when I poopoo it but its just not something I want.

D&D isnt a spectator sport, and I don't wanna be spectated during it!

Also, when I have relented and tried a game where it is being streamed, there is DEFINITELY players who try and yuck it up for the camera. This gets in the way of the game, imho.
I'm with you on the streaming. No, thanks.

For my money, having read up on it, if the Mercer Effect inspires players to let go a little, to try that accent even though accents aren't your thing, to compose a little song, to describe a stupidly over the top action, then all to the good. Let loose, have fun. I never require such things, but I never discourage them either.

Me? I love to do voices. I am terrible at it. But I love it.

In a recent session, PCs met Scanlan from the first CR series. He flirted and graced the pretty ladies of the group with a song, and I had fun extemporizing lyrics to the tune of a past hit song, deliberately attempting the style of Sam Reigel to run this NPC. I had fun. I think the players liked my poor song attempt. :p
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Well of course it’s not scripted or pre-planned. Did someone claim it was? (Asking honestly, not rhetorically.)


No, that definitely means a lot. As someone mentioned a bit up thread, when their group tried recording their session, they noticed the players (probably unconsciously) hamming it up for the camera. People play differently when it’s for an audience, that’s just a fact. The Critical Role folks are certainly playing D&D, not just pretending to do so. But they are playing it like it’s meant as entertainment for outside observers (because it is.)


I believe that they are genuinely playing the game, and I believe they are genuinely enjoying doing so. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t look different if it wasn’t being done for an audience.

I was responding to this...
I dunno. I'll just say that critical role is professional voice actors engaged in a serial "radio" show disguised as D&D.

Radio shows are scripted and designed totally for entertainment. According to Mercer and company, they're playing the same game they always have, now it's just being streamed. I find it hard to believe that someone like Mercer didn't ham it up in his home game before a single camera was turned on. Besides, the acting on the part of the players is pretty minimal; I see that level of acting at my own table.

I'm not really that big of a fan of the show. I'm literally on episode 25 because sometimes I'll listen to it as background while I do other stuff.

On the other hand I do agree with this...
No one should give a hoot about trying to be them - be yourselves. Whatever level of 1st person/3rd person roleplay you are comfortable with is fine.

As I stated in my first post, everyone has to find their own voice as a DM (and a player). Even if that voice means staying at least 6 feet away from using funny voices.

I will also say that Matt's style includes far more "fluff" and side-adventures than I do. I like to move the story along a bit more swiftly. Whether that's something that changed because they're streaming I have no clue.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I haven't seen it at my table. I do, however, know of one young gamer who, having been introduced to the game, played for a while, and then tried their hand as a GM. When their attempt seemed, to fail to meet the performance and style seen in CR, they gave up and stopped gaming entirely.

I do not argue that CR is, on balance, a bad thing. But I don't support the idea that there are no downsides to the CR phenomenon.
That's a possible correlation, but it doesn't really establish causation. I mean, at a minimum we should consider whether, without having watched CR, that player would have felt that their performance failed to live up to their imagination, and stopped gaming entirely.

When I started out DMing as a kid, adventures constantly failed to live up to how I imagined. My players were constantly running roughshod over what I had expected to be cool and heroic scenes and instead turned out more akin to an issue of Knights of the Dinner Table.

I'm 39. CR didn't exist when I started. The closest equivalent was people describing their campaigns in Dragon Magazine, or maybe the promotional audio tape that TSR sent me that had a brief snippet of a game being played where the DM was hamming it up. There were definitely times when I was deeply frustrated that outcomes didn't match my expectations. If CR had been around, I don't think it would have changed that. I simply had unrealistic expectations for a newbie DM, particularly given my players. I needed to learn how to set realistic expectations for myself and what those realistic expectations should even be.

Don't get me wrong. I have little doubt that CR has downsides. Virtually everything has downsides. D&D has downsides (even if it's just that all the time I've invested in it could have been used to learn a more productive skill). That said, I'm not convinced that CR causes DMs to set unrealistic expectations for their games. Does it encourage it in DMs who are already prone to doing this? It does seem possible. However, some of us were setting unrealistic expectations for our games long before the advent of CR.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
To those who think it’s easy to play to an invisible crowd, you just have to watch the late night talk show hosts struggling without an audience to realize that just because you know people might be watching, doesn’t mean that you get the same energy that a live audience provides. There’s a reason these shows are made with a live audience.

Yes the CR folks know there’s some kind of audience, but they also n\know that the only audience they can play to with satisfaction is the one in the room. Just like a regular game. They play for each other and that’s why they stick with, it’s a chance for them to live out their fantasies and have fun.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I think the unrealistic expectations that stem from the CR system are that it won't set the game to easy mode. Especially in a game with feats, the CR systems under selects what's actually challenging. It's easy enough to play around with though, so I don't know that that's a flaw per se, just something to be aware of when using the tool.

Don't post and make waffles at the same time kids. You make mistakes and people get hurt.:p
 
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robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
I think the unrealistic expectations that stem from the CR system are that it won't set the game to easy mode. Especially in a game with feats, the CR systems under selects what's actually challenging. It's easy enough to play around with though, so I don't know that that's a flaw per se, just something to be aware of when using the tool.
Are we talking CR (critical role) or CR (challenge rating)?! ;)
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Are we talking CR (critical role) or CR (challenge rating)?! ;)
Huh. I did actually post that. Wow. I wrote it, realized I'd made just that mistake, and moved on (or though I had). Oops! Silly rabbit, post reply is for kids.
 

Ristamar

Adventurer
Yeah its frankly real shocking how much offense is being taken because we're noting its a show. Hell, they sell merch and make money. THAT TOO really changes the dynamic of the game as well.

People behave differently when they are aware they are observed. Not just in games, not just in D&D, but like...in all activities. Its not bad. It doesnt make it wrong. Or even worse really. But it does make it different.

To act like its not is weird and I do not understand this. No one (I dont believe?) is like 'Those guys suck hur hur'. Its simply being pointed out 'Hey its a show so unless you are trying to be a show don't feel you need to emulate this'.

Whats with the umbrage taking? Gatekeeping? Howwwww?

There are notable actual play/live play RPG podcasters out there that have voiced those same thoughts, particularly as they grow in popularity. Even without cameras, the microphones and the awareness of an audience (live or otherwise) changes the atmosphere.

For instance, the crew of The Glass Cannon Podcast has repeatedly talked about how their games are different than their sessions before they had ever started recording. And that was before they were partners with Paizo, playing in monthly live shows across the US, or receiving over $64,000 per month from Patreon supporters.
 
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Shroomy

Adventurer
Radio shows are scripted and designed totally for entertainment. According to Mercer and company, they're playing the same game they always have, now it's just being streamed. I find it hard to believe that someone like Mercer didn't ham it up in his home game before a single camera was turned on. Besides, the acting on the part of the players is pretty minimal; I see that level of acting at my own table.

You can still find pre-stream vines on YouTube when they played Pathfinder at home. They're remarkably similar to the show now.
 


prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Agreed. If I'm a bit better at DMing than I was in the previous session, that's a win. If I'm worse or the same, then that's a loss in my book.

I don't disagree with the broader sentiment, but I don't think there's any particular harm in calling it a draw if you're no better or worse. I'm maybe a little more granular (A worked, B kinda didn't, C never happened and was wasted prep, D was bad enough the stench might linger into next session, E was downright awesome), but I do try to improve what doesn't work, or at least not repeat those mistakes.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I was responding to this...


Radio shows are scripted and designed totally for entertainment.
Gotcha. I took “radio show” a bit more figuratively, but I can see your interpretation, and I agree that’s definitely not what CR is.

According to Mercer and company, they're playing the same game they always have, now it's just being streamed. I find it hard to believe that someone like Mercer didn't ham it up in his home game before a single camera was turned on. Besides, the acting on the part of the players is pretty minimal; I see that level of acting at my own table.
Oh, no, I’m sure they were all big ol’ ham balls long before recording and streaming the game. That doesn’t mean their behavior now is the same as it was then. You can’t get around the fact that people behave differently when knowingly observed. Even when they don’t realize it, even when they try not to, everyone acts differently on camera than they do off of it. The CR cast is no exception.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
To those who think it’s easy to play to an invisible crowd, you just have to watch the late night talk show hosts struggling without an audience to realize that just because you know people might be watching, doesn’t mean that you get the same energy that a live audience provides. There’s a reason these shows are made with a live audience.

Yes the CR folks know there’s some kind of audience, but they also n\know that the only audience they can play to with satisfaction is the one in the room. Just like a regular game. They play for each other and that’s why they stick with, it’s a chance for them to live out their fantasies and have fun.
A live audience has different energy than a camera, but a camera still has different energy than no camera.
 


robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
A live audience has different energy than a camera, but a camera still has different energy than no camera.
For the CR folks I don‘t think they need any encouragement to ham it up. They love entertaining each other, the rest is gravy.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
For the CR folks I don‘t think they need any encouragement to ham it up. They love entertaining each other, the rest is gravy.
Again, I don’t doubt they’d be hammy on their own (or that they were before streaming their game). Nonetheless their (still hammy) behavior is different on-camera than off. Everyone’s is. That’s just human psychology.
 

S'mon

Legend
I ran into a weird variation of this problem when I first offered my game. As mentioned before, it's set in Tal'Dorei. A prospective player worried I might be trying to imitate Mercer and warned me against trying and to be wary of the Mercer Effect. His approach was as some old hand talking to a neophyte, and we were still only talking about character ideas.

He... ended up not working out.

Yeah, as one of those old geezers, I'll avoid games involving the CR world etc, just in case the GM is trying to emulate the show, which I don't think is a fruitful endeavour.
 

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