Getting Communities Together.

Seriously, I really do have a lot of love and respect for Critical Role. I’m sorry if it ever looks like I’m dissing on them. Not only has it grown its own popularity, but it really does draw a lot of new players into the game.

I didn’t realize OSR Grognardia was a separate island unto itself until recently.

Things got spiritual in a hurry…

I see it on YouTube and RPG Twitter quite often. We’ve got the Old Grognards on one side of the proverbial fence and all the young Critical Role D&D fans on the other. I find it perplexing that a lot of the channels I watch never discuss the various OSR games, or on other channels that’s all we ever hear.

I get that we live in a Universe built on separation and duality. Technically we’re all one big happy family under the stars, but we inhabit different frames here on 3D Earth and we see a myriad of differing concepts go by so we can learn. There are seemingly two sides to everything. For example: you and me, light and dark, raw and cooked, liberal and conservative, dice and diceless.

Then, what really bends the noodle even further is when we get into continuums of things. Yes, Neo, I’m talking about various shades of gray. (Not the book, either.) For example, in D&D we have the early days of White Box all the way to Morrus’ Advanced 5E or WotC’s 5.5/6.0 that’s coming. We have fans of roleplaying games strewn all the way from one edition clear back to the original. And this is without getting into the infamous “Edition Wars” from various internet platforms.

“Back in my day…”

I have lots of memories.

If you listen hard enough, you can probably hear all of my kids and my wife cringing at that phrase. It is guaranteed if I start a sentence with that, they’re in for a history lesson. I love history. I’m an Old Grognard. It’s what I do. I almost became a History teacher at one time. (Ha!)

Back in the 1980’s, when the Satanic Panic was in full bloom, players were few and far between especially in small town Iowa where I grew up. We were literally playing D&D in our parents basements. Gaming was often spoken of in hushed tones outside of the group for fear that the good reverend and pack of well-meaning wackadoos would drop “the lecture” on you again.

The lecture. You know, the one that started with “Those games are dangerous…” and ended with “…burn all those books and go to church.” Truthfully, I don’t know a single gamer that ever burned all of his books and threw his dice away as a result, but maybe it happened somewhere. Who knows?

My point behind this story is that we would have given just about anything back then to have a show like Critical Role that could actually show what D&D actually looked like. It would have been amazeballs to have someone- anyone, standing up for the hobby and bringing new people in.

Matt Mercer, if you happen across this, I’m sorry I ever gave you grief! Please forgive me!

Seriously, I really do have a lot of love and respect for Critical Role. I’m sorry if it ever looks like I’m dissing on them. Not only has it grown its own popularity, but it really does draw a lot of new players into the game. It really does fall on us as DMs to keep players into the game once they’ve started. At least Matt and the CR crew got us the foot in the door.

Would it have worked with any other game? Well, there are hundreds of actual play podcasts floating around on the internet. Covid kept us locked down and inside for months on end. I guess maybe there are a few other, even OSR games out there in actual play format.

Sadly, a lot of us “old grogs” as I’ve heard us called now, don’t make videos of our sessions. Maybe we should start? I’ve literally had people ask me if I would. Geez, from there we could start running VTT sessions of old school games. From there, anything could happen… LOL!

To be continued…

Photo by Tom Fisk on Pexels.com



Has WotC Plum Lost They Minds?!?

Why is WotC rehashing the same old not-so-great campaign settings when they could be coming up with some new material.

Still trying to decide what to make of this year’s release schedule so far.

Wizards of the Coast is almost trying to shoot themselves thoroughly in the foot this year, in my opinion. First, they drop a box set containing one new release and two books most of the fan base already has. Then, another Matt Mercer ego balloon, because we all need another Critical Role book. Bleh. Next on the hit parade is the return of an old classic, Dragonlance. Later this year they’re talking about the return of Spelljammer. I hear Planescape is on the horizon, too. Why WotC? Why?

In fairness, I don’t hate any of their releases other than that whole three book collection nightmare at the start of the year. They really didn’t think that one through. Obvious money grab. I would have thought they would be beyond it, but… sigh.

Dragonlance returns!

Glad they seem to have worked out their differences with Hickman and Weis. The latest Unearthed Arcana contained info on some of the Dragonlance classic material all the fans will undoubtedly be clamoring for. I don’t oppose this idea. I can’t say I’m going to buy into it, though. There’s nothing new here, guys.

Kender? We already kinda have that figured out. Draconians? Uh, we already have them. Several ages of lore where there doesn’t seem to be any room for any characters outside of the novels to really do much? Again. We have FR for that.

I think WotC is banking on the fan appeal, but I think they’re missing a big hunk of their target audience. Yes, the Dragonlance novels are epic. No one is denying the greatness of the old material. Heck, I still have my old 1st Ed AD&D Dragonlance book along with the 3rd Ed stuff. It’s all good, but not really what 5E needs at this juncture.

Spelljammer?!?

What the actual flying fish f*ck made them decide to resurrect this technicolor nightmare? Seriously? Are they that desperate? What’s next? Chronomancy?

I’m sorry if I’m trashing on someone’s favorite campaign setting. Please accept my apology. But I don’t seem to recall Spelljammer being all that terribly popular to begin with. I fail to understand why they can’t just let that one stay dormant.

Have they finally run out of ideas for D&D 5E?

If they were going to dredge up campaigns from the past, why not go for Birthright, Oriental Adventures (Kara Tur,) or Dark Sun? Yes, there are all the accusations of racism and gender bias in the old campaigns. So what? No offense to anyone, but the same kinda thing exists in just about every campaign setting from the 1980’s and early 1990’s.

Okay, Greyhawk, Mystara, Masque of the Red Death, Al Qadim, and Jakandor all got passed over for their own 5E return so far. I can see it. Truthfully, I can see the same apologist mentality that’s being applied to Birthright and Kara Tur going for a lot of the old settings. Agree with it or not, that’s how they’re running things.

Here’s an original idea- why not build an all new, original Fifth Edition setting? Maybe something that doesn’t have Critical Role attached to it in any way? Sorry, I’m picking on Matt Mercer again. But how hard can it be for WotC to bring some fresh ideas to the table instead of trying to bring back the same old, somewhat nauseating ideas that played out in 1989?

There are dozens if not hundreds of campaign settings floating around out there in 5E already. You can find a setting for just about anything you’d ever want to run. Cowboys, undead, ninjas, pirates, and dinosaurs are all over the place in 5E. Why does WotC insist on rehashing old second rate titles?

Maybe I am an Old Grognard?

Yes, I do occasionally chuckle at poking old Matt Mercer’s fanbase with a stick. Matt would never stoop to reading my blog or contacting me directly, so I don’t worry. I don’t mind Critical Role, as I’ve said before. But CR is not the end-all and be-all of D&D campaigns. Trust me. They can do better.

Is WotC trying to cash in on the OSR movement? Maybe. Although I see OSR as more of a response to all of the “new” rules changes that have come out since 1st Ed or 2nd Ed AD&D. I know us “old” OSR folks have a bad reputation for being what one younger gamer described as “racist, homophobic and fascist Nazis.” While I DO NOT espouse any type of hatred based on race, gender, or sexual orientation, I will say I’m “old.” I also don’t embrace fascism, socialism or communism, to be honest. I don’t do extremes. Not in my games, not in real life.

So, what is WotC’s angle here? Why are they bringing back RPGs that were left of the Best-Left-Forgotten Shelf? (Gratuitous Rescue Bots reference.) I’ll be watching for something new and improved to happen hopefully before 2024’s new edition.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great week. See you again soon.

Elitism in RPGs

I literally almost started screaming at my phone recently when I noticed someone comparing casual RPG gamers to the wonderfulness of Critical Role.

Headed into somewhat grim and perilous territory.

Maybe I should just learn to stay off social media. I saw something the other night that really spiked my blood pressure. I got the impression from someone talking about the #mattmercereffect that us grumpy old “kitchen table” gamers where somehow of a lower caliber than the Critical Role crowd. I am still just shaking trying not to flip the f%*k out when I hear stuff like this.

I meditate. I pray for peace. Somehow this is one of those shadow elements of my personality that just keeps coming up for me to deal with. I have lots of contempt for statements that lead to elitism, hate, and divisiveness anywhere, but especially in my favorite hobby.

I used to get so angry back in my WoW days when I would hear anything to the effect of “Casuals are ruining the game!”

Because apparently there are people who play World of Warcraft 16 hours or more per day “professionally.” And the rest of us should just log off and close our accounts because we’re not fit to lick their boots or some junk. Whatever.

Yeah… screw that. I don’t play WoW any more because of toxic elitists. Yeah, you’re great at your game. Good for you. Moving on.

I don’t want to ever, EVER see D&D turn into that because of Critical Role or any other actual play podcast. Seriously, we’re all equal here. We’re not starting that elitism crap on my watch if I have anything to say about it.

Running a game at my kitchen table for my family every other week on Sunday is just as valid in terms of loving/teaching the game as anything on TV or the Internet. I’m not trying to disrespect Critical Role. Thanks for generating interest in the game and teaching people how to play.

Picture 1986. 14 year old me teaching the game and learning other games. 1991 college freshman at conventions running games for anyone who would sit down at the table. There were no cameras anywhere to be found. In fact, we used to be stigmatized, ostracized, and beat up for being game nerds back in the day.

Actors.

I used to be big into theatre and stagecraft back in high school. In retrospect, I wish I had spent more time running D&D. My stage days are long gone. My love of the RPG hobby and my family are still present. I do all kinds of voices and create all kinds of characters.

Critical Role on the other hand, is a performance by actors. Yeah, they have characters. Much beyond that it looks like an advertisement for Player’s Handbooks and whatever else they want to push for product. If it’s a bunch of actors doing improv under the guise of a playing D&D, that’s called, “acting.”

That doesn’t mean they’re better than anyone else in the hobby. In fact, I would go so far as to say you won’t find Matt Mercer anywhere near a game table if there isn’t a camera around. I like to pick on Matt because I know he’ll never stoop so far as to read or comment on anything I say. I’m small potatoes and he’s a big time Dungeon Master, ya know?

I think the #mattmercereffect is not so much unrealistic expectations put on the DM as it is another silly way to divide people.

I could be wrong. I stopped watching the mainstream news years ago. I stopped watching most TV and movies when I took up meditation and some other things years ago. Honestly, Hollywood has very little influence over my life these days. Yes, I still dip into TV now and again to watch anime and I did see Vox Machina on Prime. Meh? It was okay.

I’m a big YouTube fan, but I watch an absolutely fantastic variety of things on there. Yes, I’ve seen interviews between Todd Kenreck and Matt Mercer. I absolutely adore Dael Kingsmill and Ginny Di. There are a ton of RPG channels that I follow. Some are actual play podcasts, some are just random Op Ed stuff like I do on my blog every day here.

Again, no one is better or worse. I could fire up my own YouTube channel any time and talk about RPGs and other cool things until I’m blue in the face. It could happen. I think other channels probably do it a lot better. Some day I’ll put together a recommendation list of RPG YouTube channels.

My point is: just because you play D&D at your kitchen table in a casual way does not make you better or worse than a trained actor playing D&D professionally on TV. I would bet there are hundreds of DMs and GMs that would give up an arm and a leg to be running a game like that, sure. (Shit, give me a contract and I’ll do it.) But realistically, I just want to enjoy the hobby and I think most people would agree regardless of playstyle.

Onward and upward. I stopped shaking finally. Let’s look for ways to come together at the table, please? Thank you. I appreciate you.

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.

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