Dungeon Masters Diary: Watching People Play

Ok, so before we begin, I’d like to preface this by saying this is a personal opinion, but it’s also something that I’ve put a fair amount of thought into as I am served my 8 millionth email touting this or that game being played by people I don’t know. I’m also someone who finds no joy in watching others play video games and thinks that unboxing is just teasing if you can’t afford to buy the item yourself. There. I think that’s enough of a disclaimer.

So as far as I know, it started with Critical Role. A friend of mine told me that there was this wicked game that was being played by a group of voice actors and that it was really immersive and awesome. And after listening to a couple of podcasts I was in; it was really fun to have a number of people use their talents to build a world. It was cool to hear a DM do things that I have never done and really knock it out of the park. It was fun!

But as it got bigger and more popular, suddenly there were DnD games being broadcast everywhere, with roll20 and other platforms having their own different groups, not to mention all those other folks who started different channels and began broadcasting. And as tends to happen, it became a bit to much. Because for me, it’s all about crafting your own stories and adventures with your friends! Building a bunch of in stories that leave you with a smile on your face. I just don’t think you get that same feeling watching others play.

And Wizards has really bought in on this, publishing a bunch of different material and even having a source book on the Critical Role world coming up. They have also hosted a bunch of different events where you have celebrities picking up the dice to play a one off DM’ed by another celebrity (none of whom I actually know of, and that’s ok because I’m old). They all have a good time and for 3 to 4 hours you get to watch someone else have fun. But shouldn’t we be putting energy into helping folks find games for themselves?

And that’s really my big problem with all of this, this is big enough to prove that folks like to watch other folks play, but at the same time could we not put some more effort into helping folks find a group for themselves? I did a quick google search since if I had spent all of this time whining about this only to find that they had done the things, and I found a couple of forum posts available for folks, but nothing official. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have an official “check for games in your area” part of the official DnD site? Then you could even have other resources attached to it like “How to tell if a person is the right fit for your group” or “The dos and don’ts of joining a new group. All of this could work wonders and make DnD horror stories a thing of the past. Even something that points you towards a LGS that has a bulletin board or something would help!

I just worry that only putting up things for folks to watch without actually building the infrastructure to help folks find groups is limiting the true greatness of the hobby. For me this hobby is about socializing with friends and building stories together within the frame work of a really fun game. And if people only see games played by others, they miss out on that. Everyone needs a “Remember when we completely bypassed everything the DM had planned and we got to watch them panic and scramble to build something” moment. And everyone deserves to experience that moment turn into beautiful co-operative story building.

Now, if someone approached me and asked me if I’d like to run a game on a stage at a convention, I’d probably say yes, for the experience if nothing else. But I’d like to think that I’d do a bit of research and have some documentation or something like that available to everyone who came and watched about where they could find a group for themselves, or find resources to help them if they want to start DMing.

Side note: We need DMs, there is always a need for DMs. It’s not as scary as you think and you should consider it. I really think that getting people who are interested in the game hooked up with the right group might do more to grow the hobby than just posting celebrity games. And while watching people play DnD is fun for a lot of folks, I don’t think that should be all that we do.

Keep an eye out for Mimics .


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