Every once in a while we get a wonderfully vocal message from one of this hobby’s far too numerous self-proclaimed guru-vanguards extolling the virtues of “real DnD” / “actual roleplaying” (etc., etc., ad infinitum). They go on decrying our interactive stream as some terrible form of blasphemy or bastardry debasing the purity of their hallowed Dungeon and her Dragons. Well, leaving aside the irony of being called blasphemous by the old-guard who themselves likely lived through DnD’s early years of accusations of cloistered satanism, let’s set the record straight.
WHY WE ACCEPT MONEY
We produce over 100 hours of RPGs videos per month, contributed to by a team of professional staff. So ya, our show needs income and we don’t feel even remotely shitty about that. By default, however, we keep every single one of our shows – each of which is longer than your average hollywood flick – ENTIRELY FREE to watch as a live stream or afterwards on Youtube. We subsist entirely on the generous financial support we receive from Patreon subscriptions and Paypal pledges during our shows. As far as we’re concerned, giving supporters the opportunity to directly influence our game is the most obvious way we can show our appreciation: how better for you to see that your donations contribute to our channel than to have them immediately contribute to our stories? You want to contribute to our work, so we let you actually contribute to what we’re doing.
WHY OUR INTERACTIVE DND IS “REALER” THAN YOU THINK
The most common criticism we get is that the viewer interactions in our shows sacrifice story quality. Well, clearly the folks who feel that way don’t watch our stream. To keep it simple, let’s break it down to three points.
1) Viewer Interventions are FUN.
As far as we’re concerned, one of the best measures of a successful DnD session, group, or GM is how much FUN everyone has. If you’re a player or GM who doesn’t put fun first, then you’re missing the best part of tabletop rpgs – that they encourage endless creativity and they allow for numberless different forms of enjoyment/engagement. And the truth is, these interventions are fun for us not just as show-producers, but as roleplayers. They keep our stories and sessions unpredictable, forcing us to think on our feet and adapt to a dangerous and dynamic game-world!
2) Viewer Interventions don’t prevent story.
Having GMed for over a decade, I have never seen a group of players who are so prone to prolonged, emotionally charged monologues. Clearly, having unexpected twists and turns in the story (both heroic and silly) isn’t keep us from the heavier side of RP. Unlike what these critiques suggest, watching enough of our shows would reveal how infrequently viewers will maliciously try to kill or fuck with our players. Quite the opposite, they actually help keep our stories balanced! Having a whole community of folks collaborating with the story keeps our GMs honest, as banes and boons can fly in any direction and from any direction!
3) Viewer Interventions reinforce collaborative story-telling.
Here’s the real kicker for me. Dear story-purist GMs: PLAYERS DO NOT WANT TO PLAY THROUGH YOUR UNWRITTEN FANTASY NOVEL! They want their characters to contribute to the story. 90% of the time, GMs who obsess over the Machiavellian orchestration of a Tolkein-esque narrative arc and denouement are NOT letting their players participate in making the story (and if that last sentence sounded pretentious and unreadable to you, then don’t worry because it wasn’t written for you ;)). If tabletop RPGs are all about player agency, then unexpected and organic player decisions need to directly shape the story. This means that the GM has to be able to regularly let go of their envisioned plot-lines, change their plans, make new plans, and sometimes just straight up pull something out of their ass. GMing live-streamed sessions with viewer interaction has been the single best experience to help me polish my improvisational skills as a GM. I’m now so much more adept at seamlessly incorporating unexpected turns of fate – whether as innocent as an untimely Nat 1 or as enormous as the arrival of “totally not Darth Vader” (seriously, even THAT can happen without ruining the immersion). The world, the game, and the entire tabletop experience can only be made richer by a more dynamic and collaborative narrative, and our viewer interaction lets 50+ viewers be a part of each of our stories.
WHY YOU ARE THE PROBLEM
As a final note, I want to encourage a little self-reflection to those folks who are inclined to voice this kind of criticism. Everyone who loves tabletop RPGs knows how truly wonderful an experience they can provide. Unfortunately, though DnD is starting to become more main-stream, it remains a heavily marginalized and inaccessible hobby to a lot of people. The saddest part of this is that the bulk of this intimidation factor that keeps new players away is a result of the DnD community itself! Know-it-all, master of the universe DnD purists among online and local communities quite honestly scare the shit out of new players. And this couldn’t be a worse reputation for a genre of game that is supposed to have NO wrong answers and NO limits to what players can do! So, before you go on that rant, write that angry blog post, or tweet that jab at someone else’s fun, ask yourself whether you think your opinion is actually helping or hurting this hobby we all love and want to share. Just like every advice article we post or workshop we run, remember the only “real” right/wrong in tabletop RPGs: If you’re having fun, you’re doing it right!