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D&D 5E What is up with the popularity of watching other D&D groups play the game?


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ccs

41st lv DM
Side story - I am working on preparing to run Hot Springs Island in a couple months for my regular johns. So I was looking on YouTube for some actual plays and found one that had like 30-minute episodes. I was like, great, these are edited then, so I'll get the highlights of the content, particularly as it related to the play procedures for the hex crawl.

They were mildly amusing and got a few chuckles out of me here and there so I stuck with it, but what I found particularly funny was how even the edited version of the game was crammed full of tangents about Star Wars and all sorts of things unrelated to the game. I could wring maybe 5 to 10 minutes of useful actual play out of each episode. I was left to wonder how long the entire play session was because it was very unproductive in terms of getting through actual content.

I find this to be the case with many actual plays, too. They just don't seem to Get Stuff Done. In our regular sessions we run laps around these games. I'm not exactly sure why they run so slowly. I think it has a lot to do with players being unmotivated to push things forward on their own or thinking that Getting Stuff Done is not compatible with the sort of back and forth talk that they put on between their characters. Hard to say. If they picked up the pace a bit more, I might be more inclined to tune in.

Has it occurred to you that merely "Getting Stuff Done" isn't a groups primary motivation? Or that they are getting something done but it's not what you'd deem important, or being done at the pace you'd prefer?
Believe me, if you sat in on one of our games? Most sessions you'd likely say* that we'd wasted 2hrs out of our precious 4.
But here's the thing - even at our most unproductive, those weren't wasted hours to us. We've got our own pace & style we're happy with and there's always next week.
Maybe this group, who's allowing you to listen in, is like this.

*That's assuming you survived the aneurysm you'd surely suffer as we don't phrase things as I know you prefer, players ask to make skill checks, players simply declare their making skill checks, players ask questions, players have characters with backstories, etc etc etc
 

Cyan Wisp

Explorer
I have tried watching D&D streams in the past - while doing dishes or cooking or similar. Something I don't have to concentrate much on that plays in the background.

I found watching D&D a bit tiresome, unfortunately, and Critical Role was, surprisingly, even more of a drag than watching the various other groups on Youtube. Were expectations too high because of their popularity?

D&D is too close to my heart and I just prefer playing it, writing for it, reading it. Maybe I found the various groups’ glazing over or complete misconstruing of rules/ use of house rules irritating.

What I did find slightly more captivating was watching other game systems being played - Call of Cthulhu, Numenera, Shadowrun, or even Vampire(once, only once) . I haven't got time or inclination to learn other systems, so it's my only way to "see what's out there".

Watching them generally confirmed that I’ll just stick to D&D, thanks.
 

Olrox17

Hero
I tried watching critical role. Tuned off after an hour or so. I guessed Mercer’s group style simply didn’t align with my own.

So, I tried watching Team Four Star’s D&D streams. I knew for a fact I enjoyed their content: dbza abridged, their streams, their podcasts etc.
I didn’t enjoy their D&D videos, either. So, I guess I’m in the camp of people that don’t enjoy watching other people play D&D.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Okay, that is a response I can understand, thank you.
I think there is something pretty awesome about getting to watch Chris Perkins DM a game that he has written over 20+ episodes. Curse of Strahd particularly.

Setting up the drama was interesting to watch and how he envisioned scenes playing out, which was very different to how I read it in print.

But most fascinating was where he departed from the text to add in new elements some of which I incorporated in my own running of the campaign.

It’s not often you get to see a creative playing their own work. That’s pretty cool. Getting to see some of the Cubicle 7 team play WFRP was just as interesting.

Im not a Critical Role fan... though I know people who are, but that’s a personality fit. What I will say, is there are lots of different types of d&d streaming catering to lots of different tastes.

NB./ I should also say this is where I learnt the most useful technique I’ve picked up as a DM of pre-published modules... If PCs aren’t going where you expected and are going to miss a cool set piece that you like and spent a lot of time on don’t force the PCs into it. Instead, pick it up and repurpose it for somewhere else. Chris does this a couple of times as far as I can see and it works seamlessly as a watcher. I’ve used it a few times in published modules now and it’s worked a treat.
 
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wicked cool

Explorer
D&D voyeurism has gone through the roof, and it's a complete mystery to me. Now for perspective I'm 51 years old and have played D&D for over 40 years, almost exclusively as a DM, so it may be a generational or even an issue of my role in games, but I'm just not sure. I've tried to watch some of these different and inexplicably popular shows and it's quite difficult for me to think of a more insanely boring activity. Why are these so popular? What is entertaining about them? I can't help but feel as though I'm missing something interesting about this activity due to all the attention they have been getting. I LOVE running D&D games, but watching one being run that I'm not involved in is like watching a golf match. Fun to play, abysmal to watch (yet many do to my continued astonishment).
you asked for replys. I am your age (saw the original star wars at a drivein) and was in the same boat. Why would I watch this as it sounds boring

I decided to watch critical role as it kept showing up as a recomendation ( I follow D&D crafters etc) plus the sourcebook came out and sounded interesting

Give season 2 of critical role a try as season 1 has technical problems early on and doesn't ramp up until many episodes in

positives
1-i truly feel they play this game really well
2-Mercer is pure gold with his npc's
3-combat is exciting and his scenarios/adevtnutres are in many ways better than 5E official products

I could go on and on but I would recommend if your an experienced dm or player

they got funding for a tv show so if you have amazon at some point you will see season 1

as a stream its more entertaining than many shows on tv
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Has it occurred to you that merely "Getting Stuff Done" isn't a groups primary motivation? Or that they are getting something done but it's not what you'd deem important, or being done at the pace you'd prefer?
Believe me, if you sat in on one of our games? Most sessions you'd likely say* that we'd wasted 2hrs out of our precious 4.
But here's the thing - even at our most unproductive, those weren't wasted hours to us. We've got our own pace & style we're happy with and there's always next week.
Maybe this group, who's allowing you to listen in, is like this.

*That's assuming you survived the aneurysm you'd surely suffer as we don't phrase things as I know you prefer, players ask to make skill checks, players simply declare their making skill checks, players ask questions, players have characters with backstories, etc etc etc
Well obviously you play the game wrong if you do anything other than dungeon crawls ... um ... location based adventures and let people declare what they're doing by actually using game terms. :p

But the point stands; CR is actually fairly close to the way I try to run my games as well. The stories and interaction between the PCs is just as important as "getting stuff done". I have one person in my current campaign that started a business (kind of by accident), another that is working on establishing a career as and entertainer and so on. These side things have very little to do with the main campaign, but also make the PCs far more "real". We regularly spend half a session doing stuff that's only tangentially associated to the main plot lines. We have fun with it, so what's the issue?

But I also get that the style of game I run would be horrible for some people. Just like I used to attempt to watch sports games, or how certain popular TV shows just don't do anything for me. So there is no real answer for the OP. Some people are going to enjoy watching/listening to D&D streams at least in the background just for the story, others are going to do it because of things they can learn. For many it's a combination.

But trying to explain, or convince others it's worthwhile? Not sure you can. I've had multiple people tell me how wonderful sushi* is so I've tried it several times. It's still kind of disgusting (in a "I can eat this if I have to" way) no matter how often I try it. I just accept that some people enjoy things I don't.

*Which in the US is primarily shashimi with green-colored horse radish
 


embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
It's generational.

I've been playing D&D for as long as I've been playing video games. And I've been playing video games since the days of the Atari 2600 and the Commodore 64.

I wondered about the audience for Twitch streams. When I was a boy (get offa my lawn), sitting there and watching your friend or sibling play a game was torture. I don't want to watch. I want to play. And yet, there's a robust audience to watch gameplay.

To each their own. If someone wants to play, they can play. If they want to watch, they can watch. It's not for me to yuk someone else's yum.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Has it occurred to you that merely "Getting Stuff Done" isn't a groups primary motivation? Or that they are getting something done but it's not what you'd deem important, or being done at the pace you'd prefer?
Believe me, if you sat in on one of our games? Most sessions you'd likely say* that we'd wasted 2hrs out of our precious 4.
But here's the thing - even at our most unproductive, those weren't wasted hours to us. We've got our own pace & style we're happy with and there's always next week.
Maybe this group, who's allowing you to listen in, is like this.

*That's assuming you survived the aneurysm you'd surely suffer as we don't phrase things as I know you prefer, players ask to make skill checks, players simply declare their making skill checks, players ask questions, players have characters with backstories, etc etc etc
Yes, I'd probably say you'd wasted half your session time by the sounds of it. But my preference has no bearing on your game. I would just not listen to your game if it was a podcast. Is that a problem?
 

I don't understand why people watch sports. Nothing is more boring than watching a sports match.
The fundamental difference between sports and watching RPG live play is sports are competitive and feature a winner at the end of each session. That's their primary appeal. It's why they have an audience. Nobody would watch golf or football on TV if score wasn't kept and there was no winner declared at the end. There's a reason most sports leagues have done away with ties.

So the popularity of sports doesn't give us much insight to the popularity of shows like Critical Role.

I do think there is something generational about it. As another poster commented, lots of people in their 40s and 50s have been playing videogames most of their lives, but I'd wager the audience for watching other people play videogames on Youtube or Twitch is almost entirely under 35. I expect the audience for CR skews youngish too.

We know that younger cohorts have smaller social circles and spend considerably less time engaged in face-to-face socialization than previous generations. My sense is the appeal of these shows is community. It's a way to feel like you're hanging out with friends even if you're home alone on a Friday night.
 

I used to put up podcasts of full sessions. Mostly boring stuff in my opinion but it was a very useful way for me to have a record of what happened (more than once I was able to get some piece of information I had forgotten). But was also surprised to hear from people who genuinely liked listening to what happened (and my sessions are the furthest thing from entertaining to watch). So I think for some people it comes down to enjoying seeing how someone else runs a game, or just getting invested in what the characters in the game are doing. I haven't been able to watch too much actual play myself (I've checked it out occasionally but I would just personally rather spend my time on other things).
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I, for a long time, thought this wasn't for me. I couldn't get into critical role, I tried!

But recently I've discovered the Dungeon Dudes, and... well it's working for me :) This is something I do while doing something else - chores etc - a good way to make them a bit less tedious.
 

wicked cool

Explorer
id be curious probably another topic of those that have watched critical role and say we don't play like them and how you play the game.

I would argue they play the game better than us and any other youtuber out including the WOTC workers.

I'd also wonder for those who don't watch sports do you watch tv shows. I don't look at critical role and treat it like baseball (baseball is the new paint drying tv) I treat it like my favorite serial tv shows of the 70's/80's where they often left you in a cliff hanger in the end of the episode (Dr Who of the 60's-80's)


I haven't been in a game that hasnt been like that. If anything they can be 2 hardcore at times (spell components) . My flags, gencon local friends,college since the early 70's I haven't seen it played in any other way. the only difference is the game has evolved and theres no more random monsters in every room in a dungeon.
 

embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
you asked for replys. I am your age (saw the original star wars at a drivein) and was in the same boat.

When I tell my daughters that I saw Star Wars (which is called "Star Wars" and NOT "Episode IV: A New Hope" because DAMMIT! it was called "Star Wars" when it first came out) at the drive-in, they respond by reminding me that I'm old.

They now know what a drive-in is thanks to COVID. I then proudly tug at the white hairs in my beard and invite them to get out of my den because it's not a playroom and those SW action figures are for display and not playing and for the love of Cod, stop using my Burger King glasses for drinking out of because they're collector's items.

What I'm saying is that I am, as the Yiddish phrase goes, an alta-kocher.

An old fart.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
When I tell my daughters that I saw Star Wars (which is called "Star Wars" and NOT "Episode IV: A New Hope" because DAMMIT! it was called "Star Wars" when it first came out) at the drive-in, they respond by reminding me that I'm old.

They now know what a drive-in is thanks to COVID. I then proudly tug at the white hairs in my beard and invite them to get out of my den because it's not a playroom and those SW action figures are for display and not playing and for the love of Cod, stop using my Burger King glasses for drinking out of because they're collector's items.

What I'm saying is that I am, as the Yiddish phrase goes, an alta-kocher.

An old fart.

Han shot first! :mad:
 


Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Han did not shoot first. That is a common misconception.

To say "Han shot first" implies that Greedo shot second. Greedo was dead before he could get off a shot.

Han did not shoot first because Han was the only one who shot.

Well, we'll just have to go back and watch the movie again to see what happened. Oh, right. I don't own a VCR any more. :(
 

OB1

Jedi Master
Not sure this explains why watching other D&D groups is popular, but it may directly answer the question of why, as a DM, you SHOULD watch.

Great Authors voraciously read other authors
Great Filmmakers watch hundreds or thousands of films
Great Musicians listen to a variety of styles and composers
Great Painters study other's art
Great Video Game designers play other games

Before streaming and podcasts, the ability to expose yourself, as a DM, to a wide variety of other DMs work was difficult, if not impossible. With streaming, you can easily do it. And the games you watch whose playstyle you don't like personally can be just as important to improving your game as the ones whose style you do like. To a lesser extent, it can also help players become better as well, by watching how other's play the game and incorporating ideas that appeal to you that you'd never thought of.
 

embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
Well, we'll just have to go back and watch the movie again to see what happened. Oh, right. I don't own a VCR any more. :(
Not that I endorse unauthorized downloading of copyrighted content BUT...

The Harmy edit of Star Wars removes the Special Edition additions and replaces with an excellent transfer from the Laserdisc and I highly recommend it even though it's like a 19 GB download.

And unauthorized downloading of copyrighted content is wrong but this is something that is real and exists and I am merely providing knowledge that it exists, not endorsement of any untoward means of procurement.
 

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