I guess Monday is a good day for off-topic posts. But what I am about to share with you, is just too awesome. I recently stumbled upon a web series called “Kestrel Investigates” about a British paranormal investigator called Agravain Kestrel and his elusive cameraman Mike. At first glance it might look like just another shaky paranormal investigation video blog on YouTube, but instead it’s a very British satire of the genre. In my opinion it’s brilliant!
Two series have been released at this point, and series three is currently being worked on. I have enjoyed every single episode tremendously and I can’t wait to see how the story of Agravain and Mike continues after the cliffhanger ending of the second series!
And to give this post some RPG-related spin, you can watch it as inspiration for the “The Unexplained” tabletop RPG. You can check out my review of said game here.
I don’t actually remember when I first learned about Edgar Rice Burrough’s series of books about a civil war veteran from Virginia who suddenly finds himself on Mars, but I immediately fell in love with it. I even love the not-so-successful Disney movie from 2012. It took some liberties with the story, but in my opinion has perfectly captured the atmosphere of the books.
And so has done Modiphius’ John Carter of Mars roleplaying game. So it’s no surprise that I just had to support the Kickstarter project back in January 2018. The fulfilment took a bit longer than expected, but the long wait was definitely worth it. The books I got so far are gorgeous! Unfortunately I haven’t had the time to give the books a closer look yet, that’s why Modiphius’ upcoming Live Play is of interest to me. I have played another game using their in-house 2d20 System before, but John Carter of Mars uses a simplified version which could make things easier for new players and also speed up play. Especially during combats 2d20 always felt a bit slow. But I digress.
The live play will be on Facebook Live and will start on Wednesday, 17th of April, on 3 PM BST. Hopefully this will be a great opportunity to learn more about how the game plays. So save the date!
If you want to learn more about the John Carter roleplaying game, check out the official site, or watch the videos I posted below!
I have to admit I haven’t really followed the discussions surrounding the Critical Role Kickstarter project. Heck, I haven’t even checked out the project itself until recently. So what is all the fuzz about? Matthew Mercer and his motley crew of voice-acting friends, famous for their D&D actual play series Critical Role, are raising funds for the production of a animated TV series called “The Legend of Vox Machina”. In no time, they reached the set goal of about 666.000€ and at the time of this writing they have raised over 6 million euros. This is HUGE! I don’t think any roleplaying-related fundraiser had ever raised that much money.
Quickly criticism was raised (Check out this article on Kotaku). At first people from the industry were obviously miffed that streamers like Critical Role make more money off of RPGs than the people actually designing those games. In a way I can understand the frustration. Making money in the RPG business is extremely hard. There are only a few designers out there who can live off RPGs alone.
But in that case it’s IMHO an apples versus oranges situation. Critical Role is raising money for an animated TV series. A lot of the people interested in this series might not even be roleplaying game fans themselves. I have watched a couple of episodes of both seasons of Critical Role and I can see the appeal of taking part in their adventures as a spectator. It is possible that some of the backers have never played a roleplaying game in their lives. Perhaps they heard from friends about the show, or they know Vox Machina from their cameos in the Pillars of Eternity 2 video game. Will some of the people backing Critical Role now eventually throw money towards roleplaying game creators? Possible. My point is that the show might have a larger appeal than just people playing D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder at the moment. In the long run the success of Critical Role will probably lead to more sales in the RPG industry.
The second criticism raised is about diversity. While this particularly group of friends is not entirely male, like way too many roleplaying game groups, the lack of persons of color is noticeable. We all know that representation is important. Critical Role has become a kind of ambassador for the roleplaying hobby, and so it would be great if their cast included persons of color.
But things are not that easy. Before Critical Role was a hit show on Twitch and YouTube, the members of the group were just friends enjoying the game. There have been several guest players on the show and perhaps they might actually add a non-white person to the cast. Since the show evolved from a fun past time to something greater, calling for more diversity and more representation of minorities on the show might not be unreasonable, but it’s not something we can force. Change is slow. But I think we are on the right track.
With their popular and financial success comes a certain responsibility. The future will show if they use their power to do good for the whole community or if they are more interested in increasing revenue for themselves. From what I’ve heard so far, Matt Mercer and crew are good people. They’ll hopefully do the right things. And if not, we – as fans and fellow roleplayers – can nudge them into the right direction again. It’s the same in live as it is in roleplaying games: It’s not only one person’s job to ensure everyone is having a good time. This responsibility falls to all of us.
What are your thoughts on the criticism regarding the Critical Role KS? Please share your thoughts below!