The web series Critical Role is one of the many big reasons for Dungeons & Dragons' recent surge in popularity. Not only does the series showcase the versatility and simplicity of D&D's current 5th edition rules, it also highlights the complex storytelling and deep role-playing that can take place during a tabletop gaming session.
While Critical Role has introduced thousands of fans to D&D, some people feel that the show can give players high expectations when starting their own game. The players of Critical Role are all actors with strong improv skills and its DM Matthew Mercer is able to adopt entirely new personas and accents at the drop of the hat. Using Critical Role as a comparison for a home game is a recipe for disappointment -- especially since Mercer is considered a master storyteller and DM.
Recently, a Reddit user asked a D&D subreddit how to beat the "Matt Mercer effect," which he described as the unfair expectations set by players who watch Critical Role. While many other users took time to respond to the post to stress that a DM needs to set expectations at the outset of the game, Mercer took the time to write his own response to the post.
"Seeing stuff like this kinda breaks my heart," Mercer wrote. "Regardless, the fact of the matter is our style of play is just that...our style of play. Every table is different, and should be! If they just want to 'copy' what we do, that's not very creative nor what makes the game magic at the table."
Mercer agreed with other commenters about trying to set expectations early on in an game. "Consolidate your style and wishes with those of the other players and DM, and somewhere in that unique mix you will find your table's special style of storytelling," he added after noting that it's up to everyone at the table to dictate and create the type of game they want to play. Mercer also pointed out that Critical Role's style of play isn't for everyone, and that all of the players have extensive training in certain acting skills that inform how they play.
"I say the best course is have a very frank conversation with them about these things," Mercer continued. "Clearly say that your game will feel like YOUR game (meaning you and the players together), and it's THEIR responsibility to bring to the table what facet they want to see in it."
Mercer ended his post with a message for the original poster's players: "Guys. Relax. Your DM is kicking ass, and is doing this for YOUR enjoyment and journey. Appreciate that, listen, build with them, and make this something UNIQUE. Abandon expectations and just have fun together as friends."2comments
While it's disappointing to see a D&D player blame Mercer or the Critical Role cast for their own subpar experiences, it's great that Mercer took the time to respond and offer up his own advice. Mercer has admitted in the past that his DM style has its strengths and weaknesses, and one of his best qualities in this writer's opinion is that he's always experimenting and looking for ways to improve his game.
What did you think about Mercer's advice? Let us know in the comment section!