Is liveplay "changing how fans approach roleplaying"?

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Is liveplay "changing how fans approach roleplaying"?

Postby Big Mac » Sat Nov 18, 2017 5:06 pm

The Verge has an article up called The rise of D&D liveplay is changing how fans approach roleplaying, but do you think they are right?

The article leads like this:
The Verge wrote:From Stranger Things’ Dungeons & Dragons obsession to the YouTube and Twitch players becoming online celebrities, role-playing games are becoming public entertainment
by Chris DeVille Nov 16, 2017, 2:45pm EST

One of the great era-appropriate quirks of Netflix’s ‘80s-nostalgic fantasy adventure Stranger Thingswhich recently returned for a feverishly anticipated second season — is that the preteen geeks of Hawkins, Indiana, are obsessed with Dungeons & Dragons. The first and last times we see them in season 1, they’re playing D&D. They don’t return to their on-screen game in season 2, but they still talk about their real-life adventure as if they’re an adventuring party, right down to assigning themselves character classes. It’s part of the text of Stranger Things, but also the metatext: threading elements from D&D into the show’s narrative helped creators Matt and Ross Duffer create an addictively familiar world for fans of Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, and other 1980s icons. Some of the series’s retro elements are outdated now, like the stand-up arcades and the giant walkie-talkies. But if the show was set in the present day, the kids might realistically still play D&D. What’s more, they’d probably watch other people play D&D on the internet.

Dungeons & Dragons, the grandaddy of role-playing games, dates back to 1974, but it’s never been more popular than it is today. According to Seattle-based game publisher and Hasbro subsidiary Wizards of the Coast, D&D had its most profitable year ever in 2016, and is on track to surpass it in 2017. A huge reason for that surge is the rise of “liveplay” or “actual play” broadcasts. Long-running campaign podcasts like Critical Hit and Nerd Poker have been building fandoms for close to a decade now, with groups of players recording their D&D campaigns for steadily growing audiences of thousands. Newer actual-play podcasts like The Adventure Zone have redefined what D&D looks like, with comedy and personality mattering as much as the campaign story itself. Increasingly, the new players who get in on the act are also streaming and recording video of their sessions, so fans can watch and interact with the games as well as listen to them.

“Over half of the new people who started playing Fifth Edition [the game’s most recent update, launched in 2014] got into D&D through watching people play online,” says Nathan Stewart, senior director of Dungeons & Dragons. For many gamers, live-streamed tabletop games have become appointment viewing on par with scripted geek-bait like Stranger Things. In recent years, Dungeons & Dragons and other RPGs have become a mainstay on live-streamed video platforms, resulting in a glut of programming not so different from the television’s Peak TV predicament.


There is more to read, so go over and read it, but do you really think that more than half of new D&D fans started off watching other people play D&D online? And do you actually think that watching Stranger Things (where the D&D games are part of the scripts) is similar to watching live-streamed D&D games?

I don't see many people talking about Critical Role, Nerd Poker or The Adventure Zone at The Piazza. (In fact I have not listened to any of them myself.) I have listened to Maze Arcana's original Twitch show (now called Orphan Echo). In fact I posted a topic about Maze Arcana in the Eberron forum, when they first started doing the show.

I do like Maze Arcana, and it has a fun community of people who watch every week. They have gone on to do other shows (that I can't watch because they do them while I am asleep) and my enjoyment of Maze Arcana inspired me to jump into AuldDragon's live-streamed Spelljammer show, when I saw him asking around for players.

So I'm sort of a "Z-list Twitch Celebrity" if The Verge is to be believed, and there should in theory be an army of people listening to AuldDragon's show and beating on WotC's doors to get 5th Edition D&D Spelljammer books, but I'm really not convinced that the connection that The Verge sees is that strong.

I don't doubt that these sort of shows are creating a new way to have fun with D&D. And I think that a collaboration between someone doing a live-streamed show and specific D&D books could well help give people ideas that they could raid to use in their own D&D games. But, I do kind of feel that there is a barrier between most of the shows and actual product sales.

Critical Hit for example, is not a D&D product line. It is going to be turned into a Critical Role: Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting by Green Ronin (and I don't doubt they are going to do a good job) but it's a 3rd Party Product. So - unless we start getting a ton of Critical Role fans over at The Piazza (and they help build up a community that springboards a bespoke Tal'Dorei) I'm wondering what the popularity of this show is going to do to change the future of The Piazza.

Maze Arcana has a good thing going with Eberron (and a couple of the Maze Arcana designers have been added onto some sort of special DMs Guild team, where they get early access to some stuff) but with Eberron not having been brought back for 5th Edition yet, they are kind of promoting something that WotC is not currently willing to sell.

The same thing goes for AuldDragon's game (and any other shows based on older campaign settings). They are giving WotC free marketing, but WotC doesn't seem to be able to produce new products that ties into this.

I think that it's possible that the grass routes fandoms of individual campaign settings might get a small boost from some of these shows. And I do think that Maze Arcana could well be involved in DMs Guild material for Eberron, if Eberron ever comes back. But I kind of get the feeling that there is a barrier between this new form of "entertainment" and what is going to be published by Wizards of the Coast.

I think it's probably much more likely that companies like Green Ronin are able to team up with these sort of shows and find a way to publish supporting material and maybe even get miniatures made.
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Re: Is liveplay "changing how fans approach roleplaying"?

Postby AxesnOrcs » Sat Nov 18, 2017 9:44 pm

I haven't had first hand experience with the live-plays bringing in new blood. My last campaign was enfranchised RPGers. But, I have seen a handful of complaints about 'how dare those fake fans start playing D&D because they watched critical role,' and a large number 'I am so excited to start playing D&D because critical role/the adventure zone is so cool.'
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Re: Is liveplay "changing how fans approach roleplaying"?

Postby timemrick » Sat Nov 18, 2017 10:28 pm

I have watched very few livestreamed games myself--my time is limited, and I'd rather spend that time playing or prepping for my own games. So what I know about Critical Role comes almost solely from Matt Colville mentioning the show regularly on his "Running the Game" series, and from Green Ronin's press releases about their campaign setting book (which is out now, BTW).

I haven't tried organized play for 5E, only Pathfinder, but I imagine that being involved with that community would be one good way to hear from newer players how they were introduced to the hobby. Does anyone here have experience with Adventurers League and have a feel for what's bringing players to those tables?

Finally, Stranger Things (or Season 1, at least; I've yet to watch S2) didn't have nearly enough actual game play on-screen to bear much resemblance to a livesteamed game. I think it gets mentioned in that article because the series is hugely nostalgic for people who started playing D&D in the '80s (like me), but the author's point is that since that time, the internet has made it lot easier for gamers to connect, whether It's through watching games online or chatting in forums like this one.
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Re: Is liveplay "changing how fans approach roleplaying"?

Postby Tim Baker » Sat Nov 18, 2017 10:58 pm

I suspect the Piazza's demographics lean toward the older side of the RPG-playing spectrum. This is a generality, to be sure, and is based on anecdotal evidence found in places like the introduction thread. I'm included in that demographic, by the way. So we likely got our start in RPGs when we were younger, and before liveplay was available.

I believe liveplay is pulling more young players into the hobby, which is awesome. But I don't think many of those young players are finding their way to the Piazza, and thus we don't see many discussions of the latest actual play on YouTube. I recently came across a blog post looking at how different age groups are more prevalent on different forums. http://www.tenkarstavern.com/2017/11/ba ... d-and.html
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Re: Is liveplay "changing how fans approach roleplaying"?

Postby Cthulhudrew » Sun Nov 19, 2017 12:49 am

I've watched a handful of streamed/recorded roleplaying, but I haven't yet seen anything that has enamored me enough to sit through a full 'cast. On the other hand, I have enjoyed things such as Wil Wheaton's Tabletop. While at times it can be kind of boring, for the most part I think it is fun to watch- partly because it is edited and most of the droll bits are edited out, and partly because each episode showcases a different game, most of which I am unfamiliar with but it helps me decide what seems like it would be fun to play in person or not.
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Re: Is liveplay "changing how fans approach roleplaying"?

Postby Tim Baker » Sun Nov 19, 2017 1:08 am

Cthulhudrew wrote:On the other hand, I have enjoyed things such as Wil Wheaton's Tabletop. While at times it can be kind of boring, for the most part I think it is fun to watch- partly because it is edited and most of the droll bits are edited out, and partly because each episode showcases a different game.

I really enjoyed Wil Wheaton's Titansgrave actual play. I hadn't considered why that was until you mentioned the editing. It had really strong editing, so it focused on the story being told, rather than the entire game session experience.
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Re: Is liveplay "changing how fans approach roleplaying"?

Postby shesheyan » Sun Nov 19, 2017 2:47 pm

No idea if live-play streaming is creating new players. I'll ask me new players how they started playing.

I can tell you that my current group are in their twenties and thirties... I'm the 52 year old geezer. We use pen & paper sheets but one guy has his character on iPad. The DM shows us the mapping on a color lcd screen laid flat on the kitchen table. They also have a playlist of sound ambiances. And we use a private FB Group to communicate about the adventure. Currently we are doing Curse of Stradh.
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Re: Is liveplay "changing how fans approach roleplaying"?

Postby Havard » Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:09 pm

Interesting question!

I think it might affect newcomers to the hobby more than us old timers here on The Piazza, but I do like to watch videos on gaming to get new ideas and inspiration for my games. I am not a huge fan of liveplay videos myself, mostly because I find most of them hard to follow, but I have watched a few. I prefer to watch videos where people talk about DM advice, Player Advice or just about things from their campaigns more than videos of actual play.

Do people in liveplay videos play differently than they would if the games weren't streamed though? Do new gamers look at their games more as a spectator sport?

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Re: Is liveplay "changing how fans approach roleplaying"?

Postby Big Mac » Mon Nov 20, 2017 12:38 am

AxesnOrcs wrote:I haven't had first hand experience with the live-plays bringing in new blood. My last campaign was enfranchised RPGers. But, I have seen a handful of complaints about 'how dare those fake fans start playing D&D because they watched critical role,' and a large number 'I am so excited to start playing D&D because critical role/the adventure zone is so cool.'


That "fake fan" thing is pretty annoying. Everybody was clueless about D&D when they first heard of it. I'm glad we don't have trolls like that here.

I'm glad you are seeing some of these people that The Verge is talking about. I wonder how soon it will be before we get some of them turning up at The Piazza. I'll be interested to see if they want to mostly stick with the limited window of Forgotten Realms (and a touch of Ravenloft) that 5th Edition D&D has been rolling out or if there might be a big swing to Tal'Dorei or any sort of desire to look at other settings. :)
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