It’s important to start this little blog post with a caveat. I don’t enjoy most actual play ‘casts, and I rarely listen or watch. There. Now you know how I feel/act in general regarding this type of media.
I know that these sort of things have become popular, due in part to ‘casts like Critical Role (CR) and Acquisitions Incorporated (AI). I am NOT saying they are a bad form of entertainment, or that they are poorly produced, etc. For some, they are very entertaining. Also, some folks enjoy Survivor, or Days of Our Lives. Whatever. That’s cool. There are plenty of other things to watch so I’m not forced to join those who do view.
Here’s my concern. Do these sort of forms of entertainment set up a DM for an impossible, perhaps Herculean task that has no chance of success?
If I have never played D&D, and my first exposure is watching Critical Role, is every DM I play with going to fall very short of Matthew Mercer? If I watch Acquisitions Inc., will all the players around me not be as fun as Patrick Rothfuss or Mike Krahulik? These are Actual Play ‘casts, and are billed as such, but my actual play games, while fun, aren’t at all like either of these.
As a DM, I like to do voices for my npc’s (who always end up sounding Russian or German...why? I have no idea), but I’m certainly no voice actor. Also, I play a fun but not whimsical game like the ones I see on AI, but if that ‘cast is my first glance into the crystal ball, then when I get to a game where the play is taken a bit more seriously or isn’t moving as quickly, how disappointed am I going to be?
Now, in no way am I advocating that these ‘casts are harmful or dangerous. We are still talking about a game, so no reason to go over the edge here. I want new folks to play, and if their gateway into that realm is these shows than fine, but if all you ever saw on the road were Corvettes, and your first car is a ‘92 civic, there’s going to be some disappointment.
Interesting to me is the flip here. I’ve tried watching regular folks (like me) playing D&D on Youtube, Twitch, etc. Holy crap that’s boring. If my first introduction into the world of TTRPGs was watching some of the long winded, slow, boring live-play ‘casts from some dude’s game room I wouldn’t be in a hurry to play. Sure, I know that if I was sitting at that table, I might be having a good time. Perhaps I’d be tweaking my sheet, considering my next move, waiting for my turn to strike during battle, but watching is not the same as doing.
Look, this are just my thoughts, my opinions. Maybe you agree, maybe you don’t, maybe I’ve incensed you...but this wasn’t my intent. As always, it’s important to understand that on many levels i’m just a crotchety old dude who likes his D&D Advanced and 1st Edition. The only media I had as a kid that had Dungeons & Dragons affiliation was the cartoon. Maybe I feel as though I had to do it/learn it the hard way, and I don’t like the idea of some young turks coming along and streamlining the process, adding a bell curve, and making it all simple and easy to digest.
Hell, I was killing orcs when Matthew Mercer was still crapping his diapers!
Don’t worry. These shows aren’t going away simply because I don’t watch them or like them. The takeaway should be thus...remember that the internet is alot like TV in that most of what you see there isn’t real. The actual world, and playing in a real game of D&D isn’t going to be a mirror image of that ‘cast. Watch it, enjoy it, but be prepared for something that may only resemble, in pale shades, those wonderful internet toons.