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.
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…”
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!
Not every superhero has the luxury of a million dollar sportscar with tinted windows to safely costume up in.
There are no phone booths in the cellular age. Where do you put on your costume?
The (not 1960’s TV) Batman has it pretty easy. His secret identity is a necessity. I mean, he’s no Tony Stark, right? Multi-billionaire, world renowned playboy Bruce Wayne has too many people he’s trying to protect. Whereas Stark has the money and the company but it’s okay being the world’s most well known Avenger?
Peter Parker might be a better example. For most of his career, he had that whole “greater responsibility” and a newspaper editor who made Spidey public enemy number one. Police might have a few questions for the guy under the mask. See also collateral damage from superhero brawls. Villains might track down sweet Aunt May or Mary Jane and then things would get grim.
Back in the early days, the phone booth thing was cool for Superman, but nowadays super speed makes a changing booth unnecessary. Flash never really had to worry about costume changes, nor does anyone tapped into the Speed Force.
The Power Rangers kinda scream “obvious” at a hundred yards.
Think about it. Six kids, dressed every day in the same colors as their corresponding Ranger, running into trouble when everyone else is running away? Slugging it out with their outstanding martial arts talents against putties and gruesome monsters out in the open? How does no one figure it out?
Admittedly, the Rangers have this neat kid’s TV thing we call plot armor. Anime and sentai live action characters capitalize on the panicky and oblivious people around them. One of my favorite lines from old Speed Racer was “There’s something about Racer X that reminds me of my brother Rex.”
No kiddin, Speed? Really? Maybe because it is your brother? Anime tropes are easily imitated or emulated in RPGs.
How does this translate in gaming terms?
Most players are smarter than the old Speed Racer writers thought the audience was. Really how well the players maintain their characters’ secret identities or don’t is up to them and the GM. This could be established as early as Session Zero if the group wants to go there.
It could be a simple rule of characters’ secret identities are always considered safe. It could be as harsh as someone or something is always looking and your character will be exposed at the earliest opportunity if you’re not careful. Personally, I like the middle ground of your character’s identity is reasonably safe as long as you don’t transform in front of a large crowd or a camera.
My Power Rangers RPG group is afforded plot armor in terms of maintaining their secret identities so long as they don’t make it too obvious. It’s a little tougher when there’s a camera literally on every smart phone and street corner but I’m not going out of my way to call anyone out for hanging with same five other kids all the time.
Gotta have that one good secret identity scare from time to time.
If the character’s secret identity is a big deal, then that should come up in a story occasionally. Maybe some villain is out to ruin our hero by unmasking him in public. Maybe the hero has to unmask nationally in front of Congress to support some metahuman registration bill. Maybe a supervillain will blow up the orphanage if the heroes don’t reveal themselves in public by noon tomorrow. My favorite is the characters unwittingly Morphed in front of a camera while it was recording and now the reporter has a decision to make.
Otherwise, heroes in the comics sometimes do go public. It’s all circumstantial and fun. There could be several stories for both an individual character and the team in a superhero RPG revolving around one character going public. What if reporters started hounding all of their friends and family trying to figure out who else is a superhero? Is anyone around the newly public hero ever going to be safe again?
Hope you’re having a lovely week. Thanks for being here!