D&D Streams

Now fully caught up on my podcasts, I’ve been looking for other things to listen to during my morning commute, and have landed on Critical Role. I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around the growing phenomenon of D&D live play, and figured it was about time to check out the 800 pound gorilla. It’s admittedly not my style of D&D, but the cast is entertaining and some D&D is better than no D&D. But is that all there is to live cast games? Is it simply a case of a little taste being better than nothing at all, or is there more to this thing?

I’ve spoken with a number of gamers that I play with, and many of them seem as perplexed by live streamed games as I am. But I feel like being overly dismissive of the trend is the surest way to never understand it, so I keep trying. I did in fact get sucked into The Enemy Within recordings, which appealed to me because I liked the content, the system, and the glimpse behind the screen of how another GM ran the same adventure I was attempting to run myself. I’ve tried to find other live stream games that are more in line with my style of gaming, but SciFi Writers Playing Old School D&D was not what I was looking for. If anyone knows of other recordings that may fit the bill, please do let me know.

The reason I’m spending so much time on this is more than just idle curiosity. Strangely I find I’m slowly being pulled towards becoming an active participant in this sort of thing, and I want to go into it with eyes wide open. It started with my Wandering DMs channel, which honestly is a live stream more due to laziness than anything else. Dan and I have talked about producing a podcast for ages, but neither of us wanted to sign up for all the editing and other production work it entails. Live streaming was just the easy way out — no need to edit anything, just hit record and go.

Well, a few months in we’ve had a couple requests to exemplify the stuff we talk about in the most obvious way — live stream one of our games. We talked it over, and after getting buy-in from our group we’ve decided to give it a whirl. Specifically this July 4th weekend when we run our 4-day long marathon game, we’ve decided to turn on some cameras and stream the whole darn thing. I mean, we were going to play this game anyway, so adding some cameras and microphones seemed like a pretty easy step to take. But I can’t shake the nagging doubt raised so eloquently by one of our players — “who the heck is going to watch it?”

Honestly, I don’t know, maybe nobody. We have a whopping 100 or so subscribers to our channel right now. To put that in perspective, Critical Role has over 2 million. More to the point though, is there even an audience for our style of game? Or does the D&D stream-viewing public prefer the more pre-scripted feel of the modern style you can find all over twitch and youtube now? Is old school live gaming an under-served market, or simply a non-existent market?

Typically I use my blog as a way of thinking out loud. I thought if I sat down and started writing about this I might find some answers along the way. Unfortunately it seems like I only have more questions. So, it looks like I’ll need to find other ways to figure this out, which will begin with a surprise trip this weekend to D&D Live 2019.

This Wizards of the Coast event appears to be one part product announcement, one part game convention, and one huge part live play performance. At least, that’s what I make of the info I found on their website. I really have no idea what this thing is going to be like. But I suppose much like my own foray into live streaming games, I’ll find out the hard way — by diving head first into the deep end.

6 thoughts on “D&D Streams

  1. Critical Role is not d&d. It’s a television show about people playing d&d.

    CR is to playing d&d as porno is to having sex.

    Try Matthew Colville’s MCDM Productions. They play 5th edition and it’s a little railroady. But they are actually playing, and the production values are very good.

    1. They are definitely performing, there is no doubt about that. But I do think there is at least some sincerity to their play.

    2. I second the MCDM stream. Its also in podcast form if that suits your schedule better (I usually have the VOD on in the background) I think it is probably closer to typical D&D but with the production values needed to make it watchable/popular.

      There are probably lots of entertaining DMs/Games out there saddled by bad mics, poor camera angles, etc. that keep that style of streaming from taking off vs the more polished D&D and Improv/Unscripted TV streams.

      I think there is a place for those sorts of streams/podcasts, but I lean more towards Film ReRoll for that. I do wish the D&D as game, style had more mind share, so I am glad MCDM and its “people sitting around a table and someone looking up a rule” style is there and popular.

      That said, I would love to see/hear at least a session or 2 of you or Dan running a game, hear how your descriptions, adjudications, pace of play etc. go.

      1. Well sir, you will definitely get what you’re asking for. Dan and I are planning to do a ton of live play streaming over the 4th of July weekend.

  2. As I do not have the opportunity to play these days, I am constantly on the lookout for good, actual play podcasts (I don’t consider CR to fit these categories and what little I’ve seen of it was…oh, boy awful).

    I’ve found some good listening in GGNORE (the “boiz” from “Alabamia”). They play with 5E rules currently, which is painful at times to listen to, but they are otherwise quite entertaining and fairly knowledgable of the game and its origins across editions (they’ve run both AD&D modules like Hommlet, and latest-greatest like whatever the latest milking of Tomb of Horrors is…Tomb of Annihilation?…with very enlightening results), and their DM has a decidedly “old school” mentality (while they do have clerics in their games, they do not allow any kind of raise dead/resurrection).

    Most recently, I’ve also been checking out Unlikely Adventurers which is a window into the minds of young (under age 25) gamers). It is very funny and fairly “nothing sacred-esque.” The podcasters are both DMs and players in multiple (5E) campaigns and there’s quite a bit of insight to be gained as to what their crowd is looking for (entertaining story arcs). It’s bizarre…like they’re trying to re-learn all the shit I had to learn in the mid-90s…and a completely different way of playing and looking at the game.

    You guys are probably my favorites, though. Would love to hear an actual play podcast of yours.
    : )

    1. Thanks for the suggestions, I’ll have to go dig them up. The problem of course with trying to do my homework on this front is that it takes a good two sessions to really get a feel for a group, and that’s like 8 hours of television watching. It’s a bit slow going.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying our videos to date. We’re really looking forward to streaming a real game soon.

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