Category Archives: Advice

The Mercer Effect

Without a doubt, Matthew Mercer and the rest of the Critical Role team has had a huge impact on how many people perceive roleplaying games in general and Dungeons & Dragons in particular. Their show is wildly popular, watching others play D&D has suddenly become more mainstream, something a lot of people enjoy tremendously. What sets Critical Role apart from many other groups posting their actual play sessions to the internet is that they are all professional voice actors who have played together for many years now. Their particular skills and their particular gaming style help to make their game sessions interesting to watch.

People are obviously inspired by the show and try to emulate what they are seeing. There’s nothing wrong about that and even veteran GMs like me might be tempted to go that route. My attempt to take a few pages out of the Matthew Mercer handbook pretty much ended in disaster but that was not their fault but rather me biting off more than I could chew at that moment. I also realized that while D&D 5th Edition is a game I enjoy playing, it’s not a game I am comfortable running at the moment. But I digress.

Things become complicated if people think that Critical Role’s style is the only way to go. There are as many gaming styles as there are gaming groups and no way to play D&D is the wrong one. Some groups focus on player interactions, others revel in tactical combat, others are suckers for a good mystery. For some sandboxing is the way to go, while others prefer a more GM-guided experience (what some might call railroading). But I understand if players or GMs feel threatened that they might be forced to emulate a professional voice actor and GM of 20+ years and his merry band of players which are also professional voice actors. (Check out this post by a Reddit user asking for help to beat the “Mercer effect”)

The most important goal of any game, D&D or not, should be to have fun. You can have a lot of fun even if your game doesn’t meet the standard set by Mercer et al. On the other hand, if that particular gaming style is your thing, it’s definitely achievable. I have personally played in games which were definitely as epic and as intense as any episode of Critical Role.

Without any doubt, shows like Critical Role which expose our hobby to a wider audience are a boon to our hobby and the RPG industry. But we have to make sure that people don’t get the impression that the only fun roleplaying game is D&D 5th Edition or that Matt’s style is the only valid one. What are your thoughts on the Mercer Effect? Please share your thoughts below!

Confessions of a terrible GM

Ok, I am probably not that bad, but sometimes I feel that way. I’ve run games that were terribly boring, extremely formulaic, and I made every mistake at least twice. I remember game sessions were I actively tried to piss off my players, there were times I railroaded adventures that hard you could almost smell the smoke from a steam engine. I have been a bad game master many, many times.

In some cases I was bad because of lack of experience, but more often because of fear: the fear of getting the rules wrong, the fear of being boring, the fear of not entertaining my players, the fear of making a fool of myself. In my case fear either leaves me so paralyzed that I can’t even bear the idea to actually run a game, or it leads me to drop all of my good ideas and replace it with formulaic crap. I have asked players for dice rolls just in order to stall time. At times I was terrible.

Continue reading Confessions of a terrible GM

Organizing my tabletop RPG library

I have a huge collection of roleplaying games. Aside from a lot of books which are scattered all over my house (we even have a bookshelf with roleplaying games in the bathroom next to the toilet – I am not kidding), I own about 60 gigabytes of PDFs which I have put into folders sorted by publisher and sometimes product line.

So there is a Green Ronin folder with sub folders for the various games I own. Stuff I got via bundle deals are in their respective Bundles’ folders and not sorted into the publisher folders. It just helps me to find stuff easier that way. One major problem I have is that I often can’t remember which publisher has released which games (especially when it comes to smaller, more obscure ones). There’s also the issue with publishers like Free League Publishing which also rely on others like in this case Modiphius on publishing services. So do I put all of Free League’s stuff in the Modiphius folder, or do I put them in a Free League one? In that case I decided to do the latter.

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Over the years I have looked for software which could solve this problem. I’d really love to have a software which shows the PDFs as virtual books on a virtual bookshelf, much like iBooks does it. Aside from that the tool should be able to search for books and have a filter. The more I think about it, iBooks sounds like the perfect tool. Unfortunately I don’t use a Mac, so it’s not a viable option. I have tried Calibre but I find it extremely clunky. The other problem is that a lot of RPG products don’t have ISBN numbers. So any database I’d use have to be filled manually. With 60+ gigabytes of PDFs this will take a looooooong time.

How have you solved this issue? Are you using something along the lines of my a-folder-for-every-publisher method, or do you use a proper database app. I’d love to hear about your ideas on how to organize a huge collection of tabletop RPG PDFs, so please share your thoughts below.