Category Archives: Advice

From my reading list: ChicagoWiz’s RPG Blog

I really, really want to run a new game for my friends, but I am still not sure if I am a) ready for it and b) what I should pick. You know, I majorly burned out on running games. I tried to take up the gamemaster’s mantle several times during the last months and it always ended in me cancelling the whole thing after a few sessions.

So, instead of making concrete plans, I am looking for advice which might help me to get into running roleplaying games again and I also want to try out new things which will hopefully help me avoid old mistakes. One thing I have been eyeing for a while is a D&D-based sandbox campaign. Since I found 5th Edition too much of a hassle for me, I decided to give BECMI a try. I picked up a POD copy of the Rules Cyclopedia a while back, and I own the various boxed sets in digital form, so at least the mechanics side is covered.

I haven’t really run a sandbox campaign yet, but I’ve played in a long-running Mutants: Year Zero game, which has strong sandbox elements. I’ve also read various posts about how to run hex-crawls and sandbox campaigns, but I am still not sure how and where I should start with my preparations.

This is where I stumbled upon some posts written by Michael S. aka ChicagoWiz. He’s a veteran D&D GM and I worked with him in the past. Here are the posts I recently put onto my “to read” list, and I am pretty sure some of you could also learn from them:

By the way, these posts are on his old, inactive blog. For newer posts including a couple of three hexes campaign starters, check out his new blog!

Lazy Tuesday Video Post: Rules Lawyers

We all know the kind of player who constantly gets into rules discussions with the GM. These players are often called rules lawyers. But I recently stumbled upon a YouTube video by a guy called Ben who argues that there are actually two kinds of rules lawyers, and while the one kind just wants to play the game rules-as-written, there’s a second kind who bends the rules to fit their wishes.


What are your thoughts on rules lawyers? Please share your comments below. I also highly recommend to check out the other videos on this channel. Some of the D&D stories are hilariously funny!

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!