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haldir

Should I care about Critical Role?

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So the next 5e hardback is a sourcebook from Critical Role. I know it's a webcast but is there anything I should really know about it? I generally don't watch people playing D&D online.

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I enjoy it quite a bit. I'm not saying you should, but I find it highly entertaining. I've also picked up some really good ideas and tricks for the games I run. I plan on buying the Wildemount book, even though I do not play 5e, and have no plans to ever do so.

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There's a fan wiki if you need to catch up on the show's lore, and Matthew Mercer previously published the Tal'Dorei Campaign Guide with Green Ronin Publishing (Tal'Dorei and Wildemount being two different continents of the world known as Exandria).

 

There's also been a Critical Role Origins comic book published by Dark Horse that focuses on the pre-streamed adventures of the first campaign's characters.

And those characters, collectively Vox Machina, will also be starring in an animated series some time in the future thanks to a massively successful Kickstarter campaign.

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Critical role I feel is both good and bad as an example of D&D 5e.  Matt Mercer is an -excellent- DM  i've never seen a DM as quick on his feet and well versed in the lore of the world he's created, and able to actually remember facts and details so well even a year of weekly sessions later. (he takes excellent notes I'm sure). And he's a crazy talented voice actor, not only able to come up with dozens of unique voices for NPCs, but to remember those voices week to week and when one of his players(*Cough* Larua *cough*) randomly pulls out a character from months before he can hit back on the same voice again.  

The players them selves are all fantastic storytellers, with fond of complex backstories. (doesn't hurt that they're all talented voice actors either) They also have total faith in Matt's story and very willingly go along for the ride, accept his rulings, etc.

That said, it's still watching 8 people play dungeons and dragons together and not being able to play with them, so I realize it's not for everyone.  

 

Back to your original question - I think this sourcebook is mainly targeting fans of the show, but again, Matt Mercer has at least a couple of epic class levels in DM, and when he writes a campaign setting he doesn't do anything by halves, so it's a well developed world, it loosely has a similar pre-industrial age fantasy setting to many D&D settings. most unique thing about it I think is that most races are amoral - alignment is not absolute, and while culture may have a predisposition for certain alignments, it emphasizes that there are good people and broccoli-heads everywhere.  (other settings have had this too, but that's one of the most standout things I think many people will notice.)

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It's 3-4 hours a week of hilarious, in-depth, sometimes emotional improv and storytelling. Granted, it's not a format that will work for everyone, but for me it's easily the funniest, most compelling thing I've ever watched, and is entirely responsible for getting me into D&D and, by extension, miniature painting! It's worth a try if you have the time and inclination.

 

Matthew Mercer wrote a post following the announcement explaining (among other things) that this isn't just aimed at people already familiar with the show - it's a vibrant setting, with new spells, class options, monsters, plot hooks etc. 

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I don't understand the fetish of watching people play D&D online.  I mean, I vaguely understand the desire to watch sports, and I completely understand watching movies.  But watching an RPG is . . . not the way to experience it.  Watching paid actors do their RPG thing doesn't help me run a better game; I think it sets up a weird expectation amongst players.  But, obviously I'm not the target audience.

 

No, an additional sourcebook isn't going to make it's way onto my bookshelf.  IMO there's way better stuff produced by others (and if you happen to run a game based in the historical world, most of it is free - the inaccuracies of Wikipedia finally have a use!).

 

 

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4 hours ago, Doug's Workshop said:

I don't understand the fetish of watching people play D&D online.  I mean, I vaguely understand the desire to watch sports, and I completely understand watching movies.  But watching an RPG is . . . not the way to experience it.  Watching paid actors do their RPG thing doesn't help me run a better game; I think it sets up a weird expectation amongst players.  But, obviously I'm not the target audience.

 

Fetish? By the same token, I don't understand the fetish of watching sports or reality TV, but plenty of people enjoy them. Watching an RPG is a way to experience it. It might not be the way you choose to, but that doesn't make it a less legitimate source of entertainment. Plus I've found that it does help me run better games, and I've not noticed any weird expectations with my players. But different strokes for different folks.

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I've watched Critical Role and I can appreciate the talents of those involved, but it's not really for me.  Which is fine.  I hope the book sells well and is really successful and plenty of people are able to have fantastic adventures in that world.

 

When I have the time, I prefer to create my own world, adventures and content so this one will be a pass for me.  The main reason I buy the other books is that I tend to play Adventure League (due to the drop in/drop out nature of the system, it suits my current schedule) and the Critical Role book will not me AL legal so I have no need to keep up with it.  If I were doing more homebrew things, I might pick it up to see if there was anything I would want to steal for my own games. 

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4 hours ago, Doug's Workshop said:

I don't understand the fetish of watching people play D&D online.  I mean, I vaguely understand the desire to watch sports, and I completely understand watching movies.  But watching an RPG is . . . not the way to experience it.  Watching paid actors do their RPG thing doesn't help me run a better game; I think it sets up a weird expectation amongst players.  But, obviously I'm not the target audience.

 

Critical Role, like most of the Live Play RPG shows, is related to a roleplaying game, but not especially closely. It's mostly an improv performance with a gloss of dice rolling and mention of actual rules. This is both good and bad.

 

It's good in that it allows for talented improvisational actors to tell stories without a huge amount of constraint ("yes, and"), and in the case of Critical Role, the actors are quite talented. I've definitely seen some ideas and behaviors that are worth stealing.

 

It's bad in that it doesn't really show much of the game qua game. If you're looking to actually play the game (using game rules and the like), it's not much help.

 

Some people think that's not just the best way but the only real* way to do RPGs. I disagree, but they're free to have fun in their own ways at their own tables. Just don't try to tell me that I'm having fun wrong because I like the game part as much as, or more than, the roleplaying part of an RPG.

 

* See the "No True Scotsman" fallacy.

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I've listened to the first campaign of Critical Role quite a bit, it was good light entertainement for when I had boring work (which I couldn't take my eyes off, though) or if I wanted someone to talk in the background while painting miniatures.

It also inspired me to start playing D&D. I'm not really watching anymore, since it's just too much for me to keep up with. I think it has done a good job at promoting the hobby of roleplaying to a wide audience, but I get that it might not be everyone's cup of tea. Yes, they have troubles remembering rules (sometimes even simple ones) and the whole "Matt Mercer is the best DM ever" thing puts too much pressure onto newbie DMs imho. 

 

I have their first sourcebook and I find it decently well written. If you are looking for another fantasy setting or certain inspirations for your own and would have bought another D&D 5e book for that reason, I see no reason to skip it because it's CR instead of "official". Not sure if I'll get it though, as we currently still have our campaign in the Forgotten Realms. 

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I'll be checking the book out to see if there is anything I can lift and reskin for my own settings. 

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Can't say much about the sourcebook other that it's a well developed fantasy setting as familiar and unique as Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance are to each other.

 

As for Critical Role itself, I love watching how mature adults friends (who may be playing very immature characters) can play intriguing characters, and where the DM does take into account their backgrounds in meaningful ways in the long run. Compare this to the stereotypical min-maxing murder-hoboes we usually see and play.

 

I see the show itself as not being that different to any weekly TV or radio drama where the focus is on the characters and the overall story lines and not the rules or the dungeon crawling itself. You can feel the growth of the characters over time that is not linked to their stats and see the campaign world slowly reveal itself. And you get attached to those characters. And like sports, you can also play Monday morning quarterback at every tiny mistake they made (and there are plenty).

 

I don't like the accusation that they are only "paid actors". They have been friends playing together long before they streamed their first show, and they have said many times in interviews that they do this for fun. That they happened to monetize their hobby *and* still have fun doing it is a praiseworthy achievement. And as long as they still enjoy doing it, they'll keep going on. It's also the answer to the common question if there will be a campaign #3, #4, etc.

 

It my current situation (searching for a new job, living alone, no games), it's one of my escapes that makes me feel that I'm still part of that community and gives me some solid laughs at times. I find it far more engrossing than most other shows.

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There is a generational gap in my play group where half of us are in over 40s and half are under 30s. It actual works great as fresh ideas and wonderment meet with hardened experience and knowledge. As for Critical Role, the kids love it .. the elders wonder why you would watch someone else play .. instead of just playing yourself. This runs beyond just RPG as you can watch people play video games on twitch or listen to people summarize TV and Movies on Youtube... Southpark did an entire Episode on this mentality. i gave up questioning it years ago. 

Why we SHOULD care is the fact that the book went immediately to Number on 1 Amazon.. not games of D&D books it was the #1 BOOK on Amazon. CR is huge and  Mercer is a good ambassador for the hobby. Its relevant because it is one of the reasons for the resurgence of the hobby. Its one of the reasons that a bunch of 20somethings want to play a 45 year old game with me and my minis.

CR the videocast is not for me, but its good for me.

Ill buy the book.. cuz I buy them all.. but also because the kids in my group want to play with the new CR options 

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I'd love to see the book's success lead to it being favored as the new default 5E setting, and Forgotten Realms being shoved under the couch next to Greyhawk and Dark Sun.

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18 minutes ago, amuller33 said:

As for Critical Role, the kids love it .. the elders wonder why you would watch someone else play .. instead of just playing yourself. This runs beyond just RPG as you can watch people play video games on twitch or listen to people summarize TV and Movies on Youtube... Southpark did an entire Episode on this mentality. i gave up questioning it years ago.

I wondered too and then just a couple of days ago I fell down the YouTube rabbit hole and ended watch a man react to watching Aerosmith for the first time.  So I was watch a video of a guy watching a video.

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