Casting Call for an RPG Campaign?!?

Take it from someone who has run a lot of convention games in a dozen different systems and never received a dime in cash or been in front of a camera doing it. Take it from anyone who survived the “Satanic Panic” era of Dungeons & Dragons when everyone was gunning for the hobby to be shut down. Heck, take it from someone who was bullied, insulted and rejected for being a gamer on a regular basis by the church, the school, the parents and his “peers.” Y’all kids have it lucky now. Trust me.

Sayyy whaat???

Photo by Monica Silvestre on Pexels.com

I’m kinda passionate about this, so please bare with me? I was passing by a post on #RPGTwitter today that almost triggered me. They were holding auditions for a Blades in the Dark campaign. Auditions? For the cast? Like a TV show? WTAF?!? Okay, I’m triggered.

Not at the folks running the Blades campaign. Your game. You run it your way. Cool. It’s also an Actual Play podcast. I get that.

Matt Mercer and his crew of wannabe gamers are taking it too far, In MY Opinion!

Look, at first I thought Critical Role was a novel idea. Matt Mercer who is a poster child for Wizards of the Coast/D&D hosts a cute “game session” for a bunch of voice actors. Some of the actors are actually quite famous for their roles in anime, American cartoons, and video games. But here lately, I think it’s just gotten completely out of hand.

You know how many game sessions I’ve recorded and/or broadcast? That’s right. NONE. EVER. And honestly, I may never do it. Nor should I have to. I’m still perfectly capable of sitting down at a table in a game store or anywhere else with live human beings and rolling some dice and running original adventures that I have written myself- FOR FUN!

Congratulations, Critical Role. You flushed out this Old Grognard out of his basement. Now look what you’ve done!

And I should say kudos to Matt Mercer for putting D&D 5E on the map. Yay for him and his Critical Role efforts for that. The show has also spawned hundreds of Actual Play podcasts and dramas all over the Internet. I guess that’s cool if that’s what you’re into? Maybe?

I want to make two points about this whole thing and then I promise I’ll move on quietly; peacefully even. First, you don’t need an Actual Play broadcast of any kind to run your RPG. I can’t stress this enough. You need friends, dice, books, pencils/pens, maybe some minis. Cameras, batteries, and laptops not required. No fancy casting needed. No fancy character voices needed. No animators required afterward. Play the GAME for crying out loud!

Second, Dungeon/Game Masters don’t have to be Matt Mercer. I know a lot of people are calling this the “Matt Mercer Effect.” I think they’re giving him too much clout all around. Folks, I’m sure Matt’s a nice enough guy. (He’ll never see this and I’ll never hear from him. Ha ha.) But the one thing people forget, is that he is basically on WotC’s payroll.

Watch what happens when the game switches editions here in a couple of years. Do you think the entire cast will receive all new shiny copies of the latest PHB? Yeah… probably for free. Say what you want about the game and the show, but the people in charge are not stupid. (They do make some serious blunders at times…)

I’m not Matt Mercer. Likewise, he’s no Jeff Craigmile. (*Again, he’ll never see this. I’m small potatoes.) If someone rolled a truckload of money up to me to hang out with voice actors and pretend to roll some dice occasionally? Heck yeah!

But good old Matt will never run anything that’s not made by WotC, such as ICONS, ICRPG, or Starfinder. You’d certainly never get the “Mighty Nein” to sit down and play Dungeon Crawl Classics. I bet money their characters would die so fast in an old school dungeon crawl with a different DM, their heads would spin and we’d spend half an hour watching them all roll new characters.

They know how to make cartoons. They know how to do the voices. But are they gamers? Take it from someone who has spent a lot of hours sitting around a dark basement with five other guys who play RPGs as a hobby- Critical Role’s cast are almost the opposite of that. Yay. They make it look like fun…

Take it from someone who has run a lot of convention games in a dozen different systems and never received a dime in cash or been in front of a camera doing it. Take it from anyone who survived the “Satanic Panic” era of Dungeons & Dragons when everyone was gunning for the hobby to be shut down. Heck, take it from someone who was bullied, insulted and rejected for being a gamer on a regular basis by the church, the school, the parents and his “peers.” Y’all kids have it lucky now. Trust me.

Critical Role might look like they’re playing D&D, but the sweat equity in the game and in the industry just ain’t there, folks. Love em for it, but what you see is what you get. Play the game for yourself. It might not be as glamorous, but it can be a lot more fun. Hey, no cameras- no pressure.

Good for you if you’re only 20 something and just getting into D&D. Good for all the new players. I hope you stick with the hobby, even if times get rough again. If Critical Role inspired you to play or even DM for the first time, hallelujah! Just remember a lot of folks who will never see as much recognition came before Matt Mercer and his cast.

Okay, getting off my soapbox now.

I promise I’ll behave. Rant mode off. Luckily for WotC and their advertising department, I’m a small time blogger with a little bitterness toward their prizewinning show pony. Guess I’m lucky and blessed with a small audience and I can still be grateful for every last follower. Thank you, family!

Take care. See ya soon.

Obscure RPGs

There are tons of RPG systems out there besides the standard D&D and fantasy. Go out and explore. Find something new!

“Obscure” being a relative term, I guess.

Today I realized I collect and love a lot of offbeat RPGs. You know, things that aren’t mainstream D&D. I’m not knocking the grandfather of all RPGs or anything. I still love D&D from BECMI on up. But there are so many other RPGs outside of D&D. Heck, there are plenty of genres outside of fantasy to explore.

I see a lot of posts/articles to the effect of “Alternatives to D&D.” I always chuckle at the notion because some of us have embraced this idea for years now. I don’t just mean Pathfinder or Middle Earth, either. I mean alternatives to fantasy rpgs.

Life can be scary away from spell slinging elves with swords.

Personally, I love the mecha genre of anime style games. Good luck ever finding players for that, btw. (I guess they exist somewhere but not around where I live.) WWII gaming has some appeal, but again players seem to be few and far between. (Check out Operation White Box!) Most people go toward Star Wars in its many incarnations because Space Opera is kind of like fantasy’s futuristic cousin.

I think a lot of sci-fi and modern games get a bad rep because “guns are icky.” Truthfully, many of us have had negative experiences with firearms to the point of not wanting to roleplay characters that use them. And there’s also the percentage of the population that knows little to nothing about guns. Swords and spells are easier to figure out, I suppose. The same can be said for modern horror as well, although Call of Cthulhu is still thriving.

I recommend looking into one’s own favorite genre of books, movies, or tv shows for inspiration. Chances are, there’s probably an RPG out there on the market for it or a way to adapt a current system. Generic, universal RPGs are fairly common these days from the d20 System (OGL, D&D rules,) to FATE, D6, Open Legends, Genre Diversion, and dozens more. There are too many to list here and most are adaptable to anything from gritty historical realism to far flung psychedelic future utopian fantasy.

DrivethruRPG is chock full of alternative games.

Full disclosure: I am NOT a spokesman for OneBookShelf or any subsidiaries, but I’ve been a customer for years. It’s a good RPG shopping site for indie games. There’s also a lot of good reviews there if you’re on the fence about buying a new game or game system.

I could go on all day naming good systems and specific RPGs for people to try out, but it might be easier just to go on Itch.io or DrivethruRPG and look around for yourself. Your local used bookstore might also be a good resource for RPGs off the beaten path.

Please consult your group before launching a new campaign or system.

I want to emphasize that some groups may not be ready to do something other than good old D&D. I have friends who absolutely refused to do anything besides D&D. It was the only game they knew. It was the only genre they were comfortable it and you could not get them out of that comfort zone for love or money. To those friends, I said, “Cool. See you next week for D&D.”

Challenging though it may be at times, one can always find a group online somewhere for almost any game imaginable. It might take some time, persistence, and effort to find said players or GM. If lockdowns taught us anything, it’s that there’s a niche out there for just about everyone on the internet. Failing that, I would recommend trying some solo roleplaying. More on that here.

Whatever your game or system of choice is, please do enjoy. I hope your weekend is full of good friends and superb die rolls. Game on.

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