As aforementioned in a previous post regarding my personal history with D&D, popular culture was not always as kind to Dungeons & Dragons as it is today. People were not considered “cool,” by the standard definition of the word, for rolling dice and casting pretend spells.
I’m going to try and keep this simple, and not just another “wow, D&D is somehow popular now” post on the internet. More I’d like to talk about how popular D&D has affected me, and how it may be affecting you.
Back a couple years ago when I started getting more into the idea of playing D&D, I started finding people broadcasting their games online. I found Acq Inc., I found GameTrailers’ Tabletop Adventures. I watched these and listened to these, and fell in love with the idea of playing the game even more. I started to fall in love with running the game as well.
These shows helped to break down barriers for me – personal barriers that I had about, “well, would I be any good?” I saw these people doing these games and thought, “it doesn’t look so bad.” They made it look possible, and that’s so important to the people who may be on-the-fence about getting into D&D.
For a year and a half now, Geek & Sundry has been live-broadcasting a weekly Dungeons & Dragons game called “Critical Role.” That’s their logo up at the top of this post. They are, probably, my favorite D&D show. The stories that they weave together, and the intensely memorable characters stick with me long after each episode. And I admire not only the content and its performers, but also of what the show is doing for this culture. Which is why I’m surprised that I’m finding that people have strong opinions about this show.
I shouldn’t be surprised, but there are people who do not like Critical Role. I tried to figure out what they meant regarding their reasons, but it seemed like such a foreign concept to me, to not like Critical Role. Even if you are an old-school AD&D player, and think that 5E is for the birds, and think Matt Mercer plays fast-and-loose with the rules (which, from my viewpoint, he sure does not), to me that’s like saying, “I love lemonade, but I don’t like lemons.”
Critical Role is part of the D&D popular culture now, and they’re ambassadors of the game and to role-playing games in general for that matter. When I hear someone say they dislike the show, I picture them as the type of kid who clutches the game box to his chest crying, “No! Mine!” I’m not saying people aren’t entitled to their opinions, or should think like I do – rather I cannot understand why someone wouldn’t at least appreciate something that’s spreading the gospel of tabletop, and getting people to start playing for the first time.
I’m looking at other broadcasted/podcasted/live-streamed D&D games too. Acquisitions Incorporated, Heroes & Halfwits, Drunks and Dragons, Force Grey: Giant Hunters, HarmonQuest, Tabletop Adventures, and Dice Camera Action.
All of these shows and podcasts – whether you like their content or not – are doing the same thing: generating mass-appeal for Dungeons & Dragons. They’re creating new players. They’re bringing back old players that had stopped playing. They’re making D&D “cool.”
And that’s why I picture a child clutching at his game box, not wanting to share, when someone tells me they don’t like Critical Role.
So I say YES – on with the myriad D&D shows and podcasts on the internet! MORE! MORE! Find a niche, something that hasn’t been done, and build a game around it! There’s an all-female D&D game! How cool is that?! Let’s make Dungeons & Dragons mainstream. Let’s show Wizards of the Coast that we love their product, and we love playing, and we’ll continue to love playing.
I guess that’s my (long, drawn-out) point. Why dislike something that’s an integral part of something you love? Instead, celebrate it. Be thankful that it’s there, tooting the tabletop horn, making the battle-cry for players everywhere to join the cause to get a group of friends together to tell stories and make memories. Celebrate these shows. Thank the people who put them on.
Thank you, Christopher Perkins.
Thank you, Rooster Teeth.
Thank you, Dan Harmon.
Thank you, Chris Hardwick.
Thank you, Geek & Sundry.
You all are our advocates, the voices of D&D. You make us proud and eager to play.
What was your first D&D podcast/show that you listened to? That you devoured? Did any of them get you to want to start playing? Or get back into playing? What kind of show would you like to see that’s not already out there? Who’s your favorite DM? What memorable storyline still sticks with you to this day?
Until next time – Well Met!